I’ll be visiting a few friends abroad in the next few months and started looking into what could I bring as a souvenir from Finland. As I googled away it became pretty obvious that Finns are experts in self-sabotage, we take the weirdest and funkiest tasting things to foreigners and expect them love them.
For example, Finnish salmiakki is national delicacy. But when there’s a wikipedia article describing it as “an acquired taste” and “physically overwhelming and unlikeable” you really should think twice. That won’t, however, stop us. We’re convinced you’ll learn to love it. Eventually.
Moomin mugs are another national quirk. They’re collectible and every Finnish house has one. You can buy them at the supermarket for about 16 euros a piece. Yet when you bring them abroad, especially to people who haven’t got kids and know absolutely nothing about the books or the tv-series, you’re essentially giving them a small mug with a naked hippo on it.
Up a level in terms of sophistication is the Aalto vase. A Finnish design staple if there ever was one, they now come in all different sizes. Since the actual vase costs closer to 100 euros, people are more likely to bring one of the smaller versions. Now these are actually quite pretty but Aalto vases are close to our hearts and cherished in the families. So when you bring one to someone who doesn’t have a clue who Alvar Aalto was or the cultural background of the piece, they’re likely to use them as ash trays. Something considered close to a treason back here.
I won’t even go into the whole Lapland paraphernalia. Suffice to say I think it’s just WRONG when people from Southern Finland who might never even been to Lapland bring stuff with reindeers etc. on them.
Finally, there’s a group of people who enjoy upsetting foreigners and intentionally bring the most disgusting things they can find. From these people you’re likely to receive a nice dollop of mämmi and some Jaloviina to wash it down with. You really ought to make some new friends.