Tag Archives: finland

Tips For Adulthood: Five Facts To Use In Small Talk

Every Wednesday I offer tips for adulthood.

About a year ago, I wrote a post entitled Five Things You Never Knew About Finland. I had just come back from a short trip to Helsinki, and was amazed by the assortment of fascinating – yet obscure – things I learned about this small Scandinavian country.

In a similar vein, I’ve just attended a quiz night at my son’s school, where I again spent an evening absorbing a treasure trove of arguably arcane – but indisputably interesting – facts about the world ranging from religion to history to pop culture to sport.

It’s tempting to dismiss these little facts as irrelevant. But as this recent post by etiquette expert Lisa Mirza Grotts notes, small talk isn’t trivial. It is, in fact, the very fabric of social interaction, the way we connect with other human beings.

In that spirit – and because, let’s face it – at some point in our lives, we all end up stuck in a line…or on a bus…or at a cocktail party with people we don’t know, here are five facts you can whip out of your back pocket to liven up that conversation:

1. The River Thames changes name when it passes through Oxford. It’s called…The Isis. My well-bred hubby knew that one. I had no clue. Whenever I think of “Isis” I think of that proto-feminist, the Marvel Comic Superhero, Isis, as in: “Oh Mighty Isis…” Live and learn.

2. A simple white cooking sauce made from flour and butter is called a Roux. That’s right, not a B√©chamel, as you might have guessed. (Gotcha!) That one’s got milk in it as well. The roux is the basis for all else sauce-wise, at least in French cuisine.

3. The minimum number of shots in darts needed for a checkout is nine. What is a check-out, you ask? Excellent question. Inquire here. But you are now armed (no pun intended) with some serious dart trivia the next time the topic arises.

4.The first American television program to air an on-screen kiss was The Flintstones. I love this answer. I was sure it was Lucy and Desi on I Love Lucy. My husband thought it was The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. But here’s an even better bit of trivia. The first on-screen inter-racial kiss? Star Trek (between that knave Captain Kirk and the wily Lieutenant Uhura). Love it.

5. Marie Antoinette was Austrian. I think most people – well, OK, me – assume she was French because she later became the Queen of France, and, well, her name sounds so French. But she’s not. Just another wanna be…

Image: Darts Anyone? by Shankool007 via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

Tips for Adulthood: Five Things You Never Knew about Finland

Every Wednesday I offer Tips for Adulthood.

This week’s list was inspired by my recent trip to Finland. One thing that happens as you grow older is that you often get stuck in boring cocktail parties where it’s up to you to come up with interesting topics for conversation. So the next time you’re at a loss for what to say to that incredibly dull person seated next to you at the dinner table, here are a few things to pull out of the hat. Since most people know very little about Finland, you’re bound to impress:

1. Finland only became independent in 1917. This floored me. Sure, there’s been a Finnish people around since the Stone Age. But for much of the past 800 years, Finland was under the control of Sweden and Russia. So it’s only been a modern nation state for less than 100 years. Not bad for the inventor of Nokia, eh?

2. Finland is mostly forest and lakes. Something like 76% of Finland is composed of forests and there are over 187,000 lakes. When you fly into the country you see this immediately, but, again, I had no idea.

3. The Finnish National Epic is the Kalevala. Yes, that very same one that has inspired countless hotel rooms. But that’s not all. Turns out that when Tolkien was writing The Lord of the Rings, the well of Nordic myths soon ran dry. So he turned to the Kalevala for ideas. Try that one out on your Tolkien fanatic friends.

4. Reindeer is surprisingly OK. Try some. It’s the Other Red Meat. Finnish porridge, on the other hand, can be an acquired taste. It’s made of barley, not oats, which is a real head fake. But, then again, we all know that hunger makes good sauce.

5. The Finnish language is very similar to Estonian. Before I traveled to Helsinki, I knew that Finnish was a very rare language, baring little similarity to anything other than Hungarian. I was proud to know even that little factoid. But it turns out, Finnish is actually even closer to Estonian. Trust me. I sat through a five hour wine tasting with a lady from Estonia (another Fun Finn Fact: Finns like to drink). If you’re really well behaved, next week I’ll give you five obscure facts about Estonia…


In honor of Earth Day, I thought I’d link to this very funny post about Starbucks on Burbia.com.

I was delighted to have Monday’s Realdelia post referenced on the Alpha Mummy Blog. If you live in the U.K. and are a current/former/or wanna be working mother, this is the blog for you.

Image: Finland Saariselkä by youngrobv via Flickr under a Creative Commons License.

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