OFFERING a spirited alternative to an afternoon spent quaffing beer and swatting mosquitoes at a summer cottage in the Finnish countryside, the annual Wife Carrying World Championship is again taking place 2-3 July in Sonkajärvi.

Not simply content with such bizarre competitions as the ant hill sitting competition, the mobile phone throwing competition or the annual swamp football match, Finland outdoes itself with a sport whose roots can be traced back deep in the region’s history.

IT’S HARD to come across something that rouses the feelings of nostalgia for the Finnish countryside more than lavatanssit – traditional dance hall dances. Of course Helsinki has its share of dance halls also, but to acquire a true experience you have to head out of the city. Once you find yourself amidst grain fields, lakes and tractors you’re starting to get to the heart of it all.

Just about every town in the countryside, no matter how big or small, has its own lava where locals from children to grandmothers head to in the summer weekends. This is where traditional Finnish music is still alive and kicking as the music at a lavatanssit is always performed live.

TAKING the idea of culinary convenience to a new level is SPAM, a popular and compact lump of canned processed meat from the USA. Aside from its modestly priced meaty goodness, SPAM’s name has also become synonymous with Monty Python and, more recently, also unsolicited and unwanted emails that generally flaunt miracle cures for impotence.

Originating in Austin, Minnesota, SPAM has fed millions since its introduction back in 1937. Popularised during World War II, it became the predominant food on the menu for American troops stationed in the Pacific, which in turn has now led to Hawaii being the largest SPAM-consuming state in the USA.

Former minister and MP for the Swedish People’s Party Eva Biaudet was appointed Finland’s new Ombudsman for Minorities on Thursday 6 May. Biaudet’s designation has caused public debate because she was granted a special exemption from the requirement of containing a postgraduate university degree.

One of the most vocal protestors is Husein Muhammed, lawyer, translator and a politician of the Green party. He made the complaint about the selection procedure to the Attorney General. Muhammed stresses that although he applied for the position himself, his criticism is based on the selection procedure and is not aimed at Biaudet personally.

THE power of the fastest growing social network in the world is being harnessed as a catalyst for social change.

Finnish celebrity Tino Singh is just one of many tapping into Facebook’s social power with his group Minun Suomeni on kansainvälinen - My Finland is International. “I got tired of all the xenophobic writing on the web and lately in mainstream politics,” he states. “I needed to reach out to those who live in the same Finland as I do.”

The group provides a platform for supporting and participating in an international Finland. Using practical grassroots work to defuse tension and increase cultural knowledge within people, the aim is “to get people involved and use it for a positive change…shifting the focus from hating to supporting.”