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Coffee, speeding fines and heavy metal: Five things to know about Finland

[HELSINKI] Finland on Sunday holds presidential elections, with polls suggesting the incumbent Sauli Niinisto is likely to be re-elected for another six-year term.

Here are five things to know about the Nordic nation.

Coffee quaffers Finns drink the most coffee in the world, an estimated 12.2 kilos per person each year, compared for example to 5.6 kilos in Italy, according to figures for 2015 by the International Coffee Organization.

They enjoy their "kahvi" at all times of day. And in a country with strict drink driving rules, the beverage is de rigeur at any celebration such as christenings, weddings, funerals, birthdays and parties.

There's even a Finnish proverb that says: "A terrorist can always be stopped, but not the craving for coffee".

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Speeding's a no-no Known for being among the fastest in the world, Finnish racecar drivers have earned the nickname "the Flying Finns" after winning several Formula One and World Rally Championship titles.

But off the track, motorists are careful not to exceed the speed limit - fines are proportional to income.

In 2007, a Swedish motorist was fined 20,500 euros (S$33,290) for driving 67 kilometres per hour, exceeding the 30-km/hour limit on the southwestern Finnish island of Aland.

The driver had a declared 2006 net income of 290,000 euros, according to the district court.

Sisu In addition to their reputation as taciturn, Finns are also known for their resilience and stoicism. This can be attributed to "sisu", a Finnish concept that combines courage, resolve and persistence in the face of adversity.

Without an English literal equivalent, Finns credit sisu as the reason they were able to fend off attacks by their Soviet neighbours during World War II.

After spending six centuries under Swedish rule until 1809, Finland then became a Russian Grand Duchy until 1917, only gaining independence after the fall of the Tsarist empire.

A nation of headbangers Heavy metal is mainstream in Finland, which has one of the world's highest concentrations of headbangers.

While neighbouring Sweden and Norway have 27 heavy metal bands per 100,000 people, Finland has 54, meaning there's a metal band in almost every village.

Apocalyptica, HIM, Nightwish and Amorphis are just some of the nation's most famous bands, popular far beyond its borders. In 2006, heavy metal group Lordi, famous for their monster disguises, became the first hard-rock contestants to win the Eurovision Song Contest.

National Sleepy Head Day As part of the National Sleepy Head Day, celebrated every year on July 27, the last person to wake up in a household gets a bucket of water thrown on his or her face, or is tossed directly into the water - of which which there is plenty in Finland, a country of 187,000 lakes.

The tradition, which goes back to the Middle Ages, was based on the belief that the last person to get up would be lazy or non-productive for the rest of the year.

The holiday, which is an informal celebration rather than a religious festival, is linked to the legend of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, a group of young people hiding in a cave to escape persecution in the first century AD.

According to the story, they slept for nearly 200 years in the cave near Ephesus, which is now in current Turkey, and woke up at the end of the Christian persecutions.


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