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Finland is considered a highly liberal and secular social democracy. All of its most restrictive or controversial laws have been struck down. However, there are still a few laws in the country that are considered odd to outsiders. These are some things to avoid in Finland if you want to stay on the right side of the law.
Finland has a strong alcohol culture and Finns love their beer and vodka. However, in an effort to reduce public drunkenness, cut healthcare costs, and prevent deaths, the government has put heavy restrictions on the hours in which alcohol can be sold in stores. These hours are from 9AM to 9PM – after this, the only way to purchase alcohol is at a licensed bar or restaurant.
It isn’t only buying alcohol that is heavily restricted in Finland. Selling it can get you in trouble too. Anything stronger than beer or lager cannot be legally sold anywhere outside of government-run Alko stores (again with the exception of bars, clubs, and restaurants).
Most of us would consider showing national pride to be optional. However, in Finland all public buildings are required by law to fly the Finnish flag on official flag days. These aren’t just public holidays but also those related to politics, such as election and inauguration days, and other special dates, such as the day of Finnish culture, on February 28, and Marshal Mannerheim’s birthday on June 4.
If on a long taxi ride you ask the driver to put on a CD to pass the time, you could be landing them in hot water. If a Finnish taxi driver plays any music in their car for a paying customer, then they must pay royalties to the musician. Best take your MP3 player and a pair of headphones next time.
The government has also tried to reduce dental expenses by encouraging parents to only give their children candy once a week. They have also introduced a ‘candy tax’ on any goods containing sugar, but the definition can be strange. For instance, bottled water is taxed under this law while cookies are not.
Innovations such as online streaming have helped severely decrease the amount of people watching television or paying for cable. In Finland, though, every citizen must pay a TV tax, regardless of whether or not they even own a TV. Bad news for anyone hoping to save money with their Netflix subscription.
It is still up for debate whether or not it is safe and permissible to keep a gun at home for self-defense. Finland’s strong hunting culture means there is a high percentage of gun owners, yet gun control laws are still incredibly strict. One measure is that guns must be kept under lock and key at a hunting lodge rather than at home, unless the owner has been using guns for a certain amount of time. This can cause some trouble for people in remote communities who are bothered by wild animals on their land.
It is a common custom during the winter to freeze a skating track or sports field so it can be transformed into an ice-skating rink. However, some towns are banning this traditional practice due to fears of children falling and hurting themselves, which the local government is held accountable for.
Most Finnish businesses are closed on public holidays, such as Finnish Independence Day on December 6, but it is up to the government to decide which businesses are required by law to stay shut. Hair salons are one type of business that must close on Independence Day, or pay a €600 charge to stay open. However, it is still a tradition for the female members of parliament to all get their hair done on Independence Day, so technically they are breaking their own law.
You might think that the long hours of the Midnight Sun mean you can give your car’s headlights a rest, but not so. Finnish law states that all drivers must at least keep their headlights dipped at all times, even during summer or in clear visibility.