by Krisztina Pintye вЂў Finland is situated in the region of Northern Europe п‚— It is bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the north and Russia to the east п‚— An estimated 5.4 million people live in Finland, with the majority concentrated in its southern regions. п‚— It is the eighth largest country in Europe and the most sparsely populated country in the European Union. п‚— Politically, it is a parliamentary republic with a central government based in the capital of Helsinki . п‚— Other larger cities include Tampere, Turku, Oulu, JyvГ¤skylГ¤, Lahti and Kuopio. Culture п‚— Education п‚— Pre-school education is rare compared to other EU countries and formal education is usually started at the age of 7. п‚— Primary school takes normally six years and lower secondary school three years. п‚— Most schools are managed by municipal officials. п‚— Education is compulsory between the ages of 7 and 16. п‚— After lower secondary school, graduates may either enter the workforce directly, or apply to trade schools or gymnasiums. п‚— Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. п‚— There are 20 universities and 30 polytechnics in the country. п‚— Literature п‚— Written Finnish could be said to have existed since Mikael Agricola translated the New Testament into Finnish during the Protestant Reformation. п‚— After Finland became independent, there was a rise of modernist writers, most famously the Finnishspeaking Mika Waltari п‚— Visual arts п‚— Finns have made major contributions to handicrafts and industrial design. п‚— Finnish architecture is famous around the world. Among the top of the twentieth century Finnish architects to win international recognition are Eliel Saarinen (designer of the widely recognised Helsinki Central railway station and many other public works) and his son Eero Saarinen. Alvar Aalto, who helped bring functionalist architecture to Finland, is also famous for his work in furniture, textiles andglassware. п‚— Television п‚— Finland's most internationally successful TV shows are the backpacking travel documentary series Madventures and the reality TV show The Dudesons, about four childhood friends who perform stunts and play pranks on each other (in similar vein to the American TV show Jackass) п‚— Cuisine п‚— Finnish cuisine is notable for generally combining traditional country fare and haute cuisine with contemporary continental style cooking. п‚— Fish and meat play a prominent role in traditional Finnish dishes from the western part of the country, while the dishes from the eastern part have traditionally included various vegetables and mushrooms.] п‚— According to the statistics, red meat consumption has risen, but still Finns eat less beef than many other nations, and more fish and poultry. This is mainly because of the high cost of meat in Finland. п‚— Public holidays п‚— All official holidays in Finland are established by Acts of Parliament. п‚— Christian holidays include Christmas, New Year's Day, Epiphany, Easter, Ascension Day, Pentecost, Midsummer Day(St. John's Day) and All Saints' Day, while secular holidays include May Day and the Independence Day, New Year's Day and Midsummer. Christmas is the most extensively celebrated and at least 24 to 26 December is taken as a holiday.