Finnish cartoon inspires new Chinese word

The Finnish cartoon “Finnish Nightmares” about a socially awkward Finn has grown popular among young people in China and even inspired a new term in Mandarin.

The main character of the cartoon always wears a hat with blue stripes. It resembles the Finnish flag and a hat that the creature’s father used to wear. Photo: Karoliina Korhonen

Say hello to Matti, a Finnish stickman who blushes a lot and is awkward in social situations. He is terribly bad at praising himself, not very good at small talk and a bit afraid of sitting next to someone on the bus.

Matti is the humble main character in the cartoon “Finnish Nightmares” created by Karoliina Korhonen. The character is a stereotype of Finns, and the stickman has won many hearts among introverts in Finland.

Matti has even inspired a new term in Mandarin, that describes a person like him: “jingfen” (精芬), meaning “spiritually Finnish.”

That happened after “Finnish nightmares” became popular on the internet among young people in China – despite cultural differences between Finland and China.

“It can be very difficult to obtain personal space in China,” explains Veli-Matti Palomäki to ScandAsia. He works as promotion officer at the Consulate General of Finland in Shanghai and is a former Chinese teacher in Finland.

In the Chinese population of almost 1,4 billion many young people who might find themselves a bit awkward and longing for more personal space. Matti can be voice of that, thinks Veli-Matti Palomäki:

“Many people in China can relate to the situations in “Finnish Nightmares”. The carton is a way for them to feel that it is acceptable to be a bit socially awkward,” says Palomäki.

The popularity of “Finnish nightmares” in China has recently caught the attention of big newspapers like the Guardian.


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