Last summer I was fortunate to have the unique opportunity to participate in a one-month ASEM-DUO teacher exchange in South Korea. In my eyes, there were still surprisingly few foreign-looking people there, even in the capital Seoul. Like Finland, South Korea has long been a very homogeneous, and proudly patriotic nation.
When anyone heard that I came from Finland, invariably their first excited words were: “Aah, Finland! Xylitol - hiva hiva!” - or something to that effect - accompanied by some strange hand and arm movements. Not having the foggiest idea what they were getting at I felt not only totally baffled, but also utterly stupid. I gathered that the “hiva, hiva” part would probably be the Finnish “hyvä, hyvä” (’good, good’). Somebody even asked me if I could show them the Finnish dance that went like that. ???DANCE??? I was even more clueless until it was explained to me that there had been a TV commercial advertising xylitol gum containing these lines and movements. Aah, I said, wondering what the commercial was really like.
On return home YouTube finally filled me in. Lol!
The green costume, the hopping goblin with his dance routines and the music have no relation to Finland whatsoever. But in Korea, it’s the only image of our country that many people have ever seen. Good stuff to use in English classes to introduce students to the dangers of simple stereotyping and the importance of media literacy