Finnish Wife Carrying Competitions

Rosov Ronkainen, a notorious Finnish man from the 1800s, is known for stealing both women and food from nearby villages. He required his accomplices to go through an obstacle course while carrying something heavy on their backs to be sure they could handle the stolen bounties. Now, Finland has both a word and a competition for it: eukonkanto, or the wife-carrying tournament. People must carry their partners on their backs and complete an obstacle course — two dry obstacles and one wet — without dropping them. The winner receives enough beer to match the weight of the wife.

Starting in the small village of Sonkajärvi in Finland, Wife Carrying started out as a celebration of local history, and turned into a global sport. Every year in July, couples from around the world flock to this small Finnish town to compete in a grueling obstacle course. The obstacle course includes two dry obstacles, and one wet obstacle. Throughout the course one partner (usually the husband) must carry the other partner on their back. If the partner being carried is dropped the carrier has to pick them up, and keep going.

Today, Wife Carrying is more about building the relationship between couples than preparing for pillaging. Competition requires a great deal of trust and communication between partners, and is a fun way for couples to spend quality time together.  The event is inclusive of LGBT and single people, so long as you have a partner you can participate. There are qualifying events around the world which determine who is allowed to compete at the world championships.   Though Wife Carrying is a somewhat serious sport, it is, by no means, serious. The winner of the competition gets the weight of the wife in beer, and prizes are given out for the best costumes.


In Norway, getting outside after a long, dark winter is important for the soul. And having a beer when you finally get to do so? Even better. There’s actually a Norwegian word for the joy you get from drinking a beer outside: utepils. It’s a compound word; ute means “outside” and pils refers to pilsner beer. Some translate utepils to mean the very first drink of the year enjoyed outside, but many consider it to be a broader term, referring to every beer consumed outside, no matter the time of year.

You have to live through the long dark months of a Norwegian winter to appreciate the annual Norwegian rite of utepils. Literally it means “the first drink of the year taken out of doors”. Actually, utepils simply means any beer enjoyed outside, at any time of the year, but it is true that the first one of the season is a much anticipated ritual.  You know spring is on its way when Norwegians brave the chilling temperatures and gather around their pints, sometimes even wrapped in blankets. The practice continues throughout the year though – nothing says summer like utepils.


We all know schadenfreude, the German word for getting enjoyment from someone else’s troubles. But Germans have a word for the opposite phenomenon, too, of being embarrassed on someone else’s behalf: fremdscham. It roughly translates to “vicarious embarrassment.” Think of a rejected public marriage proposal, for example — you’ll feel fremdscham for the person who proposed.

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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