Sitting on a deck by a still lake, you can hear the calm water dancing beneath you. Sun has just set and the sky is still red, giving the lake a warm appearance. You can see some black shapes of birds flying around and hear their occasional croaks getting delivered over the water. Evening swim was relaxing but it is starting to feel a bit cold outside, it is time to leave. While walking up the wooden planks back to the warm cottage the wind is picking up and giving life to birch leaves all around. You get inside and pick up a piece of Donald Duck that aired 25 years ago.
Finland is a country of lakes and cottages. It is a special atmosphere that you can feel at a cottage. It differs between people and their own cultures. For some it is the feeling of connection they get when drinking and swimming through the night while getting stuffed with grilled sausages. Others get their doze of Finnishness by finding the coziest corner with a pile of old-ass comics while listening to the wind through thin windows.
It is not that uncommon to warm up the cottage during winter time either. In the winter you can take a swim in an ice cold lake, build an ice skating area or ski around. We used to have a tradition to make the best sledging hills to slide down in big groups and play ice hockey on a pond.
Cottages are a way to get away from the urban life and relax. That is why they often are close by the lakes or at least forests. Wherever you go in Finland, you can usually see nature around you. Finland without vast forests and lakes would not be Finland. In my opinion Finnishness is strongly connected to our surroundings, which just happen to be something more than grey cubes.
Often when meeting people from different countries I come across with the question about Finnish education system. Questions like “What is in it, that it’s so good?” or “What is the difference that makes it the best in the hole World?” Even though Finland is a tiny country in the North, it is known for its World’s best scholar system all over the world. Why? Well here are some main points about Finnish education system that make our schools so good:
Finland offers high-class and affordable early childhood education for all kids. Before going to school, every child must attend preschool where they learn by playing and get a good base for actual school. Compulsory education starts at the age of 7 and ends after the elementary school. Finnish children start their school comparatively late at the age of 7. In many other countries, children start school at the age of 5 or even earlier.
After the 9-year elementary school students can decide between high school and vocational education that offers a wide range of qualifications. Even though it is not compulsory, almost every student goes on to secondary education. It is also possible to combine high school and vocational education.
Compared to other countries, Finnish students have a lot less homework and school days are shorter. The idea is that students can focus better in school when they have plenty of time to do other things that are important to child’s development. Students have subjects like PE, music, arts etc. that are excellent to make the brains work better. Also the Finnish school year is one of the shortest in Western countries.
Students in Finland don’t have standardized tests. All school in Finland are equal and private schools don’t exist. It has been said that the neighborhood school is the best school.
Teachers in Finland are highly respected, and it require a master’s degree to be able to teach. Teachers spend less time teaching in class rooms, so they will have more time to develop their own teaching strategies and finding ways to meet students’ learning needs.
Finnish food respects traditions. There are few traditional dish and they are rarely eaten on a daily basis. These are often regional, associated with older generations or confined to a specific holiday. Example: Mämmi (It’s traditional sweet dish, which especially eaten at Easter. Its mainly made from water, rye malt and rye flour.)
Most popular meats in Finland are pork, beef, chicken and duck. In Lapland, the greatest delicacy is the sautéed reindeer.
Arctic wild berries are distinctively featured in Finnish cuisine with their strong and unique flavor and high nutrient content. In summer you can eat fresh berries and dried or froze at other times of year. Its very common to go picking berries straight from the forests. You can use berries in pies, smoothies or eat as such. Also various species of mushrooms grow in abundance in Finnish forests. Chanterelles and ceps pop up after Midsummer and are popular in the whole country. Mushrooms are used in sauces, soups, stews, pie fillings or simply fried in a pan. In winter they are preserved by pickling or drying.
Finnish bread is mostly dark and fiber-rich rye bread. Breads are made from grains like barley, oat, rye and wheat or by mixing different grits and flours. One popular and oldest traditional pasties is Karelian pasties. Most familiar and common version is has a thin rye crust with a filling of rice porridge. Karelian pasties are served with spread made of butter and hard boiled eggs. Here’s a video where they show, how to make Karelian pasties.
Traditional Finnish breakfast includes porridge. Rolled oats, rye or multi-grain porridge are most common to see in Finnish breakfast table. Water and coffee are the most common drinks in Finland, but during meals milk and sour milk are also popular. Finnish people drink coffee often several times a day and served everywhere and tea is available in most homes.
Ice fishing is fun!
Ice fishing is one of the Finnish favorite hobbies at the winter time.
In Finland the winter time is long and there’s a lot of lakes and a long cost where the ice fishing can be done.
Basic equipments needed for ice fishing are ice fishing rod with a jig, ice drill, a box where to sit and save the catched fishes.
Ice fishing can be done alone or with others. You will need to dress warmly because often there’s cold and windy on the ice. It is much more comfortable, if it is not feeling cold. Spring times when the sun is shining it’s much more warmer then.
Initially, a hole is made in the ice with a ice drill where the fishing takes a place. Fishing does not require permission, but is a right for everybody. In addition to being fun, it is also useful. Almost all of the fishes are eatable.
Fish can be used to make different dishes. My favorite is creamy fish soup. Warm soup tastes good after outdoor activities.
Almost every time when I return back to Finland from a trip abroad, I realise how well things are in Finland. When I start thinking about what Finnishness means to me, these 6 things come up to my mind immediately.
Equal & free education for everyone
I feel privileged and grateful that I have had the possibility to get educated for free because that is not the case in most parts of the world. Education makes the whole country function better overall as people know what they should aim at in order to get along. It helps people to try to achieve the lives they want to live.
Free health care
Health care being free to every Finn is a big thing as well since insurances are quite expensive and every human needs to see a doctor once in a while. I believe free health care as well as education keep the country’s people all in all in better condition.
Every time returning back to Finland from abroad, I feel so safe after seeing what it’s like in other countries with totally different cultures and behavioral patterns. Of course, there are places and countries which are even safer than Finland but many times after travelling I feel safer in Finland. Although I know this is also partially because I have lived here my whole life and I know how people behave in this country.
Lapland is my favorite part of Finland because of the beautiful landscapes and peaceful nature. The clean outdoor air is something I am very grateful of as well. Go and explore it yourself! 🙂
Rye bread & homemade food
During my upcoming exchange I believe I will miss ryebread and homemade food mostly. They have a place in my everyday life in Finland and which I enjoy eating at home especially. In this case I could say that they are some kind of symbol of safety and home for me, so this is why I believe I will miss them during my exchange.
Finns love their own space, for example in public transport they usually prefer sitting all alone. I also enjoy having a few moments for myself during the day as it helps me to relax and calm down after a busy day at work or school.
When you start a new hobby like ice swimming, your probably have heared from your friends how great it is or you read about it. Ice swiming is good for your health and and peopele who like it tell that it eases pains in you body. They also say thatit is better to start this hobby in autum so you get used to gold watter before it`s colder. This time of the year there is 150.000 ice swimmwers.Especially young people are interested in ice swiming.
Ice swimming is good to star early in autum, then it is easier to go gold watter. Usually you go to warm Sauna before swimming. It is important go to Sauna also after swiming. You must wear a hat on your head when is freezing and wera sneakers or slippers on you feet.
There is also chance to do dipping yourself in cold public indoor swimmingpool which is almost the same thing as ice swimming but without the ice =). Using this cold pool is more possible to people who don´thave chance to go to ice swimming. But it`s more overall experience to go in middle of nature. This pleasant hobby is possible becauseof the Finnish nature and winter season.
I’ve been playing guitar my whole life and our home was full of great music. I recall the time when I heard Topi Sorsakoski & Agent’s song “Kaksi Kitaraa” coming from our stereo system and it hit me like ten thousand volts. I thought to myself: “What’s this? What’s that guitar sound? Why does it sound so beautiful? Why it sounds so melancholy and sad?” That was time before internet so I looked the CD cover and saw that it was and old folk song but Agent’s guitarist Esa Pullianen had re-arranged it. I wrote this blog about Esa Pullainen’s guitar sound because in my opinion it defines what’s “Finnishness”. And of course the band “Agents” is topical subject today and they released magnificent record with Ville Valo two weeks ago.
So, why Esa Pulliainen’s guitar sound defines what “Finnishness” is to me? Firstly, his guitar (Fender Stratocaster) is blue and it has Finland’s flag-sticker on it. Secondly, you just have to listen how his guitar weeps, moans and groans so insolently. Mr. Pulliainen uses his Fender Stratocaster as a brush and paints beautiful landscapes with his signature sound. And while he lets his guitar sing, you can imagine all the beautiful things about Finland: forests, lakes, fields, mountains, winter, summer, spring, autumn, etc. But it also sounds sad and melancholy at the same time. And that’s why when I think about “Finnishness” I think about Esa Pulliainen and his guitar sound. It’s simultaneously so beautiful and so melancholy. Just like Finns.
Funny fact: I have many friends who aren’t Finnish and when they ask me how to describe Finland to them, I play some songs by Topi Sorsakoski & Agents to them. Every time I get the same response: “What’s this? This sounds so beautiful and so melancholy at the same time. Wow!”
As a person from small town abroad, I enjoy living in Tampere very much in terms of sport life, because I like to do sports, especially winter ones as skiing and hockey and I like to do running to keep myself in shape. And I can easily do it here.
There are a lot of small and big parks with enough walking paths to do running, jogging or nordic walking. Also there are ice rinks almost in every yard. For skiing there are great places that are taken good care of, like Kauppi area as an example. It is pure joy to ski there. In my hometown, there is only one ski path in the forest and one ice rink, which are not always handled well enough 🙁 When my father visits me here, he always goes skiing.
When I go out running, skiing or any other activity I always see people training. And it’s great to see that any regular Finn can and does live sport lifestyle to some extend.
Once, we were waiting for our ship in Turku at 5 am and saw a woman running.
By the way, it was winter and quite snowy and cold day, by Finnish scale of course.
But it seems nothing can stop her from her morning running session.
Additionally, there are a lot of very young kids doing sports as well. They ski with their parents, skating like they were already born with ability to skate. When I go mountain skiing, I see also some very young kids going down by the slopes. They are so young, it makes me wonder – did they even learn to talk. But skiing seems easy for them, even if they are couple of years old only. It would be a shame if a few year old boy or girl would overtake me on the slope 🙂 But I feel that it can easily happen, because Finns are good at sport and they are sporty from the very childhood. And it’s great.
Finland is known to be the home of metal music with the most metal bands per capita (630). Though it’s a fact that not all finnish people like the heavy and often depressing music, Finland is still widely known for bands like Lordi, HIM, Nightwish and Ensiferum for example.
So while we Finns let our hair grow and spend our time without protecting our hearing in the infamous moshpits we are also very trustworthy, generous and thoughtful when it comes to other people. The various themes many metal bands sing about (like solitude, being alone, loneliness, etc.) are also the facts of life in someway for almost everybody in this cold and barren country.
Many Finns are very good at socializing but it often comes with a toll – we need lots of time for ourselves. For example the common bus to work is a wonderful time to be alone without noticing any of the other passengers.
Other noticiable themes considering Finns are that we are also very humble, melancholic and we don’t like to be the center of attention. These are also common themes in the Finnish metal music.
So when you next time arrive to Finland don’t be afraid to stop by and start a little chitchat – you’d be surprised how much we suck at it.