Lapland

Lapland is the largest and northernmost region in Finland. The beautiful mountains of Lapland, space, easy-going people, relaxed atmosphere and many other things makes Lapland kind of a magical place. For me Lapland is all these things, but most important a place where I can listen to the holy silence on top of the Levitunturi, and look at the spacious view. There`s no time, no rush, no one bothering. Just me and a breathtaking scenery.

Me and my family on top of the Levi-mountain (Levitunturi) in Levi, Lapland.

Instead of normal summer, autumn, winter and spring, there are 8 seasonal period in Lapland:  frosty winter, crusty snow, departure of ice, midnight sun, harvest season, colorful autumn, first snow and Christmas. In Lapland summer is summer and winter is a real cold and snowy winter. Snow comes to Lapland during September-November. Christmastime is the darkest time of Lapland`s seasons  when the sun doesn`t rise above the horizon and there are only few hours of sunlight. The winter is long, approximately seven months. During the winter Lapland gets snow from 50 cm to over a meter. Statistically the coldest month of the year is February, when it could be more than -35°C frost. In the beginning of March the sunshine starts appearing in the northern skies again after a long period of kaamos = polar night. The best things about the winter periods in Lapland are clean white and fresh powder snowy landscapes and the luminous northern lights dancing through the skies.

Northern lights appear on more than 200 nights a year in Finnish Lapland. Sometimes reindeer may walk on the roads wild and free and don`t really care about traffic, cars have to wait for them to move from the road.

When the spring comes, snow cover starts to melt fast and nature awakens to it`s splendour. The thickest snow cover ever was measured in Kilpisjärvi in 19 April 1997 and it was 190 cm. There could still be some snow in early June, but by Midsummer the sun should provide some nice warmth. Summer  in Lapland is bright, actually so bright that if you go all the way to Utsjoki, the sun stays above the horizon from mid-May to mid-July. Hot days (over 25°C) are few in Lapland as the warmest times of the summer are July and its last weeks.

Santa Claus lives in the North Pole, Rovaniemi, in the capital of Lapland.
Lappish spring.
Reindeer on tunturi during nightless night.

Autumn is colourful time. Ruska arrives in southern Lapland around a week later than in northern Lapland, usually after the first week of September. During the autumn days are slowly getting shorter again and the temperature gets below zero. Ruska prepares as well the nature as the people for wintertime. Autumn is a perfect time to come to Lapland and breathe the fresh north air, pick berries and mushrooms, enjoy the beautiful nature and do some trekking before the coming of snow.

Pitkospuut (causeway) in the middle of beautiful Ruska.

 

There are plenty activities you can do, places to go and sights to see. The places I have visited in Lapland are Levi, Kittilä, Kuusamo, Ruka, Rovaniemi, Ivalo, Saariselkä and Utsjoki. For me none of these are better than another. Once you cross the Lapland border, you can feel the Lappish spirit and atmosphere. The rush and hurry are not welcome to Lapland. The northern you go the more you start seeing the pure nature, mountains, reindeer on roads and beautiful wilderness of Lapland.

The map of Finnish Lapland. The capital of Lapland is Rovaniemi, where the Arctic Circle crosses Lapland.

I wish it was Finnish summer already!

It might often seem to foreign people that Finns are a bit cold and quiet people. I am not at all surprised, since we hardly ever speak to people we don’t know, especially to foreigners. It is very common to us to travel in public transportations and not say a word to one another but that is just the way we are; we like our own space. I don’t think it is because we are cold, it is just that we are a bit shy and might often have preconceptions, especially for people from other countries.

I think it would be very helpful for us Finns to get out of this country to travel. Once we open our eyes to other cultures, we can learn and enrich our way of seeing things. Then we might understand why we can seem a bit odd folk to some foreigners.

In my opinion we are ultimately a friendly and kind nation, if you only give us time to get to know us.

Nevertheless, I love my home country. It is in my mind a safe haven. In Finland we recently celebrated our 100th anniversary of Independence. I am thankful and proud to say that I am a Finn. We have a beautiful nature with all four different seasons. My favourite season is the Finnish summer, which is always too short in my opinion. People are the most energetic and generally just happy in the summer time. Summer is the time when people spend the most time outside, enjoying the long days with lots light and warm weather. There are a lot of things to do for people in the summer. You can enjoy different events through the summer all over the country, for example different music festivals.

 

Summer and Sauna

In the summer we Finns spend a lot of time at Summer cottages. We spend all day outside enjoying the sunlight; go to the lake fishing, do gardening, grill food, warm up the sauna and sometimes also “palju” if you happen to have one in your summer cottage. The Finnish sauna has a sauna stove that warms up with wood and fire. “Palju” in other hand usually looks like a big barrel that is filled with water that you also warm up with fire and wood. It is really kind of like a hot tub but outside, which is really nice since you get to enjoy the beautiful summer nights sitting in the tub.

Picture 1. Midsummer Eve’s night.

 

Midsummer

Every summer we Finns celebrate Midsummer at the end of June. Midsummer is one of the main national holidays in Finland. In midsummer Eve we celebrate the “nightless night” that basically means that the sun is up almost through the whole day and night. In the northern Finland the sun doesn’t go down at all. Midsummer is typically spent with family and friends at a summer cottage away from the cities. Midsummer traditions consist of lighting bonfires by the lake, going to sauna, barbecuing and playing different games outside. If you happen to stay in the city in Midsummer, it might feel as if the cities have been abandoned since almost everybody leaves their homes to go to the cottages.

Midsummer is usually seen as the beginning of warm summer weather and many Finns start their summer holidays on Midsummer Eve.

Picture 2. Midsummer Eve’s bonfire

Finnishness to me means mostly peace and the feeling of being safe. The Finnish nature is unbelievably beautiful and unique. It keeps on surprising you every time.

I wish it was summer already!

 

A Finnish mindset

SISU

Having sisu means that someone is unyielding and determined. He/she has endurance and resilience. That’s what the Finns are known for and very proud of. Sisu can be connected with sports. Especially cross-country skiing and ski jump where Finns have succeeded.

PERSONAL SPACE

Finnish people need their own personal space. It’s not okay to go and hug or kiss a stranger or even an acquaintance. I guess almost everyone is familiar with a picture from a Finnish bus stop where people are standing a meter from each other just because they need their own space. They might do that even if it’s raining and everyone won’t fit under the shelter. Or perhaps it’s just a bit exaggerated.

SILENCE

Finnish people don’t mind being silent. Sometimes it’s even desirable. When you’re driving a car in a bright summer night and listening good songs. Or when you’re enjoying the heat of the sauna. You seldom hear strangers talking to each other in an elevator or in a bus. First foreigners might find this behavior strange and disturbing but during time they might start to enjoy it. Enjoy those lovely moments that doesn’t need to filled with small talk.

 

Pictures: http://finnishnightmares.blogspot.fi/

Finnish is simple, the culture not the language

For foreign people it could seem like very difficult to get into the finnish culture and to talk with a group of people. That is more likely true but happens that is the over analysizing the characteristics of the culture, and ironically that’s actually very finnish! In the sense that if one starts to think too much what might finnish people think of them or where goes the line of their comfort zones, that’s quite impossible to figure out. I admite that finnish are very misterious and quiet people, but the need to be pushed towards a little bit, in the sense that just to hang out with them is allright and no questions asked – you don’t always have to be the person whos talking or ask many questions, that might make them anxious, no the silence or “just to be”.

I’ve been strongly noticing when foreign people who try to know finnish people are making it kind of too difficult for themselves. For many culture talking, asking, telling about oneself or own culture is normal, but a finnish maybe doesnt show him intrest for any of those things. That isn’t usually a degrading thing, but more like a finnish isn’t interested about talking those kind of things, because usually he’s not very keen about talking about himself neither. So small talk or a basic things that kind of are related to a moment are usually discussed in my opinion. When we are more drunk, then we will open up and are also more willing to hear more about you. You will get the idea fast 😀

Imagen relacionada

It’s good to remember that finnish doesn’t like a “show ups” or a person who is constantly leading the conversation with loud voice, no matter does the conversation focus on himself or the others. When drinking, the good starters are offering a friend a shot or some other not-beer and ask their opinion etc. Rarely they decline when you offer them something and even if they answer you just “good”, but if those are by the far the words words from him to you it means that his going to talk with you later.  And one important thing, if you get to know someone when he’s drunk and he doesn’t greet you after some time, it doesn’t mean he doesn’t remember you or doesn’t want to! Just courageously go to talk them even they dont pay an antention to you, they get used to you, I know that sounds bad and tough work 😛 and yes it’s, even for finnish ourselves, but after that it’s worth it and finnish people are usually very loyal and in many cases too friendly as a friend

Finnish nature

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Finland is the beautiful nature we have. In Finland we have all four seasons summer, autumn, winter and spring. Summers aren’t that warm here in Finland. During the summer Finns visit their summer cottages, barbeques and enjoy life. In Finland we have so called “yötön yö” which means that sun doesn’t set at all.

Autumn is very beautiful in Finland. Trees turn to red and yellow. It is time to go mushrooming and picking up apples. Autumn is also perfect time to go hikinng.

In Finland we get lots of snow during the winter (at least in the north). Winter is cold and dark. In wintertime we have so called “kaamos” which means that sun doesn’t rise at all. It is the opposite to the “yötön yö” that we have in the summer. We have a lot of winter activities such as skiing, ice-hockey, snowboarding and etc. One very Finnish thing to do in the winter is to go swimming into the frozen lake/river. Finns drill hole into the ice and dips in. It is common to go to sauna to warm up afterwards.

When the spring comes people are very happy, because cold and dark winter is behind us and the summer is coming!

Mökkeily: The Finnish cottage culture

For Finns it’s normal that almost every family owns a cottage on a lake. The cabin can be ether modern with all the luxuries or extremely primitive with no electricity or running water. Or something between those. What combines all these cottages is that they are all places for relaxation and peace of mind.

The relaxation can mean many things. In summer it is things like swimming, playing games, walking in forest, rowing, barbecue or fishing but also yard working such as chopping wood, raking leaves, cleaning, doing maintenance work. In winter the favorites are skiing, skating, toboccan sliding, snowscootering, but also plowing snow. Everyone from children to old people spend time outside regardless of the temperature that can sometimes be as low as -25 °C and even lower in northern Finland.

Oh, and it’s not a cabin at all if there is no sauna. Period. Sauna is often used every evening while staying at the cottage. Finns usually go to sauna naked with close friends or family, although in most cases grown-ups take turns by gender. It is usually a sign of true friendship that you share a sauna together, where you can’t have anything to hide or any things with you that would make you somehow unequal with the other person that shares the space. Especially in summer if the löyly* is starting to feel too hot, we run and jump naked to the lake. Some people like to swim at winter too and a hole is drilled to the ice for it.

A modern cottage in Hauho with all the unnecessary luxuries like electricity and running water.

* Löyly does not only mean the water that is yet to be thrown to the sauna stove, but also the air temperature, moisture, intensity, spirit and even the whole character of the sauna experience. When a sauna is excellent, you can say something like “you get a good löyly there”.

 

The Wonderland

Finland, the Wonderland

Finland is a country where the most beautiful people live. It is also a country of high education and equality. Finns are known of their honesty, loyalty and shyness. They say that if you make friends with a Finn, it lasts for a lifetime. These are well known facts, but what else is Finland?

Finland is also a lot more. Finland is an amazing Wonderland. People living and visiting in this Wonderland can enjoy the pureness of the nature and the characters found only there.

Amazing characters of the Wonderland

Joulupukki, Santa Clause

Up north in Korvatunturi, Rovaniemi, you can meet the one and only Santa Claus all year round. Santa Claus lives there and you can meet him personally. Children and why not adults, can visit Santa Claus and give their wish list for Christmas. It is a magical place where all the childhood dreams can come true!

Muumit, Moomins

But wait, what are those white little creatures? They must be the Moomins. You can’t miss Moomins if you visit Finland. They are all around. These loved characters you can meet for real in Naantali, where is the Moomin World. There is also a museum in Tampere for Moomins.

Angry Birds

Have you ever met an Angry Bird? Finns have created this worldwide known game for everyone to enjoy. We also have theme parks to get the real experience. You can imagine yourself inside of the game and survive from one obstacle to another. The best part is that there are many theme parks around Finland. You can just choose easily where to step into that Angry Bird adventure.

Breathtaking nature of the Wonderland

Okay we have the amazing characters all around Finland. But that alone doesn’t make Finland a real Wonderland yet. Finnish nature is something amazing. Just a right place to live if you are a magical character like the ones above. Finland’s four seasons takes breath away. Spring is the time when the nature starts to gloom after long winter. Summer will please you with flowers, endless amount of lakes, berries and animals. Autumn will amaze you with a great wide of colors. Winter has a secret source of light, and it is the Northern Lights. Finns secret weapon against dark winter. Northern Lights are mysterious, because they appear many times during winter, but you might miss them if you want to see them too much.

Being a Finn

Being a Finn, I am proud and thankful of this Wonderland. There is nothing better than to visit Santa Claus during Christmas time and see the magical Northern Lights at the same trip. Or enjoy summertime with a book of Moomins adventures while birds are singing and blueberries waiting for me to eat them.

Finnish Seasons

Finland is land of beautiful forest and clean waters. Finns love to go to their cottages during their summer break and many of us enjoy our beautiful nature.

Henkilön Helena Kapanen kuva.

In Finland we have four different seasons, spring, summer, autumn, and winter. Every of those seasons have their own effects to Finns, we are like two different people during summer, when there hardly is dark nights at all, and during winter when it is always dark.

When it is summer, Finns go to concerts and festivals, we will have good time and drink beer. Summer is the time for living, it is the time for joy!

Henkilön Helena Kapanen kuva.

When autumn comes, it is time to go to the forest and collect mushrooms and berries, Finland’s forest offers best and most healthy treats there can be.

Henkilön Helena Kapanen kuva.

During winter you should put on your woolen socks, it is common that Finns have even made them themselves from Novita’s yarn. Those self-made socks will chase away depression of the cold and dark winter.

Henkilön Helena Kapanen kuva.

And when the spring comes, it is time to go out again to see the sun.

 

Finn Food

The easiest way to experience a culture is to try its food. This methodology applies for Finland, too. You don’t have to go to specific local grocery store like how they recommend you to have a “live like a Parisian” experience, in Finland, you just need to go to any supermarket to have an image of what Finn food is like.  Having been here for two years, I have not tried lots of hearty traditional Finnish dishes prepared by the locals, but I can still taste the “Finnishness”  through the seasonal food.

Autumn 

I first came to Finland in Autumn. Some of the first memories of the “finnishness” is the Tampere Fish Fair in Keskustori. At this fair I’ve got the chance to try fried vendance, crispy fried fish with creamy garlic sauce.  Autumn is also the best season for mushroom picking and root vegetables.

Fried vendance
Winter

Winter in Finland is dark and cold. The best thing you can have on a cold winter day is a bowl of salmon soup. Winter coming means that the Christmas is near, and it’s time to drink Glögi. Glögi is a spiced mulled wine, served hot with sliced almonds and raisins.

Glögi – Suomenlinna Toy Museum
Spring

It’s not clear to me when the spring begins in Finland, maybe it starts from late March-early April and lasts shortly till the end of May. But there are two noticeable events in this season, Easter and Vappu. Easter is not only the time for eggs and bunnies but also the time to eat mämmiMämmi is a baked dessert made from water, rye flour, powdered malted rye, Seville orange zest and salt. Mämmi is naturally sweet as it is gone through a slow natural sweetening process before being baked. Vappu is celebrated on 1st May. In addition to many interesting activities, it’s good to celebrate it with Sima – yeasted alcoholic drink and munkkiFinnish donut. Munkki is also one of my favorite Finn food.

Munnki and carrot cake – My all time favorite dessert
Summer

Summer in Finland is quite unpredictable. It can be cold and wet sometimes, but nothing can stop people from picking berries. You can see small stalls selling fresh strawberry and many types of berry in summer. In late summer, you can collect wild herb and edible flower, too. It sounds cool to make your own rosehip tea, doesn’t it?

Summer – Flower season

My Experiences of Finnishness

For me, being Finnish means berry-picking trips in the middle of North-Karelian mosquito-filled woods in my grandmother’s century-old jacket, and afterwards, the scent of a freshly baked blueberry pie. Being Finnish is filling a crossword puzzle in the morning at our summer cottage’s patio with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. It is celebrating the mid summer and watching a flaming bonfire. Being Finnish is  sensing the crisp, cold Nordic air in the wintertime (meaning freezing your butt off), waiting for a bus, which is always late from schedule due to heavy snow.

When I think about the Finnish way of life, I just imagine an all-round basic and simple everyday life. For me, being Finnish is not about being beautiful and polished, it is being pure, bare and honest, which I love. We as whole don’t crave for spectacles, we strive from tradition and harmonic life of honest labor and steady, safe family lives. The stereotypical Finn works a 9 to 5 job for the  most of the year, escapes to his summer cottage for the summer, and returns to the workplace with a messy hair and an uneven summer tan. Steady, safe and familiar, routine-filled life is what I grew up with, and what I respect.

One of my favorite things about Finland is the nature. We have such a beautiful nature surrounding us, which we often seem to take for granted. Although the summer may be wet and cloudy some times, the beautiful view of a lake landscape or the green forests is without a doubt humbling. When other countries may suffer from drought or overpopulation, our small country is full of nature, space, and places to explore. The wintertime is so beautiful, when every place is packed with fresh, white, untouched snow.

Only recently have I woken up to the fact that I love being a normal Finn. I’m glad we have free education, good healthcare and a broad knowledge of different things. Whether I’m staying at home or exploring the town, I feel safe and not afraid. I grew up knowing that I can trust others, and do what I wish. We have freedom of speech and equality.

Being Finnish is knowing the lyrics or the evergreen iskelmä-songs. Being Finnish is stuffing ketchup in every single meal, no matter if the flavor serves any meaning to the food itself.  Being Finnish is dark humor, sarcasm and bad puns. Being Finnish is coffee, Fazer-chocolate, rye bread and sausage. Being Finnish is being Me! 🙂