Tag Archives: cottage

My experience of Finland in a nutshell

What do you think of when someone mentions Finland? Santa claus, polar bears, free education, and ice hockey are some things you might hear from other people. Everyone has their own perspective of Finland, and no perspective is wrong in my opinion. I feel that way, because your life experience in Finland is very subjective. Finland can offer you very down to earth experience in quiet and unsocial environment. Finland can also be  experienced in very outgoing and social environment. That’s what I like about Finland – you are not to be judged if you are introverted, and you are not to be judged if you are extroverted.

I think most people abroad see Finnish people as introverted, and I agree to that to some degree. However, even though Finn’s are not really raised to keep noise of themselves, Finn’s can be quite talkative after they have initiated in a conversation. I think we were raised to be well behaving and not to talk to strangers. I think I see a change in this attitude in the streets, with people being more open to strangers.

There’s just thing one thing I am afraid that will be issue in the future. Unlimited internet access for 1 month is cheaper than a restaurant meal in Finland. This is really something if you compare it to other countries. For example in Australia mobile phone data plan can be up to 50 euros, and that doesn’t even include unlimited data! Internet accessibility in Finland is really unique, and we should be proud of that.

When you’re walking down the streets however, you can really see the effect of this accessibility. People are staring down their phones, while ignoring everything else. Lots of people are even using their phones while driving! More and more people are getting smartphone addictions from young age. That is the one thing that should be watched amongst youngsters. With proper usage our internet availability is a huge asset for us, and it should be viewed as a tool, not as a lifestyle.

 

So what does a typical Finn do in his free time? There’s one activity that applies from babies to elders. And that is going to the cottage.  Cottage is a place where you can just lay back, and enjoy being together with your friends, relatives, or just enjoying your own company. It’s quite typical for young adults to go to cottage and enjoy different kind of games and beverages. This can especially be seen in times around midsummer. It’s such a tradition that even though you do not have your own cottage, people will still rent a cottage for fairly high price.  It’s also important to have a sauna in your cottage.

For people who do not enjoy going to cottages, there are festivals around the country during midsummer. They are especially popular in teens, but pretty much people from all ages go there.

 

So how is Finland going to be for you? It’s all up to you. You define how you want to experience Finland, let it be partying or enjoying the nature. Or in the best case, both. 🙂

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”.

 

It takes time, but it’s worth it

Before you start to read this post, please play the following song from Youtube while reading. By doing this, you will share the same song and ambient I had while writing. The song is a Samish yoik, which reminds me of my home in Northern Finland.

Jon Henrik Fjällgren – Daniel’s Jojk

The older I get, the more I romanticize the quietness the Finnish forests, lakes and rivers so kindly share us. No matter how big the city you are living here in Finland, you don’t have to travel far to find a cabin or cottage next to a quiet lake more or less isolated from neighbors. The further north you go, the less you find other people or distractions created by the modern mankind.

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Sometimes it just needs a snowmobile and a sunny day to find yourself in the middle of nowhere. Ahhh, Finnish heaven.

If you count the words “quiet” and “quietness” I used in the latter chapter, you might understand where I’m heading at. It does not seem to be just a stereotype that Finnish people love to embrace the moment of being alone or surrounded by people they feel comfortable with. Try to have a chat with a shy Finnish person – you won’t find yourself having a word rich dialogue.

BUT, try to get yourself with a group of Finnish strangers into one of those cabins mentioned before for an extended weekend – man, you might surprise yourself! It could contain a few (read many) brewskies, definitely many sauna rounds, while between skinny dipping yourself into the lake (or ice hole, carved open with a motor saw during the winter) and I almost bet my bottom that the Finns have opened themselves to you. They might talk with you over the nights, laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time. But once again, this means having them Finns in a comfortable place. It’s not easy to tame a typical Finn, haha.

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Two good friends, a crackling fire and bottle of Finnish alcohol Jalokahvi and it’s enough. No words needed.

I have not traveled around the world ten times, but I have traveled and experienced different cultures. What I’ve seen is that we Finns tend to really follow the rules excluding IKEA manuals. You can see that buildings are built exactly as the regulations say. The law is the law. From my point of view I can say that it feels more safe and equal when you know that everybody has the same laws and articles to obey, and everybody’s following them.

Sure we can also find tragiomic examples of obeying rules too tight. You can be sure there are no bars serving even a single drop of alcohol after 3.30 am. In the motorway, don’t you dare driving too fast or not use the blinker when switching lanes – straight middle finger or a honk is pointed at you my friend. Sitting in a train in a two pair seat, on the wrong side of these two equally same spots, I can assure you that a typical Finn will for sure wake you up 2.38 in the morning to say: “Could you move, you’re on my spot” (happened to my friend, haha). Now I am actually currently in a train on my way to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and some a-hole is talking too loudly on his phone (for other people normal voice level). Typical Finnish reaction to unnecessary attention, haha.

When interviewing a Finn after a won game in sports, I promise you that he won’t say anything of their team of being just simply the best, unbeatable and how they’ve been winning every game during the season and will continue their path of victories. The Finnish player would probably say something, that today was a better day for their team, but there’s still a lot to do to make the team play more efficient and basically better. Finns are modest. Everything that’s done better than average is considered as bragging. Try to speak about your achievements. Haha, the boaster stamp achieved. We let the achievements to speak for themselves. It’s a vice and a virtue to be this modest.

At the end of the day we can find ourselves being quiet, modest and rule-followers. It is really what you can expect from a country where there’s less than 5.5 million people spread all over the 338,424 square kilometer area causing the density being only 16 persons per square kilometer. Just to compare with Macao, the number one in density of population, it’s 21,352 per square kilometer (Wikipedia). So no wonder we tend to keep by ourselves. But believe me, give a Finn some time and you might make a loyal friend for the rest of your life.

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Eventually you will find making friends for life.