Tag Archives: sauna

Finnishness Through My Lens

The People

I’m always impressed by the honesty and kindness of Finnish people. I still remembered the first day I came to Finland which was three years ago. Arrived alone at the airport in Joensuu, I did not know what to do next after picking up my luggage. I just stood, looked around and found very few people at the airport. I had to ask for help from the airport supervisor to call for a taxi. He was willing to lend me his phone and assisted me with putting my stuff into the car. When I reached my place, I met my flatmate who was also a Fin. She was friendly and always tried to create the warm atmosphere to welcome me as a newcomer. We were talking a lot about our own cultures and why we decided to stay in this city. To be honest, on my first day in Finland, I felt homesick a little bit in the first place, but then I felt warm after meeting the local people who were always hospitable towards the visitors. Another thing to mention is what I learned from my university. I attended a course which was called “Intercultural Communication”. My Finnish teacher said that a Fin was very honest and straight. If they complimented someone on something, they really meant it. On the other hand, if they were not satisfied with anything, they might show their expression on their face or tried not to talk about it. And I love this character of the Finnish as I thought, although sometimes it might be frank, I still preferred what would be real, coming from the bottom of the heart. Moreover, when I moved to Tampere from Joensuu, I got help from a Finnish old lady on my first day to TAMK. At that time, I did not acknowledge about the bus schedule system in Tampere so I was lost. Luckily, the old lady was enthusiastic to help me although she only spoke Finnish. She was supposed to get off to her place, but she still stayed with me until the end of the trip. When we got off the bus number 3 to catch another bus to TAMK, she held my hand and said in Finnish. I knew some Finnish and said “Kiitos paljon” to her. I just felt like I was her niece and taken care by a grandmother. I felt grateful to receive help from the local people in Finland.

The Winter

There is a joke on Facebook, “When months in Finland are different to months elsewhere”.

Source: Very Finnish Problem – Facebook

It means that the winter in Finland lasts for months, more than six months. Everything will be covered by the white snow and the darkness will dominate the whole thing for such a long time when it comes to winter. To be honest, I get depressed from time to time because of the coldness and silence. However, I still know how to enjoy the winter here. If it’s cold, I’ll go to sauna to warm myself up. Sauna is part of Finnish culture and Finland is the homeland of sauna. I love the heat, sitting by the heated stone in one corner and pouring the water down the stone. I don’t know if anyone has tried this before. It’s kind of going to the winter lake, dimming oneself into it and then go for a sauna and just take turn like that. If you stay in Finland, you should definitely try that once. 

Joensuu Polar Bear – Source: Joensuun Jääkarhut

Besides, another winter activity I love most is sledging. At first, I was very scared, but after that I got used to it and tried doing it many times. I also take an interest in walking on the frozen lake although I am afraid that this activity might be dangerous. I feel like I have a superpower to step on the water. I find it interesting to walk on the lake because it will save time to go from place to another.

Sledging in winter – Source: Google

The Landscape

Finland is considered to be the land of thousand lakes. Everywhere I go, I always see lakes. I never row a boat on the lake, but only stand on the bridge and look at the surroundings, especially in summer. The atmosphere is fresh, I can smell the lake and the trees.

Pyhäselkä in summer – Source: Taken by me

The view is bright with the sunlight and blue sky, but in winter, the lake will be covered with white snow.

Pyhäselkä in winter – Source: Taken by me

In autumn, I love the yellow leaves falling down from the trees. It looks romantic. Yes, it is indeed. I also want to take a rest at the lake again to enjoy watching the breathtaking view again. I can see that the lake view is quite typical in Finland. It is different from other places that I have ever been to. I find it peaceful and colorful with blue and green. It gives a relaxing atmosphere whenever I feel depressed.

Autumn trees – Source: Taken by me

 

Finnishness from the viewpoint of a German

I still remember how people looked at me when I told them that I am going to live in Finland. And even after three years I still hear myself explaining why I didn’t choose a warm country with sunny beaches. The questions are always the same: Isn’t it very cold and dark there? Is the language really so hard to learn? Are the Finns really so quiet and restrained?

To be honest, the long darkness is a serious struggle for me and the Finnish language often drives me close to insanity.

However, this does not define Finnishness for me.

For me, Finnishness means:

Nature: Wherever you go in Finland, the next lake or forest is always close by. In Germany, if you are living in a bigger city, you often need to drive somewhere to be in nature and the few lakes we have are usually overrun with people.

 

 

Sauna: When I was a child I sometimes went to public saunas in Germany, but I never really enjoyed them. First of all, people must be naked (also in mixed saunas) and secondly, others will look sharply at you if you make a single sound. In Finland going to the sauna is more like an event where people are not only relaxing, but also socializing. Since I am living in Finland, I became a true sauna fan – especially during the cold winters.

 

 

 

 

Hospitality: Finns often seem very quiet, but their hospitality overrides this restraint. Before my studies I worked as au pair in a Finnish host family and from the first moment I felt welcomed there. During this year I received several visits from friends and family and my host family was always very happy to meet my guests and usually invited them to their summer cabin.

 

 

Finnishness

There are many things to be proud of when thinking Finland or Finnishness; school system, health care, safety, equality, honesty … And of course, the nature of Finland and the sauna!

In Finland we are happy to have four different seasons of the year. They all are very special and have their own perks.

Winter
December to February
-30’C – 0’C
White activities; downhill and cross-country skiing, ice-skating, ice-fishing
Christmas and Santa Claus
Northern Lights

Spring
March to May
0’C – +10’C
Birds singing
1 of May – Vappu
Grass growing and the leaves bursting forth
Flowers

Summer
June to August
+15’C – +32’C
Endless summer days when the sun doesn’t set
Midsummer
Festivals
Relaxing summer cottage life

Autumn
September to November
+2’C – +15’C
Colourful leaves, “ruska”
Forests, mushrooms
Cozy evenings, hot drinks, candles, books, movies

 

“Build the sauna, then the house”

The Finnish sauna is a big part of Finnish culture. There are over three million saunas in Finland – so an average of one per household. I have heard that there are more saunas than cars in Finland! Another fun fact – even a Burger King located in Helsinki has the world’s first in-store sauna and spa.

For Finnish people sauna is a place to relax, socialize, have a couple of drinks and enjoy. Many Finns who have the opportunity usually take a sauna at least once a week. There is no matter what season or time it is, you can always go to sauna.

Finnish mental landscapes

It is widely known that Finland is land of a thousand lakes. Over 187,000 lakes can be found in Finland which is a lot for such a tiny country. Forests cover 75 percent of Finland’s land area which makes it Europe’s most heavily-forested country. This can be one reason why Finns have been described as a forest nation. Every time when I´m on plane and returning to Helsinki-Vantaa airport I feel like landing right in the middle of a forest. So, it is not that difficult to guess which kind of mental landscape people might have here in the northern hemisphere.

Finnish people´s mental landscape lies mostly on the countryside by the lake although most of the people are packed to the cities. It might be in our DNA to feel relaxed surrounded by the nature. This comes out on summers when punch of Finns wanders to their summer retreat places. The cottage is an institution in Finland. And cottage life can be described as a part of the Finnish identity. It is called mökki or kesämökki in Finnish. These simple wooden cottages or log cabins are usually situated close to water. Nowadays some cottages can be like people´s second homes with all the necessities. Cottage slow life offers chance to recharge your batteries. Most of the Finns would mention it to be the most ideal way to spend summer holidays with 24 hours of sunlight. I really agree this. The following picture is taken from my father´s summer cottage house which is located in Hirvensalmi. There are more cottages than residents in this tiny town.

It is remarkable that almost all cottages have a sauna. Finnish people are crazy for saunas. There´s over three million saunas in Finland which tells that it is significant part of Finnish culture. Mostly if you visit someone’s cottage you may be end up to sauna. Sauna has long history in Finland. It used to be cleanest place in households so many babies were born in the sauna back in the days. It is still considered almost as a holy place. Nowadays it is a place to relax alone or with friends and family. In public saunas, this experience can be shared with punch of other sweating people. Documentary movie called Steam of life (Miesten vuoro) was filmed in different saunas. Sounds exotic filming location, eh? The movie is recommendable if anyone feels curiosity towards the mindset of a Finnish man. Finally, in summary the Finnish mental landscapes lie alongside the lake and middle of woods where the birds are humming, and water is licking. Such landscapes lead to Finnish zen where the words are not needed.

 

 

 

Being a Finn

Sauna

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish sauna meme

When thinking of Finnishness, the first thing that pops into my mind is sauna. It is the place where one can fully relax and shake off stress. I find the most common time to sauna is during the weekend, usually on Friday, to conclude work week.

Silence

Finns are quite silent, and we embrace it. We minimize all excess communication. No chit-chatting with your neighbours, a simple greeting is fine. No talking to strangers in the bus, we are invading their personal space (and you also want to have your own space).

 

Punctuality

Finns are work oriented and everything – your work day, family gatherings, free time – is usually planned systematically. Funny enough, in other hand we are also quite inconsistent. Public transport is expected to be either late or early, whichever works against your schedule.

 

Four seasons

Kuvahaun tulos haulle four seasons

In Finland you can experience the full season experience. The whole package.  I personally enjoy all of them. Having four different seasons makes me appreciate each a lot more.

In winter you enjoy having a lot of snow and warming up once you have spent your time outside. The cold makes you long for the warmth of summer.

In spring nature raises once more, bringing life and colours. The summer is almost here.

In summer it’s sunny and warm. On the hottest days you could almost wait for the temperature to drop.

In autumn nature starts its glorious wither before summer. It gets darker and rainy. You prepare for winter.

 

Finns are a lot of other things too, of course, but I feel these points cover up a good part of it.

What is it like to be a Finn?

Finland is a small country with big opportunities. We have four beautiful seasons, outstanding pure nature and a society that takes care of its members. Like all countries, Finland has its issues, but I highly believe that they are been seeing smaller when putting in to perspective. This is one reason why people should explore the world and its differences; it makes you see your home country in a whole new light. In this case –  very positively.

Finland has some things that no other country can offer to a Finn, such as sauna and the outstanding nature that gives us energy and pure oxygen to breathe. We have climate that provides us with four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Every Finn waits for the Finnish summer through all of the other seasons and just wishes it is a warm one. I guess that’s the beauty of it – you never know how it’s going to be, but you know it’s coming.

Personally I love all the four seasons and each one has its own good sides. Spring is the time when everything comes back to life and the nature starts to really show its beauty. Finnish summer is amazing with all its pure lakes to swim in, grilled food and cottage life. It is a time when you can explore different cities in Finland and feel like a tourist. Fall is stunning with all its colors and fallen leaves. The weather is crispy and this is a time of the year when usually something new starts. Finnish winter is like no other – endless possibilities for activities, breathtaking views and a perfect season for the Finnish privilige – the sauna. Nothing beats the combination of cross-country skiing followed by sauna on a crispy winter day.

 

Finland is a great place to live in. When travelling, you will see that not many countries take care of their members the way Finland does. Our country offers same options for everyone, regardless of the background. We have a free education which is utopia for most of the people. So let’s appreciate our beautiful home country and all the things it offers to us.

My Experiences of Finnishness

Beautiful nature, light summers, dark winters and sauna. That`s my Finland.

Finland is known as the Land of the Thousand Lakes and it is actually true. The whole Finland is covered with lakes and forests. Nature is also very pure, so here you can drink clean tap water and breath fresh air.

In Finland we have four seasons. Winter is long and dark, but all snow and ice makes it lighter. Spring is the time when everything wakes up and nature is beautifull light green. Summer is not that long, but it is warm and full of light. Actually in mid-summer sun doesn´t set at all for couple of days. Autumn is dark and rainy, but nature is also beautifully colorful, because all the leafs are changing the colour.

Last but not least my favorite thing in Finland: Sauna! Sitting naked in a small, hot room might sound weird for foreigner. But for us it is a place to relax and warm up.

What I love about Finland

I’m very proud of my home country and I like to live here. Our country is unique and beautiful. Finland is one of the safest country to live, we have free health care and our school system is also one of the best in the world and these are things that Finns are proud of. 

The most important thing for me in Finland is our nature. Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and forests. The air is fresh and clean which tempt Finns and also tourists in the nature. Finnish nature serves many opportunities and our four seasons are amazing. In winter we have snow and ice and the temperature may drop even over -20 degrees.  In winter our ski centers fill with skiers and ice rinks with ice skaters. In Winter you can go ice fishing and the most relaxing activity in winter is ice swimming.

Finnish spring and summer is full of light. It is funny to notice that just a few months ago you could walk on iced lake and now you swim and drive with jet ski on that same lake. I think in summer Finns truly wake up after a long and dark winter and become totally different people, relaxed and cheerful. In summer Finns like to spend time on summer cottages with their family and friends.

  

It is always a bit pity when the summer ends but luckily autumn in Finland is colourful and even if the weather isn’t that nice there is still something in the darken evenings. The best thing in the end of the summer are berries and mushrooms which you can find and pick up in forests. The best thing you can do with your own picked blueberries is delicious blueberry pie.

Another thing that I love in Finland is sauna. When the weather gets cold it is wonderful to heat up the sauna. Also in summer it is nice to heat yourself in sauna and dip to the lake to cool off. For Finns sauna is the place where to go relax and flush your worries away. Sauna is also only place where Finns forget their personal space and it is totally okay to go to sauna with strangers.

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. 🙂

The Finnish summer paradise

As I feel that it is quite easy for us Finns to focus on the “not so good” aspects of Finland (don’t get me wrong – I’m one of this type of people too), this time I wanted to focus on some of the things I love about Finland and the reasons why I appreciate being a Finn.

The summer 2018 has been so amazing here in Finland that it has almost made me forget about the cold, ruthless winter behind. The summer has been exceptionally warm and beautiful, and I have been truly enjoying every second of it. This lead me to think about the things I appreciate in Finland.

So what is one of the best things about Finland to me? Summer cottage. I think that it can be difficult for foreigners to understand how magnificent the summer cottage culture is here in Finland and furthermore to know how it feels to experience the authentic, Finnish summer cottage life.

At least my summer wouldn’t be summer if it didn’t include going to our summer cottage. The place has been close to my heart all my life and I’ve been crawling in its nearby woods and swimming in its waters since I was a small girl. Nowadays the cottage is close to a holy place to me, and the only place that makes me feel 100% relaxed.

Sitting in the sauna, watching a breathtaking view over the lake is something you cannot describe with words. Swimming in the lake after sauna and watching the sunset with its fairy-tale-like colors makes one wonder if it’s heaven or earth where that moment is taking place.

As a place, I believe that summer cottage brings Finns together and makes them closer. Many of the summer cottages in Finland don’t include the luxury of, for example, electricity or water toilets. That’s why people light up candles, read, paint, go fishing or just talk about life. Living without some of the everyday conveniences gives space to so many other activities, which creates a powerful sense of freedom. Visiting a summer cottage is for sure a relaxing, therapeutic experience which would be in place for so many people.

You can probably tell by now that summer is my number 1 favorite time of the year in Finland. That is why I will be quite happy to leave for my exchange in the autumn, and thus escape the dark, cold winter in Finland. I made a promise to myself that one day when I move out of Finland for good, I will visit during the summer time and hopefully will have a summer cottage of my own – that is something I do not want to give up.