Tag Archives: sauna

Humble and honest

The icy shores of lake Pyhä

Finnish people are humble and honest, but not very talkative. We don’t make a big deal out of ourselves. Finnish are gentle and thoughtful like the Moomins. Our education and public health care system are high-class and funded by taxes. In Finland we have a very good waste recycling system and we appreciate our nature. The Finnish passports is one of the best in the world: You can get to 175 from 218 countries with the Finnish passport without a visa.

A frosty winter day

The nature has a huge impact in the Finnish mentality. We live in a country of 200 000 lakes and almost every family has a summer cottage (by the lake of course). The best way to spend the summer vacation is to go to your summer cottage, have a sauna, swim and eat barbecue food. The Finnish sauna there is hot (preferably 80 to 100 Celsius) and the best ones are heated with wood rather than electricity.

Pure and bright waters of the lake Saimaa

Finnish people are people of the woods: We pick berries and fungus from the forests during the fall and spend our vacations doing activities in the nature, such as skiing, fishing and hiking. In Finland we have these Everyman’s rights, which allows us to hike, pick berries and camp in the nature, no matter who owns the land, as far as we don’t make a damage or disturb others.

Finnish summer

In Finland we have four seasons, which all come with their unique beauty. In the Finnish Lapland the sun doesn’t set at all during the summer and in the winter the polar night lasts about 50 days during which the sun doesn’t show at all. But you don’t have to go all the way to the Lapland to experience the beauty of Finnish nature: In the winter, if your lucky, you can spot the aurora borealis for example in Tampere also. The Finnish summer is short but lovely: The people come out of their shells, there’s a lot of laughter and joy, and people spend their time outdoors as much as they can.

The springtime in Finland

Finland has it’s own national epic, the Kalevala, compiled in the 19th Century by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish folklore and mythology. The tale begings with the traditional Finnish creation myth and is followed by a lot of magical spell casting and singing. There are stories of lust, romance, betrayal and seduction and the nature is present throughout the story in the scenery and dialogue. J. R. R. Tolkien has told that he has taken inspiration from the Kalevala to create the elf language to his famous fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

A beautiful summer night in Tampere

On a nightout, Finnish people love to drink beer, tell bad jokes and sing karaoke. Finnish is the only language that has a word for getting drunk at home wearing only your underwear, it’s “kalsarikännit”.

 

Finnishness in a nutshell

When talking about Finland and Finnishness people always bring up the beautiful nature or the dark and cold winter. Another topic of discussion is the nature of Finnish people; unsocial, stubborn and modest. To me, however, Finnishness is a lot more. Finnishness is cottage life, sauna and most importantly, good food.

You can’t talk about Finnish culture without mentioning cuisine. For me the most important things in Finnish cuisine are salty liquorice, coffee and rye bread. Salty liquorice, or salmiakki, is a Finnish treat which is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Many Finnish people say salmiakki is the first thing they miss about Finland when they travel abroad. Finns are the people with the highest consumption of coffee in the world. It is not unusual to start your life as a coffee drinker in your youth. Here in Finland rye bread is the most common type of bread. Traditional rye bread is a dark, sour bread which can also be found dried.
Finnish culture has a lot of traditional foods which can’t stay mentioned; Karelian pie, Karelian hot pot, and traditional Finnish Easter dessert made from rye flour, called mämmi. For me, these traditional foods bring back memories of my childhood. 
Finns don’t always go to the nearest supermarket to get their food, because our beautiful nature provides us with berries and mushrooms, for example. Some Finns even have their own small fields in their backyard, where they grow their own potatoes, carrots, beetroots and other veggies.

 

There is no Finnishness without sauna culture. The first thing us Finns mention to foreigners is how great the Finnish sauna is. Sauna is the place where even the most unsocial Finn may open up, but even then, it’s not certain. Sauna is also the place where you can show your guts, so called “Sisu”, when you compete who can withstand the most heat the longest. When you have burned your skin off in the scorching sauna, it is typical to take a cooling dip in the cold lake or even roll in the snow, when there’s no water nearby.

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!

 

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”.

 

General opinion of Finnish people?

I’m trying to wrap my head around the general opinion of Finnish people. If I think about it from an “outsiders” point of view, I see a nation that is doing quite well, people who might be a little bit reserved but who are still very helpful, kind and are open minded.

When talking to people who are not from Finland and asking, “What is your opinion of a Finnish person?” sometimes the answer is that we are shy and quiet and sometimes that we are loud and talkative (this one usually happens if you drink alcohol).

Some have a language barrier with foreign people, maybe their English is not so good, so they seem shy and quiet, even though maybe they would like to get to know the person.

Something that I’ve been wondering a lot is why do the Finns need so much space, where does it come from? Even when we talk to each other we keep our distance. For me, it’s funny, it’s just how we are. A funny example of the need for personal space you can see in this picture where Finnish people are waiting for the bus.

 

I also recommend visiting a blog called Finnish Nightmares. It is one of the funniest pages ever! There is so much truth in the posts, but it really is just funny!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares

I will end my post with telling you my favorite thing about Finland.

So for me it really is the summer, going to the cottage with my family, going to sauna and going for a swim in the lake. I can’t experience this often since I usually have been away the summers, so when I get to go, it makes me so happy. The forrest surrounds me and it really feels like you can just forget about all your problems, they seem so far when you are so relaxed.

/Katariina

The darkness and survival

Let me tell you a little about the cycle of Finnish mood. I am writing this in July, which is the peak of Finnish mental happiness. The dark, long period of coldness and grayness is contrasted with the most beautiful couple of months. Like a lover returning to you from the darkness you once thought had digested her/him. The peak is short but sweet, followed by a positively melancholic autumn which slowly dips you back into the cycle of seasons. Accompanied by a warm, loving embrace telling you that the good times will come again but until then you must find the beauty from places where it´s rarely searched, but where it has learned to survive the harsh environment.

 

The road to true ecstasy is hard and torturous. We call this torturous period the “kaamos aika”, aka the polar night, aka a period of darkness north of the Arctic Circle when the sun does not rise over the horizon. It is still enough to feel the effect if you are just close to the arctic circle. There is a place in southern Finland that got a majestic two hours of sun light in a period of three months from December to February in the winter of 2014. It is within these kind of periods that one might suffer from “kaamosmasennus”, aka winter depression.

There are ways to treat the “kaamosmasennus” but the best one is just to get the hell out of here. If you however don´t have the financial situation to balance this out, you might want to try something out of the ordinary. Embrace that beast of darkness and dig a hole through that frozen lake and go for a swim! I´m not even joking. In a situation like this it is very nice to have a sauna near by to relax your tortured soul. It is called avantouinti (winter swimming). It feels really good to take your body through those extreme temperatures, and when your body feels good your mind feels good. There are places in Finland where people go to do this, if not every day then every week. It buzzes you up and makes you feel alive and relaxed both at the same time. If you are really lucky you might escape into the finish wilderness and heat up a mökki (cottage) which usually includes a sauna by a lake. You will feel super authentic as you heat up the sauna, make a hole in the ice with a chainsaw, get naked and dip yourself into the cold lake. Gaze up at the non light polluted starry sky keeping that nice hot sauna in mind. This is something that keeps me going through the sunless season and something that I miss during the sunshine season.

One of a kind Finland

Finland sure is a country and a nation never seen before. There are couple of things that make Finland special and pop out from the world map. These are some of the things I find the most finnish about Finland:

NATURE

I’m quite sure I’m not the only one when I want to talk about the beautiful nature that Finland has all around. Finland is the land of thousands of lakes and forests so wherever you go you can be certain that those two things can’t be too far away. There are four seasons in Finland (even though nowadays it’s sometimes hard to see it because of the unfortunate global warming). Winter, spring, summer and autumn are all different kinds of seasons in Finland and it can definitely be seen in the nature and in finnish people.

Winter is a unique time of the year when there’s lots of things and acitivities do. It divides finnish people into two categories – some love, some hate. During winter there’s snow and crispy cold climate. On the perfect winter days, the ground and trees are all white covered in powder snow and sun is still shining warmly even though it can get for example as cold as -30 degrees even in the south. When it comes to spring, all finnish people seem to crawl out of their holes that they have been hiding in the whole winter. Trees are starting to bloom and get greener every day and the climate is getting warmer. Never soon enough, summer comes and the whole Finland is praising the warm (krhm) weather, sun and not having to wear winter gear to keep warm. Finland is full of beautiful summercities and pretty much wherever you travel during summer in Finland, you will find beautiful landscapes and various activities to keep you busy. In the middle of summer the sun doesn’t set at all in Lapland, northern part of Finland. It never stops amazing me how incredibly light it is outside during summer, no matter what time it is, day or night. Around September the frightening fall is upon Finland. Just joking, it’s not THAT bad. Fall captures beautiful scenery when the trees are changing colors and the weather requires people to wear a light jacket and something else than flip flops. During November people seem to be a little down, and the energylevels are quite not the same as in the summertime. Luckily finnish people enjoy Christmas, and not too long from November that time is upon everyone. And all of a sudden we are back to winter and snow again!

LANGUAGE

The finnish language is quite special. It’s complicated and difficult to learn since there are no other languages that would even remotely remind or sound the same (except maybe estonian language, which isn’t really more common than finnish). Learning finnish requires patience and undivided will to learn it, because let me tell you, if there’s no desire, there’s also no results when it comes to finnish. There are many different meanings for specific words, letters are pronounced in ways that are not common in other languages such as the letter R, and there are like a billion forms for each word. However, it’s not impossible to learn finnish and if you end up learning it, that if something is an accomplishment and you can be pretty proud of yourself!

SAUNA

Sauna, sauna, sauna. Can it get more finnish than this? No. There are thousands or saunas in Finland and it is very common to have your own sauna at your house. It doesn’t matter whether it’s summer or winter, sauna is being used all year round. During winter sauna and  running to a pile of snow to make snowangels are the perfect combination. During summertime especially at cottages saunas are heated pretty much every day. Sauna and a dip in the lake is almost a requirement for cottage life. It seems like finnish people attach sauna to all the holidays and special or less special days that exist in Finland: Christmas morning sauna, midsummer sauna, saturday sauna and the list goes on.. What can I say, sauna is the answer to everything!

On top of these three things that I find the most finnish ever, there are lots of other things to be proud of in Finland. We value the health system in Finland, that is available for everyone and our free education has been listed as the best in the world. All these things need to be experienced to be able to actually know how amazing and FINNISH Finland really is!

Finnish unwritten rules

 

We finns like to think we are a very unique nation. There are some unwritten rules that we follow on daily bases that might seem weird to someone from another culture.

  1. Keeping our distance.

It is true that we like to keep our distance (preferably as wide as possible) to strangers and even with our friends and family. Personally i get a little anxious when strangers get closer then 1 meter from me. I don’t think I’m the only finn feeling this way. Every finnish person know the rules how to respect each others personal space. You can see it in many various situations, such as:

  • Meeting someone new: it’s always an polite and firm hand shake. Never ever
    expect us to hug you or give you cheek
  • kisses. That is just weird and awkward for us.
  • Whe in elevators we like to stand close to the walls and preferaply corners. We avoid eye contact and keep quiet during the ride.
  • We won’t sit right next to one another. Only if there is absolutelly no choice we do that but otherwise it’s just not going to happen. Always leave at least one seat in between.
  • When we are leaving from our apartments we won’t open the door right away, if we hear someone walking in the hallway. No, we wait until the person has gone. No need for any unexpected and awkward human contact.
  1. No interruptions

For us it is simply rude to interrupt someone when their speaking. It makes both parties feel uncomfortable so we just avoid that. We speak our minds, when the person talking is done.

  1. Punctuality

We are a very punctional nation. We are always rather 10 minutes early then even 1 minute late. It is simply not accepted. We also expect everyone else to be on time, no excuses.

  1. Reliability

That is something that we are very proud of. There is nothing in the world you could trust more then a finnish promise. We will do what ever it takes to keep our promise. And what we can’t do, that we won’t promise.

  1. Modesty

Nothing makes you better than modesty. It makes it hard for us to accept compliments and credits. To be credited for your work, or even worse, to be credited for your work infront of your co-workers is just awful for us. I get chills even thinking about it.

  1. Whining

That is the national sport of Finland, whining. Nothing is ever good enough and nothing is ever perfect. Especially whe it is about the weather. It is always too hot, too dark, too rainy, too windy too what ever. We also compit with our friends about our miseries. Who has slept the least or the worse, who has the least money, who has the most homework, the least free time. You simply can not win a finn in a competition of whining.

  1. Sauna and alcohol

Those two are the main things in our culture. Propably because they keep us both sane and warm. There is absolutelly nothing you can not talk about in sauna, especially if you are drunk. Its the place of bonding, relaxing and sharing.

Finnishness for me

When I think about Finnishness the first things that comes to my mind are coffee, lakes, beautiful landscapes, shyness, sauna and four seasons. I love the Finnish summer (when it is warm…).
Beautiful landscapes

I like to go jogging just to see new beautiful landscapes. I have always lived neat by the lake. It is so beautiful when you go for a walk just before the sun sets. Below you can see few of my favorite pictures. The views are beautiful in every season.

Sauna

Finns like to go to sauna. It’s totally normal that everyone is naked in sauna. It seems funny because Finns are quite shy but in sauna you can be naked with strangers. The best thing in the summer is to go to a cottage and just hang out there with your friends and go to sauna and swim in the lake.

There are over three million saunas in Finland. That is more than we have cars. Many Finnish have tradition to go to sauna at least once a week. When I was a kid we went to sauna every Saturday and after that watched a movie.

Four seasons

There are four seasons in Finland. All of the seasons are very different. Summer is my favorite. In the summer, there are also at night very bright. In Lapland, there is a day when the sun doesn’t set at all. At winter, I like to go downhill skiing. At autumn, it is very beautiful when the leaves are red and yellow.

 

 

Weird Finnish habits

I would say one typical Finnish thing is the need for personal space. It’s that serious that it’s even funny. I mean it doesn’t matter even if would be snowing or raining etc. Finns usually leave some space between others for example at the bus stops. Here is a photo to demonstrate that:

Finns at the bus stop

Another thing I think Finland is even a little famous for, is the sauna. It is seen as a stereotype that Finns like being in the sauna for really long periods of time. The hotter the better. And also, we go to sauna naked. Yes, this might be a shock to some, but that’s how we like to do it. And to finish all this “weirdness” we like to spank each other or ourselves with this birch whisk called “vihta” in the sauna. It is seen as a cleaning ritual of some sort.

“Vihta”

 

In addition to the above mentioned Finnish habits, there are trademarks that have made Finland known abroad as well. These are Marimekko, Fiskars, Polar and Angry Birds  -just to name a few.

All in all, Finland is a good place to live and not all Finns possess these stereotypical qualities. In general, Finns are friendly and outgoing people.