Tag Archives: sauna

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.

Remove your shoes when entering a house, please.

Even in a Finnish monoculture, there is a lot of variance that makes Finns more culturally diverse than one might think, at least in our own quiet way that is. However, even if we do have our own regional differences, there are still things that are shared and appreciated country-wide. I will share some of my thoughts that I believe are appreciated all around Finland.

For example, taking off your shoes, when enter someone’s house. It’s little to no appreciated thing, but it creates a feeling of certainty and respect. You know that even when entering a house that you have never been to before, you take off your shoes. You still know how to act and that, at least to me, creates a feeling of certainty. Yes, other countries have it too, but a lot of times it’s also okay to stomp around the house with shoes on too, which is usually not okay in Finland. We even have a dedicated place for taking off your shoes, like for a ritual. A ritual of taking off your shoes, that sounds nice.

As I read through the blog posts that have been written in here, there was a repetitive theme of silence, which was mentioned several times. No, Finnish people are not mute, nor people of few words. I know many Finnish people who could talk everyone unconscious if given a chance. I have come to a conclusion, that our silence is silently agreed silence. We are not awkward (all the time), we just don’t feel the need to fill the silence with chit chat.

A thing that I didn’t really want to mention is our sauna culture, but I felt like I had to. Sauna is a place where people were born back in the days (like my grandpa!) and where they were cleaned for the last time before burial after passing away. Even to brides-to-be usually  there is usually held a bridal sauna with ancient magic and sang poetry. There is a certain spirituality that is linked with sauna. Not only sauna-gnomes that live behind the sauna stove, but more abstract spirituality, that comes alive when the temperatures rise in that little steam filled room. It is a place where people from different generations and genders sit together, as naked as the day they were born. Everyone is as they are. No judgmental looks, no makeup or fancy hairdos, only mindfulness being.

This summer, I had two days in row off from work.  What did I do?  Escaped to my in-laws’ cabin in northern Savonia away from civilization. Some might think I’m crazy for wanting something like that, but it’s a perfect way to wire-out so to say. I do hate the outhouse, but clean and untouched nature weighs more in my scale. I can enjoy the silence of the lake at the end of a day, while sitting in an outdoor barrel hot tub, that my kind of perfect Finnish-holiday.

All in all, these are the things that I will fondly remember while travelling abroad (and maybe missing home and silence a bit).

Is Finnishness a real word?

Studying abroad in Finland is and will be one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

Having resided in Tampere, Finland for almost 20 months, I would say that I have adapted to Finnish culture quite fast and overall, everything is quite good!

Back home, I am  always surrounded by people and transports. It is usually very loud and noisy everywhere I go. I did not really appreciate the silence. Everything seems to be different here in Finland. I start to realize the beauty of silence. I manage to live alone and now being alone is a part of my daily life.

I never used public transport back home, and now I never use anything other than public transport in Finland. What a life changing experience. You can never imagine me feeling nervous for the first week utilizing buses in Finland. You have to wave, or raise the bus card for the bus to stop. It is actually different etiquette depeding on regions. I went to Turku and nobody waves except for me and my friend. Suddenly we became weirdos 🙂

I did not really like sauna at first because it was too hot and believe me or not I come from a tropical climate country. Somehow, I cope with the hot issue now. I would go sauna once or twice a week currently, sometimes with friend(s) and usually alone. I am very comfortable with being 100% naked in the sauna!

I notice myself going for fast food 100 times more than me back home. Here many people like burgers just like me like rice. Unfortunately, rice still beats over burger if I have to choose only one option for lunch/dinner. Mentioning about food, I learnt all kind of Finnish table manners. What I come to conclusion is that you can do whatever you want. It is a free country my friend.

Spotify is very popular in Finland. My friend told me because the application was cheap and sufficient to use. Everybody here use internet packages so that they can get access to the Internet 24/7 anywhere around Finland.

Somehow, I like the idea of Finns wanting to have their own space. I mean, it is great to live in your own world without anybody disrupting it! Being lonely and alone is completely different. I like the quiet atmosphere now. It is like your mind and the whole universe just emerge into one. I know it sounds fun in a way, however, trust me on this, the silence is actually very loud as well.

Last but not least, my student mentality of going for free stuffs fits Finns’ mentality as well. Great!

Go back to the question posed in this blog post heading, according to Oxford dictionary, the answer is no.

 

 

Finland – the only place I call home

Hello everybody! My name is Miia and I am doing an internship at Hokkaido University for three months.

Finnishness. What does it really mean? Some people might think that Finnish people are shy and don’t talk a lot. Some think that we drink a lot. Well, all those things are partly true. Even the Finnish people think that. But why it is only partly true is because there is so much more in Finnishness. The concrete things that you might think about Finland are sauna, nature, alcohol and the crazy people.

But what is Finnishness really? For me, one example is when you have the long silence with your friend. You can be with someone without talking for a long time and still feel comfortable. I love it. There is no need to fill the silence. It doesn’t mean that we are shy if don’t talk a lot, sometimes the words are not needed just the company of a friend.

Another example is the punctuality of Finnish people. Most of the time Finnish people are on time or even early. Also if you are making plans with a Finnish person the plans are not vague. There are not maybe plans with my friend circle. If something is agreed it is actually going to happen. I don’t like to inquire about the plans. I want to know and with Finnish people you know exactly where and when and usually what is the plan for the meeting.

One thing that I love very much is the Finnish nature. I love the four seasons. The nature is so special for me. I love to see when everything comes to life in the spring and summer. I also love the winter when it is so cold that it literally takes the breath away. I love being in the forests. The plants and the animals and the water make me calm and relieve the stress. The best part is that you don’t have to go far from your home to find nature, wherever in Finland you live.

I guess the most popular thing in Finland that Finns are very proud of is the sauna. People used to give birth there. It is a place to wash away the dirt and the worries. It is a place to relax. It is a place where all the best ideas come to mind. It is a place where you can spend time with your family and friends. For me, it is more

like an event than just a place to go get cleaned. In summertime at my family’s summer cottage, I like to have sauna marathon. I like to go to sauna and then to swim in the lake and then have something to drink and then repeat that for several hours. The summer holiday at the cottage includes great food and great memories.

I guess I am very proud to be from Finland. I think that Finland is the greatest place to live in. I love traveling and seeing foreign places but I also love to return home. That is why Finland is the only place I call home.

 

 

 

 

 

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.