Tag Archives: sauna

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.

Finnishness for me

Finland… What a great country. Finns are little bit shy or introverts but we are also loyal and kind. Sometimes even funny! In three points I will tell you little more of Finland’s nature and important stuff.

 

Sauna

In Finland, we have this thing called Sauna. Sauna has room for two or even twenty people. There are hot stones on top of which water is thrown and it will warm you up. Finnish people are usually shy and maybe even inward but in sauna, everybody are friends with each other! In many familys, women and men goes to sauna together and naked. Yes, naked. And the best part is, we love to “beat” each other with the birch twigs. Then ofcourse have to go to swim in the lake! We take turns who is in the sauna and who is swimming.

 

 

Berries

Nowadays it’s cool to eat “superfood” all over the world. The more vitamins and trace elements there are, the more cooler it is. People pay for this staff. A lot. People buy for example goji berries, chia seed, tried buckthorns or other berries. They can but it from abroads or order online. But in Finland we have these kind of superfood in forests as much as you can it! Many Finns collect different kinds of berries for winter. There are strawberries, blueberries, buckthorns, lacquer, raspberrys and goodeberry. They mature at a slightly different time so there is always a good time to go to forest. Did you know that in lacquer has more C-vitamin than an orange?

 

 

 

 

Seasons

In Finland we have four season; summer, autumn, winter and spring. I like them all! I love that seasons change. Every season has their own special thing. The springtime nature comes out of bloom. Everywhere is so pretty, snow melts and the sun shines more day By day. Autumn leaves are beautiful in color and you can start burning candles (I’ll burn them all year round though). The best part of winter is definitely sledding hill! Then the summer… What can I say? It’s short. Every time. Every summer I plan to do this and that and then in August I realise that I’ve done nothing. But maybe next year…

 

 

 

Finnish national identity and free time activities

Elements of Finnish national identity

I’d summarize the elements of Finnish national identity to grumpy yet friendly people, a chilly yet beautiful environment and a indebted yet strong nation. For a foreigner the Finns might seem a bit asocial at first, but once you break the ice with them by simply engaging them into a conversation, their friendly and communicative characteristics begin to arise. Small talk isn’t a natural part of Finnish communication in general, so they’re quite bad at that, but when you get to a conversation topic they can familirialise themselves with, the akwardness begins to fade.

The Finnish environment consists mainly of lakes, forests and fields. The southern part of Finland is mainly flat, but the northern part (Lapland) has a few bigger hills / small mountains, which are called tunturis. Lakes are spread all over the nation and I’d say its one of the best features the Finnish nature has to offer; endless swimming possibilities wherever you go. The climate in Finland is quite chilly due to its location in the northern hemisphere. The winters are long and mainly damp or slushy, yet there still are some snowy periods in Lapland. The summers on the other hand are a bit chilly too, even though you get a few days over 25 degrees celsius when you can get your share of red burnt skin that hopefully turns into a light tan instead of melanoma.

The Finnish nation in general is technologically advanced yet an indebted one. The whole nation is undergoing some financial savings and the government is constantly searching for ways to bring the economy back to a debt free state. Being part of the EU is an important matter for the government yet it has been an opinion dividing subject for the people since the day we joined. The price level in Finland is one of the highest in Europe due to high taxation yet for example the health care system is basically sustained with that so in my opinion it really pays for itself. In general, Finland can be considered as a welfare state and due to working healthcare and pension systems as well as basic municipal services its a no brainer for me.

 

Finnish free time activities

The Finns have plenty of unique free time activities from boot-throwing to swamp football in the summer and from ice swimming to ice rallying in the winter. Not to forget the most obvious, Sauna, of course. The basic types of spending free time in Finland can include various activities but I’d say the most common ways of fighting the stress of work are having a sauna, spending time with family and/or friends, enjoying some alcoholic beverages at home or at a bar and relaxing in a cottage near a lake or a river. The best way to really maximize the pleasure is naturally to combine them all together with a added possibility for some barbeque. A Finnish TV-advertisement states that the best place for a Finn to be is alone in a summer cottage during the summer near a lake after Sauna and with a sausage in his/hers hand. As accurate as the statement is I’d still switch the alone part to with friends and family. After all, alone you couldn’t have a proper game of darts or “mölkky” before relaxing in the heat of a wood-heaten sauna in the evening.

Cottage sauna

Tips for experiencing Finnishness

When talking about Finland, it is hard to describe what Finnishness is. No matter what nationality it is, I think you need to experience it yourself before you know what it really is. However, there is something I can tell you about Finnishness.

This year will be big for Finland; we will celebrate our 100-year-old independent state.

Finland100

In honour of Finland’s 100th anniversary, I wanted to list some traditions that make us a Finn. Try out and feel the Finnishness as well!

Explore the nature

Finland is called the “land of a thousand lakes” and no wonder, since there are about 188 000 lakes in the country. But Finnish nature is more than just the lakes; there are also a lot of forests in Finland. And because Finland is quite small country, wherever you are, nature is always close to you. And it really has a calming effect.

5689959596_90a956a42d_z

Nowadays I really appreciate the clean nature of Finland. There’s a short story about that. I was in Thailand in last winter with my friend and at the end of the trip I got a dengue fever. My friend went back to Finland and I had to stay in the hospital in Thailand. Then I realized how safe country Finland is to live. It is said that sometimes you have to go far to see close and I think it is pretty relevant phrase for this one.

Relax your mind at summer cottage

Many of Finnish people have their own summer cottage. That is the best way to spend a summer weekend with a family or with friends – barbecuing, swimming in a lake and just enjoying a peaceful environment.
In summer we have also that magical midnight sun in Finland. Never ending sunlight, nightless nights… love it!

cottage

Go to sauna and take a dip in icy water

Finns have also some other traditional habits such as sauna and ice hole swimming. Both of these leave you a relaxed and refreshed feeling. Finns just love these two things, especially the sauna.

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I would like to end this blog post with this fact:

Finland is the third best travel destination in the world in 2017. How cool is that!