Tag Archives: Finns

My life in Finland

by Maria Mikhaylova, degree student in Media

Dark landscape: a couple of trees in the foreground , then water and city lights in the background

City lights between two lakes

Adapting to my new life in Finland wasn’t too difficult for me for many reasons. First of all, I am used to darkness and cold during winter time, as for I am from Russia and we have exactly the same climate. So I probably don’t suffer from it as much as my classmates who came from warmer countries. What I noticed here is that finns are complaining about it more than we do in Russia, and many people that I met are dreaming to move to some warmer place at least for winters. Maybe I’m the weirdest person on earth, but I really love winter more than summer and I find it a very inspiring and beautiful season. And yes, I also enjoy the darkness (but not in the mornings, it feels so bad to get up when it’s dark outside).

Mainly blue and red sky, in the lower part two leafless trees.

What makes Finns so humble?

I really like that finns appreciate people’s private space. I am an introvert, and I felt really uncomfortable when, for example, random people would start talking to me in public transport. Especially annoying it is during a long-distance train trip. People somehow feel that they SHOULD start a conversation, otherwise they’re not polite. In Finland it’s vice versa. It is polite to be silent and not to bother a person with your presence. I can say that I really enjoy it!

I also appreciate that Finnish people are very humble, never brag and maybe are a bit shy. From my perspective it is a sign of good upbringing and valuable qualities in a person. And also if you break this wall of shyness and coolness (of course it should happen without pressure) you will find out that they are very nice, honest and quite easy-going people. They can even joke 🙂 My experience in meeting Finnish people is only positive.

A basket filled with mushrooms.

Treasures from fresh nature!

Also what I think is great, is that people are helpful, in small and in global things. I used to stop people in the streets to ask the road quite many times when I was here as a tourist and had no internet on my phone. Every time the person would stop and start explaining me in details how to get to the place, no matter what gender or age he or she was. Once I saw how a person fell down on the railway station just while running to a leaving train. The machinist stopped the train, and all the people who were around helped this man to get up and made sure he was alright (it took about 5 minutes or maybe even more), then helped him to get on the train. For me it is a wonderful example of a well organized society where people take care of each other.

My experiences with Finland: Its culture, its nature, its habits and its people

by Theresa Fein, exchange student from Germany

a map around Baltic Sea and the route from Lahnstein to Tampere

To the other side of Baltic Sea

It all started on a cold and snowy winter day in Germany. Our suitcases (my boyfriend accompanied me the first couple of days) were packed and my tutor was willing to pick us up in the middle of the night, which we highly appreciated! The landing in Helsinki was awful, because of all the wind. I am not a big flyer and the complete airplane shaking did not make it easier! Then finally arrived in Tampere the next shock: what a tiny airport! Only one baggage conveyor belt and one hall for both arrival and departure – it felt kind of homely.

We did not have to wait long for the next surprise. Nearly 2,000 kilometres up north and no snow! We left a snowy country to actually fly to a wintrier one and then this! It was super cold and windy, but no snow! Luckily we did not have to wait long for it. What depressed me most during my whole time now in Finland were the long nights. It got day, but the sky was still grey and rather dark. You feel tired and unmotivated to even leave the house, although my 12m2 room was not a better alternative. Nevertheless were the few sunny days I have had so far the best times I have had here! Due to such cold temperatures, the lake next to my apartment was frozen (which is already fascinating for us, since we have never ever seen such a huge water area frozen!) and we could walk on it, which was a fantastic feeling. The Finns are even crazy enough to put a café right in the middle of it.

A girl and a boy kissing in a sun shine , the sky is clear blue and in the background there are two persons skating.

What a feeling on the ice of Näsijärvi lake!

The next thing that comes to my mind when thinking of Finns is their hobby: Sauna! On one day, when it was minus 23 degrees we did a walk around the lake and saw people coming from the sauna and swimming in the freezing water, just unbelievable for us Germans.

In general I have to say that Finns are very nice and friendly people, although they are rather quiet and shy. Before coming here I had the stereotype in mind, that most people are blond and blue-eyed, which I quickly got rid of!

Furthermore is it very impressive how sportive most of them are. Even on icy and therefore slippery ground they go for a run. In Germany no one would ever think of such life-endangering things!

Another amusing thing is encountered were words like: “kioski”, “posti” or (because we came here when the Film “The Hobbit” started) “Hobitti”. It is easy for us to understand them, because Finns have just added an “i” at the end to the original German word, so that we could understand them. With all of the other words it did not work at all. When we are in France or Spain and are reading street signs, familiar. With Finnish it is impossible! The words are even so long that you cannot properly pronounce them.

Two ice hockey teams standing in lines opposite each others on the ice of an arena.

We spurred a local team Tappara, didn’t we?

When comparing Germany and Finland it is obvious, that all products and especially alcohol (which you can only buy in have to go home – although – sometimes this might be a good thing.

I still remember the first time I visited my tutor at home, he was watching ice hockey – incomprehensibly for me! Who on earth would watch ice hockey, when it is possible to watch football?! Even after seeing one match in a stadium I still do not understand this hype.

When I did a day trip to Helsinki, the first thing I saw was a Muumi. I guess I have seen this gesture before, but honestly it is not very popular in Germany. In Helsinki they have several stores, where they only sell things with Muumis on: papers, cups, plates and even dresses. Also in Tampere they are following me: here is a museum only about Muumis! Quite interesting to see what high status this figure has here.

A Cathedral building in the background after stairs, young foreigners standing in wind in the foreground.

A part of monumental centre of Helsinki : cathedral (1852) by a German architect Carl Ludvig Engel.

And until now my last very surprising fact about Finland or in this case Helsinki: some of the main shopping streets are heated! When I was there in winter I was already wondering, why the streets were dry and no snow hills left in the corners. After a short Google search I figured out that they truly do heat these streets – very impressive, isn’t it?


Large country, small people

by Joonas Sandman, degree student in Environmental Engineering

A stone and ice melting around it.

Believe: There is warmth inside to melt an ice cover!

It’s normal to get an awkward mumble as a response to a hello from a stranger and if you try to strike up a conversation with a fellow bus traveler you often might as well be talking to a brick wall. It’s not that they hate you, necessarily. It’s that Finns need their space.

Finland is a nation of space, after all, and by space I mean surface area. We have a huge amount of square kilometers for each Finn it might as well be a product of good (or bad, depending on situation) luck we see any other person during the day. This abundance of area combined with the cold and somewhat hostile climate has had its effect on the Finnish mind set making us a naturally private people.

This conditioning to guard ourselves against people as if they were the forces of nature does not mean that Finns are an emotionally cold people. On the contrary, Finns care deeply about the quality of their friendships and show seemingly unlimited warmth and good-will to a person they consider a friend. That word is not thrown around lightly. If you succeed in getting through a Finns thick outer shell and into the gooey warm goodness that lies within then you have made a loyal friend, potentially for life.

The thing about Finns is authenticity. The respect of a Finnish person may not be easily claimed with pretending to be happy in the long dark winter and it’s ok not to be. In fact it is a common source of humor, ironically.

A bus etiquette in Finland

A drawing with simple signs how to sit in a bus In Finland.

This is the way in Finland…you understand?

by Tero Lahtinen, degree student in Environmental Engineering

In Finland going to a bus is not some messy bazaar where people do whatever they want to. It is a very delicate and sophisticated situation where you have to know what to do. Otherwise you might ruin the day and maybe the whole month of some innocent person.

Two smiling girls sitting in a bus, at a window

Quite fun in a bus anyway! Picture: Heidi Mattila.

In the picture above you can see one person example of non-written areas around this person: a hazardous-, a semi-hazardous-, a danger- and a safe zone. In the hazardous zone awkward level is approximately 75 but if you start to talk to the person awkward level will increase to 100/100 (there is no existing data of entering awkward level 100). So the hazardous zone is a no go zone! In the semi-hazardous (awkward level 50) zone the person in the bus most likely will avoid you in the future thinking ‘’ that’s the person who sat near to me even there was plenty of space in the bus!’’ In danger zone (level 25) you have a fifty-fifty chance that person will not remember you in the future and you will be able to make contacts with him/her (in some other place than a bus!).

Lowering of the hazard-, semi-hazard- and danger zone will occur in case if the bus is so full that you don’t have any other option but to sit in some of these areas (stand to play it for sure). Lowering of the awkward level is always -25 units of awkward level.


In silence…

by Tommi Viljamaa, degree student in Media A skiing track in sun shine.

Sometimes it’s good to be silent. Brains get a rest they need, and it gives time to think things through more throughly. This is what I do very well, and enjoy it quite a lot. So do many other Finns apparently. However, my perceptions are mostly from northern Finland which makes them kinda biased. Still, silence is golden in here.

But you may find yourself in a situation where silence isn’t helping and instead it fluent conversation skills would come handy. Just to start conversation to get to know the person can be difficult when it has not so actively been practised. This is a huge problem because it’s important to be able to co-operate easily. Lumioksanen1.edWorking together has always brought huge advantages for human race.

Both of them have advantages, but too much either of them – talking or silence – can be a bad thing. Unfortunately the only way to learn to talk with strangers is to talk with strangers. That’s scary.

Let’s go to Rajaportti public sauna!


Sauna and cafeteria buildings in Pispala, Tampere

Heated stones are waiting for you in Rajaportti sauna: welcome!

by Waltteri Lahti, degree student in Media

As a Finn or student of Finnish you’ve most likely faced one of the most important things we Finns are truly proud of – no, I’m not talking about Angry Birds – I’m talking about saunas. For centuries saunas have been a place for cleansing and relaxing the body and mind. These nearly meditative warm rooms  are meant not only to wash yourself but to socialize and meet other people as well. In this case I’m referring mainly to public saunas.

I’m 23 years old now and the first time I went to a public sauna was less than two years ago. In fact, not many Finns visit or have been to public saunas at all. And when I talk about public saunas I mean places that only include a sauna – not the ones in spas for example. There are many public saunas across Finland mainly focused to the cities. I’m going to tell you about the best one in Tampere which is called Rajaportti.

The sauna of Rajaportti has stood in the same place for over a decade and it’s the oldest public sauna in Finland that’s still in use. It was built in the early 20th century next to a shop and bakery. Since 1989 Pispala sauna association has been responsible for activities and maintenance of the sauna. In addition to the sauna, there is a café where you can buy something to drink and eat before, after or in the middle of going to the sauna. The environment feels like you’ve gone back in time and many people visit just for the nostalgia of good old days. The entrance fee of the sauna is 5 € or 8 € depending on the day and there are also student discounts for serial tickets. As you can see the price isn’t bad at all! Towels and seat covers can be rented for a couple of euros as well.

For a small amount of money I will guarantee that you will enjoy a magnificent experience in the public sauna of Rajaportti. You will get to meet many kinds of people who are openly socializing in the warmth. In the midst of the steam and these strangers you might actually start to feel confusingly comfy. I highly recommend to visit the place any time of the year.



An Expression of Love

A demonstration - in the back side the Parliament house of Finland

For equality!!!!!

by Linnea Viljamaa, degree student in Media

On 19th of March 2013, on the Day of Equality, a citizen’s initiative began collecting signatures to make the dream of a gender neutral marriage true. They collected signatures until the 19th of September, and handed out the signatures on the 13th of December. Of the required 50 000 signatures, 166 851 were collected.

On the 28th of November 2014 the Parliament finally voted on the law. A rally to support the law gathered across the street from the Parliament house.

I was there.

We went there around noon, and already a lot of people had gathered around. People had dressed in rainbow colors and brought their friends, children, even pets. Not counting a few people with rude signs, the mood was great and friendly, and excitement was in the air. Yle livestreamed the event: a small flying camera circled above the meeting place.

Eventually there were so many people that cellphones stopped working properly. I later read that the police estimated there had been approximately 5000 people there. By some miracle I got the livestream of the voting to work, and for half an hour I stood there with my phone on my ear, listening to the votes on different laws until finally the 7th one was the one we’d been waiting for.

I signaled my friends and listened intensely. We needed a majority of ”NO” to counter an earlier vote. As the Chairman spoke out loud the results, a cheer went up. ”92 yes –” and he had to bang his hammer to quiet the excited representatives. The law had been accepted with 92 against it, 105 for it.

Cheers erupted in the crowds as the news circled. My friends asked me: ”Did it pass? Did it get through?” ”Yes! Yes, I think so, yes!” I answered, and we started screaming and hugging out of sheer joy. That Friday was a historial day for Finland. The law still needs to go through two votings, but it’s looking good.



Explore Finland – go jogging!

by Jonna Valosalmi, degree student in Environmental Engineering

Finnish forest panorama in late autumn from a hillside

Jogging is a great way to get to know the surroundings; as a new inhabitant of Tampere I found getting lost on a weekly basis quite teaching. Now, after half a year, I can go to the grocery store without having to draw a map and I’m quite able to navigate myself home from anywhere around the city.

I find jogging the easiest way to exercise because you can go out anytime and anywhere. There’s no need for fancy equipment since all you need is a pair of sneakers and you’re ready to go. The best part of it is spending time in the nature at different times of the day and seeing the scenery change throughout the year. Just now the time that Sun shines on the Northern hemisphere is getting shorter day by day and the nature is starting to prepare for winter.

A path in a Finnish ridge forest in autumn timeWhether you work out passionately all year round or have found yourself curled up on the couch during the dark winter nights, it is a great time to start enjoying the season of changing colors by jogging. It’s definitely relaxing to take a break from one’s own thoughts and only concentrate on the body and the surroundings. So why spend any more time inside when you have the perfect excuse to enjoy the autumn (and avoid homework)!


The pictures were taken at a footpath in Eastern Finland in autumn 2013.




Ice Fishing in Finland

by Tyler Rickabaugh, degree student in Environmental Engineering

Tampere winter horizont - ice cover of Näsijärvi lake with sight seeing tower Näsinneula

After hot July it is maybe hard to imagine that in few months the lakes offer an amazing environment for ice fishing!

Ice fishing is a long and deep history of Finland. It is known to be a public rights access, meaning that you don’t have to have a license to fish. All you need is a fishing pole, really warm clothes, a frozen lake, and a tool to break the ice.

The most important thing in ice fishing is preparation. You don’t want to get out to the middle of the lake only to realize you forgot something, or that you are under dressed. Always be prepared. Please note that you can spend several hours on the lake in freezing temperatures, so it’s going to get cold. If you are fortunate enough to know someone who happens to have a tent or hut that they use while ice fishing then it can make the experience that much better.

Common fish you will come across while ice fishing are perch and pikes. Pikes are a bit bigger fish and can really give you a good fight. Although both of the perch and pikes meat are a bit bonier than most fish, if they are cooked properly they can be really tasty.

Be sure to go out on the lake with a Finnish person who has experience. Ice fishing takes a bit of knowledge and experience. The last thing you want to do is get out into the middle of a frozen lake and realize you have no idea what you are doing. Also having the right kind of lures and bait will help as well. Again talk to a Finn first for some guidance on this.

Finally remember to bring alcohol! If you don’t catch any fish at least you can catch a buzz!

Have fun and remember to stay warm!

Developing my sensitivity on culture

by Zipporah Jerugut, degree student in Environmental Engineering

A Christmas tree, a church in the background

Christmas time in Tampere city centre

A step for everyone considered to be the first on entering a foreign country, is to adapt to the society of that particular country; Finnish in this case. This is because history and culture just like any other country influences our ways of communication and doing things. My encounter in Finland have made me understand how culture impacts other people’s behavior and now am able to explain why certain things are done in particular ways-making it easier to cooperate, work and communicate.

Studying abroad contrary to touring interesting places provides a good opportunity to learn to use a foreign language in practice and even more importantly, to work and study with it. While trying to get things done, studies have forced me to interact with local people, an opportunity that touring seldom gives to experience foreign culture. I have developed some sensitivity on culture difference and confusion has seized.

As opposed to Kenya, it is not necessary to ask a secretary to make an appointment with a professor in Finland. Any student can approach the faculty directly and this as factor enables a friendly interaction with ease to matters relating with studies. Interaction with professors is very informal therefore equality between people is very evident. It is perhaps one of the nicest elements in the Finnish university system!

Finnish people as I have noticed are strict in obeying rules. It greatly moves when you see people stand at the red traffic light even though there is no one else around. This clearly potray the Finnish culture that is built on honesty and trust.

Small red shop cottages and decorative evening lights

People exploring Tampere Christmas market

Finnish people according to my findings do not practice their religion regularly as they do not consider it a very important part of their life. However, holidays like Christmas is mostly celebrated extensively as early as 23rd of December all through 26th unlike in other places where celebrations are only 25th and 26th.

Finland’s living standard is highly enhanced due to the basics needs of citizens being taken care of by Government unlike in many other countries. People primarily pay their taxes honestly because from it they gain benefits of free education, free healthcare and even the well-functioning public infrastructure. Anyone despite the family background get an access to education and is equally important contributor to the well-being of the nation. In other countries, access to education is only for those who can afford.