Tag Archives: Winter

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 EVS story

by Barbara Jazbec, degree student in Media

 snow crowded sea shore with a couple of quays in the sun set

My EVS destination – Kokkola by the winter sea

EVS stads for Europen Voluntary Service, is an international volunteer programme funded by the European Commission. It enables all young people legally resident in Europe, aged between 18 and 30 years, to carry out an international volunteer service in an organisation or in a public body in Europe, Africa, Asia or South America for a period ranging from 2 to 12 months. EVS is a very good opportunity to experience living abroad, meet new people, become more independent, practice your English and learn a new language. They provide the reimbursement of travel expenses and complete coverage of the costs of food and accommodation for the international volunteer. European Voluntary Service is practically FREE OF CHARGE! It is a good opportunity if you are lost, if you do not know what to do next… It can help you to ”find yourself”.

My EVS project was in Kokkola, Finland. Kokkola is a town located in the west coast of Finland. My EVS journey started on the 13th of November 2013. My project was 10 months long.

My work was to help in the youth center Villa Elba and in a local Finnish kindergarten. I was 2 days in a week in the kindergarten and two days in Elba. In the youth center mainly my work was in the international office where they plan all different international events and EVS projects. There I sometimes helped also to do outside work, for example cutting grass, taking the leaves away and so on.

Moomin characters implemented using collage

Of course I created Moomins of my own!

The other two days when I was in the kindergarten, I was helping the teachers to take care of the children. I was working in a group where the children where form one to three years old. There with my Finnish language skill I was basically fitting in the group of one year old. Teachers were singing songs about colors; ”se on vihreä, se on vihreä” that they and me could learn colors. Then they were also teaching them numbers “yksi, kaksi , kolme…” Children in that age know only one language so they could not understand that I do not speak the same language. They were talking to me in Finnish: “Lisää vauhtia, Barbara!” when I was swinging them outside. Through that I learned the most of my Finnish at that time when I knew just “Kiitos” and why was that because I was forced to speak only Finnish with the kids so trough that was the most fun and easy way to learn the new language.

Behind two pinetrees there is a large blue wooden building in snowy environment.

Here I learned Finnish playing with children!

This was my short story about coming to a new country and how to learn Finnish by playing.

How to apply for EVS; contact your local youth center for more info!

 

 

 

You want to go snowboarding?

by Heikki Salo, degree student in Media

Skating park ramps with tags and paintings covered by snow in pink evening light.

Iso-Vilunen skating park is waiting for next spring – so head for other outdoor hobbies!

So you’re in Finland and  it is winter! You might want to try skiing or snowboarding? Skiing is fun – but of course snowboarding is much cooler. Those can be fun trips with good people – skiing few hours, drinking tea, grilling in those small grilling shelters (what ever they are called, some places have those).

But like in everything, at first you don’t know how to do it. If you don’t have money to book a teacher, I would recommend to ask some friend (who has long nerves) to teach you because it’s going to be hard. Here are some practical things to know.

Where?

Probably the closest ski center for many of you is in Hervanta. The problem is that there’s not so many tracks and it can feel boring after few hours. For others Mustavuori can be the closest one but there happens to be the same problem. And also Mustavuori’s hill is steeper so it’s not so friendly for a beginner.

For beginner’s quick day trip I would recommend Ellivuori, it’s just 40 minutes away from Tampere and most of the tracks are more gently sloping so it’s friendlier for beginners. And there are also few more tracks there so it doesn’t get so boring after few hours.

If you want more action and you are willing to sit longer in a car, you could go to Sappee or Himos. They both have longer tracks, suitable for many skill levels so you could basically go with a bigger group with beginners and more advanced skiers and snowboarders. It takes an hour to go to Sappee and 1,5 hours to Himos.

Ski centers in southern Finland open normally in the end of December or in January. In Lapland they are open for skiers earlier and they offer longer tracks and more beautiful views. But  because of a long distance you should take more time like a week for that trip.

Popular ski centers in Lapland:

  • Levi
  • Pyhä
  • Ruka
  • Salla
  • Saariselkä
  • Vuokatti
  • Ylläs

Equipment

You could buy a snowboard or skis (and straps and boots) but you probably go there only once or twice so I would recommend you to rent them. Every ski center offers rental skis/snowboards and boots (and helmets!). You should still get appropriate clothing as you’re going to get wet and cold during the day. If you want to, you could also try to find goggles to protect your eyes. Not necessary at first day because hopefully you’re not going too fast but those are good shield for your eyes when you get some speed.

Ice plates form of triangle gathered together.

What about the prices: not so freezing cold!

Prices?!

Here’s Ellivuori’s price list – http://www.ellivuori.fi/ski/en/page.tmpl?sivu_id=85

And Himos’ price list http://www.himos.fi/en/prices

Ellivuori has an offer for much cheaper weekday evenings. That comes with a cost that there’s no sunlight. It’s fun but I would recommend that your first time would be in daylight.

If you haven’t done anything physical in past few years, 3 hours could be enough but if you don’t look every euro you spend, a full day ticket gives some freedom. When you don’t have that time limit, you have all the time to go eat or drink that tea. That’s good especially in Himos, as it is so huge place where some people might want to just wander around.

Next day

Don’t plan to do anything physical the next day. Your abs and bum is going to hurt after the first day. If not, you probably didn’t even try.

Don’t even try to do any fancy tricks at the first time, you’re just going to break yourself.

From smoking hot into frostburns – how to wear???

by Tatu Kankaanpää, degree student in Media

People tend to invest a lot in fashion. Oftentimes most of the clothes, especially the ones deemed sexy aren’t very practical in the Nordic climate.

A black leather mitten in hand.

So warm, so practical – and even beautiful!

Finland has a range of different weathers across the year. Summers tend to be either rainy and chilly or warm and sunny. Winters however are cold without an exception, at least for someone who isn’t used to -8°c being mild. Thankfully you don’t actually need to spend much time outside and you can use public transportation in cities, but there are times when you need to spend time outside, such as trips to more rural places, when you’re out drinking or just have to take part in outdoor activities in general, be it some kind of an event or just chopping firewood.

Bottom should be of material that keeps you dry and doesn’t give you a tingling sensation on your skin. Tech fibers such as polypropylene or merino wool are good. You should never use cotton as it dampens fairly easily, but dries slowly. Ensure that the clothes you use are skin tight, so sweating happens on the top of the clothes and not underneath.

The staying dry is both the comfortability as well and to prevent sweat from cooling down and freezing your body when the level of activity drops.

The middle layer is the layer whose purpose is to insulate heat and to propel moisture further away from the bottom layer. Great materials are polar fleece and wool. This layer shouldn’t be too tight, since the actual insulator is the air between the layers.

Topmost layer can either be a shell jacket, whose purpose is to deflect wind or an insulated jacket if air is nighing arctic temperatures. Down jackets are the most comfortable as they’re lightweight and have the best insulation in general.

As for limbs, get good gloves. If it’s very cold, you should use mittens instead of gloves, the reason being that having your fingers side by side keep them warm better than when they’re separated. For the same reason you should never wear gloves underneath the mittens. A common mistake for tourists visiting Lapland is that they’re wearing something that fits the middle European winter underneath their mittens and the heat of blood circulation escapes and doesn’t warm their hands properly. Wear enough socks and make sure your shoes aren’t too tight. It’s pointless to have a warm shoe if your foot doesn’t get any blood flow anyway.

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?

 

Beauties of Lapland

by Sasu Kirvesmäki, degree student in Environmental Engineering

People walking in a queue a fell in the background

Hiking is fun together!

I bet you have already seen lots of beautiful places in Finland: its many lakes, forrests and fields. Maybe some old architecture in our old cities. But you haven’t seen all of the beauty before you visit Lapland!

A streaming brook in Lapland

Refreshment for hikers.

In the summer you can experience nature of the tundra. There are many national parks with marked hiking routes. Along the routes you will find fells, beatiful marshes full of cloud berries, reindeer running freely in the tundra, wonderful lakes, raging rapids and breathtaking views. Everyone is free to wonder in the national parks. Just remember to respect the nature and follow the rules of the specific park. In the autumn the nature blooms in red, orange and yellow. This season is called ’ruska’ in Finnish and it’s especially beatiful in Lapland.

Sunset at a small Lappish lake.

It is time to rest in the evening.

Winters in Lapland are usually cold and snowy. In winter time you can enjoy the ski resorts of the fells. If you want to experience the nature of tundra in winter you can for example go to a snowmobile safari. During winter you might also see northern lights lighting up the skies of Lapland. Winter in Lapland is long and dark. There is a time called ’kaamos’ when the sun doesn’t rise at all in Lapland. But any way there is bright snow there!

If you haven’t been in Lapland yet I highly recommend you to go. It doesn’t matter when you go there, there is always something to do and see!

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!

Cottage weekend

Nusret Ílhan, exchange student

Signpost in a snowy forestIf you came to Finland as an exchange student, cottage weekend is the thing that you definitely should experience. Two days without electricity, running water, mobile phones like in the middle age.

Young man with an axe on his shoulder on a snnowy ground, an old house in the background

Here I come – some firewood is needed!

It didn’t think that cottage weekend was going to be that hard and that funny. When we arrived our cottage, weather was chilly. I think ıt was because of location of the cottage, it was in the middle of the forest and there was a lake nearby. After we settled, organizers told us our responsibilities and divided us into groups. I took place in Fire and chopping group. Our cottage was so cold to live so we needed to fire up the fire places, ovens and of course sauna. We chopped some wood and funny part began…

I need to say that, sauna in Finland especially in cottage is totally different from your home county. We had to make a fire in the oven to warm up the sauna. And I can say that even smell of the sauna gets you in the middle age mood. I suppose jumping into lake after sauna, is like a tradition in Finland. It was crazy but surprisingly hilarious.

Moreover, I learned that, if you stay a few hours near to bonfire you smell like barbeque. But bonfire part was worth that. We grilled some sausages and told stories. It was really warm environment and I had a lot of good friend.

people around a fire roasting sausages

Sausages!

When you don’t have your phone with you, you have to speak with the others and if the others are in the same situation, you discover how fun to know new people. We talked for hours and played card games and performed a roleplaying game. I never thought that I wouldn’t get bored of card games and talking till that time.

Finally bed time has come but we had a big problem. It wasn’t warm enough to sleep yet. Nevertheless, I slept like a baby with a bunch of clothes.

Undone salmon fillet fastened on a plank board

Salmon!

İn the morning organizers woke us up at 7 am. I had to get out of my warm bed and went to hiking at -10˚C. Everybody was sleepy at first but weather did its work. After 20 minutes we were walking like hell to get warm. Forest in Finland is another beauty. Winter shows you how lovely it could be.

In the end when farewell time has come, everybody was sad about it but also we knew that we had the best weekend ever. Cottage was totally different experience for me. I had a great time and I will do it again when I get the chance.

cottage.group.ed.

 

 

How to wear and act in a snowy country

by Lackson Kashobwe, degree student in Environmental Engineering

An African man and woman in thick, colourful wear in a snowy landscape

In winter wonderland with my sister

It was more than  a  year ago, in August 2012, when I came from Zambia, southern part of Africa,  to Finland which I feel to be blessed with a lot of natural resources and also knowledge  – for  example numerous lakes, snow, forests and good health care and education systems.

I think that fashion in Finland has an original aesthetic style, unlike in any other area in the world. Residents make their style their own, with bright colors and warm fabrics, in order to combat  typical cold and dark months. Their clothing, also, focuses on the importance of handmade and high quality prints, which look both old and new, at the same time. Finnish fashion is relatively young.

God keeps his people in different ways; it’s amazing and interesting to see how Finnish people survive during winter time. Because winter time in Finland is characterized by several things such as darkness and coldness, but also this season is longer than any other season. It is also fascinating to see how developed Finland has been in almost all sectors despites long dark days and winter period.

The dressing during winter time is mostly winter jacket, long coat, long johns for males inside their trousers and thermal underwear for females.

Five people swinging light sticks in darkness on a snowy ground

Having fun outside the cottage during Christmas

I think that winter time is the best time of the year! So lovely is the snow raining down from the skies, all vegetation; houses are covered by snow so charming. The first day I saw snow was when coming out of the room and only to find white carpet of snow waiting for me to step on it. I enjoyed every single hour, minute and second of Finnish winter and luck in enough I have my sister who took me round and showed most of activities that happen during winter time. My best experience was when I visited the countryside. There we played some games, we did skinny sliding on the snow and we made snow balls. It was wonderful time of my life.

Each season has both advantages and harms. So some people may dislike winter, but what is important is to appreciate each season and learn to do something that will make the season meaningful and important in our life.