Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Eleven Things I Have Learned About Finland

1)  It is the land of the midnight sun.

A natural phenomenon occurs in summer months at places north of the Arctic Circle.

Around the solstice (June 21) and given fair weather the sun is visible for the full 24 hours.

2)  Finnish People are Fabulous

The Finns are considered to be quiet and reserved. They say things straight and honestly. Considerable weight is attached to the spoken word and words are chosen carefully and for the purpose of delivering a message. All unnecessary small talk is avoided. Silence is regarded as part of the conversation. Finns are better at listening than at talking.

Those generalizations paint a fairly accurate picture.

That being said, it might be difficult to get to know a Finn, but once you do, you've possibly made a friend for life!

3)  Silver Birch is Finland's national tree.

Occasionally one uses leafy, fragrant boughs of Silver Birch to gently beat oneself in a sauna. The boughs are called vihta or vasta. This has a relaxing effect on the muscles.

FInland is Europe's most heavily forested country.

There are about twenty indigenous tree species growing in Finland, the most common ones being pine, spruce and birch.

4)  Finnish people love their saunas.

Traditional saunas are heated by wood. One gets naked, goes in the sauna, then jumps into cold water to cool off.

There was a time when people were born in the sauna (not when it was heated, of course) because it was a sterile place. 

5)  Marimekko is a Finnish company based in Helsinki that is noted for brightly colored prints and simple styles.

Like these flowered plates and napkins.

Striped and polka-dotted curtains.

And distinctive beach towels.

6)  New potatoes are one of the highlights of the Finnish summer. 

These small potatoes have a delicate thin skin that washes away when rubbed with a hard bristle (or fingers) under water. Rye bread is a staple of the Finnish diet. Herring is popular and the pickled variety is packed in different sauces (i.e. mustard).

If you are very lucky, someone will make you a sandwich that combines all three ingredients plus fresh dill.

7)  Where does one go to gamble in Finland?

The grocery store!

Also in the grocery store, most lettuce is sold 'in dirt' meaning the whole plant has been plucked from the ground/pot and wrapped in plastic to be sold at the market.

8)  Speaking of Finnish food, there are many unusual meals and treats all year long.

Many years ago we visited Finland in March and ate a hearty dinner of reindeer with lingonberries.

This year, in the warm month of July, we stopped often for an ice cream cone. And no matter where we went - Helsinki, Savonlinna, or the little town next to the lake house, one flavor was ALWAYS available.

Licorice ice cream. Which looks like vanilla with swirls of black. It tasted unusual, yet delicious and addictive. Yummy.

9)  Finnish words can have many letters.

Which get smaller and smaller when they have to be squeezed onto road signs (see 2nd arrow below).

One Finnish word that you already know is sauna - so now you have a head start learning the language!

Another interesting fact about the language is:

The Finnish alphabet has two umlaut vowels: Ä (a-umlaut) and Ö (o-umlaut).

You can see the frequency of use on these pages in a childrens' book.

And while we are on the subject of books, could these illustrations be any cuter?

Especially the hair!

10)  Finnish babies sleep in government issued boxes.

Yes, they do.

In a tradition started 75 years ago, the Finnish government supplies a care package to all expectant families - which includes everything from onesies to diapers to hats (even condoms).

It all comes in a sturdy box with bedding and a small mattress that can be set up as the baby's first bed.

11)  Finns and stripes go together!

In any colors, on bottom or on top...

In conclusion, one of my favorite stories (that appeared in a BOOK ABOUT FINLAND at the Helsinki airport) went something like this:

A Finnish woman was concerned about her husband's feelings for her as they had been married for quite a long time.

Finally, she asked.

He said, "I told you that I love you when we got married 50 years ago. If anything changes, I will let you know."

This just cracks me up!


  1. My favorite quote is that silence is considered part of a conversation.

    Shhhhhhhh. . . hear the quiet.

  2. Oh, I love love love this! I was raised on Marimekko and birch is a very prized, very expensive essential oil. This was simply delightful, Lori.