After living in Finland for close to 5 months I am starting to become familiar with the ways of the land and their customs. Here is a list of things uniquely Finnish.
The Finns love a sauna. It is said that there are 3.3 million saunas to its 5.3 million inhabitants. A beer in the sauna after work is a nightly ritual for many, for others it may be a weekly occasion. Location dependent, a trip to the sauna also means several refreshing skinny dips in the lake, even in winter. They also have sauna boats, which you can hire for the night and cruise around the lakes with your friends. Sauna competitions used to be held in Heinola, Finland. But after the death of one finalist and near-death of another during the 2010 championship, the organizers announced that they would not hold another event.
The Finns are the biggest coffee drinkers per capita in the world! Drinking a whopping 12kg per person per year! One guy I have recently worked with drinks on average around 30 cups of coffee on a day. But, after working with him for 3 weeks I managed to get him to drink a couple of cups of tea as well.
I’ve been looking forward to this week since starting the program. Furthering our knowledge of craftsmanship and traditional Finnish culture we designed, forged and crafted a knife that embodies the Finnish culture – a Puukko.
A puukko is a small traditional Finnish belt knife, characterised by a small curving blade with a flat back, usually the length of the users palm, around 90 – 120mm. This allows greater dexterity and control when using the knife, as the thumb from the other hand can be used to push the top of the blade. These types of knives are truly multi-purpose and are used for carving wood, skinning animals, descaling and gutting fish, stirring the soup, lifting the pan from the fire, gardening… The list goes on, you name it and it’s been used for it.
The knife is held in a leather sheath that is attached to a belt, easily accessible and ready to use in an instant. However, bearing a sharp object that could be used as a weapon was banned in Finland in 1977. Since then the puukko has lost some of its visibility in public places. But in rural areas where the connection with the outdoors is stronger and the use of a knife is still essential, you can see the blade around the belts of forestry workers, dog sled guides, hunters and fishermen. Whilst writing this I am currently doing a work placement at a husky farm and one of the guys carries 2 knives on his belt permanently. A true Fin!