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.
If you define a lake to be a body of standing water larger than 500 square metres, then there are 187,888 lakes in Finland. Just zoom in on google maps and it looks like the country is seriously flooded.
Finland is Europe’s most heavily forested country. Forests cover 74.2% of the land area. This is sixteen times more forest per capita than in European countries on average. There are about twenty indigenous tree species growing in Finland, the most common ones being Scots pine, Norwegian spruce and both silver and hairy birch.
These are wooden lean-to shelters that are dotted all over the countryside. They are a resting place for all. Providing a raised sleeping platform and a roof over ones head, a firepit, a hut nearby filled with dried wood and often a composting toilet. They are a haven for hikers and are on the extensive footpath networks of the country. There are 3490 throughout Finland.
6. The Freedom to Roam – Everyman’s Right
An incredible act that lets people of all nationalities have the right to enjoy the Finnish countryside freely – walking and camping wherever they wish. But together with these wide-ranging rights comes the responsibility to respect nature, other people, and property. For a more in-depth list of what you can and can’t do click here.
7. Summer Cottages
Most families seem to own a summer cottage where they dash away to at weekends and on holidays. They are usually tucked away in a forest upon the edge of one of the 187,888 lakes.
8. Puukko Knives
A puukko is a knife that embodies a tangible link with Finnish culture. It is a small traditional belt knife, characterised by a small curving blade with a flat back, usually the length of the users palm. For more information, take a look at my previous post where I explain How to Make a Traditional Puukko Knife.
Never have I seen so many viking-like plaited goatees, or gandalf-esque belly length wizard beards. Although a big bushy beard can look damn good, it is also a practical addition to help keep warm in the freezing winter months. Oh, and maybe there’s a direct correlation with the fact that Finland has the most heavy metal Bands per capita in the world.
10. Friendly People
The Finns I know tell me they are a typically introverted and shy bunch, saying only what needs to be said. Sometimes this is true, Kimi Räikkönen’s interview answers are famous for this! But generally I’ve found them to be unbelievably friendly and talkative, giving you their undivided attention when speaking to you, meaning what they say.
Considered by many a road hazard rather than a national delicacy, these animals roam freely in Northern Finland. You’ve got to be careful when driving as herds of them can suddenly appear on the roads.
12. Military Service
Military service is still compulsory in Finland. Each male having to complete a minimum service of 6 months before the age of 28. Finnish citizens who refuse to perform either military or civilian service face a penalty of 173 days in prison.
13. Mosquitoes and Elk Flies
During the summer months this lot can make a short walk through the woods a fly swatting misery! If camping a mosquito net is essential. The elk fly is a little tank of a bug that is the blood sucking parasite of elk and deer. I encountered thousands of them, but didn’t once get bitten, they’re more of an incessant nuisance. It’s common to find a few of these lot living it up in your hair days after your first encounter with them. The thought of them makes me itchy!
14. Cheese and Milk
Finland is the 3rd biggest cheese eater per capita in the world, nibbling through roughly 25kg a year. Apparently Finland is also the biggest milk drinker per capita in the world at 361kg a year.
15. Long Pauses
Finns are the kings and queens of long pauses… …..mid…. ….sentence. Thinking time if you will. Silence between sentences isn’t considered awkward though, it seems they don’t feel the need to fill the gaps with small talk. There’s been many times where I’ve thought the person has not heard something, or drifted off into a day-dream, to then be pleasantly relieved it was just a long pause. This took a while to get used to… …but I am fully embracing longer… …pauses… …mid sentence… …taking more time to think about what I want to say, without the need for small talk…
The Finns, like most, love to have a serious drink.
17. Drying Cupboards
Never seen these before, a handy invention where the cupboard above the sink has no bottom and is lined with drying racks. Instead of drying the dishes by hand or precariously balancing them next to the sink you just pop them in the cupboard to dry.
18. Drinking Water
The drinking water is some of the best in the world. With so many freshwater lakes around it is not surprising.
19. Wife Carrying Championships
One thing I am yet to experience, but sounds incredible and need to check it out!
Have I missed anything out? Do you agree with what I said above? Maybe after my next 5 months I can add a few more points to the list.