Finland is no ordinary place; it is filled with shocks and surprises waiting for you around the corner. You might not be anticipating them because… it’s Finland right? What could be so crazy there: great education system, perfect law-abiding citizens, every rule and sign is well thought out – nothing unexpected could happen to me there. Wrong! While it all might be true, don’t ever overlook and underestimate the power of a fascinating, yet quirky Finnish personality. The national character of the Finns is the main reason behind the bellow mentioned “only in Finland” moments.
Boy, you could never imagine how much people here cherish their sauna-time. Getting naked with all their best buddies and heading straight for the steaming-hot sauna (about 100 degrees), which most liked is standing in their backyard or right inside their house, sit there together for a while and sweat – what could be more natural for a Finn? You are welcome to join! Just make sure to act like this is something you don’t find weird at all. Not even if afterwards they suggest you jump into a pile of snow outside to cool off or even roll in the snow, or swim in a half-frozen river because it is so refreshing. If you are ever invited to take part in this curious activity – be courageous and say “yes”. Because if you don’t you will miss out on the fun experience that will give you an insight into the culture and mentality of the people of Finland.
Please don’t fall for the “Finland has all 4 seasons” tale. It is only true if you consider having a few days of spring in May – a proper spring. I was astonished to find out that having snowfalls in the end of April-beginning of May was considered a perfectly normal affair here. And then when you lose all faith that spring will come, suddenly everything changes and the temperature jumps to 20°C to stay there for the next two months and the trees sprout leaves basically overnight. There – you have your summer, be prepared to lapse into it without the transition period. From wearing thermal underwear to T-shorts and trucks in a matter of days.
Queuing for hours for freebies
It is a casual thing to have half a small town gather outside of a store that’s about to be opened for the first time. They will actually wake up at 5 am to make it there in time and queue to get there free bucket or a pillow at the entrance. We can’t state that store opening events here are always entirely free of the tension, yet unlike elsewhere things rarely get out of hand. Who has the time for that? Is the question you might be asking. Well, I personally think it is one of the rare communal events that brings people together, they crave this connection, chatting away while waiting to get something for free. It also gives one a feeling of accomplishment, even if they receive a small freebie like a pack of coffee.
Wild animals all around
Finland is basically a huge forest with a few towns thrown in here and there. So seeing an animal wandering around outside isn’t an out-of-the-ordinary situation. It might be a harmless squirrel or a pretty intimidating bear or an elk. Beware of that kind of a neighbor and if confronted, act cool and calm, simply walk backwards slowly. This is not an everyday sort of thing; you are very unlikely to meet any wild creature if you are staying for a short time. But it does show Finland’s strange relationship with urbanization and nature. Even if you live in Helsinki it’s very easy to find your way to into the wilderness.
- An avid traveller, with a passion for discovering new cultures, currently based in Finland - the country of contrasts and surprises