Are you planning your first trip to Finland? Fantastic! We lived in Finland for several years and left it with a heavy heart. During the time we stayed in Finland we learned a lot about the Finnish culture, its do’s and don’ts. We’ve explored quite a bit of the country and we hope that our tips below will help you during your visit 🙂
1. Finland is not Scandinavia
Although Finland is a Nordic Country, it is not part of Scandinavia. In fact, Finnish language, history and culture are very different compared to its Scandinavian neighbors. Nonetheless, throughout the years, Finns have embraced their location within the Nordics and assimilated somewhat 😉 Just don’t expect to get by on Swedish alone 😛
2. Finland is Cold
Some of you might now say “duh”, but honestly, it’s just not your average destination when it comes to weather. I have personally never left the house without a jacket, not even in July. As a matter of fact, I distinctly remember one day in July when I put on my woolen socks and put on a kettle of tea as temperatures had dropped below 10 degrees Celsius during the day. And I’m not talking about Lapland here, but the South Coast. Be aware that in winter temperatures can drop below -20 degrees Celsius anywhere in the country. If you need some tips for sightseeing in the cold, read our handy guide here.
3. Finland has a lot of Lakes
You may have heard that Finland is called the “Land of a Thousand Lakes”. In fact, there is a total of more than 188.000 lakes in the country and one is more serene than the other. They play a very important role in Finnish culture as most Finns love to spend their holidays at so-called “mökkis”, or summer cottages. If you want to explore the Finnish lake district, why not make the city of Tampere your base?
4. Finns are Quiet
Perhaps you think this is a stereotype, but Finns truly are very quiet people. If you’re ever on a bus and wonder why people are giving you the stinky eye, I bet you it’s because you’ve been talking too loudly. Generally, Finns don’t talk while on any form of public transport. I mean, they barely talk at all, really. Just take it easy on them and don’t try to engage strangers in random conversations. If you want a Finn to open up, get some beers and have a sweat in the sauna.. that’s when Finnish people come out of their shells 😉
5. Finns are Patriotic
Coming from Austria it was strange for me to see the Finnish flag hoisted pretty much every other day. It almost as though Finns will take any excuse to fly the blue and white flag; on the day of their national poet, on the day their national writer, on the day of the Finnish language.. It just never ends 😉 But the great thing is that almost all of these days come with their special sweet treat (read more about flag days and Finnish pastries here). With all this patriotism it’s funny how amazed Finns are that anybody actually wants to visit their country.
6. Finns love their Coffee
Did you know that Finns lead the list of highest coffee consumption per capita? Not the Italians, not the Brazilians, but the Finns. 12 kg of the delicious beans per head and year. Whereas other people like to savor the scent and taste of the beans, for Finns all that counts is quantity. Filter coffee, black, pragmatic. Just like the Finns themselves.
7. Finns have Weird Tastes
On a good day Finns will be drinking their 5th cup of coffee with a delicious pastry (did I mention how much I love Finnish pastries?!). On a regular day, however, Finns will treat themselves with some of the strangest things. My personal “favorite” is salmiakki, salted licorice. What person would actually consider this candy, I don’t know, but it is insanely popular in this country. You can get pretty much everything in a salmiakki flavor, including (but not limited to) donuts, cream cheese, chewing gum, lip gloss, and condoms. Don’t leave Finland without giving it a try. Salmiakki also makes a great souvenir!
8. Finns have a Strange Relationship with Alcohol
If you are planning to bring a bottle of wine for a dinner party on Saturday.. better not leave it for the last second. Supermarkets only sell alcoholic beverages of 4.7% or under. Wine and liquors are only sold at the state-owned “Alko” which means you are paying a huge premium on alcohol. Oh, and did I mention Alko is closed on Sundays and public holidays? Yeah, better stock up while you can.
9. Plastic is King
If you are planning to take out a lot of cash in order to afford all those bottles of wine, don’t. In the 4 years I lived in Finland I have only ever used cash to buy a single bus ticket when I had forgotten my bus pass at home. Most places accept cards without any problem.
10. Finland is Simple, but Beautiful
Finland is not the place if you’re looking for the most Instagram worthy desserts. However, if you need a place to simply unwind and get away from the world, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better location. Even if you’re coming to visit the capital Helsinki, you’re never far from the forest and solitude. I assure you, you will absolutely love it <3
Now, what do you think? Did we forget anything or leave any questions unanswered? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! Let’s stay in touch!