Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Fun Facts about Finland


View from a KLM aircraft flying over Finland
I must admit, when I travelled to Finland recently, I knew very little about it. I assumed, being very naive in such matters, that as it was in Europe it would be a little bit familiar, that we would have things in common and it wouldn't feel like too far from home. But it turns out it is further than I thought, 1598 miles to be precise, and there are quite a few differences that I hadn't expected, including a very different landscape, made up of better snow than we get here in the UK! If you've ever wondered what's different about Finland, I have the answers. Enjoy our fun facts and fascinating findings, full of Finnish flavour!


A Lot of Bottle 


This is something I particularly loved about Finland. You can't fail to notice how beautiful and litter-free the countryside is and it seems the government there are keen to keep it that way. In probably every supermarket, you will find a bottle recycling machine. After you have finished your beverage, you simply insert it in the machine, a bit like a reverse vending machine, and out comes 20c. A hark back to the good old days, here in the UK, where you could return your pop bottles for a small deposit. And it works. Recycling rates in Finland for refillable glass bottles are almost 100% and the figure for aluminium cans and plastic bottles are somewhere between 94 and 96%. The Finnish people are clearly very keen to keep their country beautiful and with very good reason. 

Wonderful Water


One of the first things you will notice before you even land in Helsinki is that a very significant aspect of the Finnish landscape is the abundance of lakes. They are everywhere. Finland seems to have lakes in the same way that we have fields. Every photo you take has at least one lake in the background and they make for some really beautiful pictures. But that isn't the only reason to love the lakes of Finland, they also contain what has been described by Unicef as the purest water in the world. Even out of the tap, Finnish water tastes amazing and locals have been known to drink it straight from the lake.

A carafe and glass containing Finnish spring water next to a candle holder.


Berry Nice Fruit


Berries play a significant part in the Finnish diet. They grow in the Boreal forests and are harvested by the locals throughout the summer. Lingonberries, bilberries and raspberries are juiced, dried, frozen, or made into jam and many are sold locally or exported. In Finland anyone is allowed to visit the public forests and pick the berries, which can then be sold tax free. It is a popular pastime amongst the elderly, particularly elderly women, to supplement their pensions. Bilberries are often juiced and then heated to make a delicious and comforting fruit tea.

Terrible Tea


The Finnish people do not understand English tea. At all. I didn't get the chance to discuss the reason behind this, but the whole process of adding milk to a tea infused cup of hot water seems to get lost somewhere in translation. This means that you may struggle to get a decent cup of tea and most often you will be paying to effectively make your own. It's common to have all the makings of tea available, but it's nearly always self-assembly. My most baffling experience of this was at Helsinki airport, where I was handed, what looked like, a thick whiskey tumbler of hot water with a tea bag floating in it and pointed towards a milk and sugar station. I tried, but it all looked a bit wrong!

Two glass tumblers containing tea, on a tray with spoons and used teabags.

Baffling Bath Time


It is not common, in fact, it's almost unheard of, to find a bath tub in a Finnish bathroom. The Finnish bathroom is usually in the wet room style, where the floor and walls are fully tiled and the water all disappears down a central drain, making it very labour-saving to clean. I heard that if a Finnish bathroom contains a bath tub, it can actually lower the value of the home, but I don't know how much truth there is in this rumour. I suppose if you are used to easy-to-clean tiled wet rooms, a traditional British-style bathroom may come as a bit of a shock!

Sumptuous Saunas


In Finland, with no baths for relaxing, the Finnish have a much more enticing way to grab some me-time. The Finnish sauna is a wonderful experience. There is really nothing quite like coming in from the cold to a steamy haven of relaxation. Saunas are everything in Finland. There are more saunas than cars and they serve as both a social and personal relaxing space. A lot of homes contain their own sauna, or their are pubic saunas for groups. It is a strong tradition for Finns to enjoy saunas in groups, and it is an honour to be invited. It is not unusual to enjoy sausages roasted on the fire, along with beer or cider, and afterwards it is traditional to jump into icy water or roll in fresh snow.

A wooden door with a rustic sign saying Sauna

Naked is Normal


Another strict Finnish tradition is to enter the sauna completely naked. What is rather lovely about this, is that the naked body is a natural thing and nobody is in any way ashamed or  conscious of their bodies. In groups, men and women will use separate saunas, and saunas are not considered in any way a sexual experience, but the nudity seems to lend itself to further strengthen the bonding experience between friends, colleagues or family members in this lovely tradition. In some hotels it is still possible to receive a visit from the 'Washing Lady', whose job is exactly what it says, she comes into the sauna and washes you. I'm not sure how I would feel about this, as a self-conscious foreigner, but apparently it is very relaxing and not dissimilar to a full body massage in both its application and effects.

Moomin Mania


How could I talk about the happiest place on earth without mentioning that it is, of course, the birthplace of The Moomins? Moomins are a national treasure and adored by children, not just in Finland, but all over the world. These slightly bonkers children's characters, created by Finnish illustrator Tove Jannson, have been the subject of several books, a comic strip, movies and television programmes and their timeless innocence has been delighting children since 1945. In Finland you can't move for Moomin memorabilia, everything from tea strainers to handbags, there's a Moomin for everything.

Life size Moomin character models of Snuffkin and Moomintroll

Copious Coffee Consumption


This fact really surprised me. Finland boasts the highest coffee consumption in the world. It's amazing, isn't it? Who would have thought little old Finland consumes more coffee than the United States! It is very cold in Finland, obviously, which I'm sure plays a part, but I was very surprised to learn that there isn't a more even spread amongst available hot drinks. According to Nordic Coffee Culture 14% of Finnish men and 6% of Finnish women consume more than ten cups of coffee per day. I wonder if the absence of natural daylight during some of the year plays a part in enjoying a lot of caffeine!

A Happiness Haven


Finland was recently reported by the UN to be the happiest country in the world and it's not hard to see why. On our recent visit, we were overwhelmed by a wide culture of caring. not just for their environment, but also for children, animals, and each other. The landscape is beautiful, the culture relaxed and the people are naturally upbeat and friendly. They are so welcoming of newcomers too, everywhere we went we were either given a gift, or something to eat. It's just a wonderful place to be, what's not to love?


Photo Credit: Top and bottom photo by Harri Tarvainen





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11 comments

Helen J said...

Ahh I've learnt a lot about Finland, thank you! I've always wanted to visit Finland, so now I know to bring my own tea :)

Our Fairytale Adventure said...

Finland is on our bucket list! I really want to visit, but wanted to wait until the boys were a little bit older. To be honest not many people understand tea like the Brits do and we have this problem in every single country we visit! My advice to all British travellers is to bring a lot of tea!

Stella Olojola said...

I would love to visit Finland one day. Good I have read this post. I now know what to expect.

Kara Guppy said...

The tea thing drove me nuts when we were there - sometimes you need a cup of good english tea LOL

Stephanie Moore said...

Oh lovely to hear about these Finnish ways! My friend lives in Sweden and is very much like this. Beautiful countries

Jenni said...

Would love to visit Finland I have heard good reviews, great post really enjoyed it

Battle Mum said...

These are all fascinating facts. We're off to Finland in December so it's lovely to find out some things before we go. Tea is going to be an issue I think and I drink A LOT of tea!

Claire Justine said...

I have never been to Finland before, it sounds lovely. I would love to visit one day. I really need to renew my passport :)

Deborah Nicholas said...

The look of that tea is enough to put me off altogether! love a proper cup of english tea! lol

NmDiaries said...

I have always wanted to check Finland out - hopefully one day in the future! I'll have to decide if these are facts for myself when I get there!



www.nmdiaries.com

Five Little Doves said...

Great facts! I've never known a lot about Finland so this was so interesting!

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