This is a small and incomplete list of things I love about Finland. More to come!
Disclaimer: these are my personal opinions and I am not assuming everybody shares them or they are 100% true/representative of Finland. You may have experienced things differently and I’d love to hear about it, but please don’t assume I am trying to speak about other people’s lives.
These photos are from my last trip to Lapland. -25 and being in a cabin with no running water and electricity may seem a bit crazy to many people (including me before coming to Finland) but the beauty that surrounds you definitely makes it worth. The light is just indescribable, and like nothing you may seem in the Southern hemisphere. The sky so full of stars, it seems it may explode. The silence of mornings covered in snow and how scary it is to venture outside when it’s completely dark and the forest seems animated with noises you don’t recognize. Tracks everywhere, of every kind (and did you know kids in elementary school have to pass an exam on how to recognize each?) and reindeers trying to decide whether to flee or stay when you walk close to them. In short, nature in Finland is beautiful in every season and my advice to anybody coming here is go North, go to Lapland, escape towns and civilization and head to the first (or last) cabin you can find. Finland’s true beauty is its nature, its forests and lakes, and if you have the chance you shouldn’t miss out.
I know, I should be complaining about Finnish people, how cold they are, how hard it is to make friends. But my experience (and many other expats’ as well) is that this is just a stereotype. I met a lot of warm, friendly and kind people and made many friends that I am going to miss a lot when I move away. Of course some people are not interested in getting to know you, but that happens everywhere and I appreciate Finnish slow but honest and straightforward approach to friendship. Moreover, people are not interested in how you live your life and are respectful of your privacy. This is so valuable to me: one of the things I disliked the most about Italy was the constant request of strangers to know about me and my life. Stepping on a bus or train and knowing it is very unlikely somebody is going to pester me all the time is a relief. You can have great conversations on trains in Italy, and I met some wonderful people this way, but most of the time you have no choice: many people do not care about your clear desire to be left alone and demand your cooperation (which can be taxing in long trips) or spend all their time talking on the phone/with other passengers. Trust me, on a 9 hours trip, silence will become very valuable. Plus, I may have been very lucky and I am sure many people have different experiences, but everybody I met have been welcoming and happy to help. So I can only vouch for Finnish people.
This is a very small selection of some of the cafés I visited since I live in Finland. Despite drinking only tea and usually finding Finnish cake disappointing, I love the fact there are so many cafés and tea houses where you can sit in a warm and comfy environment and relax. It is very common to go out for coffee and cake, especially on Sunday and it’s one of those habits it was very easy to adopt (thanks also to my sweet tooth)
Sauna, of course, couldn’t be forgotten. I have to admit I have become quite addicted to sauna (I usually go three times a week) and I cannot imagine how hard it is gonna be when I am going to move to a country without sauna. I have also internalized a little bit of Finnish mindset towards sauna: I get upset if people don’t respect the unwritten rules and when I was living in a student dorm full of exchange students I was adamant they had to respect the rules and even scolded some. Sauna is a holy place where you cleanse your body and mind and it makes you feel incredible. It’s a life savior in winter, but it is always pleasing, even in summer.
5. Finnish attitude to bodies and beauty
One thing that really surprised me was how unfazed people are by different bodies, and variables like age and weight, maybe because I have struggled with body image and self-esteem my whole life. My surprise diminished when I looked at Finnish magazines, and saw they were full of women of different sizes and ages, with very little Photoshop. Not enough diversity to represent the changing Finnish population, but still very different from Italian magazines, that are not only 100% white but also push for a very specific image of female beauty. Also, from what I can gather, the focus is on what these women can do, not on how they look like: they are often not dolled up, and nobody sees the need to cancel their wrinkles or alter their appearances. There are also fashion magazines which tend to be more similar to international ones, but at least there is some variety. Then I saw the way young and older women act in swimming pools and sauna, confident in their bodies and just nonchalant about them, obviously not caring too much about their appearance in a way that would be impossible in Italy (I remember looks, comments, general uneasiness and discomfort). I don’t know where this different attitude comes from, but I think sauna and the exposure all kids get to different bodies can only be a good thing. It seems like women are taught they can be much more than their bodies and this is a wonderful thing.
I am going to keep posting things I like about Finland, and if any of you want to join the dialogue I’d love to hear about yours.