Inspired by this great post: 21 Things You Should Know Before Moving To Italy (Or visiting Italy)
This is my personal take on what you should know before moving to Finland.
1. You always take off your shoes before entering somebody’s house (and your own). There may be some very formal occasions when you don’t take off your shoes but it has not happened to me yet. So, always wear cute socks and be mindful of holes. People even bring slippers to their workplace, which is sensible when outside the roads are covered in snow and gravel.
2. Take vitamin D every day is a very good idea during winter. You don’t get enough sun and may end up suffering from vitamin D deficiency, so take your tablets. I personally take 50 mg. as a higher dosage is not recommended.
3. Italian breakfast will make you look like a weirdo. Many people have porridge, others rye bread with cheese or eggs, but eating cookies with tea or caffellatte is unheard of. Corollary: cookies are not meant for breakfast so packages are usually small and super expensive. These cinnamon cookies, however, are delicious!
4. Icy roads can be very slippery so get sensible shoes with good soles and if you are very scared of falling (like me) also anti-slip rubber covers.
5. The first snow always melts quite quickly.
6. November is the worst month of the year. If you need to know why read Tove Jansson’s Moominvalley in November and learn how children’s books can be gloomier than Thomas Stearns Eliot. Plus, try to ask around: everybody will all tell you November is evil incarnated.
7. Privacy is sacred. Don’t assume people want to hang out and spend time with you as much as they would back home. Interacting with strangers is something many Finnish people dread, and forcing social interaction is a mortal sin. Being introvert is not a personality trait but a life philosophy.
8. People are honest. This doesn’t mean they are rude but there is not as much superficial cheerfulness and approachability as in other countries. I personally like this, I may still struggle with boundaries (like physical contact, even though I think my friends secretly like being hugged) but I truly appreciate how refreshingly honest Finnish people can be.
9. Sauna is sacred. This means that being invited to sauna is a big deal, that you respect all the rules and don’t act disrespectfully (I am looking at you exchange students) and you don’t make a fuss over nudity. Being in sauna is a spiritual experience and often the place for open discussion, meditation, sharing and family bonding. If you are interested in learning more I recommend this beautiful documentary about Finnish men in sauna.
10. Finland is the best country for vintage lovers: there are an insane number of flea markets, second-hand shops, vintage boutiques and so on. Buying second-hand is completely normal and I definitely recommend it. You can find some amazing deals and since shopping is so expensive I suggest to always check your local second-hand shop before buying anything brand new. Moreover, many buildings have also their own recycling room where you can get things for free and also leave objects you don’t need anymore for your fellow neighbours.
11. During the summer months people disappear in their summer cottages and reaching them can be impossible. In my University, talking to a Professor from June to September is more difficult than finding fresh ricotta.
12. The cabin experience is valid only if there is no water or electricity, you have to break ice with an axe to get water, warm the cabin by fire and basically work all day to avoid freezing during the night. (Do you have any idea how long does it take for a cabin to warm up in -30?)
13. There are lots of reindeers in Lapland and they tend to show up on the road unannounced so drive carefully. Mooses are even more dangerous.
14. You can go pick berries and mushrooms wherever you want. Freedom to roam
15. Hunting and wearing fur are socially acceptable activities. You don’t need to buy brand new fur, though. Citizens are trying to criminalize fur farming and there is plenty of vintage fur.
16. If somebody offers you Mämmi just say no.
17. If a Finn tells you they love you they really mean it and will be ready to jump in the fire for you.
18. Finnish language belongs to the Finno-Ugric languages, which means that unless you come from Estonia or Hungary you will not understand a word. However, it’s a beautiful language and it’s worth trying to learn it.
19. Finnish people have sisu: a mix of determination, perseverance and facing adversities that is roughly translated in English as “having guts”. The Winter War is a great example of sisu, but surviving winter is not a bad achievement either.
20. Supposedly, there are four seasons in Finland. I have only seen three: fall, winter and summer, and I think spring is meant to be those two weeks between the ice melting on the roads and the explosion of summer.
21. Don’t assume Finland is like other Nordic countries, because it isn’t.