According to Insider, Finland is the best country to visit in 2019. If you feel the same way and are planning on traveling there, I’m happy to give you some insight into what to expect. I consider myself quite the expert after living the first 22 years of my life in the country.
- Finland has been independent since 1917. Before that, Finland was a part of Russia for around 100 years and before that a part of Sweden.
- There are over three million saunas in Finland, and only around five million inhabitants. It’s true that most Finnish households have their own sauna!
- The population density of Finland is only 16 people per square km.
- Finland is not a part of Scandinavia. It is however one of the Nordic countries.
How To Blend In
Finns are in general quiet and calm, so don’t take it personally if it takes a while for them to open up. If you start talking to someone on the street, they will probably consider you a bit crazy (unless you are asking for directions). After moving from Finland to Amsterdam, and working with people from all over Europe, I found that asking “How are you?” of complete strangers was something I really had to learn. Another thing to keep in mind is that Finns never greet by cheek kissing, it’s always a handshake or perhaps a hug if you are friends.
Finland is a clean country and you won’t see too much garbage on the ground, unless it’s after a big holiday or festival. There will always be a garbage can around the corner, so littering is unnecessary. Also keep in mind that you are expected to take of your shoes when entering someone’s home. The only exception to this might be a party where you have your fancy shoes on.
Traditional Food and Expensive Alcohol
Thinking of buying your booze at the grocery store? Think again. Grocery stores only have low-alcohol drinks such as beer and cider, while wine and hard liquor can be found in a store called Alko. The alcohol in Finland is expensive, especially at bars and restaurants. On the bright side, tap water is perfectly fine to drink anywhere in the country and you can often get it for free at restaurants as well.
When it comes to food, don’t expect anything spicy. Typical Finnish food might consist of meat or fish, potatoes, root vegetables, lingonberry jam and mushrooms. Some specialties to look out for are reindeer meat, salmon soup, Karelian pastry, cinnamon buns as well as rye bread. Popular candy includes Fazer’s chocolate, or Salmiakki (but beware that most people hate the taste of it).
There also a bunch of drinks and pastries linked to different holidays, such as mead for the first of May, mämmi (sweetened oven-baked rye malt porridge) for Easter, and glögi (a type of mulled wine) for Christmas.
Due to the history of the country, Finland officially has two languages: Finnish and Swedish. Swedish is only spoken by around 5% of the population and mostly along the coastline. You will see both languages on e.g. traffic signs and in grocery stores. In Lapland you might meet the Sámi people who speak different variations of Sámi languages.
Finnish is said to be one of the most difficult languages in the world and doesn’t resemble any other language in Europe. Finnish people sound quite monotone when speaking, which might take a while to get used to. You can however be sure that most Finns speak English fluently.
For Nature Lovers
70% of Finland is covered with forest and the country has 188 000 lakes. In winter it can be as cold as -25 degrees Celsius and dark all day long in the North. During summer it can be up to +30 degrees Celsius and days when the sun never goes down. In between there is (quite a short) spring and very colorful autumn. Especially in the North you might see the Northern lights from August to April. These changes make the nature of Finland quite special and definitely something to keep in mind when choosing your travel dates.
The Finnish Archipelago is also something you might want to consider seeing. The water isn’t clear and the ocean isn’t salty. However, I like the contrast of dark waters, rocks and pine trees to turquoise water, white beaches and palm trees.
Have you ever been to Finland? Did I miss something big?