The Fervent Finland Expedition Week One: Observations, Saunas, and Giant Dandelions

Meredith Oldham, Features Editor

Moi from Finland! (or Suomi as they say in… well, Suomi!)

I have now been in Finland for one week! Well, technically tomorrow will be one week since I arrived in Finland on Saturday. But today it’s officially one week since I left America. This week has been a blast and already an incredible experience, and I’m already looking forward to the weeks to come. For today, however, I’ve made a list of my observations/impressions of Finland throughout week one! (Note: it is not and never my intention to offend or encourage/perpetuate stereotypes. The following are simply my observations)

More photos to come!
More photos to come!

1. The Finnish Home: Not only do Finnish houses/apartments look quite different from the outside (especially the rooves which are designed for the legendary Finnish winters and their snow masses) but they are exceedingly different on the inside as well. Firstly, the Finnish home is usually quite small and abundantly filled with IKEA and IKEA-like furniture, so the space is used quite effectively and becaue of this, the Finnish home may not seem quite so small. Secondly, you NEVER wear shoes in the home, and it’s not like America where some homes ask you to remove your shoes–  think the shoe thing goes for everyone. Also, no dryers. Why use a dryer wyen you could hang your laundry out on the clothesline or on a rack? I actually think this makes quite a bit of sense and it saves space and a bit of money as well. Lastly– sauna, but sauna is a whole different ballgame that I will get to later.

2. The Finnish Language: The Finnish language is as cool as it is confusing. It’s apparently one of the hardest languages for native English speakers to learn which I can definitely attest to! It sounds completely different from any other language, but if I had to pinpoint similarities between other languages (by other languages, I really mean   the few languages I can recognize if spoken– sufficient to say, not many), I would say it most sounds like a cross between Russian (don’t tell the Fins that!) and maybe Spanish/Italian, just because the Rs are rolled and the Ts sound a bit similar as well.  But the Finnish language is really neat– no gender biases like the Romance languages (in Finnish him, her, she, and heare all the same word) and the language is also quite steady and a bit calming, if that makes any sense. But most Fins speak English pretty well (except for older Fins), although I always feel guilty speaking English in a country where English is not the native language because I feel it’s a bit like saying “my language is superior and I’m not even going to bother learning yours.” Ah, the shame that often accompanies being an American abroad.

3. The Finnish Silence: While Fins are considerably quieter than Americans, I don’t know if the stereotype that Fins are shy and emotionless is really true. I just think for them, silence isn’t considered awkward as it is in America. The Finnish motto seems to be, “Don’t speak because you have to say something, speak because you have something to say.” I think this is actually quite valuable. I keep stopping myself when I find myself trying to break the silence in the car, at meals, on the bus, etc. Silence is okay. (Note: when I say silence I mean silence in the company of others)

4. The Finnish Sauna: I have to say, the idea of the Finnish sauna made me quite nervous before I came to Finland. I don’t know about you, but sitting in a 150° F room naked with a bunch of strangers a few times a week doesn’t exactly sound enticing. However, this is not exactly the reality of the sauna, but it can be if that’s what you want. But I think most Finnish homes, summer cottages (most Fins have them!), and many apartment complexes come with saunas, and you can go alone, and you can wear a towel!  Most people go in the sauna after they take a shower and most saunas (even in houses) have a dressing room just outside of them. Not so scary afterall!

A few other random Finnish observations…

5. Finnish libraries are amazing

6. There are A LOT of people with blue eyes

7. Ice Cream is a big deal in Finland

8. Fins downtalk their country a lot (still confused about this)

9. If you wear shorts on a cold day people will think you’re Norweigan

10. Finnish forests are GORGEOUS

11. Dandelions in Finland are quadruple the size of American ones (try getting all those seeds off in one breath)

12. There aren’t very many black people in Finland

13. Fins play the same music again and again– there’s not THAT much new Finnish pop music, so what they have, they play a lot of

14. Moomins (Muumi) are everywhere in Finland! And so cute!

15. Bikes! Fins (and I think Scandinaviand in general) use their bikes a ton, and the citiez are super bike friendly

16. Finnish gardens are much prettier (and seem to be more lavish) than American ones. The flowers are stunning!

Stop by again next Friday for more adventures and photos! Moi Moi!