Life in Finland
We thought it would best to give out a few cameras to some of our students so that they could showcase Finland through their own perspective. Watch them share their experience.
Evelin Simer, from Estonia, is an Intellectual Property Law-programme student:
Yan Li, from China, is an Economics student
Introduction to Finland
For general facts and useful information on staying in Finland we advise you to start by visiting the web address http://studyinfinland.fi/. The information found below provides an initial insight into the Finnish way of life.
Facts about Finland
Finland (Suomi in Finnish) is the seventh largest country in Europe in terms of area. About 65 per cent of the five million people live in cities. Finland is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the European Union since 1995.
Pictures: City of Helsinki from Helsinki Picture Bank
Two Official Languages
Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, but you do not have to master them in order to make yourself understood. English is widely spoken. Naturally knowing some Finnish or Swedish makes a good impression. Finnish is spoken by approximately 92 % of Finns, and Swedish is spoken as a native language by 5,5 % of the population.
Finns, Warm Hearted People
The Finnish people can be relied on. Honesty and dependability are the two characteristics held in highest regard among Finns. They do, however, give an extreme degree of space to other people which can mean that the initiative for making friends often falls on the foreigner. Once the ice is broken Finns are open and warm.
Finland also has four distinct seasons. Due to the warm Gulf Stream, Finland has a milder climate than many other areas equally far up north.
In Helsinki and Vaasa the seasons are milder compared to the northern and inner parts of the country.
During the autumn (September-November), the temperature is usually around 5-10°C and it is a good idea to bring an umbrella or a raincoat as well as a thick winter coat, since it is highly likely that you'll need it.
The winter lasts from November until March and there is generally snow from December until March. The temperature is usually below zero and around -5°C. Usually it also gets colder for shorter periods of time. Temperatures down to -20°C are not unusual. Although it is very cold outside, you needn't worry about being cold inside as houses in Finland have double or even triple glazing and central heating.
When the spring season begins (March-May) the days get longer and warmer. The temperature is around 5-15°C.
Summer lasts from June until August. In the end of June the sun will be up almost around the clock. This is called the Midnight Sun. The temperature can rise up to 30°C (even higher in July-August).
From the 13th century Finland was part of the kingdom of Sweden. In 1809, after Sweden had lost the war against Russia, Finland was ceded to Russia and became an autonomous Grand Duchy within Imperial Russia.
During the 19th century Finnish national consciousness grew stronger. In 1906 Finland succeeded in establishing a new constitution based on equal and universal suffrage, Finnish women being the first in Europe to be given the right to vote. Finland gained its independence in 1917.
Finland became a member state of the European Union on the 1st of January 1995.
For more information on the history of Finland, please see: www.museums.fi
Finland is a parliamentary republic with a multiparty political system and a typical Nordic welfare state. Ultimate power lies with the people, who are represented by the Members of Parliament. Legislative power lies with the Parliament and executive power lies with the Government which has the support of Parliament. The President acts as head of state, but otherwise the presidential office is largly ceremonial.
Members of parliament are chosen every 4 years. The unicameral parliament has 200 seats. The president is chosen by direct popular vote every 6 years with a limit of 2 terms of office. The current president is Mr. Sauli Niinistö.
Social Life and Leisure
The Finnish way of life is easy going. People are more or less straight talking, which means that people usually say what they mean. Silence in the middle of a conversation is not unusual or anything that Finns are afraid of or mind. In conversation it is polite to wait for the other person to finish what they are saying before presenting your own viewpoint and this tends to slow down the rhythm.
When going out each member of the party usually pays for themselves. Tips are not generally given except perhaps to the doorman at bars or in restaurants if you are particularly pleased with the service. When you are invited to a Finnish home, it is considered polite to take a small gift for your hosts.
Smoking is forbidden in public places, offices and restaurants. Employers have built special facilities for smoking but if there are no such places smokers go outside.
Take a Sauna
The Finnish sauna is a form of the ancient sweat bath tradition. It relaxes the muscles and relieves muscular aches and pains. It also helps you sweat away mental stress. In the sauna there are heated stones onto which you throw water to create steam. The fact that there are 5,2 million Finns and 1,7 million saunas says it all. Sauna is still an important part of the Finnish way of life.
On public holidays most companies, banks and schools are closed. Furthermore, public transport usually runs according to special, reduced schedules.
1st January - New Year's Day (Uusivuosi/Nyår)
6th January - Epiphany (Loppiainen/Trettondagen)
March-April* - Good Friday (Pitkäperjantai/Långfredagen)
March-April* - Easter Day (Pääsiäispäivä/Påskdagen)
March-April - Easter Monday (2. pääsiäispäivä/Annandag påsk)
1st May - May Day (Vappu/Första maj)
May-June* - Ascension Day (Helatorstai/Kristi himmelsfärdsdag)
May-June* - Whitsunday (Helluntai/Pingst)
June* - Midsummer Day (Juhannuspäivä/Midsommardag)
November* - All Saints' Day (Pyhäinpäivä/Alla helgons dag)
6th December - Independence Day (Itsenäisyyspäivä/Självständighetsdag)
24th December - Christmas Eve (Jouluaatto/Julafton)
25th December - Christmas Day (Joulupäivä/Juldagen)
26th December - Boxing Day (Tapaninpäivä/Annandag jul)
*The date varies yearly. More information at http://almanakka.helsinki.fi