Finland, often referred to as the “Land of a Thousand Lakes,” is a stunning Nordic country known for its pristine nature, rich culture, and vibrant cities. Whether you’re planning a summer adventure or a winter wonderland experience, there are some essential things you should know before visiting Finland. From the language to the weather and cultural nuances, here are ten crucial tips to make your trip to Finland an unforgettable one.
1. Embrace the Finnish Language
Finnish is the official language of Finland, and while many locals speak English, it’s always appreciated if you can learn a few basic phrases in Finnish. “Kiitos” means thank you, “moi” is a casual way to say hi, and “hyvää päivänjatkoa” is a friendly way to say goodbye. The effort to speak the local language will be warmly received by the Finnish people.
2. Weather Variability
Finland experiences a wide range of weather conditions throughout the year. Winters can be extremely cold, with temperatures dropping well below freezing, especially in Lapland. Summers, on the other hand, can be pleasantly warm, with long daylight hours, known as the “Midnight Sun” phenomenon. Be prepared with appropriate clothing for both cold and warm weather, depending on the time of your visit.
3. Sauna Culture
Saunas are an integral part of Finnish culture, with over 2 million saunas in the country. It’s customary for Finns to enjoy saunas regularly, and many households have their own private saunas. When visiting Finland, experiencing a traditional Finnish sauna is a must. Don’t be shy; the experience is often enjoyed in the nude, but there are usually separate saunas for men and women.
4. Respect Personal Space
Finns are known for valuing their personal space and silence. They may seem reserved or shy at first, but this is a cultural norm, not rudeness. Don’t be offended if conversations are brief or if people prefer to keep to themselves in public places.
5. Tipping is Not Mandatory
Unlike in some other countries, tipping is not mandatory in Finland. Service charges are generally included in the bill, and while it’s not uncommon to leave a small tip for exceptional service, it’s not expected. The Finnish service industry provides excellent service without relying on tips.
6. Try Finnish Cuisine
Finnish cuisine may not be as internationally renowned as some other European cuisines, but it has its unique delicacies worth trying. Don’t miss out on “karjalanpiirakka” (Karelian pasty), “kalakukko” (fish-filled pastry), “salmiakki” (salty licorice candy), and of course, the famous Finnish rye bread.
7. Respect Nature and Allemansrätten
Finland is a haven for nature enthusiasts, with its vast forests, lakes, and national parks. The concept of “allemansrätten” or “everyman’s right” allows people to roam freely in nature, even on private land, with a few respectful exceptions. Remember to respect the environment, wildlife, and follow the Leave No Trace principles.
8. Public Transport and Punctuality
Finland has an excellent public transport system, particularly in major cities like Helsinki. Trains, trams, and buses are reliable and punctual, making it easy to get around without a car. If you do rent a car, be aware of strict traffic laws, especially regarding speeding and alcohol limits.
9. Experience the Northern Lights
If you’re visiting Finland during the winter months, particularly in Lapland, you have a chance to witness the awe-inspiring Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). For the best experience, head away from city lights on a clear night, and cross your fingers for a stunning display of natural lights in the sky.
10. Enjoy Finnish Design and Culture
Finland takes great pride in its design heritage, with brands like Marimekko and Iittala known worldwide. Explore local markets and boutique shops for authentic Finnish design products and support local artisans. Additionally, attend cultural events, concerts, and festivals to immerse yourself in Finland’s vibrant arts scene.
Finland offers a unique and unforgettable experience for travelers. By understanding and respecting the country’s culture, customs, and natural wonders, you’ll be able to make the most of your visit to this beautiful Nordic gem. From saunas to the Northern Lights, Finnish cuisine to its warm-hearted people, Finland has something special to offer every traveler. So, pack your bags, learn a few Finnish phrases, and get ready for a memorable adventure in Finland!