Finland in a capsule

OK Finland fans, your wait is over: here is the rest of the news from my trip. The first thing I wanted to report is that people are very quiet over there – nobody was gassing on their phone on the bus, and on my walk through the place we stayed, there were people having coffee on their verandahs, just sitting in silence…..brooding? Once I had a little lunch and there were several tables full around me but no noise – it was quite eery! What do people ponder? Maybe they were thinking to themselves how great it is to be a Finn. I must admit I was a bit jealous of the Finns because they have such a strong sense of national identity. You could easily make up a capsule of things that say ‘Finland’. Here’s my list:

Moomins. Oh my life, the Moomins are everywhere and they’re not just for kids.

Liquorice. Mmmmmm… salty liquorice, alcoholic liquorice, liquorice chocolate, it’s all there people…

Sibelius. If you’re not a fan, maybe keep that quiet with the Finns. He encapsulated the spirit of the nation as it became independent so his music is dear to their hearts. Check out ‘Finlandia’ for a first listen on youtube here if you like: We went to see a Sibelius concert at the Music Centre and it was fab. We also visited his holiday home where he used to lounge around in white linen suits, writing music and being brilliant. Oh, and we saw the famous sculpture built in his honour:


I had a salty liquorice ice cream under there.

I had a salty liquorice ice cream under there. Seemed rude not to.

Saunas. Saunas are as intrinsic to Finnish culture as roast dinners are here – more so in fact. Say you are having your friends over, or you’re enjoying some family time, well next you would get your kit off and sit in a sauna together putting the world to rights -it’s just what you do! They say it puts everyone on the same level so there’s no room for dishonesty or any other funny business. Again, seemed rude not to… then we cooled down in our pyjamas looking at the forest with a glass of red wine before bed – heavenly!

Design. Alvar Aalto, Marimekko, Aarikka, Iittala.. lots of lovely things for you to google if you so wish. They have a BIG thing for ceramics and glassware:

The fabric section of my brain got overstimulated in this Marimekko shop – arrrgggghhh, my eyes, get me out! It was a long and arduous session of rummaging in the bargain offcuts section – ha ha!

Unpronounceable, never-ending words. The best one I found was on a building called “KULTTUURIKIRKKO”. And on a blackboard, “KUKKAKAALI KEITTI” (cabbage soup – no thanks).

Coffee. Not just any old coffee but hallowed coffee, treated with reverence. There’s a flask of coffee for you even whilst queuing for the metro ticket, and even in some of the posher shops – coffee in real cups and saucers whilst you browse! I made a bit of a cross-cultural gaff by topping up my coffee with a bit of cold water from the kettle back at home – my host winced as if I’d just trodden on his corns – it made me giggle nervously. Plenty more cross-cultural learning curves ahead I’m sure. I hope it will entertain you…