Are you afraid to freeze to death? Don’t worry, global warming is doing its job pretty thoroughly, especially in the Southern part of the country, where the capital is located. The winters are not as severe as they used to be. However, the temperatures do drop below 0°C. We expect a mix of snow and rain, which makes the sidewalks very slippery and at times slushy. You might need to sacrifice your elegant conference outfit for something comfortable, especially when it comes to footwear. Be prepared for strong winds, as coastal Helsinki can get really breezy. Finns say that the weather is never too bad, but your clothes might be.
What might surprise you a bit more than the weather itself is the darkness. In December days are the shortest in Finland with the daylight lasting for maximum 6h, more or less between 9 AM and 3 PM. The city is nicely lit in the pre-Christmas period, though, and in places such as some public libraries, you can use lamps imitating daylight. Bring your vitamin set, a decent coat, and keep the sunny vibes within yourself, and we are sure you will survive these few longer afternoons.
If you plan on joining us on Lapland Symposium Day, remember that all of the above is way more extreme in Rovaniemi, and the temperature may drop to around -15°C. Snow boots and winter coats are a must! But it is worth going there to experience the winter we will soon know only from the TV screens, and, who knows, maybe you will be lucky enough to spot the northern lights.
Finns have developed several ways to deal with the dark and cold in a fun and pleasurable manner. You should definitely try some of them!
Finnish people are obsessed with saunas! You can find them everywhere, many of the living buildings have them in the basement area. It is a great way to socialize, seal a deal or relax. If a Finn invites you to his sauna, it is a sign of respect and sympathy, many businesses have been done behind the sauna door. And of course, Helsinki is a great city to try a variety of public ones. However, since it is such a big part of the Finnish everyday culture, there’s a certain sauna etiquette to be followed. Nudity is okay, whipping yourself with whisk is expected, and drinks are totally recommended. Check the detailed guidelines and the best public saunas here.
Staying hydrated is crucial, and drinking water is available everywhere in Helsinki. But why drink water, when you can drink liters of filtered coffee? Finns can show off proudly with the biggest coffee consumption per capita in the world! Annually the average reaches up to 12 kg. The day is divided by the coffee breaks that dictate its rhythm. Evening coffee is cool! Mostly because this beverage here is very light roasted and you should not expect anything too sophisticated. The finesse of the Finnish coffee goes way behind its amounts. It might be also one of the easiest ways to socialize with people here, who may seem a little bit shy. Silence is totally cool and comfortable here, but a cup of coffee accompanying it is even better.
When you get a chance, you should try either a joulutorttu or a korvapuusti along. Even though the Finnish cuisine is not so diversified and along the reindeer meat and salmon soup there are only a few specialties, the pastries, especially during Christmas season, are exquisite!
You can read more on the Finnish coffee here and check some cafes recommendations here.
Don’t forget to buy some salmiakki, Finnish salty licorice, available in all forms and shapes, which you can either love or hate.
Except for the soft beverages, you can warm yourself with glögi, very popular in this region of Europe. Glögi is a mulled red wine, usually served hot, with a bit of spicy flavour. In recent years the recipes have diversified so much, and the combinations of fruits and spices inside are definitely something to taste! Most Finns buy glögi off the shelf at grocery stores or Alko liquor outlets, serving it with raisins and blanched almonds, but it would be a crime not to try the ones served at the Christmas market and take them along during your evening winter walk around Helsinki’s waterfront. Non-alcoholic options available too!
Finns like to enjoy some beers and some stronger options too, and you might find yourself surprised how their shyness disappears together with their drinks. But be careful, as it is not easy to keep up with them, and you may wake up with a big headache and troubles in focusing on the fascinating HEPP4 morning panels.
Finns value their privacy a lot, which means they might not come off as too social at first sight, especially when you come from the hotter areas of the world. The population rate is quite low considering the size of the country, and this together with many other factors contributed to rather a reserved approach to strangers. However, Finns are incredibly helpful, and you can expect anyone here to speak English at least at the basic level, so feel free to ask for the way when you are lost in the city.
In Finland, there are two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Do not expect to figure out anything of Finnish by yourself, it is a very unique and complex language that is not related to many others. But you can try out these most important phrases:
Moi! – Hi!
Kiitos! – Thank you!
Kippis! – Cheers!
Mitä kuuluu? – How is it going? – Hyvää. – Good.
Mulla on kylmä. – I am cold.
We do not support learning from memes as valid knowledge sources. But we do like the memes. Check out these pages to get oriented a bit more and smile before you set off to Finland!