Host a Finnish Au Pair & discover Finland
Welcome to Finland!
By EurAuPair Finland Team - Soile Seoudi & Jan Särömaa
Finland! One of the most northern countries in the Europe, this distant corner of the world has always excited people's imagination. Home to Santa Claus and his reindeer in Lapland, Finland’s culture has always been strongly influenced by the seasons (winter in particular) and nature.
In winter time the Northern Lights, or the aurora borealis, are a luminous natural phenomenon that at times lights up the Arctic sky. Snow also brightens up the landscape in Finland in winter when the hours of daylight are short. In Helsinki, the contrast between the unfrozen sea and fresh, white snow is striking. In spring, hepaticas and wood anemones blossom in the oak groves of south-western Finland.
The Midsummer festival is a highlight of the summer that finally makes people stir from the long hibernation. The sun doesn’t even set at night! Finns feel happiest when sitting and relaxing on the jetty of their lakeside cottage on a summer evening. Nature is at its best in summer. A sailing trip in the Turku Archipelago, the most extensive archipelago in Europe with its 20,000 islands, offers a stunning experience!
After summer, when the autumn colors the whole scenery of Finland, you can see huge flocks of cranes or large swans flying across corn fields. They will return to Finland early the following summer, as will many Finnish expatriates, because nothing can beat the wonderful Finnish summer.
The people who live in the land of winter, snow and endless summer nights are often described to be quiet and even shy, but once you get to know a Finn, you’ll find a friendly, honest and warm personality underneath the calm surface! Finns regard themselves as equals, respecting each other and democracy. Finns show consideration for other people and prefer not to be judgmental. In the sparsely populated country, the silence is almost tangible. Finns also respect the home by taking their shoes off indoors.
Finns are also very proud of their strong and independent women. Women in Finland were the first in the world to exercise their democratic right to vote and also stand for election. Nowadays, not only do most Finnish women work outside the home, but they do so full-time and have managed to combine work and family successfully. In the campaign for the presidential election in 2000 four of the candidates were women and three were men. The winning candidate was the then foreign minister Tarja Halonen, who thus became Finland's first woman President. As head of state, she has attained an extremely high approval rating among the Finnish public, across party boundaries.
Even though Finns are usually thought of as a homogenous nation, distinctions between the different tribes do exist. By tradition, we think of ourselves as belonging to one of four tribes, Pohjola, Savo, Karelia and Häme. People of Pohjola have made their way into the history books as being straightforward, but also pugnacious. They also are remembered as indefatigable warriors in the winter war. People from Savo are shrewd, quick and playful – words often used to describe a talented salesperson. As tellers of stories, they are beyond compare. People of Karelia are open and friendly. Their relaxed take on life defines the Karelian character and sense of humour. The southern Finnish tribes of Häme are usually thought of as slow and taciturn.
One word very dear and charasteristic of Finnish people is the term, sisu. The harsh conditions of Finland have made Finns tough and unyielding. This attitude is called sisu (a combination of grit and guts). Sisu contains all of the power and strength that enabled farmers to turn forest into fields, felling tree after tree, shifting stone after stone. It also contains the untold suffering of the years of war when Finnish men were forced to fight as soldiers in the service of different masters, and the women had to take care of both the farming and the children. Even now, although the living conditions are quite high, sisu remains something that makes a Finn go through thick and thin.
It is not possible to talk about Finland without mentioning the sauna! Sauna is not just the only Finnish word to have entered the world vocabulary – it’s a ritual, an institution, an essential element of the Finnish way of life. It can also be very relaxing, exhilarating and enjoyable, and no visit to Finland is complete without sampling the sauna. The Finnish sauna has its own unique character and traditions. Although it was once at the very heart of rural Finland, serving as a focus for family and community, these days the sauna is a common luxury, with about 1.6 saunas for every Finn!
A glint may appear in the eye of your Finnish host at the mention of the sauna, but you can attribute this to an eagerness to share this most Finnish of experiences rather than to any evil intent. And if the idea of sitting naked in a heated chamber doesn’t sound like your idea of a good time, you are likely to be pleasantly surprised.
While it known as a land of vast wilderness areas, white snow and beautiful scenery, Finland is also so much more than just nature. Finns are very proud of their modern welfare state and describe themselves to be a silent, but strong nation with friendly and genuine people. So why not host a Finnish au pair today? They are eager to become a part of your family and share a little of the Finnish way of life with you!
-Total area: Seventh largest country in Europe, 338,145 square kilometres
-Land frontiers: 586 km with Sweden, 727 km with Norway, 1,269 km with Russia
-Coastline: 1100 km
-Languages: Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish; the latter is the mother tongue of about 6% of the population
-Population density: approx. 17 inhabitants / sq km
-Capital: Helsinki, pop. 560 000, the metropolitan area including the neighbouring towns of Espoo, Kauniainen and Vantaa has a population of 965 000
-Major cities: Tampere, pop. 197 000; Turku pop. 173 000; Oulu pop. 131 000
-Religion: 89% Lutheran and about 1% Orthodox
DID YOU KNOW FINLAND HAS
5.2 million people
1.8 million saunas (approx 500 are traditional smoke saunas)
180,000 islands - 230,000 reindeer
100,000 salmon - 188,000 lakes (accounts for 10% of the total area)
465,000 summer cottages - 35 national parks
5.2 million mobile phones (Nokia is a Finnish brand)
and... 1 Santa Claus - the real one!