Finland was once ruled by Sweden and later by Russia – and Finnish culture, especially Finnish food, is clearly influenced by both countries. Despite this, Finland today is quite unique.
The Finnish language is challenging, the architecture is distinctive, and its people keep their society homogeneous by counteracting immigration. At the same time, even though the Finns are personally quite reserved, they are eager to share their cultural heritage with visitors, and every year they host several hundred art festivals.
The Finns are also among the international big boys when it comes to the interconnection of the world through technology. When it comes to environmental friendliness, the World Ecological Forum places Finland as number one among 142 nations, and the undeveloped northern third of the country, which lies above the Arctic Circle, is Europe’s cargo frontier.
- CAPITAL CITY: Helsinki
- LANGUAGE: Finnish
- CURRENCY: Euro (EUR)
- AREA: 338,424 km2
- POPULATION: 5,488,543 (2016 estimate)
People and community
Family is very important and it is standard that the domestic duties are distributed among the family members.
Finland has one of the best education systems in the world, so you can expect subjects that are both engaging and challenging. You will attend a public school ( lukio ), where the year is divided into five or six terms – starting in mid-August and ending in May. Finnish, Swedish, foreign languages, mathematics, science, psychology, art, music, history and geography are all subjects that you will study intensively in each election period. The students and teachers between are not very formal, and it is normal for teachers to be addressed by first name.
Finnish is the mother tongue of Finland, but Swedish is actually also an official language. Both languages are spoken in bilingual areas. Having a basic knowledge of English will no doubt be helpful during your stay. AFS will help you find language courses for the first few months or possibly provide you with materials so you can learn the language on your own before leaving for Finland.
Meals in Finland are less formal than in some other countries, so on weekdays you may experience preparing and eating food on your own. On the weekends, however, many families eat together, and there is ample opportunity to update each other on the week’s activities. The dishes in Finland may be simple, but they are very nutritious, as meat, fish, potatoes, pasta, bread and dairy products are often used. Coffee is a big favorite among both teenagers and adults, and Finns like to get a wheat bread ( pulla ).