By far the most common question I get asked when I meet people these days is “why Finland?” For me, Finland represented something completely foreign and unknown, at the extreme opposite end of the world from my home town. So beside the unique medical research opportunities available in Helsinki, the challenge of stepping outside my comfort zone into the ‘scary unknown’ was the main reason I chose to move here.
A year later the county was voted as #1 place to live in the world and I’m not at all surprised. Finland has a lot going for it- immense natural beauty, enviable equality, excellent infrastructure, job opportunities and a great standard of living. But if you’re more interested in a passing visit then permanent relocation there’s still a bunch of reasons to put Finland at the top of your bucket list. Here’s five.
1. The Architecture in Helsinki is truly amazing
Those boys weren’t lying (non-Aussies see this). A year and a half later and I still can’t get over the shear beauty and ornate details of the buildings of Finland’s capital. There’s a huge range of beautiful colors, shapes and styles, with many buildings sporting turrets, painted details or other decorative flair. Helsinki is quite a compact city, so exploring on foot is ideal in the warmer months. In winter, the extensive tram network makes for a great way to explore slightly further afield.
2. Finnish Traditions are quirky and unique (as are the people)
The Finnish personality type is quite an acquired taste and while it can be hard to meet new people in a land full of introverts, I’ve also enjoyed the personal space and general acceptance Finnish people emanate. Then there is sisu. An innate characteristic of all Finns, best described as suffering on in silence no matter what, or as Wikipedia generously puts it “stoic determination, tenacity of purpose, grit, bravery, resilience and hardiness”.
And the traditions. From their love affair with saunas (and the subsequent ice swims/snow frolics), to mid-summer (Juhannus) bonfires and midnight sun, Vappu celebrations- where everyone barbecues and drinks in the city park whilst wearing white school caps (even the statue of Havis Amanda is ceremoniously adorned with one) and crazy coloured overalls, to the dark rye dessert of Mämmi and dressing up as witches at Easter, Finland has some damn fun traditions!
3. The Nature is beautiful and ever so peaceful
Forests, lakes, islands, large rocky outcrops, immense peace and quite. Finland has the best of all these things and the Finns really know how to make the most of nature, particularly during the month-long summer holiday of July when the country practically shuts down and everyone escapes to their summer cottages.
4. Lapland: Finland’s far north
Finland’s beautiful northern region is an amazing experience during both the cold winter months and summer- when a single day lasts for two months! For some ideas on what to do in Lapland check out this post.
5. Christmas is magical
Rovaniemi in southern Lapland is touted as the home of Santa- and there’s definitely a strong spirit of Christmas cheer and festive experiences to be enjoyed in the town- especially the reindeer parks and Santa Claus Village. In Helsinki and other cities around the country, Christmas markets, twinkling lights and decorations make December feel bright and alive, despite the darkness and cold.
If you want to hear more about why you should visit Finland then keep an eye on my blog over the next 4 months, as I share a post every Friday post about my experiences and tips for exploring Finland!