Finnish Culture

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On this page you can find some information and tips about the Finnish and South Ostrobothnian culture and social life.

For more detailed information about Finnish culture, see e.g.

A guide to Finnish customs and manners (Finland Promotion Board)

  • Greeting
    When you meet a Finnish person for the first time, they usually introduce themselves, shake your hand and look right into your eyes. In Finnish society, looking into each other’s eyes means honesty. However, the young people don’t always shake hands but greet each other by nodding and saying "hei" or "moi". Air kisses (=kisses to cheeks) are not a general way to greet people in Finland and it may confuse the person you greet. A Finnish greeting is not always accompanied by chat like "nice to see you" or "it’s nice weather, isn’t it", etc. The fact that we don’t talk a lot is part of our social culture and should not be regarded as impolite. Moreover, the Finnish language lacks long phrases and fixed expressions of politeness typical of many other languages, e.g. English.
  • Finnish way to communicate
    In Finland it’s impolite to interrupt the person who is speaking. The typical pattern for a Finnish conversation is that one person first finishes what they are saying, and after that his/her interlocutor carries on the conversation in a lag of two seconds. Formal address can be applied if you are talking to somebody very much older than you, but otherwise it is seldom used. The general use of first names when addressing someone belongs to Scandinavian culture. Note that in Finnish the personal pronoun ’hän’ is used to refer both to males and females (= he/she).
  • Humour
    Finns have a great sense of humour, although it is often dark and sarcastic, even subtle. Popular topics are for example politics and other current matters, other cities/regions and joking about oneself. 
  • Be punctual
    Both during their spare time and at work, the Finns are strict about time. Arrive at an appointment rather five minutes before the agreed time than five minutes late. Keep to the agreed times!  
  • Visiting a Finnish home

    If a Finn invites you to their home and gives you their address, they do really want you to come over. The Finns don’t use small talk in the same way as many other nationalities do, so if you are invited, it’s polite to go for a visit. Even if you visit someone for the first time, you are not expected to bring along any present, unless you visit your friend’s parents. The most common small gift on such occasions may be a packet of coffee or biscuits, or a reasonably priced bunch of flowers. During a visit, the Finns normally offer their guests coffee or tea with some pastry. Pulla (baked roll) is the most popular delicacy in Finland. It is made of sweeter and spicier dough than ordinary Finnish bread. 

    When visiting somebody, you are supposed to take off your outdoor shoes once you arrive in the lobby. The Finns don’t walk inside wearing outdoor shoes; instead, they wear just socks. Events during which people wear dark and high-heeled shoes form the only exception to this general rule.

     
  • No smoking
    Smoking is generally not allowed inside and Finland has one of the strictest regulations against smoking. Therefore always remember to check if there is a sign ‘Tupakointi kielletty’, which means ‘No smoking’.  
  • Sauna

    Sauna is an essential part of Finnish culture. It is absolutely worth trying. Originally, sauna was not only a place to bath but also a place where children were born and sick people cared for. It is not customary for men and women to share sauna together unless they are family members, but there are exceptions to this and it’s mostly up to the people who you are going to sauna with to decide if it’s mixed genders or not. Most homes have their own saunas, even in blocks of flats. If a Finnish person invites you to a sauna, it means that they have accepted you as their friend.

    For the Finns, being naked in a sauna is natural, but they will understand if you want to come there covered with a towel or swimming suit. In the summer, a dip in a lake or a river and in the winter, a dip in the hole of an icy river or lake or a roll in snow belongs to bathing habits! You can also use the bath whisk (vihta or vasta) if you please. It has been made of tender birch twigs. It feels best with adequate humidity and temperature. 

  • Going to a bank
    There are several different banks in Seinäjoki, for example Etelä-Pohjanmaan Osuuspankki, Nordea, POP, Handelsbanken, etc. The banks are open on weekdays usually from 9.30 a .m. to 4.30 p.m. On Saturdays they are closed. The easiest way of taking care of your bank business is to open a bank account. It does not cost anything and at the same time you will get a debit card. You can also ask for a service package entitling you to pay your bills and to make your giro transfers at an online banking service. You can change money in banks, which charge you a couple of euros for the transaction. There are a few cash dispensers in the city area with the signs Otto (translates to “withdraw”) on them. Instructions in English language are usually available.  
  • Post office
    The main post office is located at the Lehtinen shopping center in Seinäjoki and it is open on weekdays and Saturdays from 7 a .m. to 9 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The most common postage for a letter or a card to Europe is about 1,20 euros. Post to Europe is always sent by airmail, so you won’t need any ’By Airmail’ labels. You can also buy stamps at the pay desk of school cafeterias and at all R-kiosks. Mailboxes are yellow and they are emptied at about 4.00 p.m. After that, all items to be sent during the same day must be taken to the post office.
  • Phone calls

    Have you paid attention to the fact that mobile phones keep ringing around you? Finland has per capita more mobile phones than any other country. For a student, the mobile phone is an everyday utility item like the schoolbag or the coffee maker. The Finns carry their mobile phones with them almost everywhere and there are not any public phones available in Finland.

    Telephone and mobile phone calls’ rates vary according to the time and the date of the call and the country you are telephoning to. For example R-kioski and Power sell prepaid subscriber connections (some of also have internet connection) for mobile phones. 

  • Emergency phone number in Finland
    The general European emergency number is also valid in Finland: call 112 for alerting the fire department, ambulance or police or for other emergency/SOS situations. Do not call 112 in case you do not have an emergency.  
  • Queuing and tipping
    It is typical in Finland that you must stand in a line to get your turn when withdrawing cash at a cash dispenser, buying cinema tickets, or paying at a checkout. In banks, at the post office and in pharmacies you often must pick up a queuing number. Tipping does not belong to Finnish culture because the general thought is that the service already is included to the price you pay for the service. A taxi driver doesn’t expect a tip, neither does a barber or hairdresser. You don’t have to leave a tip in restaurants either, unless you want to.  
  • Travelling in Finland

    Nearest Airport to Seinäjoki centre is located in Vaasa (70 km from Seinäjoki). 

    International students arrive to Seinäjoki and the surroundings mainly by train, bus or their own car. Train and bus stations are located in the same building (Valtionkatu 1). It's good to remember that Finland has right-hand traffic with overtaking on the left. It is compulsory to use seat belts in cars. Age limit to get a driver’s license is 18 in Finland. Headlights of the car and other motor vehicles must be on at all times. Drunken driving is a criminal offence, so if you drink you don’t drive. While driving, using a mobile phone is only allowed with hands-free.  

    If you want to travel around Finland with public transportation it is recommended to get a SAMO student card because you get good discounts for example from train and some bus tickets with it. 

     
  • Newspapers, television and radio

    The main Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat is read everywhere in Finland. Local newspapers in South Ostrobothnia are called Ilkka and Pohjalainen. Best selections of foreign newspapers can be found at R-Kioski and Lehtipiste in the department stores. The cheapest way to read newspapers and magazines is in libraries or online. In Finland there are several TV-channels. TV-programmes are in Finnish or in the original language with Finnish subtitles. In addition to national channels there are many local radio channels. 

    You can find Finnish news in English from National Broadcasting Company Yle's website.

  • Internet connections
    Internet connections are available in the Academic Library of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, in the City Library, at the faculties and in SEVAS student housing apartments for free. There are also free WiFis in most restaurants, shopping centers and cafés. 
  • Sports as a hobby

    In Finland we have some specialities in sports, for example the Nordic Walking. It is walking with poles and it has been stated to be the most efficient way to walk. Your energy consumption increases when using poles by an average of 20 % compared to ordinary walking. It also releases muscle tension and pain in the neck and shoulder area. So if you see somebody walking with poles, they haven’t forgotten their skis, it is just Nordic Walking! 

    Finnish Baseball called “pesäpallo” is very popular team game, especially in South Ostrobothnia. Pesäpallo shares many similarities with baseball. There are three bases and a home plate; each team has nine players; a game has nine innings; the batter gets three strikes; runs are scored  basically in the same way -- more or less; an inning ends when three players have been put out; and the equipment includes protective headgear for the batter and base runners, fielding gloves, and bats. Perhaps the biggest differences that distinguished pesäpallo from baseball are the vertical pitching, the far boundary, and a catch only "wounding" a player running from base to base (provided they reach the base before the ball). 

    If you are in Finland in wintertime, you may wonder what in the world people are doing on the lake – sitting on a small stool for several hours. They are ice fishing! (also called jigging). The jigger (=ice fisher) drills a hole in the ice, through which they can fish. Various jigging contests are organized all over Finland. The point is to find out who catches the biggest and heaviest fish. Also cross-country and slalom skiing as well as skating are popular winter sports.
    You may also contact the sports representative at student union SAMO for more information on sports facilities and possibilities in the region and ask about possibility to practice your sport if you have a specific sport as a hobby and want to continue training while in Finland. You can also get student discount for various sports activities (for example slalom skiing and swimming) with SAMO student card.

     
  • Cinema
    Bio Marilyn in the city centre of Seinäjoki is a cinema with three stages and 3D equipment. You can find the programme on the Internet, although their website is only available in Finnish and Swedish for the time being. The films are usually shown in the original language with Finnish subtitles.
  • Art exhibitions
    Finnish art is world-famous for its modernity and the masterpieces of the Romantic period. You can enjoy visual arts at Seinäjoki Art Hall, which organizes changing exhibitions. It is located in Upankatu 3 in the same building with one faculty of SEDU vocational college. There are also various other museums and exhibitions in the region. For more details you can look at for example the websites of the cities of Seinäjoki and Ilmajoki. 
  • Religion and churches
    There are several churches in the region: for example churches for Evangelical Lutherans, for Pentecostalists, for Jehovah Witnesses etc. You can always ask more information from the Student Pastor.
  • Music and concerts
    The concerts of the Seinäjoki city orchestra are most often held in Seinäjoki-sali, in Kampustalo, located in the area of Marttilan Kortteeri. You will find a programme leaflet e.g. at the office of the music institute, in the A building in the campus. There is also a music institute in the same building. If you play an instrument, you can ask there about private lessons and even about the possibility of rehearsing with an orchestra. Rock concerts are arranged in several locations such as local restaurants and Rytmikorjaamo in Seinäjoki.
  • Courses at Seinäjoki Adult Education Centre
    Every municipality has its own civic college. Seinäjoki Adult Education Centre is an educational institution providing free-time courses for those who like studying in their free time. Its office is situated at Vapaudentie 83. For foreign students in particular the institution offers courses such as "Suomen alkeet ja kertaus" (="Finnish: elements and revision"). It is suitable for those who are starting to learn Finnish or those who wish to brush up their knowledge. The courses at Seinäjoki Adult Education Centre usually start in early September and last until mid-April. 
  • Library services

    The library and information services of the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences are provided by the libraries of the faculties and the main library, located in the Campus Building, provide the library and information services of the Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences. They offer library and information services for the staff and students of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and other educational institutions.

    The libraries provide literature and magazines that support the studies and the thesis process. Course literature is lent at the main Library and school’s libraries only. The loan period of course literature is two weeks. Any required material unavailable in Seinäjoki can be borrowed from other libraries. Inter-library loans can be made at the main Library. At Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences, independent information research is encouraged.

    The staff of the Library participates in the teaching of information gathering skills and provide user training in the libraries. The objective is to teach the students to use different databases and all the library and information services in the region. The library of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences collections consist of non-fiction and research literature, textbooks, periodicals and electronic material. The libraries in different faculties specialise in the subjects taught in the school.Collections of the Library can be browsed through using the Finna database.

    When borrowing books you need a library card, available in any of the libraries of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences and at library's website. You will need a form of identification when applying. The card is free, personal and you are responsible for all materials borrowed on your card. When obtaining the card you become responsible for obeying the library rules. Contact information, opening hours and other information about library services can be found on the library's website.  

    Public Libraries 
    Public libraries provide library and information services free of charge for all customers. Every town and municipality has its own public library. The collections in these libraries consist of fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, music, movies and electronic materials. Libraries have their own library cards, which are free and personal. They also have their own collection databases on the Internet. Most of the public libraries are open six days a week all year. The main Public Library of Seinäjoki is called "Apila". More information can be found at  https://www.seinajoki.fi/en/index/cultureandsport/library.html

     
  • Restaurants, pubs, cafés and discos
    There are various cafés, pizzerias and restaurants in Seinäjoki, You can find most of them from eat.fi-service. Cafés normally stay open from 10 a .m. till 9 p.m. Pubs and restaurants generally stay open till 2 a.m. although some restaurants close as early as 10 p.m. At nightclubs you can have fun until 4 a.m. Don’t be surprised if the bouncer asks you to show him your ID, because restaurants serving alcoholic drinks have age limits. The general age limit is 18 years, but a restaurant can set a specific, higher age limit on its own initiative.  
  • Biggest National Holidays

    New Year 

    New Year is celebrated everywhere in Finland in a carnival spirit. In Seinäjoki, people usually gather in the Civic Square at the Aalto Centre, where the turn of the year is solemnized with speeches and fireworks. Students celebrate New Year in general in bars and nightclubs, so you better be prepared for some queuing. 

    Easter 

    Good Friday in the Holy Week is a day off. The Holy Week ends with two holidays so that Monday is Easter Monday. Many people travel to Lapland to ski downhill on sunny slopes. There are several traditional dishes for Easter, for example one Finnish specialty is mämmi. It is brown, sweet and thick malt pudding, which is eaten with sugar and cream. At Easter people start to wait for the summer and therefore you may see green grass (rye-grass) grown on small plates by children on window sills. 
    Here in Ostrobothnia, small Easter witches (“trulli”) are an essential part of the local Easter traditions. They go from door to door wishing people good luck with willow twigs. Remember to reward a “trulli” with sweets. In addition, on Easter Saturday, bonfires are lit all over the plains. Originally, this was done in order to drive evil spirits away. Easter also has a strong religious atmosphere. 

    The First of May

    The First of May is an important day among students. It is difficult for you to avoid seeing the festivities of the First of May because it is celebrated in the whole country at the same time and with a lot of hilarity. In fact, it is the only "real" carnival in Finland. People go out wearing costumes, white student caps and students put on the overalls of their faculties. Moreover noisy whistles, balloons and baubles belong to the First of May. A traditional non-alcoholic beverage drunk on the First of May is mead (“sima”), which is served cool. “Tippaleipä” (a kind of fritter) is a traditional sweet May Day snack. 

    Midsummer

    Midsummer is celebrated around 20 and 24 June, the date always being a weekend. The Friday in the Midsummer Week is Midsummer Eve and therefore a day off. At Midsummer, especially in the north, the sun descends near the horizon, but it doesn’t set. For this reason, the nights are as light as days. Midsummer is therefore called the "Holiday of the Nightless Night". People celebrate Midsummer at their summer cottages barbecuing and going to the sauna. High bonfires, called ’juhannuskokko’, are lit on lakes. People stay awake the whole night from Friday evening till Saturday morning enjoying the light of the night. They go inside only in case of rain. Youngsters also celebrate Midsummer at the big rock festivals. 


    Independence Day

    The Finnish Independence Day is celebrated on 6th of December. It is a national holiday and a day off. In the evening, two candles are lit in Finnish homes and placed in the window. People also watch TV to see the traditional Independence Day Reception at the Presidential Palace and a ball, which the national elite has been invited to attend. 

    Christmas 

    Christmas is celebrated among the family, in the same manner as in other Christian countries. Christmas Eve, 24 December, is a day off, like Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Christmas dishes, Christmas sauna, church and presents can be mentioned as examples of typical Finnish Christmas traditions. Traditional dishes are rice pudding, ham, different casseroles, salad and a beet-based salad. On Christmas Eve night, after sauna, Santa Claus arrives and gives presents to children (and maybe to adults as well…). On Christmas Eve, families usually take candles to the graves of the relatives. The decorated Christmas tree is a real spruce brought from forest. Santa Claus lives on the Korvatunturi mountain in the Finnish Lapland and sets off with a reindeer sleigh to visit families. On Christmas Day (25 December), many families go to a Christmas service. The service starts as early as 7 in the morning. On Boxing Day and Twelfth Day/Epiphany, people visit their and/or in different exercises.  

     
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