Finnish Culture


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". If you kiss a Finn on their cheek, they may be scared. A Finnish greeting is not 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
    When a Finn is talking, he/she doesn’t like to be interrupted. 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 many of the jokes relate to the Finnish language, love and hate relationships between two neighbouring towns and of course blondes.  
  • 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. Observe 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 peoples do, so if you are invited, you had better 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 homemade 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 stockings. Important family events, during which people wear dark and high-healed 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. Most homes have their own saunas, even in blocks of flats. If a Finnish person invites you to a sauna, it means that he/she has accepted you as his/her 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. And a cold beer is refreshing after a sauna!
  • Going to a bank
    The most common banks in Finland are 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 cash card. You can also ask for a service package entitling you to pay your bills and to make your giro transfers at an on-line banking terminal. You can change money in banks, which charge you a couple of euros for the transaction. There are several cash dispensers in the city area with the signs Otto and Solo on them (brief translations “take money out” and “check account”). Instructions in English language are usually available.  
  • Post office
    The main post office is located at the railway station in Seinäjoki and it is open on weekdays from 10 a .m. to 6 p.m. The most common postage for a letter or a card to Europe is about 70 cents. Post to Europe is always sent by air mail, 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. Among other things, the world-famous Nokia cellular phones are made in Finland. A young person’s first phone is often a mobile because they are cheaper to buy than an ordinary phone and nowadays many families have only mobile phones. 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. There are not many 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-kiosk sells prepaid subscriber connections 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 check-out. In banks, at the post office and in pharmacies you often must pick up a queuing number. Tipping doesn’t belong to Finnish culture. 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 Airports to Seinäjoki centre are located in Rengonharju (10 km from Seinäjoki City Centre) and Vaasa (70 km from Seinäjoki).

    International students come to Seinäjoki and the surroundings mainly by train or by their own car. Remember that Finland has right-hand traffic with overtaking on the left. It is compulsory to use seatbelts 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, use a mobile phone only with hands-free.  
  • Newspapers, television and radio
    The Finnish main 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. In Finland there are several TV-channels. TV-programmes are in Finnish or in the original language with Finnish subtitles. In addition to national radio channels there are many local radio channels. In Finland the television sets must be licensed by law. You can get the application form for a TV-licence at the post office.  
  • 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 most student housing apartments (usually for a monthly fee).
  • Sports as a hobby
    In Finland we have some specialities in sport, for example, the Nordic Walking. It is walking with poles and it is more efficient way to walk. The energy consumption increases when using poles by an average of 20 % compared to ordinary walking. It realises muscle tension and pain in the neck and shoulder religion. So if you see somebody walking with poles, she/he hasn’t forgotten the skis, it is just called 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 home plate; each team has nine players; a game has nine innings; the batter gets three strikes; runs are scored in basically 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 he/she reaches the base before the ball).

    If you are in Finland in winter time, you may wonder what in the world people are doing on the lake – sitting on a dribbing stool for several hours. They are jigging! The jigger drills a hole in the ice, through which he/she 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.

    At the municipal sports office, you can also ask about people taking an interest in your sport. There you can find information about different sports facilities and the contacts of the local athletic clubs. You may also contact the sports representative at student union SAMO for more information on sports facilities and possibilities in the region. 
  • Cinema
    Bio Marilyn in the nuclear centre of Seinäjoki, is a cinema with three stages and 3D equipment. You can find the programme on the Internet. In Kauhava there is a cinema called Y-kino, in Jurva there is one called Tarina and Bio Marlon is in Kauhajoki. The films are usually presented 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 Gallery, which organizes changing exhibitions. It is located on the ground floor of Kotitalousoppilaitos (Seinäjoki School of Household Economy). There are also various other museums and exhibitions in the region. For more details, look at the websites of the cities of Seinäjoki, Ilmajoki, Ähtäri, Jurva/Kurikka and Kauhajoki. 
  • Churches
    There are several churches in the region: churches for Christians, for Pentecostalists, for Jehovah Witnesses etc. Ask more information from the Student Pastor.
  • Music and concerts
    The concerts of the Seinäjoki 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 stage in Seinäjoki. 
  • Courses at Seinäjoki Adult Education Centre
    Every municipality has its own civic college. Courses at Seinäjoki Adult Education Centre is an educational institution providing free-time courses for those whose hobby is studying. 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
    Seinäjoki Academic Library

    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 . 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 participate in the teaching of information gathering skills and provide user training in the libraries. National and international CD databases and access to the Internet are provided to the students. 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 Plari database.

    When borrowing books you need a Plari library card, available in any of the libraries of Seinäjoki University of Applied Sciences. 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 Internet: 

    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. Seinäjoki Public Library "Apila"
  • Restaurants, pubs, cafés and discos
    There are various cafés, pizzerias and restaurants in Seinäjoki as well as in other municipalities where you can have a good time, wine and dine. Cafés normally stay open from 10 a .m. till 6 p.m. Pubs and restaurants stay open till 2 a .m., although some restaurants close as early as 10 p.m. At discos and nightclubs you can have fun until 4 a .m. Don’t be surprised if the bouncer asks you to show him your identification. 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. If they sell beer, cider, long drink and wine, they have the so-called B rights. If a restaurant has the A rights, it can sell all kinds of alcoholic beverages.  
  • 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 discos, so you’d better be prepared for some queuing.

    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 down hill on sunny slopes. There are traditional dishes for Easter. One Finnish specialty is mämmi. It is brown, sweet and thick malt pudding, which is eaten with sugar and cream. At Easter, people wait for the spring 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 white student caps and students put on the overalls of their units. 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. “Tippa-leipä” (a kind of fritter) is a traditional sweet May Day snack.

    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 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 6 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 is celebrated among the family, as in other Christian countries. Christmas Eve, 24 December, is a day off, like Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Christmas dishes, Christmas sauna and 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 called Petteri 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 relatives and/or participate in outdoor exercise.  
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