Finland is a treasure trove of unspoilt natural beauty, with its many forests and lakes. To the far north, you have the white nights, about ten weeks of summer throughout which the sun doesn’t set. In winter, this turns into about eight weeks of sunless days. There’s much to enjoy in Finland, from its medieval castles to its spas that offer several rejuvenation treatments; and from the tranquil beauty of the Lakeland to the adventurous winter sports. The country has also built a robust, competitive economy and has emerged as a global forerunner in telecommunications equipment. It’s no wonder that Finland has become home to many expats. But what happens once you get there and realize that apart from the rich history and scenic landscapes, Finland is also a living, breathing land with its own people, its own customs and its own way of life.How does one deal with the culture shock? Here is some advice for new expats in Finland.
Befriend the Finns
Finns are quiet by nature and tend to speak only when necessary. They like having conversations only about things that are important to them. This often makes it difficult for tourists or expats to enter into conversations with the locals. They may come across as aloof, and this can be disheartening for those who are trying to make new acquaintances and friendships in an unfamiliar country. But once you get over the first impression, you will soon realize that Finns are quite polite and forthcoming. They are also helpful people, and since almost everyone speaks English, it’s rather easy to get to know them better.
Explore traditional cuisine
The main staples of Finnish cuisine are potatoes and bread with accompaniments of fish and meat. One typically Finnish dish is the popular snack, Karelian pies, which are pastries made from rye flour and topped with egg and butter. There are also reindeer dishes, liver casserole, pickled or smoked silakka or Baltic herring and loop sausage, which is usually grilled and served with Finnish mustard. Adjusting to a new cuisine can be challenging and it’s natural to crave all things familiar in the early days. But it’s also important to stay open to new opportunities and experiences.
Beat the weather woes
The weather in Finland may also take some adjustment. In winter, the days are shorter and the nights are longer. It can become extremely cold, so it’s necessary to have enough warm clothing. One way of beating the winter blues is to join in activities such as cross-country skiing, which is a popular national pastime. Other winter sports activities include snowboarding and alpine skiing. Summer weather is quite pleasant, although sometimes it tends to be rainy. Hiking is the preferred activity of the season. There are well-marked trails and campgrounds in the forest parks that take you around the many hills and small lakes of the land. In places like Nuuksion, you can also go mushroom or berry picking.
Embrace new traditions
There are some traditions that form a significant part of Finnish culture, and engaging in them often goes a long way in helping you settle in and feel at home. These traditions are often quite enjoyable, such as visiting any of the several thousand saunas in the country. For the locals, the sauna is a place to kick back and relax, preferably with family and friends. It is seen more as a necessity, than a luxury. It’s also a good way for you to relieve yourself of the stresses of dealing with culture shock!
Midsummer is an important celebration in the region, and it’s also a time when many music festivals take place. Families usually take off to the countryside, where many of them have summer cottages.
Even though you have moved to a different country, it’s always important to stay connected with your family and friends back home. Today there are so many ways you can keep in touch with loved ones and ease those pangs of homesickness.
Another great way to deal with culture shock in a new land is to blog about it, which is something so many expats are doing these days. It’s a wonderful way to connect with others and share your interesting experiences and lessons learned.