"The Republic of Finland, with Helsinki as its capital, is located in northern Europe and is part of the European Union. Did you know that Finland almost has as many saunas in its country as people? There are 3 million saunas compared to 5 million inhabitants, which makes Finland the least populated country in the EU. Go ahead and discover Finland’s beautiful forests and lakes and maybe even try to see the northern lights when you’re there!"
Did you know...
That the Finnish school buildings are so clean, relaxed and informal that students often just wear socks and no shoes?
That Finns drink the most coffee in the world, namely 12kg per year, which is twice as much as the Italians?
That Finland has exactly 179 584 islands and 187 888 lakes?
That Finland values freedom of the press a lot, since they have been at the top of the worldwide Press Freedom Ranking list since it was published in 2002?
It will be likely that you’ll be placed in a smaller town or a rural area in the countryside. Since these homes are mostly larger than in the cities, families have more extra space there to provide you with a room during your cultural exchange. In most Finnish families both parents work outside home. Because they usually arrive late and have had a long working day, they expect their children to help them with household chores. Keeping rooms clean, washing the dishes and shopping for groceries can be some of these tasks. Your host family will appreciate it a lot if you offered some help with the chores once in a while without them asking for it. Because Finland is a relatively safe country, youth is given a lot of freedom and independence. Keep in mind that this brings some responsibilities with it and you’ll have to be reachable on your phone all the time so that your host family feels safe when you go out on your own.
Most schools in Finland are public schools, funded and administered by the local government. Private schools are not very common there and if they exist, it are mostly Steiner schools or faith-based schools. Teachers are required to follow state curriculum guidelines but they also have a big amount of autonomy. Pupils mostly share a classroom with about 20 students. They are required to learn two languages besides the language of the school, which can be Finnish or Swedish. Students in primary school also take classes in cooking, music, art, textiles, metalwork and carpentry. Students don’t have to pay tuition fees in Finland and are served fully subsidized meals. The Finnish education system is one without streaming, tracking or selecting students during their basic education.
"I had countless experiences in this year, everything that happened to me was new and that would have never happened if I hadn’t decided to come here. I could say this year was the best year that I have ever had."
Do you also love sports a lot? Then you’re going to the right country, as Finnish people love to attend several sporting events, since sports is known to be a national pastime in Finland. Its national sport is called Pesäpallo, known as Finnish baseball, which is also practiced in other countries such as Sweden, Australia, Switzerland and Germany. It’s a fast-moving bat-and ball game and has grown popular over the years. However, the most popular sports to watch on TV are definitely Formula One and ice-hockey. Another thing that Finnish families love to do when they have some free time, is going to their second homes or visiting their relatives next to one of the beautiful lakes. Finns go there to fish, dine and maybe even go for a cold swim and some sauna relaxation afterwards. Finns love being outdoor and will enjoy many activities even though it’s freezing outside. Finland is also strongly connected to arts, dancing and music, which results in plenty of fun concerts and festivals to enjoy during the year. Students can also go have some fun at one more traditional cultural festivals, such as the sauna festival or finish folk dance festivals
Experience the journey of a lifetime while on exchange in Finland. An exchange program is the perfect opportunity to discover a new country and culture, while still having the support of your open-minded and warm host family. During the weekend and school holidays you will find some time to go explore Finland with your family or friends. Go ahead and explore Finland with its magnificent forests and lakes, relaxing saunas, beautiful mountains for skiing, delicious food and warm loving people.
Top 10 things to do in Finland
1. Go see the Northern Lights in Lapland
2. Seurasaari Island and Open-Air Museum (Helsinki)
3. Relax in one of the beautiful saunas
4. Olavinlinna Castle (Savonlinna)
5. Visit Ruka mountain for skiing or walking
6. Pallas-Yllastunturi National Park (Muonio)
7. Artic Cirlce Husky Park (Napapiiri)
8. Fortress of Suomenlinna (Helsinki)
9. Go on a Wild Nordic Safari experience
10. Paddle the grand Lake Saimaa
Finland is the home of Santa Claus. YFU Finland offers an optional trip to Lapland every year where the students will meet Santa Claus, have fun skiing and sledge riding.
A lot of the Finnish traditional dishes are prepared in the oven, which gives the dishes a very nice flavor. A large source of food used to be found in Finnish forests and lakes, and nowadays the products that originate there account for distinctive traits in Finland’s cuisine. Later on, international food was imported, such as pizza, pasta, hamburgers and kebab, replacing many of the traditional Finnish dishes such as casseroles. However, food in Finland is expensive compared to other European countries. The meats that are consumed the most are beef, chicken, duck and pork. There’s also a tradition of fishing and hunting in Finland. Hunters mostly focus on bear, moose, deer, duck, hare and grouse. Since there are many lakes in Finland, there are many opportunities to go fishing. Some very common fish include lox, salmon, Baltic herring, perch and pike. Because of their strong flavor, artic wild berries are also quite common and popular in Finland. It’s still a fun activity these days to go pick them straight from the forest. Bilberries, raspberries and lingonberries can be found throughout the country, yum!
Must try Karjalanpiirakka when on exchange
Karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pie) is a traditional Finnish pastry that all exchange students will get to taste. The most familiar and common version has a thin rye crust with a filling of rice. Butter, often mixed with chopped-up boiled egg, is spread over the hot pastries before eating. Mashed potato and rice-and-carrot fillings are also commonly available. Exchange students love these pastries and some of them even learn how to make them.
Recipe: Finnish Pulla
Since your host family will cook for you during your stay, it can be a nice gesture to help them once in a while or to make something on your own for them. This sweet unique bread is for example a good idea as a holiday gift. It takes a long time to make it but it’s definitely worth it. Check out this website to learn how to make the traditional and delicious Finnish Pulla bread: http://allrecipes.com/recipe/7...
Check out this video for even more Finnish specialties
Did you know...
That Finland is also called the land of the midnight sun, since the sun shines there all day and night in June and July?
That Finland has some of the world’s best “Freedom to roam” opportunities? This means that you can pitch a tent or catch fish in the lakes for free and without worries.
Finland’s climate is mostly influenced by its geographical position. Freezing winters and warm summers characterize the whole country. The temperatures differ a lot between the extreme north and the southern coastal regions. In the south, winters are usually around a hundred days long with temperatures around 0 degrees Celsius or 32 degrees Fahrenheit. In the north, on the other hand, winters can last up to 200 days. The inland is mostly covered by snow from late November until April. In the south, the temperature can decrease to -30 degrees Celsius or -22 degrees Fahrenheit, while this is pretty rare in coastal areas.
Finland is wide-known for its great number of lakes and islands, with more than 170.000 islands and over 180.000 lakes. Lake Saimaa, the largest one in Finland, is the fourth largest lake in Europe. The landscape in Finland is mostly flat and is characterized by few mountains and hills. Since the country had been compressed under huge glaciers, the terrain is rising because of the post-glacial rebound. This results in the phenomenon that pieces of the sea bottom are slowly turning in to dry land. So basically, Finland is rising from the sea. In Pyhä-Luosto National Park you can hike through beautiful old forests and end at a treeless top, which offers you a stunning sight of the big skies of Lapland. The Northern lights lit these up in winters and give a magnificent sunset in the summer. Pass by some cozy and picturesque places that were considered to be sacred by the people living here in the past.
"Finland is a great place to go if you like active life-style and enjoy being outside. As an exchange student I learnt how to say “’yes” and be open for everything. After a year I have one more family in another country, friends all over the world and amazing memories."
Koulu, Ystävät, Perhe, Tulli, Veli, Sisko, Vaihto
Do you know what these words mean? Start learning some Finnish!
Finnish is an official language in Finland, closely related to Estonian languages, and is spoken by the most part of the population. That’s not the only official language, however, since Swedish is spoken by the minority of the inhabitants there. Until the late 19th century, this was the language of the administration. Nowadays, Finnish is divided into two dialects: the Eastern dialects and the Western ones, which only differ in small changes in vowels, rhythm and diphthongs.
Taking language lessons is not mandatory to go on a YFU exchange, but is recommended. Definitely try to learn some Finnish before you leave, since this is not an easy language to understand nor speak. However, after 12 weeks you’ll notice that you’re already able to communicate in Finnish on a basic level. Important to keep in mind is that the less you speak in your own native language, the faster you will learn new ones like Finnish. This exchange is a unique opportunity to completely dive into a new culture, habits and language. Try to get the best out of it by fully immersing yourself in it!
Language Learning Tools
Start learning Finnish or improve it by using this YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/FinnishPod101. Another way to learn a new language is by watching movies and listen to songs in Finnish with subtitles in your native language.
In Finland, there are two major types of folk music, namely the Kalevala music and the Pelimanni music. The first one is the oldest one and uses alliterations. This kind of music was used to tell stories about heroes and these songs were just memorized instead of written down. A soloist with or without a chorus could be performing these. The other kind of folk music is known as Pelimanni music and is the Finnish form of Nordic folk dance music. These songs migrated to Finland from Central Europe in the 17th century and started to replace the previous kinds of folk music in the 19th century. Usually, this music is played on the clarinet and the fiddle, while accordions and harmoniums were also used later on.
Finnish for light popular songs, this kind of music has a recognizable Finnish flavour, a little bit related to Italian and Russian melodies. Since this is essentially dance music, it’s mostly performed in halls and dancing stages throughout the country. The most famous genre of this kind is definitely the tango, proven by the fact that the contest for Iskelmä artists is called “The Tango Marketplace”. Typically, it’s known as non-urban music and is thus mainly popular in the countryside and smaller cities.
Events and celebrations that evolve around movies or music
Throughout the year, there are several fun music and film festivals to attend in Finland. One of them is the Midnight Sun Film Festival in June 2017. Filmmakers consider it as one of the most fascinating events of the world for them and their public. In 2017, the festival celebrates its 30th anniversary, founded by Aki and Mika Kaurismäki and Peter von Bagh, which features some interesting international and Finnish directors. Visit this film festival surrounded by the magical scenery of Lapland’s everlasting sunlight. Finland is also very famous for its heavy metal music style. During the first weekend of July, fans can attend and go crazy at the largest open air metal music festival in the Nordic countries. Leading international and Finnish musicians will perform here in Tuska, accompanied by dark heavy metal themed services. Another popular Finnish festival is called the World Village Festival in Helsinki. During the last weekend of May, different cultures from all around the world will get together in Kaisaniemie Park and the Central Railway Station square, offering a variety of action and art for the whole family. Several artists from all over the world will perform here, surrounded by a cozy scenery, offering a lot of stalls including exotic cuisines and civic organizations.