Curiosities of Finnish people & culture

Take a stroll along the Turku river!

Take a stroll along the Turku river!

Studying abroad in Turku is in fact my third abroad experience, and since I have lived in foreign countries before, I was already acquainted with the fact that I would get to know a new culture. It has never been extremely difficult to adapt to a new culture for me, but there are always certain things, that are completely different to the way “things go” in your home country. Let me give you some examples:

No matter where you go in Turku or Helsinki or Finland in general, you will always see the fanciest hair colors on people! Be it blue, green, pink, yellow grey or even all colors together, when it comes to hair color creativity these people know no boundaries. Those people are very confident in my view and I like that a lot, because in Germany it is often the case that you get stared at when you look “different”, so only few “dare” to go extreme when it comes to dying their hair.

Also, Finnish people are very sportive. I mean, VERY sportive. You see jogging people everywhere, and no matter where you are, people are wearing fitness clothes, at all times! What surprised me where the “outdoor gyms” where you can train with your own body weight outside, for free of course. This is quite nice, and there are several of these spots around Turku.

But what was most outstanding for me to experience here is the Finnish culture ofBuckmann5 silence and little (if any) small talk. I have read and heard so many times that Finns are quite reserved and do not speak too much. But when I went to a restaurant and tried to make some small talk with the waitress, she just would not react and only took our order. One could have taken it as an unfriendly gesture, but for me it was just a little awkward, a situation I had to get used to, because I knew about this before. Where I come from, people often just chat when queuing for something, sitting in a restaurant, or whatever. But that is obviously not common at all here. However, after moments of awkwardness, I started to enjoy the “silent” moments. Actually, it is quite nice to sit besides someone and not talk at all, just taking in the moment. You don’t feel pressured to get the conversation going, so it is not awkward anymore. What I have learned is that if the Finnish people remain silent, they are happy.

Text & pictures: Sarah Bückmann

 

Finland and Turku

Fireworks at the Night of the Ancient Fires in Parainen

Fireworks at the Night of the Ancient Fires in Parainen

I came to Finland with one great goal: to see as much of this country as possible! Already in the first two weeks I was extremely lucky to have met some people who had the same ambition. It did not take long, and we had our first little trips planned. Apart from the big trips (like going to Tallinn, St. Petersburg, Stockholm, etc.) we wanted to see Turku and its surroundings. I knew from magazines and Google that the Finnish nature is amazing (though I have never been to Finland before) but I have never imagined such beautiful landscapes! Thanks to great public transportation opportunities, it is easy to get around Turku.

Our first trip led us to one of the Archipelago islands, Vepsä. What a beautiful little place! There were many Finnish people who came there with their own boats, and it was such a nice and peaceful atmosphere. One of the locals heard our group talking English and he started a conversation with us. He told us there would be a Bonfire the upcoming weekend, which is the Night of the Ancient Fires and is a tradition that is celebrated every last Sunday in August. Luckily, we had a Finnish friend, who invited us to her hometown to one of the Archipelago Islands to actually celebrate this particular event.

So we went there on the last weekend of August and got the real Finnish experience: Fireworks, bonfire in a little harbor and a cover band playing English and Finnish songs. Such a unique experience!

A couple of days later, we decided to go to Naantali. We packed some food and took the bus from Turku market square. Walking along the beautiful harbor with its cute little restaurants, we passed a long bridge and made our way through a pathway in the forest of a little island, where we found a beautiful spot at the beach with a little fireplace. The view was so stunning that we stayed until it was dark. Nobody expected it, but when we all looked to the clear sky to look at the stars, we could suddenly spot the Aurora Borealis! Very far away, not very bright, but we saw green lights, so far in the south of Finland!

I fell in love with this country already within one month after my arrival!

Text & photo: Sarah Bückmann

 

Free time activities

Kayaking with ESN at sunset

Kayaking with ESN at sunset

When coming to Turku to study abroad, you certainly do not have to worry that it will become boring at any point – it definitely won’t. Already in the first week when I arrived in Turku, there were so many events planned either by ESN or other student organizations which I could participate in (But keep in mind: you will often come across the “first come first served mentality”, so be prepared that trips to Lapland and Cottage weekends can be sold out within 30 seconds – yes, 30 seconds!). Through those events I met many new exchange students. We also started planning activities together on our own, like biking to the Archipelagos surrounding Turku, exploring the city, and so on. Turku offers a variety of things to do!

But what I liked the most is that you can do a lot of sports here. Already when I arrived I noticed many people who were jogging around the city. I was hoping I could do my sports here and I surely did not get disappointed. The Finnish nature alone is a real incentive to just go out and run. But also the choice of gyms is great and I think they fit everybody’s needs. Whether you want to go for weight training or team sports, there will always be something for you. TULI Sports offers many various courses for students and that’s not only a fun way to work out but also to meet more people! ESN also organized sportive events such as hiking or kayaking, which were even more fun with all the exchange students.

Moreover, Turku offers some nice museums to go to, many cafés and bars (which are great, especially Tintå!) and a wonderful riverside that everybody should explore by taking a walk all the way from the city to the harbor. My personal favorite destination in Turku so far has been the Turku Castle. It is an amazing historical site and the fact that just before I arrived a movie was filmed here (“The Girl King”), which tells the story of Queen Kristina of Sweden, makes this even more exciting.

Beautiful Turku Castle

Beautiful Turku Castle

Text & photos: Sarah Bückmann