Finland boasts a soulful Nordic tranquility that is just as exciting as it is peaceful. Although one of the economical and social leader of the region, the country maintains its comforting remoteness. The vital modernity of the capital city of Helsinki is complemented by the wild wilderness of the east and north. Volunteering in Finland brings people in contact with the warm welcome of loyal Finns as they experience the splendid beauty of thousands of islands and lakes.
Geography & Demographics
Finland is the easternmost nation of all the Scandinavian countries, sharing borders with Sweden, Russia, and Norway. It is a country made up up almost 180,000 islands, 190,000 lakes, and has approximately 4,500 kilometers of coastline. In spite of its relatively large size, only just over five million people inhabit the country. This provides citizens with the advantage of space, it is easy to find a remote area that offers a refreshing hideaway from the world. Foreign citizens in Finland make up less than five percent of the population. The majority of Finnish people belong to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, around four out five million in fact.
Among the regions of the far north, Finland has the most mild climate. The country’s weather is chiefly influenced by the warm ocean current of the Gulf Stream. The many lakes and gulfs in the country also contribute to its relatively mild climate. All four seasons are experienced in the country. Summer in Finland is bright and warm, with nearly 20 hours of daylight and a temperature as high as 20 degrees Celsius or more; sometimes in the eastern and southern regions of the country it even nears 30 degrees. Summer nights are generally light, and clearly very short.
The country is covered by snow during winter months from November to April. Some areas of Finland experience polar night where the sun does not appear on the horizon; polar nights, predominantly experienced in the south can last as long as 51 days. Although rainy, spring in Finland can be beautiful, with steadily increasing sunshine and melting snow along with budding leaves and the appearance of migratory birds. Autumn, though characterized by cooling weather and darkening days, is just as pleasant, as the leaves turn bright orange, red, and yellow.
Food & Culture
Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. Finnish is spoken by over 90 percent of the population, while Swedish is spoken by around five percent of the population. The minority languages in the country are Romani, Karelian, and Sami. Finland used Markka as its local currency beginning in 1860 and switched to the Euro in 2002.
Finnish cuisine is a fusion of Western and Eastern flavors and traditions. A country of innumerable forests and lakes, Finland has flourishing game, fish, and berries availability. The Finns put prime importance on the freshness of ingredients and food quality. They administer strict control on agriculture and animal well being and place high regard on organic, eco-friendly, and local products.
Common staples in Finland are turnips, cabbages, and potatoes. Cold smoked fish and Finnish meatballs, made from reindeer or beef, are also commonly served. Oddly enough reindeer meat itself is a staple in Finland and is usually served sautéed. Another dish commonly associated with the country is kalakukko, a loaf of bread with pork, bacon, and fish stuffing; it is especially popular among the working class because it is easy to carry to work and is sufficiently filling. Foodies with a distinctive palate typically love kalakukko for its unique composition.
Finland’s non-Germanic language sets it apart from the Scandinavian countries that surround it. While there are several similarities with other Scandinavians in terms of social values, subtle differences in Finland are noticeable. Finns have strong egalitarian values, which is reflected in the gender-neutral words used in their language. In general, they have a habit of downplaying their own accomplishments, as they view modesty as a virtue. Finns talk in moderate toned voices and avoid calling attention to themselves. They favor evenly distributed conversations where each person awaits their turn to speak and listen, so most interruptions are considered rude. Along with these conversational tendencies, Finns expect courteous behavior from others and maintain certain courtesies themselves.
Things to Do
Saunas play a special role in the culture of Finland, a favorite pastime shared by friends and family. Important business meetings are often followed by informal get-togethers at the sauna. Saunas are very prevalent in Finland, with over 800,000 found available with public swimming pools or summer cottages and more than a million built into private apartments.
Volunteering in Finland
Volunteers in Finland get the chance to experience Finland’s culture while providing essential support to local communities. They earn the opportunity to foster personal development, gain a broader view of the world, and improve their Finnish language skills. Various volunteering opportunities are available in many areas in Finland, including Helsinki, Kannonkoski, Marjoniemi, Pernio, and Ylikiiminki. Volunteer projects vary depending on the specific needs of each community. Each project usually entails educational components like working in local kindergarten classrooms and elementary schools, or social issues such as working in foster homes and helping care for animals.