A Finn describes his country!
Warning of the World Health Organisation (WHO): Don't take it too serious!
This is the authoritative, Official Foreigner's Guide to our fine country. Anyone planning to come here must read this and memorize the facts! You can send comments, suggestions, etc. into my guestbook.
To the left is the current map of our country. Note that Finland also owns the island of Bornholm, Svalbard Islands in the Arctic Sea, the Aleutian Islands on North Pacific Ocean, the islands of Kiribati, Line Islands, and Society Islands in Oceania, and a share of Antarctic continent, which are not shown on this map.
First thing to know: Finland is not part of Soviet Union, although Russia is a neighbor - so are Sweden and Norway. Only the northernmost Finland is covered by glaciers, and polar bears are not common in the southern part of the country. Reindeer and lapps also live only in the northern part of the land.
Even if Finland is not part of Russia, you will still see a lot of russians around. They sell cheap vodka, cigarettes, pirate CDs, videos, DVDs, clothes, and lots of other things, including certain services, at large parking lots in the cities of Southern Finland. You can always trust these honest Russian folk, who sell the products of their country to earn some Finnish marks.
First thing you will probably see from Finland is a gray waste of asphalt, an endless parking place, and huge buildings - the airport. But it does look like the environment most of finns live in, the Finnish city.
It is true that there is a lot of woods and nature around. You would only have to drive ten miles from Helsinki to get into an uninhabited and mostly untouched wilderness. However, foreigners are not taken into woods, for some reason. Instead, they are shown the capital city, as if most foreigners had not seen cities before.
The arctic region of the land is called Lapland (the home of lap dancing - indeed, from these local folk dances lap dancing has spread over the whole world!). Most of it is covered by glaciers and impassable mountains. Natives (lapps or samí) travel by sleds dragged by dogs, or use snowshoes.
One of the most common subjects of Finnish small talk is the weather. However, Finns know that weather is not a proper small talk subject. So, when there are strangers around, they desperately try to think of other subjects to talk about.
Anyway, Finnish weather is cold. Not arctic, but cold. Helsinki is often rainy and windy, other parts of the country have less wind but more cold. There is only three months of summer. So be prepared.
In winter, there is snow (except perhaps in the Southwesternmost parts of the country). Finns are quite used to snow and find nothing exciting about it. Only in Northern Finland there are places to ski - as most foreigners understand it. In the rest of Finland, people go cross-country skiing, which is a popular hobby.
All finns love snow, and the more snow we get, the happier we are. Nothing gives a better workout than clearing six foot of snow from your yard every morning!
Finland's climate and location do have several advantages: there are no earthquakes, no tornados or hurricanes, not much insects (except mosquitoes in Lapland), no tropical diseases, no serious draughts, and so on. What comes to snow and freezing weather, everyone is prepared, almost all houses have enough heating, etc. Pohjanmaa ("the Northern Land", flat plains of Northwestern Coast in the central Finland) are under water for three months at every spring. Local houses are built on top of poles, and all locals own boats.
Nearly every Finn, except the elder people, now have a cell phone. Don't be surprised when people suddenly start ringing at any time, and dig out a miniature cell phone. One of the most common sights anywhere is also a Finn playing with his or her cell phone, sending or reading text messages, or even playing a game.
Usually Finnish men compete who's got the biggest - biggest car, biggest salary, biggest ...eh, you know. But this is one thing where they compete who's got the smallest - the smallest cell phone, that is! The smaller the cell phone is, the more modern and the more expensive it also is.
Finns talk as little as possible. Rarely they touch anyone, shaking hands is the most anyone will ever do. Unless drunk, of course. Whenever there is a big meeting, where a lot of people freely mix together, there are usually no formal introductions. People might have name badges. Foreigners are sometimes treated exceptionally, and, actually, introduced to Finns!
The usual way to introduce a foreigner is to do it in front of everyone, so that Finns wouldn't have to touch the foreigner or to talk him/her in person. However, if the introduction is personal, the finns reluctantly shake hands and "say" their name - the custom is to quietly mumble something like "hhmnumh hnmuhmnhh". Ignore what the Finn says and look at the name badge instead.
Then there is the Finnish small talk. The face of a Finn, who is attempting to small talk, gets red, swollen and sweaty, and, after a long silence, he or she finally says something simple with bad english. Nearly every Finn can speak English, most even speak it very well, but these situations make them forget almost everything.
What most Finns are desperate to know is what you think about them and their country. They might even ask you. Prepare some vague, round statements which do not offend or embarrass the Finns. Too positive evaluation is often much more embarrassing than too negative!
In their home or with the closest friends, Finns can pick their nose, fart, burp, scratch their butt and so on. However, they never do this in public or among strangers. So, if a Finn does any of those things, you know you are now his/her close friend - a great honor!
Nudity in public
Unlike in US, for example, public nudity is perfectly normal in Finland. No one will stare at you, and no one is embarrassed, if you are nude. In the summertime, men and women will always be naked when swimming or taking sunbaths, in public beaches.
Finns are accustomed to being nude in presence of others, because of the thousands of years tradition of sauna. Remember that no one ever wears any clothes in sauna, because the sauna spirit would be angered otherwise.
In the summer there are music festivals. People show how much fun they have by taking their clothes off. Typically, girls take their tops off first, then boys start to follow, and finally, there can be thousands of people dancing naked.
In wintertime, there is "Jatkot" (the "continuations"), drinking parties which carry on when restaurants close. In the comfort of a warm house, it is very common that participants strip naked, sometimes for sauna, but very often just for fun.
Talking to finns
When talking with a Finn, remember to not take eye contact. Just take brief glimpes into your opponent's eyes. You might want to amuse yourself with the yanks' custom to stare deeply into everyone's eyes. A Finn will be distracted by your staring. Watch out for drunk Finnish men, though - they will think you are a "homo" or something and go berserk. Or, if you are a woman, they'll think you are interested.
Finnish people want to keep distance to people they are talking with. Depending on the situation, Finns' personal space is from one to two metres (that is, about 3' to 6'), at the very least.
There is one situation in which Finnish people do talk, get close, and look into others' eyes. That is when they are drunk. Of course, their English then becomes even harder to understand.
There are just a few subjects which should be avoided when talking with Finns. Ice hockey is one. Most Finns are fanatical ice hockey fans, and if you bring the subject up, you will be bored to death by their ice hockey talk. The rest of Finns hate ice hockey.
It is safe to talk about politics, as long as you don't take sides. Let the Finns do the fighting. If you want, you can amuse yourself by setting up a political debate, which might lead into a brawl between drunk Finns.
One subject to avoid - when talking to Finnish men - is the army. Almost all Finnish men serve in the army, because it is required by law. Finnish men's army memories will quickly bore you to death!
Suomi (finnish) language is hard to pronounce, especially for native english speakers. It is much easier to read and write than english, though - almost phonetic. I'll try to list some of the most important phrases.
Finns might offer visitors some "traditional Finnish food". But don't worry, this "traditional Finnish food" is actually not that. It will be somewhat like a lame version of French kitchen, perhaps including some grilled salmon and Roederer champagne. You won't be served anything "funny".
What Finns actually eat themselves, and so could be called "traditional Finnish food", is: sausage, pea soup, meatballs, pizza, potatoes (mashed or boiled), hamburgers, fries, other junk food, and meat sandwiches. What comes to real traditional foods, only a few of them are still eaten widely. One example is rye bread. A strange thing is that most Finns drink a lot of milk, even when a large percent of population is lactose intolerant.
Another strange thing that Finns eat is blood. It is mixed with rye flour and made into pancakes, or combined with pork and lard, stuffed into pig's intestines, becoming sausages. Finns might serve "blood pancakes" or "blood sausage" with sour red whortleberry jam to their visitors, although this is rare and you don't have to worry about it too much.
Real, traditional Finnish food is rather bland, as the long winters required most food to be soured, salted or dried to preserve it. Only a few things, such as sour milk ("piimä"), are still used.
Of course, finns can't still use spices, except salt. Lots of salt is added to all food.
A fact: Finns drink more coffee than anyone else in the whole world! Finns drink coffee in the morning, they drink coffee at their workplace before working, they have at least two coffee breaks during workday, they drink coffee when they arrive home from work, they drink coffee in the evening. There are lots of people who drink 8 or more cups per day.
You will be offered coffee all the time. It is compulsory to drink at least one cup each time. Otherwise finns will get angry. And remember the amount of caffeine they have in the bloodstream. You don't want to anger them.
There are lots of unwritten but very strict rules for eating and dining in Finland. Some of them are shortly explained here, but you will have to study for a long time to understand the fine nyances. (Most of these rules do not apply in restaurants - there food and drink is brought to you and you don't have to decide or do anything yourself.)
First of all, if you are at someone's house, where there are many guests, and the hostess asks you to the dinner table, you don't go. The first invitation must ALWAYS be ignored! The second invitation is also ignored. People must continue their smalltalk (as hard as it is in Finland) and ignore whomever is calling them. Only when the THIRD invitation comes, you may go, but always wait for someone else to go first, just in case. It doesn't matter if this is breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee.
With every meal, finns eat bread. This tradition comes from the times when finns had rye bread and not much else to eat. Now finns still want bread with everything. Many finns also drink milk all the time (yuk!).
If you are just "on coffee", as Finns say, don't empty your cup too quickly. Otherwise the hostess (or whomever) will immediately offer you more coffee. Most of the time, you will be offered more coffee even if your cup is not empty. If you haven't drunk at least two cups, you cannot refuse, if your cup actually is empty. Otherwise you need to refuse at least two or three times, before they believe you.
Whenever anything that the guests have to take themselves is offered - be it cake, buns, cookies, sausages, ham, everyone must behave like they don't really want ANYTHING, almost if whatever they offer is rotten. Here you can also wait for the third time you are offered something, before you take it. That would be very polite. But, remember this: NEVER take the LAST piece of ANYTHING that is ever offered to you. At least one piece of anything must always remain. It is very rude to take it! Except if it is alcohol.
With alcohol, things are different! There isn't enough alcohol for everyone - or Finns at least act as if there weren't. So everyone takes alcohol immediately when offered, and everyone makes sure that each gets their own share, including guests. Usually, everyone is served the same kind of drink and an equal share. After a few drinks, Finns forget to worry about how much alcohol there is available, and everyone will drink as quickly and as much they think they can.
Finns don't have any idea how to raise a toast - they wave their drinks high in the air and do not know about the proper eye contact before and after sipping the drink. Not even russians managed to enlighten finns in this matter.
Nearly every Finn goes into the sauna at least once a day, some more often. Everyone - men, women, boys, girls - go into the sauna together. No one ever wears anything in the sauna, everyone must always be naked (otherwise the Sauna Gnome, a faerie, brownie; spirit of sauna, gets very angry).
A sauna is a room which is traditionally heated to +120° Celcius (about +250°F), and contains an oven filled with red-hot stones. Traditionally, the oven is heated with firewood, but electric sauna ovens are almost as common. Almost every Finnish house has a sauna - this is a fact! It is not considered to be a luxury.
There are several ascending wooden benches ("lauteet") for sitting, typically three or more levels, with the highest place being the hottest. When everyone is seated, water is poured upon the stones. This releases steam. Actually the sauna does not get any hotter, but the steam makes the heat feel much more.
Then there is the "vihta" or "vasta", which is a bunch of birch twigs, with the leaves. These bunches, like short brooms, are first warmed with hot water, then people start whipping themselves and each other violently! More water is also poured on the hot stones. The apparent purpose is to create a place which is like Hell; scalding hot, with people being whipped and groaning.
There is always some competition; who can sit on the highest bench longest, when the heat ("löyly") gets worse. Weakest wussies descend from the bench or get out first, best man stays on the highest bench. This is a serious "sport"; there are even Finnish and World Championship events.
Eventually the heat becomes unbearable, everyone runs out, still naked, and rolls in the snow, or jumps into a lake - frozen or not! If there is no snow or lake around, a shower will do. After cooling a bit, they run back into the sauna. This is repeated several times.
Sauna is, of course, accompanied by heavy drinking of - usually - lager, sometimes liquor, cider or something else. Anything goes as long as it has alcohol. The traditional sauna food is grilled cheap sausage ("lenkkimakkara") with mustard and tomato sauce.
However, the sauna is also used to prepare food! The sausage is always placed on the stones of the heater (stove). The heat of the stones and the hot steam give a very special flavor to even the cheapest sausage (and the cheapest ones are often used for sauna food).
Even when not used for bathing, the sauna is used to prepare food. Malt for beer and the strong, unfiltered, country beer of Finland ("sahti") are prepared in the sauna. Frequently, finnish families have pork - usually half a whole pig - slowly ripening in a low heat of an electrical sauna. This gives pork an exquisite aroma!
Sauna and society
Finns always take all guests into the sauna. Everyone goes to sauna together, and naked. It is a grave offence to bath in the sauna with any clothes on. That angers not only Spirit of the Sauna (Gnome, Brownie) but the finnish host as well. Normally, the host would have to kill the offender with the knife ("puukko") or the axe! Fortunately that is not done while in the sauna; that would be considered working, and working in sauna is also forbidden.
There is an exception: negotiations, political and business deals can take place in the sauna. In fact, all the important decisions in Finland are always made in the sauna; as long as there are no women present. If there are naked women in the sauna, negotiations are not possible, unless the women are paid servants or escorts. The one who breaks a promise or a deal made in the sauna, will lose his honor.
Coming up. Just some important survival tips for now.
How to deal with polar bears
Polar bears have excellent sight and sense of smell. They are also very curious and always trying to find more food. However, they don't eat humans! In fact, there is no record of a polar bear ever attacking a living human in Finland, so there's nothing to worry. Loud noise, firecrackers, fire etc. can be used to scare polar bears away.
How to survive a blizzard
Blizzards, or snowstorms, are most common in the spring (up to June or even early July), but a couple feet snowfall in a few days is not uncommon even on other times of the year. Spring blizzards typically last for a week or so, during which time it is impossible to travel anywhere. Snowfall records are somewhere near 3 metres (10 feet), but about 3 feet is usual.
Finnish houses are very well insulated, and some houses (usually the biggest hotels) in the largest cities even have central heating and electricity! So there is no danger of being cold. Finns themselves like to sulk in the corner, drink liquor, and silently stare at the fireplace during blizzards.
Weekend in Finland
If you are only a visitor to the country, you don't have to worry too much about all this. Visitors are almost never taken to this "traditional Finnish weekend". However, it might be good to know what's going on, and why everyone is drunk and hanging around in the city.
"Heavy work requires heavy amusements", is Finns' motto. So, every adult - and most of minors too - start their Friday evening by drinking lots of alcohol. Traditional way is to drink a full bottle of strong liquor, the so-called "Perjantaipullo" (Friday Bottle). However, most modern Finns drink lager and other mild alcohol. In any case, the purpose is to get really drunk and mess around.
Alcohol is very expensive in Finland, and especially expensive it is at a "restaurant" (a place which serves alcohol). That's why finns buy the slightly cheaper alcohol beforehand at state monopoly (ALKO) stores and drink as much as they dare before going to a "restaurant". Younger people buy alcohol this way: they calculate which drink has the most alcohol compared to its cost, and buy it. Never mind what it tastes of or what it is.
At every restaurant, there is a big man at the door. He selects which customers who are allowed to get in. He does not try to get more customers in, he prevents some customers from entering! Yes, in Finland, the "restaurants", discos, dance and night clubs choose their customers, not vice versa. Even if the place is not popular, there will be a "door monkey" who makes people to wait in line. Yes, the big man at the door is not trying to get more people in!
At the door, this man, called a "portsari" (portier) sniffs at the potential customer's breath and generally tries to see whether or not this potential customer is sober enough, or looks good enough, to be allowed entry. Portsari can also search customers for hidden alcohol bottles, as these are not allowed in "restaurants". After the cavity search, the customer pays a few marks, or more, and is then allowed into the lobby. But, before the customer actually gets in, his or her topmost clothes must first be taken off and left at the guarded coat-rack. This, of course, also costs a few marks.
Inside the crowded, dark and smoky "restaurant", the customers sit at the tables and try to order expensive drinks from the waiters. Beware, the "restaurant" drinks are even more expensive than the greatly taxed alcohol bought directly in state-licensed alcohol shops (always called "ALKO"). In restaurants, the full, taxed cost is taken, and on top of that, a large profit for the restaurant.
Sometimes there is a dance floor, typically about 2 × 2 metres in size. If there is a dance floor, they will also be playing the latest dance hits with 120 decibel volume - at the minimum! Any conversations must be shouted from the bottom of peoples' lungs. The other memorable events in this enjoyment are trips to the toilets, which get more and more colorful the more time passes. The object of the evening is to get laid, or, if that fails, as usual, to get very, very drunk.
Conversation in a "restaurant"
Nearly every woman in Finland who has been in a disco, has been the subject to this traditional exchange of words. Here it is, translated as accurately as possible:
Other subjects of conversation are sex and drinking stories, the latter consisting of people's exploits while absolutely stoned. They include violence, being arrested by police, etc.
Women talk about which men are the biggest and hardest, while men boast about the incredible number of women they've been with, and give hints to others about the "easy" women. Younger folk concentrate more on drinking stories, as they are, without exception, too shy losers to even talk to the opposite sex, and thus never get laid.
Men also talk about cars, and ice hockey, an extremely violent and stupid sport, which is very popular among the lower and middle classes. In this millennium, they also talk about computers and cellular phones, but those subjects get harder the more drunk they become.
Apart from drinking, "dancing", and a conversation that has to be shouted, there is usually nothing to do in a "restaurant". I myself find these places terribly boring.
But, when there is something to do, it is even more awful. A few years ago, restaurants had things such as mud or oil wrestling and nude painting! Fortunately, from these "entertainments", only karaoke remains somewhat popular. I'm pretty sure that you don't want to see nor hear a drunk, fat, ugly Finnish man singing old Finnish hits - badly.
"Jatkot" (the "continuations")
After the "fun" evening at the "restaurant", some people continue into a night club, if they can still get in, and some go to "continuations" ("jatkoille"). It means, a group of finns go to someone's house or apartment and continue drinking. Only a very small percent succeeds in the purpose of the evening, and get laid.
Those who can remember anything from their weekend, can then boast with their drinking and sex stories next week. What most Finns don't seem to know, is that forgetting part of the evening means brain damage caused by alcohol.
Midsummer Celebration in Finland
Midsummer is the holiday when finns drink the most alcohol! New Year holds the second place. Usually everyone gets at least 4 days' vacation at Midsummer weekend (somewhere near the end of June, after 21st day). This weekend must be spent somewhere else. Not at home, never!
So, everyone goes to somewhere else by car. Everyone has to go at the same time, so there are huge traffic jams (Finnish traffic jams are actually nothing compared to most other European countries, but to us, these feel huge). Of course, all interesting places are at least a couple of hundred kilometres away. No matter where you live, the interesting place to be is always far away.
There are two ways to spend this Midsummer weekend. The rich people go to their summer cottages. There they take sauna baths, and drink a lot of alcohol. There isn't anything else to do in a finnish summer cottage. The poor people (teenagers, students) go to a "rock festival". At the rock festival, there are Finnish bands, but no one goes just for them. There has to be at least the current "hit of the week" teenage babe "singer", or "this year's boy group", or whatever. As long as it is something embarrassing with a couple of dance hits.
At the "rock festival", people live in tents, drink a lot of alcohol, and try to pick up one night (or one hour, or whatever) stands and to have unprotected, poor quality sex while drunk and dirty (there aren't any showers or anything anywhere, only mud flats or, in the best cases, wet grass fields). Also there will be lots of fights, passed out underaged teens, religious fanatics preaching against "satanic music", and so on. No one gets any sleep for three or more days and, of course, drinks to the point of vomiting every day. After this "refreshing vacation" they return to their summer jobs or studies.
And the rich people with summer cottages? Well, they drink to the point of passing out or vomiting every day, have poor-quality unprotected sex while drunk and being pestered by mosquitoes and gadflies (there still are them, on the countryside, where the summer cottages usually are). Summer cottages, by the way, have no modern comforts. Some might have electricity. Most have no running water - you get it from the well, infested with interesting bacteria. Also there's nothing to do at the summer cottage. You can read a ten-year old Reader's Digest like you did the last summer, or you can take a sauna bath. So, the only way to pass the time is to drink a lot of alcohol.
Which brings us to the most popular sport of Midsummer, that is drowning. Every year, there is a competition; how many people manage to die by drowning at Midsummer. There are many ways to go. One way is first to drink a lot of alcohol, take a very hot sauna bath, and run out into the icy lake. Then you get a cramp, a heart attack, or a stroke. If you don't, you must swim into the opposite shore, some two miles away. Of course you can do it! All that booze you've been drinking keeps you warm and gives you the strength.
If you have a rowboat at your cottage, you must first drink yourself senseless, then go fishing or rowing. And then you get an urge, open your pants, stand up, and fall into the water. Note that you MUST die with your pants open! It's the traditional Finnish way to go! Lately, only 30 or less people have drown themselves every Midsummer, and the figures are dropping year by year. Is our national sport dying? Perhaps we need foreigners to join us in this effort?
Christmas in Finland
At the darkest time of the year, when there is only an hour or two of daylight each day, in the Southernmost Finland, there is also the time of Christmas.
You don't have to look at a calendar. Just watch TV. Every commercial break is filled with new ads for children's toys. These are foreign commercials, badly dubbed in finnish. Since almost every reasonable toy or game has already been invented, any new toys have to be related to the latest fad (such as Pokémon), or be strange and obnoxious (such as a plush doll from which you can dig out plush entrails, through its mouth).
At early October, all shops are busy setting up Christmas decorations, Christmas trees, and playing Christmas music. You will hear muzak versions of all the popular Christmas songs, and all the finnish Christmas songs - there is an annual competition to find new finnish Christmas songs! This goes on for three months. After New Year, all shops set up sales, reducing all prices for 50% or so (Christmas sales are greater than at any other time).
The most important things of finnish Christmas are: presents (for the children), food and drink, decorations, music, sauna, and TV programs. Note that Christmas is celebrated at Christmas Eve, never on Christmas Day.
There is a program on TV at 11 o'clock (A.M.) called "Suomen Turku julistaa joulurauhan" (Åbo City of Finland Declares Christmas Peace). Everyone watches this program before they eat Christmas dinner. In this religious program, the Mayor of Åbo (a finnish city) declares, that any crimes committed on Christmas time will be punished extra harshly. Dinner is eaten early, so that the children will feel the waiting for their presents to be as long as possible.
The most important Christmas food is ham. Every finn must eat at least ten pounds of ham at Christmas! Ham is soaked in salt water for a couple of weeks, roasted in oven, and eaten with mustard, special herring-beetroot-apple salad ("rosolli"), and potatoes. Of course, drinking is compulsory. Each finn must drink themselves silly with liquor (and/or beer) at Christmas.
Naturally, Christmas sauna ("joulusauna") is a must. After the sauna, finns eat more (ham, but also nuts, gingerbread, chocolate, candy, and other "desserts") and drink more. Children get more and more anxious as they await presents, while parents get more and more drunk. There is nothing to do except to eat, drink, and wait.
Finally it is time for Father Christmas to arrive. You can actually hire a Father Christmas (dressed as Coca Cola commercials' Santa Claus, but called "Joulupukki", literally "Christmas Goat", but usually translated "Father Christmas"). In Finland, Father Christmas always asks "Are there any good children here?" ("Onko täällä kilttejä lapsia?"). This is a rhetorical question, as all children get presents (except those who have cancer or something, and will die soon in any case, so they don't need presents).
There are only two times a year a finnish child gets any presents. They are his/her birthday, and Christmas. And there are usually more Christmas presents than birthday presents, and Christmas presents are more expensive - prices are at their highest at Christmas.
Every finnish Chrismas Eve has to have a fight; the drunk husband slaps his wife and/or the children, when they are noisy, or the children develop a fight to pass time while waiting for Father Christmas. In rural Finland, the drunk husband traditionally beats up his wife, and drives everyone out, into the freezing cold and snow, with an axe or a shotgun.
After the presents are shared by Father Christmas, it's all over. On the rest of the Christmas holidays, finns have nothing to do, except to eat more ham, and to drink more alcohol. They could watch TV but at Christmas there's nothing good on TV, only reruns and religious programs. Most finns just drink alcohol and wait for the New Year.
New Year in Finland
For some reason, while Christmas sauna is a must, New Year sauna isn't. There isn't such thing as "New Year Sauna".
Anyway, let's start from beginning. After Christmas, all shops offer a 50% (or more) discount for everything. That's beacuse everyone has already spent nearly all their money for Christmas presents, food, and drink, and prices of everything were raised by 100% for Christmas season.
So people go shopping. Most people are on a holiday, so there are huge crowds in all malls and "automarketti" (a shop - "market" - outside of city, where you can only get by car, that's "auto").
There's one category of special products sold in temporary booths everywhere. That is, New Year fireworks. You are only allowed to use fireworks at New Year Eve, starting from 6 p.m., to next morning. And never at any other time!
Fireworks used to be much more noisy and stronger, and you were allowed to use them at any time. Due accidents, dogs scared to death by the noise, and so on, fireworks that make any kind of loud noise are not allowed any more.
Nevertheless, most families spend ten euros or more on fireworks. But that's nothing compared to booze. New Year is the second largest drinking fest of Finland (the largest is Midsummer). Lots of people go to "restaurant" to drink, many stay home drinking.
There's one curious pagan ritual practiced at New Year Eve. Families melt down some tin (almost always it's actually lead), and pour it into a bucket of water. Everyone does this personally. Then, the lumps of tin are examined for omens.
At night, everyone goes outdoors. Traditionally, the night is dark and freezing cold: temperatures of -20°F (-30°C) or lower are not unusual. The air is full of smoke from the fireworks. At midnight, most cities launch their own fireworks - expensive, professional ones, which might actually look impressive unlike the lame legal fireworks.
And that's about it. There's nothing fun to do - except to use the last of your lame legal fireworks, to drink more, or to watch porn from the TV. There's always (soft) porn on TV at New Year Eve.
As you should have read in Sauna chapter, public nudity is strictly forbidden in Finland. But there are other laws you must know about!
First, blashphemy against any god or anything holy is a serious crime, resulting in a minimum of 2 years imprisonment. For example, if you say "the Invisible Pink Unicorn behind the fridge sucks!" aloud in a public place, you will be sentenced to jail for 2 years. The Pink Unicorn himself does not need to press charges, the state will do that when the crime is about holy things. Most of Finns want to have the death penalty back, by the way.
If you want to watch TV in finland at all, you will have to pay for a "TV licence", which is currently 982 marks (around 165 euro, which is about 150 USD) a year. Radio license is not required any more, it used to be. However, if you play radio in a public place, you will have to pay to Teosto for it. The sum depends on how many people might have heard it.
In Finland, it is a crime to let a pig to another's acorn forest. However, if a swarm of honey bees lands to your property, you own it.
As in Russia and other modern countries, every male in Finland has to go into army. It usually lasts 6 months. However, they say it actually lasts 362 days * 24 hours, which equals 1,086 workdays, i.e. three years. That's why "civil service", the only alternative to army, has to last 3 years too. If you don't select either, you go to jail. Only gays and other perverts go to civil service. It is also forbidden to employ a person who has been in the civil service, or at least no employer will ever hire one.
If a male and a female live in the same house, they are automatically considered a married couple in all respects. The new marriage law, starting at year 2002, means if two males or two females live in the same house, they are also now considered married.
You can be tested for drugs and/or amount of alcohol in your system at any time in Finland. The police can also search your person, your house, your car - or anything, at any time. No warrant of any kind is needed.
All Finnish women love foreign men. Without exception, foreign men are better, more polite, adorable, etc. than Finns, even - and especially - if the men are from "Macho" countries such as Greek or Brazil. To a Finnish woman, a foreign boyfriend or husband means great status. However, even if you are a foreign man, you don't have to worry about hordes of Finnish women chasing you - unless you meet them while they are drunk. Finnish women are similar to Finnish men: they never dare to hit on anyone if they are not drunk.
Finnish men fear foreign women, until they get a few drinks. Then they try to "seduce" them. The only forms of seduction Finnish men know are: 1. to buy drinks for the woman, 2. to invite the woman to a dance. Finnish men can never have an intelligent conversation with a woman, since Finnish men are only able to talk about "men" things such as ice hockey, boozing, cars, women, and violence.
If you are a woman, don't bother with Finnish men. In bed, they are almost always clumsy little boys or primitives. They don't even want to know about foreplay, they just rush into the main course, and when it is over, they immediately turn their backs and fall asleep.
Neither should you bother with a Finnish woman. A Finnish woman excepts you to do everything in bed, while she herself remains completely passive. As long as your performance is adequate, the woman will cook and clean up for you. But, as you know Finnish cooking - don't bother.
last update: Saturday, 06. May 2006