How I found myself in Finland – stories from travellers

4 minute read

Credits: Vertti Luoma

What makes Finland special in your eyes?

The total number of international overnight stays in Finland exceeds 5,000,000 nights annually. These are impressive figures, but what exactly draws all these visitors to choose Finland? What sets Finland apart from their point of view?

We were eager to learn more about this topic, so we sent a photographer to interview international visitors at various events in Finland during the summer of 2023.

Here's what we discovered!

 

Steffi and Jen from Germany: "Finnish people are open-minded."

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Steffi and Jen from Germany have been coming to Finland annually for the heavy metal infused Tuska Festival. Jen used to live in Finland back in 2018 and also has local friends.

They both see Finnish people as open-minded – people don't judge others based on appearance or actions. Jen, having experienced Germany's somewhat more closed-minded attitudes towards appearances due to her goth background, appreciates this aspect of Finland. Finns tend to let you just be you, no matter who you are.

In addition to the annual pilgrimage to Tuska, Steffi and Jen have found themselves in various pubs and karaoke bars around Helsinki, immersing in the local pub culture. They also connect deeply with the nature in Finland and admire how Finns have a strong connection to their natural surroundings. Steffi and Jen consider themselves open-minded, much like Finns. Friends, Tuska Festival, and the overall vibe of Finland will keep them coming back also in the future.

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Jonathan from Wales: "I've become addicted to sauna."

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Jonathan, originally from Wales, came to Finland as an Erasmus student through an exchange program, and during his stay met someone special. He has since built a life in Finland, describing the country as a safe and pristine place. He believes that Finland is the best place to feel secure and create a family.

Jonathan values Finns' love for nature, which aligns with his own appreciation for the outdoors, and the opportunity to roam freely. He has made many friends and acquaintances through the Finnish sauna culture. Much like many Finns, though, he enjoys solitude – the forest is his best friend. Jonathan's first Finnish experience was the sauna, and the most intimidating part was undressing in front of strangers. He has since developed a strong relationship with the sauna and describes becoming addicted to it.

Nowadays, he is a key figure in the Sompasauna community. Sompasauna is described as "Helsinki's most public sauna." It is a free sauna, open 24/7/365, run by everyone who uses it.

Aleksandra from Russia: "In Finland, nature is not close to you, it surrounds you."

Credits: Vertti Luoma

We met Aleksandra, who came to Finland originally due to work opportunities, at the Helsinki Pride. She appreciates how Finns are very honest and straightforward; this is something she admires. "If Finns say something, they'll do it."

Aleksandra has made a connection with her Finnish colleagues and also found a sense of connection with nature, particularly in the forest. She describes Finnish nature as not being close to you but truly surrounding you.

According to Aleksandra, culture is what continually draws people back to Finland. She genuinely admires how Finns have their own unique way of doing things and staying true to it.

Andrew, Cassandra, and Valentina: "I fell in love with Finland so much I moved here."

Credits: Vertti Luoma

We met up with Andrew from the UK, Cassandra from Australia, and Valentina from Russia also at the Helsinki Pride.

Cassandra has been living in Finland for 5 months and Valentina for 5 years. Cassandra visited Finland last year and was so happy that she decided, in fact, to move to here. Valentina originally moved to study and now works in Finland.

Andrew likes the Finnish attitude towards life and work, noting that people never seem stressed. Cassandra believes that Finns truly are the happiest people in the world and also very humble. Valentina appreciates that Finns genuinely don't care – in a positive way – about how you look or what you do.

When we asked what would make them come back to Finland if they ever left, they responded: "Sauna, the Finnish summer, trees, and the people. And Lonkero!"

Fun fact: Lonkero, a gin-based alcoholic drink, is one of the most well-known beverages in Finland. It was first introduced at the Helsinki Olympics at 1952. 

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Kennis from Hong Kong: "I'd like to meet the real Santa Claus in Finland."

Kennis, a Hongkonker, was visiting Helsinki on her way through Europe with her friends. We talked to her at Flow Festival.

During Kennis' short stay in Finland's capital, she got the feeling of being warmly welcomed. She believes that Finns are kind and polite while also emphasizing that Finns are quite punctual. Kennis also values the personal space Finns give her.

When we asked Kennis if she would like to come back to Helsinki, she said yes. In fact, she would like to make the trip to Flow Festival an annual tradition! Kennis would also like to experience Finland in the winter and meet the real Santa Claus.

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Shamim, Mercy and Keiran: "Finns respect others."

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Shamim, originally from India, has been living in Finland for sometime now. Mercy from Kenya came to Finland as an au-pair, and Kieran from the United States came because of his wife. We met them at Flow Festival in Helsinki.

Shamim appreciates the personal space that Finns naturally give to others and the proximity to nature. Mercy loves the high standards of living, sauna, Finnish sisu, as well as the emphasis on equality – plus the Finnish bidee shower! Kieran likes how Finns demonstrate respect towards others by allowing people to exist simply as they are.

Flow is one of the most popular festivals in Finland held every August in Helsinki.
Credits: Vertti Luoma

Chris from Minnesota, USA: "I'm a sauna nerd now."

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Chris, who we met at Sompasauna, hails from Minnesota, USA. He was a student at the University of Minnesota and started dating a Finnish girl, eventually deciding to move to Finland to be with her.

Chris finds similarities between his home state and Finland, but he describes Finland as bit purer and closer to nature. He used to visit the different saunas in Helsinki but then heard about the free and open-to-all Sompasauna – now located at Verkkosaari – and immediately fell in love with the community around it, becoming a regular. Chris proudly identifies himself as a "sauna lover," or even a "sauna nerd." He appreciates the Finnish sauna culture, and how it induces a state of meditation. It also encourages open discussion while respecting the need for solitude, if asked. This, he thinks, is not common in the US.

When it comes to describing Finns, Chris thinks they are humble, a quality he deeply respects. In addition to the sauna culture, what Chris appreciates in Finland is the fresh air – plus his wife and family, of course. "Suomi on ihana maa!" he says.

Fun fact: Did you know that there are more than ten public saunas in the Helsinki region? Take a look at some of the most interesting ones, including Sompasauna, at myhelsinki.fi!

Geir from Norway: "I found a connection to Finland through video games."

Geir from Norway made an initial connection to Finland through video games and friends he met online. He arrived to Helsinki for a weekend to spend it at the Tuska Festival. 

Geir expressed his views on Finns like this: "Finnish people get together often with their friends and family which makes them open to others' ideas and spending time together; also with people they don't know so well. There is a sense of being innovative – together." It is those mutual interests and ideas that drew Geir to Finland and he would be glad to visit again.

Fun fact: Finland is known for innovative game development studios, unique game concepts, and a strong gaming culture. Games like Max Payne and Angry Birds originate from here. You can even visit an Angry Birds themed activity park in the Lappeenranta-Imatra region or go to an Angry Birds playground in Espoo or Rovaniemi!

 

Credits: Vertti Luoma

Related tours and activities

Here's a look at tours and activities around Finland related to the themes of the article.

Lahti

Teerenpeli Brewery & Distillery Visitor Center

See also

Tom of Finland exhibition opens in Kiasma

Tom of Finland exhibition opens in the Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma in Helsinki on April 28, 2023.