The Finland episodes of the Korean TV show Welcome, First time in Korea? were one of the most loved episodes, recording the highest viewing rates since the show began airing. In the show, tourists from different countries visit Korea for the first time. The three Finnish guys featured in the show, Ville, Vilppu and Sami, received plenty of attention and affection gaining thousands of Korean fans and followers because of their pure and innocent attitude. After the show ended, the guys continued to show their love and affection for Korea on their social media channels: the guys demonstrated their skills in making makgeolli and Korean dishes and showed gifts they received from their dedicated Korean fans.
So, what are the guys up to these days? Edunation had the chance to catch up with them on a sunny winter day in Tampere, Finland and talk about their lives in the limelight. We were also curious to know how Finnnish and Korean culture differ from each since the guys had the chance to experience both.
Ville’s morning had already started at 4:30 in the morning as he didn’t want to miss a second of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang. Finland ended up winning the gold medal in the men’s 50 km cross-country skiing. What wonderful news to start the day and the interview with! Though he had to wake up before the sunrise, there was no sign of tiredness on Ville’s smiling face as he chatted excitedly with us. Soon Vilppu and Sami joined us at our cozy Edunation office and a small reunion took place as the guys don’t have the chance to see each other too often since they live in different cities.
The impression you get from the TV show is that the guys are fun and easygoing, and we can absolutely confirm this. Once they all sat down on our couch with a cup of coffee in their hands, you can see how down to earth these guys are and that they weren’t putting any act for the show. The conversation flowed easily when they told us more about what they have been up to.
Ville lives in the picturesque city of Turku on the coast of Finland, where he studies geology. Turku is the oldest city in Finland and is full of beautiful historical sites. “It’s a nice place, beautiful, river Aura flows through the town, it has old cathedrals and castles reminding of the old middle age days. And it lies just by the Finnish archipelago, it’s a nice place during the summer.” Okay the city sound like a fantastic place, but what about the people? Ville laughs a little before responding. “They speak funny, but they are nice. Usually the stereotype of Turku people is that they really like to stay in their own herds, but I have been welcomed, open hearts and minds.”
Vilppu resides in Vantaa, the fourth largest city in Finland, nestled next to Helsinki, the capital city of Finland. He studies at Laurea University of Applied Sciences doing a degree in nursing. Even though Vilppu is a Finn, he is doing his degree in English: “I’m doing an international version, studying in English. In my course, there are four Finnish students and other twenty students are international students. In this degree, I actually get to work in the hospital, work with the patients, so I see why I should study all the theory, reading, and it motivates me in different level. All my campuses are quite international even there are more English language courses than just degree in nursing, you can also do like business degree all in English, so there are many options. In Finland there’re a lot of courses you can actually do from start to finish in English.”
Jyväskylä clearly has a magical hold on Sami as he has been living there for 29 years already – his whole life. Jyväskylä is also a home for more than 20 000 students making Jyväskylä Finland’s capital for students. “Jyväskylä is a town in the middle of Finland and it’s known for Alvar Aalto’s designs. There are a lot of buildings and architectures he designed, the main campus of the University of Jyväskylä is designed by him. There’s also ski jumper Matti Nykänen who came from Jyväskylä is an Olympic winner.” Sami also studies in Jyväskyä and has only nice things to say about his university. “I’ve been studying in Jyväskylä University of Applied Sciences for two years now, I work and study at the same time. I’m going to be a construction supervisor hopefully at the end of this year if I get my thesis done. If I get my thesis done and graduate this year, I think I will get the job I want.” Currently, Sami is doing an internship as a construction supervisor for renovation projects as internships are part of most degree programs in Finland.
Student culture in Finland is unique and student life at universities is really lively. “My school is very active on different student activities, so there are a lot of things to do outside of school.” Vilppu continues, “Monthly, there are cruises and all kind of activities that you can join as a student.” Ville tells about his own experiences: “Yes, same thing in our place. We have of course parties, but opportunities to play sports too. We play football, baseball, the Finnish baseball of course, floorball together with other students.” The variety is big in all activities and students in Finland are entitled also for a student discounts. “Everything is cheaper for students. Bus and train tickets you can get for half price. In student restaurants, you can get a pretty good meal for 2.60 euros.”
Vilppu has also experienced studying abroad. He studied in UK for a while and he mentioned that there are some huge differences between universities. “I think the difference would be that even though all the schools in UK get some money from the government too, it’s not nearly as much as in Finland. The quality of education can have large variations, so it can be a little bit difficult to know if the school is as good quality as you hope.”
Finnish education is becoming more globally known and it’s gaining attention also in South Korea. Usually the main topic when talking about Finnish education is the superior quality of children’s education but what about the higher education? Our guests can only praise the higher education they have experienced in Finland. As Vilppu describes: “Finnish education is very famous all around the world. I think, first of all the quality of higher education is really assured, there are no private schools in Finland in higher education. They get the funding from the government. So, every school and every university, all of them have the same budget, which assures that the quality will be good and equal whichever university you go to.”
Additionally, students are valued in universities and students are crucial in the quality assurance process. “There are also polls where they ask students about teachers and how they see the quality of education, and if students reply that it’s not good, the school takes measures to improve the situation of some teachers. If there is a huge drop in the question rates, they take actions to improve that specific teaching or teacher,” Sami tells. Ville also shares his first-hand experience on how this quality control works in his university: “In my case, after every course, they ask what could have done better and ask students what you liked about the course and what you didn’t, and I think they actually listen to students’ feedback.”
It felt like we had talked for hours, so it was time to take a break. Since the guys were not too familiar with Tampere, we wanted to show them around and introduce them to the best winter activity here – ice swimming.
It may sound incredibly strange to head for a swim in a frozen lake in almost -15° weather, but for Finns that is just a normal winter activity. In fact, as we get to Rauhaniemi public sauna situated on the shore of a lake there were already plenty of people enjoying the stunning winter scenery and swimming in the icy lake. You might wonder why would anyone do this willingly? Well, ice swimming is extremely healthy as it increases blood flow in your body and lowers your blood pressure. It also is great fun, even though it may not seem like that if you are first-timer, but we guarantee that the second time is much easier!
Finland and Korea seem like two completely different countries, but are they really? The guys had the opportunity to experience Korea and Korean culture during the filming of the show and recognized many similarities and differences between the two countries. According to Sami, one similarity between Korea and Finland is that people understand English really well, but are too afraid to talk in English. Additionally, Finns and Koreans are both shy. Maybe because of that reason, the guys felt at home in Korea. As for the differences: “The people in Finland, even though they’re nice, they seldom show their feeling. But I found that Koreans are very outward with their feelings and are very nice and polite. You could think that Finns are really rude if you don’t understand that most Finns are just a bit quiet (laughter).”
We asked the guys to tell us something that Koreans might not know but should know about Finland. “Did you know that in Finland we have the largest reindeer population in the world. So, a lot of rudolphs are here if you want to see them,” Vilppu says jokingly. Sami continues: “Did you know that in Finland, you can go in the forest and pick up berries and do camping anywhere you want, it’s called jokamiehenoikeus (‘everyman’s right’). The nature is free for everyone in Finland.” Ville also has an interesting fact about Finland: “Did you know that Finland is a bilingual country? We speak Finnish, and we also speak Swedish.”
The guys also share their favorite memories during their trip in Korea. “Definitely, the baseball game! The atmosphere was amazing. It was great to cheer together with passionate Korean baseball fans. The baseball stadium was full of enthusiasm and heat that day.” The guys describe Korean as inviting and warm people. “I felt welcomed in Korea,” Vilppu says and Sami agrees: “one thing that I found was ‘jeong’, warm-hearted people.” Ville accurately describes the differences between Korean and Finnish people: “Korean people are like Finnish people after drinking three beers. If I have three beers right now, we’re on the same level. But only after three beers (laugh), I’m going to become Korean.”
Ville has his ‘Turun makgeolli project’ still running but explains that he currently doesn’t have enough time to complete it: “I’m not making makgeolli these days because I don’t have time to stay at home. I have to stir it twice a day to make makgeolli, but I’m not around that often. But I’ll continue the project when spring comes.”
After their visit to Korea and the success of their episodes, they have gained huge popularity in Korea and have many new followers on social media. They also continue to receive many gifts from their fans. “I go to the post office twice a week to get mail from Korea,” Ville tells. “The staff of the post office might know my face and name already. Korean people are so nice and warm-hearted, and I really appreciate it.” Ville also shares his experiences with kimchi. “I love kimchi and a few weeks ago, I got kimchi from Korea, and I could already smell it when the staff handed over the box. I had to put it in my balcony because the smell of is too strong to put it in my fridge (laugh).”
What are the guys’ plans for their next visit in Korea? For Vilppu, the plan is clear: “I definitely want to visit Korea again. If I go to Korea next time, I want to meet more Korean people because we couldn’t meet many Koreans last time. This time, I’d like to meet local people and share cultures and communicate with them. Also, I want to visit other places for example, Busan or Jeju island. Because last time, we spent most of time in Seoul, so it would be great if we visit other places. I think that people, food, atmosphere would be different in other provinces.”
How is life treating the guys after the success of the show? Life seems to go on as normal. They sometimes get recognized in Finland, but it doesn’t happen that often. Sami is planning to meet up with Korean students in Jyväskylä. And their plans? To cook Korean food of course! Vilppu has met several Korean exchange students in the Helsinki region and were even invited to a Korean restaurant in Helsinki. He is also travelling to other cities to meet up with Korean people living in Finland. The guys get sometimes recognized also by Finns and have done some interviews for Finnish media as well. What everyone is wondering is that why weren’t the guys part of the second season of ‘Welcome, First time in Korea?’ as during the season some people from the first season revisited Korea. “If they offer us second season later, of course we’d like to join!” We don’t know about you, but we would love to see the guys in Korea again!
And all the people reading this interview: Welcome to Finland! 핀란드로 오세요!
Thank you Vilppu, Ville and Sami for the interview and for the fun day in Tampere!