Being humble about their own country is a very Finnish habit. There are many amazing things in Finland to enjoy, that you probably haven’t even heard of! From vibrant cities with a buzzing night life to tranquil villages that serve the best local delicacies, and from pristine forests and lakes to hikes in the tundra and rafting through wild rivers – be it adventure or calmness that you’re looking for, you will find it.
Arctic safe haven
The contrasts are part of the country’s charm. The white nights in the summer, when the sun doesn’t set at all, and the magic of the icy and dark winter, that is only lit up by the shining stars and northern lights, are things that you should experience at least once in your life.
Finland is also a great place to live and raise family. Placing in the top of many rankings, such as the quality of education, safety, transparency, and cleanliness of the environment, many expats choose to stay here. The Finns value honesty, and respect each other and other’s property.
Reliable present and innovative future
The country’s infrastructure is well-organised and planned for further development. Finland is proud of its level of high-tech, and the new technologies are efficiently applied. Moreover, Finland is ranked as the third innovative country in the world (WEF, 2016). The public transportation is reliable and works smoothly. There are many state-funded public recreational facilities, such as extensive libraries and well-equipped sports halls and fields, that offer various services with little or no charge. All services are available in English as well.
Finland is getting more international with each passing day. While proud of their rich Nordic culture, the Finns are interested in and embrace other cultures, and put effort in making Finland a remarkable connection between Europe and Asia.
Population: 5.4 million people
Population density: 18.1 inhabitants / km2
Life expectancy: males: 78 years, females: 84 years
Official languages: Finnish (spoken by 88.9%) and Swedish (5.3%). Sámi is spoken by 1900 indigenous people in northern Lapland
Religion: Christianity: Lutheran 73.8%, Orthodox 1.1%. In practice, the society is fairly secularised
State and Government
Independence Day: December 6th, 1917
Form of Government: Republic, parliamentary democracy
Head of State: President of the Republic, elected every six years. Current president is Mr. Sauli Niinistö, elected in 2012
EU: since 1995
UN: since 1955
Society and Economy
Key features: High standard of education, social security and healthcare, all financed by the state
GDP per capita (2014): 37,559 €
The early days
The area now known as Finland, was inhabited after the latest ice age, some 11,000 years ago. The people were hunters and gatherers until 3,200, when agricultural time started in Finland. However, hunting and fishing still remained as the most important ways to live especially in the eastern and northern parts.
The early Finns used to believe in pagan religions, that varied across villages. In the middle ages, Christianity reach the north. The Catholic church’s mission was to convert the pagan tribes to Christianity. The eastern Orthodox Novgorod embraced a peaceful approach, but the western emerging kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark took a more offensive stance, and tried to conquer and Christianise Finland in what would be the Nordic equivalent of crusades.
Part of the kingdom of Sweden
Sweden begun the colonisation of the Finnish west coast, an area, that still today is partly Swedish speaking. There were many conflicts between the Finns and the conquerors coming from both east and west. The Tavastians of mid-southern Finland fought against the Swedes, and still long after the 13th century, tribal people of Karelia and Lapland were attacking the Christians of the Swedish kingdom and the Orthodox’ of the east.
While Finland became more or less part of Sweden in the 13th century, the term Österland, Eastland, was used to describe the area during that time. It was not until the 15th century that the word was replaced with the name Suomi or Finland.
During the 13th century, the bishopric city of Turku was established, and its famous cathedral, that is still standing today, was built. Finland was reigned over from the fortresses of Turku, Hämeenlinna and Viipuri. Finland was also a destination for Vikings from Scandinavia. The fortresses played an important role in defending the coast.
The Swedish church was reformed under king Gustav Vasa, and following the policies of the reformation, Mikael Agricola, the bishop of Turku, published his translation of the New Testament in Finnish in 1591. Only a year earlier, Gustav Vasa had established the current capital Helsinki under the name Helsingfors, although it remained a mere fishing village for over two centuries.
In 1640 the Academy of Åbo, the first university in Finland, was established in Turku by the Swedish queen Christina. After the Great Fire of Turku in 1827, the university was moved to Helsinki, and after Finland gained its independence, the name was changed to University of Helsinki.
Russian Grand Duchy
The Finnish War was fought between the Kingdom of Sweden and the Russian Empire from February 1808 to September 1809. Finland became part of Russia, and gained autonomy under the name Grand Duchy of Finland. In the 19th century the population in Finland grew rapidly, and the country became urbanised. In 1841 the Finnish language became a subject in schools.
However, during 1899-1905 and 1908-1917, also called the years of oppression, the policy of Russification was implemented. It was to limit Finland’s status as an autonomy and integrate it to the Russian empire. The Finns were strongly against it, and fought back with passive resistance and by strengthening the Finnish cultural identity.
In 1906, as a result of the Russian Revolution and the Finnish General Strike, the first years of oppression came to an end, and the Parliament of Finland was established. Finnish women were also eligible to vote, as the first ones in Europe. However, the Russification continued in 1908, as the royal family of Romanovs maintained their reign.
During the First World War, in the aftermath of the February Revolution, Finland saw that the personal union with Russia was over with dethroning of the tsar in 1917. On the 6th of December 1917, Finland declared independence.
After a brief but bitter civil war between Social Democrats and the non-Socialist Parliament, won by the latter, Finland was announced a democratic republic.
In the Second World War, Finland fought twice against Soviet Russia, losing some areas in the Finnish Karelia. People from these areas immigrated to the rest of Finland. As a result, today many Finns have ancestors from Karelia. Although Finland lost both wars, the nation can still consider it as a victory: it remained independent while being attacked by an enemy with massive superior military strength.
This year, we are celebrating the 100-year old Finland. Since gaining the independence, Finland has come a long way: we have one of the highest living standards in the world, free and good healthcare, and the best education system. We rank always in the top of transparency, sustainability, innovation, clean nature and equality rankings.
Finland has an eventful history and rich culture. We also have a vision for the future – to make Finland the most progressive welfare country in the world.
Area: 390,905 km2, 5th largest country in Western Europe
Greatest length from North to South: 1,157km
Greatest width from East to West: 542km
Capital: Helsinki (1.4 million inhabitants in the metropolitan area)
Out of Finland’s total area of 390,905 km2, 303,891 km2 is land, 34,544km2 sweet water, and 52,470km2 sea. The ground is rising from the sea, and the land areas grows approximately 7km2 every year.
Cities add up to around five percentage of the land, while cultivated land takes up 10%. The forests cover some 77% of the land, while the rest is used for other purposes.
The bedrock in Finland is ancient, but the covering layer soil is relatively new. The ground got its current shape in the latest ice age, that moulded the land heavily. Evidence of this is everywhere: glacial till, gravel and sand make up the eskers dividing the country, and massive rocks that were carried for long distances by the ice can be found anywhere.
The highest places in Finland are the mountains in the north. The south and the area of Ostrobothnia on the west coast are flat, while the middle of the country and the east border have hills.
Finland is known as the Land of thousand seas, and not without a reason: there are some 190,000 lakes in the country. The largest lake, Saimaa, is the fourth biggest in the whole Europe. There is also plenty of rivers connecting the lakes and flowing to the Baltic sea.
Finland has remarkable archipelago. The Turku archipelago and the Kvarken archipelago are both fighting for the title of the most beautiful archipelago in the world!
Most of the forest covering Finland is boreal forest, or taiga, and is characterised by coniferous forest consisting mostly of spruces, pines and birch. Northern Ostrobothnia as well as Lapland have remarkable areas of mire.
Climate and weather
The climate in Finland is a mixture of maritime and continental, depending from the location. The Golf current flowing from the south brings warmth with it, and thus the climate in the northern Europe is warmer than in other locations in the same latitude.
However, the changes in temperature between winter and summer are clear. Going to southeast, the changes tend to be more drastic. The summer average temperature is 22C in the south, while in the north the corresponding number is 18C. In winter, temperature in the north easily drops to -15C. Going south, while being below zero, it rarely gets colder than -10C.
The four seasons
The flow of life in Finland is greatly dictated by our four seasons. In the summer, most people enjoy summer holidays, and the lake shores are populated by people coming to their summer cottages. In the southern Finland, the days are long and it gets dark only for a while during the early hours. However, in the northernmost parts, one summer day can last for weeks. The midnight sun does not set at all.
In the fall, when everyone is returning back to school and work, the nature is offering its brightest colours and a plentiful harvest. Because of jokamiehenoikeudet, every man’s rights, everyone is entitled to the right to pick as many berries and mushrooms as they will, walk through any forests that they wish, and fish with a rod or line on any shore they want to. Many people head up north to Lapland to hike; the fall colours of red and gold are the most marvellous there.
The winter in Finland is cold and while in the south the sunlight hours are scarce, in the north the sun does not rise at all – the sunless polar night kaamos is there. However, it is not as dark as you could first imagine. The snow reflects and magnifies even the smallest lights. You should not to forget the aurea borealis, the northern lights, either. All kind of winter sports are popular in Finland. There are many great places for downhill skiing, and the municipalities make sure that the cross-country skiing tracks and ice skating rinks, that are usually free of charge, are in prime condition. The winter is also brightened up by many festivities. The Finnish Independence Day is on the 6th of December, and kicks off the pre-Christmas party season. Christmas is followed by the New Year’s Eve. This is the only day in Finland that you are allowed to have fireworks, so everyone is making the most out of it!
The spring in Finland is short. While in the south you can see crocuses sticking their heads out of the melting snow, in the more northern parts, where there is still snow on the ground, the amount of light is dazzling. The snow reflects the sunshine, so don’t forget to pack your sunglasses! During the Easter many people head to the north to ski – sometimes, you can spot people skiing just in light hoodies, or even a t-shirt!
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