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More Facts About Finland!

5 Mar

More facts for y’all, gathered in my own experience of the country, to combine my love of Finland and my love of making lists =)

#1: Finns are really chatty.

I know that this is contrary to everything you read about the Finnish people, but it’s true! Sure, they can be shy at first, but once you make friends and sit them down with a coffee or lunch they’re a super chatty bunch! Of course, as with any nationality, this differs for each individual, but many of my Finnish friends love to talk and we can spend hours together without running out of conversation topics.

#2: It’s a super-eco-friendly country.

It might seem obvious, being surrounded by nature and all, but Finland offers so many opportunities to recycle, use eco-friendly products and generally be good to the world. Even near the student housing there are recycling facilities, on lunch the excess food on your plate gets puts in a separate compost bin and the network of cycle lanes provides incentive for people to cycle all year round, reducing the need to drive.

#3: They do funky things with chocolate flavours.

Seriously, there are many mind-boggling flavours of chocolate and bizarro combinations of sweets, including chocolate mixed with licorice, licorice mixed with mint and lemon-flavoured chocolate. Buying sweets here is a surprise; you never know what you’ll end up with!

#4: Finns are incredibly helpful.

I remember being lost in my first week of classes and asking for directions – the girl didn’t know the room but she produced a map and walked me to the classroom! I’ve had the same experience many times when asking for directions; they won’t just point you but they will take you to make sure you arrive at your destination. This also applies to lending – my Finnish friends are the first ones to let me borrow something/cook for me/help me find a service in town. Make sure you return the favour when you can and show your gratitude! (Of course they won’t hold it against you if you don’t, but it sure is nice to let your friends know that you appreciate them =) )

#5: There’s a dessert for every holiday.

Runebergintorttu (Runeberg’s Tarts), Laskiaispulla (a bun with cream) and Joulutorttu (Christmas Tart) are just a few desserts to mark the festivities. At the risk of sounding food obsessed you should keep an eye out for these – it’s a fun way to experience regular Finnish life, by taking part in the food customs, and you never know what kind of foods you might fall in love with!

Stay tuned for more!

(I might try to create ‘themed’ lists of facts – got any suggestions?)

 

Natural Oulu vs Industrial Oulu

17 Feb

I took a walk this weekend (attempting to find the beach but, as usual, ending up in a wrong turn and a long walk back to the right place) and found a side of Oulu which I hadn’t yet seen.

I started by the library in the city centre, crossed to Pikisaari, ended up in Nallikari and finally made it back to Tuira. It took about an hour and the first half of the walk I spent almost utterly alone in a snow-filled wilderness, while the second half took me through industrial building sites and rows of apartment blocks.

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Nature and development seem to go hand in hand here. Even in the woods I could smell the acrid-scent from the paper factory; even in town I could see the water and the snow-filled trees.

This Week in Oulu: Laskiainen, Ystävänpäivä and Reindeer Racing

16 Feb

This week saw both Laskiainen and Ystävänpäivä, twists on other well-known holidays, as well as a reindeer carnival! This week has proved that while the winters are cold there are plenty of ways to keep entertained during February and help wait out the worst part of the winter. Keep on reading to find out more…

Laskiainen

Otherwise known as Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day/Mardi Gras  it’s a day for feasting before the traditional Lent fast. Here in Finland it’s celebrated by eating traditional pea and ham soup, laskiaispulla and sliding down a hill on a toboggan. Traditionally, it was said that sledding while yelling at the top of your lungs would bring good luck and a plentiful harvest; the further you slid the higher your crops would grow.

Here in Oulu the students got together and slid down a massive snow-bank next to the hockey arena. It was common for villages to gather and sled together and the tradition continues, students rolling out their graduation hats to play music, sled and have fun! It’s an excellent way to break the monotony of winter and make the most of the outdoors while the temperatures are beginning to rise and the sun is out a little longer. I played it safe and opted for the traditional pea and ham soup lunch menu (with free hot chocolate!) with a Finnish friend, indoors.

Yummy laskiaispulla

Ystävänpäivä

Thursday of this week was ystävänpäivä: literally ‘friend’s day’. Unlike the American counterpart it’s not really celebrated here and is really more of a day to tell your friends how great they are. Couples can still buy heart-shaped chocolates and cards but it’s not as overdone and, as with many other holidays, is dismissed as too cheesy and Americanised to be worth bothering with.

In Oulu the students of the Erasmus network set up a ‘cupid delivery day’ – you could pay for flowers, chocolate or balloons to be delivered to your crush on campus, even if they had a lecture!

‘Good friends are like stars; even when you can’t see them you know they’re always there’

I bought my boyfriend a similar card to this =)

Reindeer Racing

To finish off the week there was a reindeer carnival in the market square, featuring kids’ entertainment, market stalls and reindeer racing! I would have caught a picture but it was so quick, I barely saw a flash of reindeer and they were gone! Next time I’ll have to get a better viewing spot! The city centre was packed with people, more than I’ve seen in a long time, and the market square was humming with business. There are more details on the Rotuaari website – if you’re in Oulu in time for next year’s carnival make sure you go along!

A Lake at Sunrise

10 Feb

It’s been a slow weekend of Radio 4, reading and occasional bike rides. Saturday morning’s trip out yielded this beauty – the sun rise over the lake. Sadly it was the most sun to hit the sky and the rest of the day was cloud-covered and cold. Temperatures have hit another low and it’s chilly, not quite minus twenty though, thankfully. I shall try to be more productive next weekend, but I felt like relaxing and lounging round the house. Any suggestions for next weekend’s itinerary?

finnish lake at sunrise

finnish lake at sunrise

 

What did everyone else do this weekend?

Star Wars Meets Pepsi Max

9 Feb

Appauling use of Star Wars but still made me chuckle, and stop for a photo opportunity. Seen on the side of Finnkino whilst on my way to see ‘Hitchcock’ – great movie by the way!
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‘Miss Farkku Suomi’ is also worth a watch, it’s about  boy growing up in Oulu in the 70s and his transformation from slightly geeky school boy to punk-rock artist, eyeliner and all. Interested? What the trailer here.

 

Finnish Treats

8 Feb

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Good as both hot chocolate and milkshake

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Salmiakki chocolate is delicious – much nicer than I expected!

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Yummy Angry Birds lollipop – did you know that Angry Birds is Finnish?

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Moomin flavoured tea, different from the tea that I’m used to at home1 My favourite is the blueberry muffin flavour

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Moomin tea – ‘The best moment of the day!’

 

My Favourite Things To Do In Oulu

5 Feb

The prospect of coming to Finland can be daunting; the winter is long, dark and cold. The language is different and Oulu is particularly far away from the hub of culture that is the capital city. This is a glimpse of my life in Oulu and what I get up to on a regular basis – proof that Oulu is far from boring, or lonely! Here are my favourite things to do in this wonderful city:

 

Lunch on campus

Lunch is a real social event here, and it’s a great way to make friends with classmates. If you spend enough time in the main restaurant, Aula, you’ll see a whole bunch of familiar faces. At only 2.70€ for a student lunch it’s a great way to save money and avoid cooking. My favourite day is Thursday, otherwise known as Pizza Day! Tuna pizza is the best and I would highly recommend it! Yum.

 

next to Julinia ravintola

 

 

Going to the movies

Finnkino is a great cinema; it’s spacious, comfortable and shows a wide variety of movies. Since I’ve been here I’ve attended two film festivals, ‘Nordisk Panorama’ and the ‘Children’s Film Festival’, which are great for showing less mainstream movies and promoting independent film-makers. If a film festival is on while you’re in town don’t miss the chance to catch a couple of movies or shorts. It can be a little pricey to see a movie, but if you go frequently you can buy a roll of tickets and exchange them on the day for actual tickets that only cost 8.50. Also, look out for half-price deals!

 

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Take a bike ride

There’s an extensive bike path network throughout the city and it’s much easier to cycle than walk – the distances between places can be quite long! Cycling is quicker, a good form of exercise and a great way to see Finland. In winter paths are kept clear and as long as you’re careful there’s no reason why you can’t keep using your bike. Check out my article on cycling in Finland and take a look at this website for some routes to get you started.

 

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Go for pancakes at the ‘Pannukakkutalo’

The pancake house in Oulu is popular with all ages, nationalities and professions and it’s easy to see why once you sink into your first pancake. There’s a range of savoury and sweet pancakes, as well an a creative kids’ section. My favourite to date is reindeer and smoked cheese, followed by a sweet chocolate and fruit ‘dessert pancake’. Students with a valid student card (from any country) get a free cup of tea with orders over a certain price. Their website features a menu in English to get your taste buds watering.

 

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Visit the art gallery

A small but worthwhile gallery, admission is only 2€ for students and free on Fridays. With a ticket to the art gallery you can also visit the ‘Northern Ostrobothnian’ museum on the same day, bargain! Seated just outside Ainola Park you can soak up some fresh air, get some culture and finish the day with an inventive cake in their sublime cafe (when I was there I sampled  mint chocolate and black pepper cake!) Check out their current exhibitions and find more information here.

 

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Watch a hockey game at Oulu Energia Areena

There’s nothing like the excitement that fills the air at the start of a hockey game – especially if it’s your first one. Fans get together to cheer and boo and, as a foreigner, you’ll be looking on in bewilderment as hockey players flick back and forth across the rink, all chasing a tiny piece of plastic. It is  incredible to watch, and the half-time junk food is delicious. Wrap up warm and read up on the rules before you go!

 

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Spend some time in Stockmann Department Store

By far my favourite store and probably the biggest in Oulu, Stockmann has everything! There are two cafes, a range of make-up counters, a deliciously well-stocked food store and a super fun kids’ toy section! At Christmas its range of decorations are not to be missed, and keep an eye out for its interesting design pieces, like these funky designer cows!

 

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Besides this there are plenty of other things to do – there are many bars and cafes, a bowling alley, events run by student groups on campus and a theatre to keep you entertained. Hopefully this has given you a good insight and a little inspiration!

 

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