I haven’t always loved my country. I grew up in a very small town, full of farmers and fields. When I was younger, I remember always flicking through this big, red Atlas -book we had at home. I dreamed of traveling to all those exciting countries and I hoped I would live somewhere else as an adult. Maybe in a tropical paradise. Finland felt small and boring. I hated the cold and dark winters.
When I was 19, I moved to a much bigger city in Sweden. That was my first time living far away from my home, but Sweden and Finland are culturally quite close. Maybe it was more exciting to live in a bigger city. After moving back to my home city, it didn’t feel enough at all. I started traveling and every winter I escaped to South-East Asia. Just before my 24th birthday I bought a visa and one-way ticket to Australia, where I had planned to live for one year. I ended up staying two years. After finishing my working visa, I took a job in Thailand, lived and worked there for a half a year.
It was a shock to move back to Finland, but I could also see my home with completely new eyes. During my first year back, I went camping in Finland for the first time as an adult. I traveled to Lapland and tried snowboarding first time as an adult. And cold swimming. Cross-country skiing. I fell in love with Finland, my home. All those travels helped me appreciate my Finnishness and our culture. Here are some of the things I adore in Finland.
My absolute favourite thing is the nature and our four seasons. We have beautiful, clean nature and air. We are the land of thousand lakes, forests and amazing national parks. I have lived in countries, where there is basically one season or two: wet and dry. Our seasons make the year exciting. I have a huge love for Finnish Lapland, it feels like my second home nowadays. All the fells, snowy winters, aurora borealis, and nightless nights during summer. There is so much fun activities to do for every season. Hiking, snowboarding, ski touring, ice swimming, biking, running and so on. I also love the kaamos time of the year, it feels very special and beautiful. Kaamos means the time when sun doesn’t rise above the horizon.
Sauna culture is thriving in Finland. I tried ice swimming first time after I moved back to Finland and I was instantly hooked. There is a lot of common saunas around the Finland and my home city Tampere is named to be the sauna capital with most saunas in one city. When I travel in Finland, I always look for a new sauna or ice swimming spot. It is a great way to meet locals and maybe hear about other must-do things in that area. Highly recommended!
One thing I have learned to love too, is the personal space and silence. Finnish people are often described as shy and quiet. I am a complete opposite to this, I always felt like I didn’t fit in. After my travels and maybe it is part of getting older too, I have found this side of my Finnishness as well. Sometimes there is just nothing better than spending time alone and in silence. Maybe at a summer cottage, on a forest walk or by the lake.
Even Finland is not perfect, but compared to many countries I’ve traveled in, it is a very safe place to live in. Especially as a woman. In Finland, I don’t need to plan so well what I can do, with who, where and when. In a way, I feel very free and safe in Finland. We have an amazing school and healthcare system. Our education is free and we even get support to study. I can walk alone at night time and I can go camping anywhere. It is the kind of freedom you take for granted.
All photos by Fiia Ketonen