When being abroad, it can be tough spending the holidays away from family and friends and missing your own traditions or favourite foods. Sometimes it can also be difficult to get into the festive spirit, if you are feeling that you are missing out on what is happening back home.
However, exploring the festivities in a new culture can be exciting. TAMK offers many opportunities for the international students and staff to learn about Finnish traditions and get into the festive spirit. For example, it is possible to taste traditional Christmas treats at the campus restaurants and join activities like pre-Christmas parties.
Being invited to experience someone’s favourite traditions always makes for a meaningful experience. Simultaneously, it is a unique opportunity to teach others what the holidays mean to you. Different cultures and families celebrate and spend the days in a special way.
Intercultural exchange is a key in building an international community in higher education. Your favourite traditions may seem strange to people coming from different cultures. At the same time, activities you’ve spend your whole life doing may be a very exciting experience for people coming from different countries.
We asked the international staff and students to share their impressions of Finnish traditions and wintertime activities.
Unique Finnish Christmas traditions
“The traditional Christmas food including rice porridge,”
Gloria Cheptoo, first year TAMK student in Nursing.
”The first time I spent Christmas with a Finnish friend’s family, I was surprised to be invited for sauna. I had spent time on make-up and hair before going there for what I thought would be just dinner. It felt heartwarming to be asked to experience all the rituals of Finnish Christmas,”
Maria, second year TAMK student.
“I love that people talk about Santa on Christmas and the Christmas spirit is actually very nice,”
Caroline Kosgei, first year TAMK student
”At first I thought Christmas in Finland would be lonely without my family, but various Pikkujoulu gave me many surprises! Also, the home of Santa Claus really did not disappoint,”
Tianshu Yu , double degree student in Paper Making and Bioengineering
“Finnish Christmas songs are a bit strange compared to ones I am used to. There is one about a little girl who is visited by a sparrow on Christmas morning…though the sparrow is her dead brother,”
Dimitra, Communications Specialist at TAMK
New wintertime activities
“Ice skating. It’s fun, dangerous and nice,”
Falilat, International Business student
“I think Finland has given me everything in plenty; darkness that starts at 3pm and cold which goes as low as -25C. I never thought I would use reflectors! Although, I’m not forgetting the summer warmth and long days,”
Peris Chebii, first year student in TAMK
“Driving a snowmobile on a frozen lake,”
Nana Abruquah, TAMK Senior Lecturer
“Exploring the installations of Valoviikot has become my annual tradition,”
Cris, third year TAMK student
“I made a snowman for the first time this winter. Before moving to Tampere, I had only seen them in movies,”
Cynthia Bittok, first year TAMK Nursing student
“I enjoy walking outside once in a day, also when snow falls. I also like visiting Kaupinoja sauna every now and then,”
Shaidul Kazi, Lecturer in Business and Media
Learn more about Finnish Christmas traditions in this article by Yle.
Text: Dimitra Panopoulou-Huovila
Main image: Laura Vanzo – Visit Tampere