Finland is alive with culture, outdoor activities, lush landscapes, and the midnight sun. There are multitudes of arts festivals, a wide range of sporting events, and a balanced mix of small-town life and modern cities. Common sense, no fuss, and making things work, sums up how the Finns operate.
It was delightful seeing her again. There are small attributes about people that you don’t appreciate or notice until you’ve spent some time getting to know them. When I saw her again, I immediately realized that I really do know her. She’s my very special AFS sister.–Allen Lombardi, host brother to student from Finland
Finns tend to be perceived as shy and reserved at first, but as you get to know them they show themselves to be warm, affectionate, gracious and open-minded. They maintain high ideals of loyalty and reliability, and they appreciate good manners, respect for others and punctuality. Family life is important.
Most free time spent during the week is devoted to school work. On weekends, teenagers like to go to movies, discos and parties, and those with driver’s licenses like to go driving. Much of the time, young people go around in groups of girls and boys, meeting at popular places for socializing. Finns love sports such as camping, swimming, jogging, bicycling, skiing, basketball and ice hockey. Saunas are a traditional way for people in Scandinavia to relax.
Finns tend to dress casually. Teenagers like t-shirts, jeans, shorts (in the summer), sweats and sweaters. Most girls wear pants instead of skirts. Clothes rend to be expensive in Finland, so your AFS student may be especially excited to go shopping once they arrive in the U.S.
Everyday food tends to be simple but nutritious, and meal times are less formal than in some other countries. The Finnish diet is based on meat, fish, potatoes, pasta, bread and dairy products. Vegetables in the northern climate tend to be seasonal. Coffee is a favorite beverage, even among teenagers. Salads and smorgasbord are popular. At dinner time, if family members are on conflicting schedules, each person warms up his or her own food, perhaps in the microwave. On weekends, many families live a more communal life and often dine together.
Ninety-three percent of the population speaks Finnish, a language that has common roots with Estonian and Hungarian. Swedish is also an official language, and both are spoken in bilingual areas. The majority (82%) of Finns belongs to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, but churchgoing does not always play a big role in family life.