No shoes at home in Finland

Not only Japanese people remove their shoes when they walk into a home: Finnish people do so too.

To everyone who isn’t used to remove their shoes at the entrances of the houses – like me – this is quite shocking.

I went to Finland at the end of a summer, and it was then when I learned about this tradition. I must admit that in summer it doesn’t seem to make that much of a difference, but in winter you truly understand why Finns do what they do.

And not doing it is truly a faux-pas in Finland.

Shoes in a corridor
My shoes in the corridor. Now I am used to do this.

The polite way: leave your shoes at the entrance of a home

Winter is the longest season of the year in Finland, especially in the north of the country.

Everything is covered in snow outside and the snow lasts for months at a time. When you walk around, since you can’t stay indoors for months, snow gets stuck to the soles of your boots. That snow, when you arrive at someone’s home – which will be heated appropriately – will start its melting process. And if if you don’t remove your shoes, soon the whole house will have little puddles everywhere, something extremely annoying for the people who did remove their shoes.

That’s why in Finland, unlike in Japan (as far as I know), there is a very practical reason behind removing the shoes at the entrance – in winter anyways. So when you go to Finland, show your politeness by removing your shoes at the entrance of the houses. The interesting thing, of course, is when many people arrive at a house simultaneously and there are a thousand pairs of shoes by the door. But that’s a small price to pay for respecting the house owner.

Remove your shoes
Pretty please? Source (CC: by)

What about in public places, workplaces and schools?

If you are wondering, kids in Finnish schools also remove their shoes at the entrance before going to class. (By the way, it seems that the Finnish Baby Box is on sale now).

In universities and some public buildings there is a place at the entrance to leave your belongings, where you can leave your outdoor shoes if you want and use some others that you can take with you (this, of course, is more common for university buildings than for public ones).

In the case of office buildings, you can bring some sandal-like shoes for walking around indoors, if you want. Some people do that if their work doesn’t require a very formal attire.

No shoes at the office
Shoes outside an office, for a meeting. Or so it says the caption of the photo. Source (CC: by-sa)

How to effectively remove as much snow as possible from the shoes

Finnish people are prepared for winter like no one I’ve seen before. If you want to know which clothes to wear for a trip to Finland in winter, here is our list of recommendations.

At the entrance of each building you can see a gigantic brush designed to remove the snow from your shoes. You can then be confident that you’ll be behaving as politely as possible when entering any building.

Some pictures of this Finnish invention:

Using the Brush for the snow

The Finnish snow brush

Using the brush

Have you ever forgot to remove your shoes while entering someone’s home? What’s the biggest faux-pas in Finland in your opinion?



The average Finnish man and woman

We have talked a bit about Finns, like what they appreciate most in life, their most popular names, and even how they look. Today, we introduce you to your average Mr. Finnish Man and Mrs. Finnish Woman.

Average Finns walking in the capital.
Some average Finns walking in the capital of Finland, Helsinki. Source (CC: by-sa).

How do we know the average Finnish man and woman?

Some time ago there was a study about the average of different parameters in Finland’s top newspaper, the Helsingin Sanomat. If you want to read it, the article can be found here.

It is a nice interpretation of the data shown in the Statistical Yearbook of Finland, which otherwise might just seem a “boring” collection of things. Nicely played, Helsingin Sanomat.

The data is a bit old – this article was first featured on our Spanish version of Big in Finland, but it still holds relevance as things don’t change that quickly.

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Finnish people on the street.

Mr. Finnish Man and Mrs. Finnish Woman

How is a day in the life for them?

The average Finn is 40 years old, and thus is in the middle of his/her lifespan. He/She lives in a residential neighborhood in a house that he/she owns, and that has 3-4 rooms and about 78,4 square feet. He/She is still paying off the mortgage on the house and still owes 22.400€ to the bank. About a quarter of the income that he/she makes is used to cover his/her own personal needs.

Besides the mortgage on the house, the average Finn is also paying off another loan for 9.400€, that they took on to buy some consumer goods. This second credit could theoretically be paid off immediately, since the average Finn has around 11.000€ in savings in the bank. Of course the keyword here is “average”, since the wealth is not equally divided and around 44.580 credit cards are canceled each year because of debts.

Finnish man
Maybe an average Finn. Source (CC: by-sa)

How is an average day of a Finn?

An average Finn goes to work in the morning. If he is a man, he’ll be working in construction, reparations or manufacturing. If she is a woman, she’ll be working in the service sector or in the commercial or health industries. He will be working in the private sector while she will probably be working for the local authorities. The average Finnish man earns approximately 2.300€ per month and the average Finnish woman earns 2.000€ per month.

Maybe today is one of the two days per week when the average Finn does some sport (this includes going for a walk, riding the bike or doing some cross country skiing). This isn’t enough, though, to keep an average Finn thin and in top shape. He (she not so much) is prone to obesity. His good appetite and his penchant for the liquid element with some percentage of alcohol has something to do with this. Per year, a Finnish man eats an average of 72 kilos of meat, drinks 78 liters of low-alcohol drinks, eats 61 kilos of potatoes and 47 kilos of fruit.

A Finnish woman
A Finnish woman walking the streets of Helsinki. Source (CC: by)

What else happens during an average Finnish day?

There’s the daily lottery draft, which could help someone get out of the average income. But besides that, 161 children are born and 132 people close their eyes forever. 77 couples proclaim “yes, I do”, and for 36 other couples it’s the end of the line for their relationship. 45 new buildings will be constructed, and the average car will add 49 kilometers to their odometer.

Just another Finnish day.

How is your average day in Finland? Do you recognize yourself in some of these statistics, even if you are not a Finn?



Hours of daylight in Finland and Lapland during the year

This past November has been one of the gloomiest in Finland. Besides the very few hours of daylight that there are at this time of the year, there were only 12 hours of direct sunlight during the first 26 days of November in Helsinki (40 hours is the usual). In Lapland that number was up to 23 hours, which is still very few for those of us accustomed to lots of sunlight.

Hours of daylight: Finland is a country of extremes in that regard

A quarter of Finland’s surface – Lapland – is over the Arctic Polar Circle. Over that imaginary line, at least a day per year the sun doesn’t set and at least a day per year the sun doesn’t rise. In rest of Finland, south of that line, it is not that extreme, but there are pretty steep changes in the hours of daylight during the different months and seasons as well.


Finland has moments with a lot of daylight and sunlight: this is a photo of the midnight sun.

So, if we are planning our trip to Finland, either for tourism and discovery, or to visit someone we care for, it is good to know what we are going to find in terms of how long the daytime lasts.

Daylight hours in Helsinki, Jyväskylä and Sodankylä (Lapland)

In this table from the Finnish Meteorological Institute we can see how many daylight hours there are in Helsinki (and by extension in other places in the South of Finland), in Jyväskylä (Central Finland) and in Sodankylä (in the Finnish North – the place that was the National Center for Northern Light observation of Finland).

Hours of Daylight in Lapland, Helsinki and Jyväskylä
Exact times where the sun rises and sets in different locations across Finland. Also the length of day. Source.

We can also see that data in a more visual form in this graph. I made it with the data from the Meteorological Institute. Another way to see it visually too is to see this fantastic video in time lapse comparing a summer day and a winter day in Helsinki, one next to the other.

Length of Day in Helsinki, Lapland and Central Finland

We can see both in the graphic and the data that Sodankylä in Lapland is the place that has the most extreme changes. It is a place where we can see the Midnight Sun in the summer and the Kaamos (the polar night) during winter.

The line for Jyväskylä, 270km North of Helsinki, and the captital’s one are not as steep as the Lapland one, and are actually quite close to each other. But even like that, we have long summer days and short winter nights compared to the rest of Europe.

Hours of daylight, yes, but also a lot of clouds

And we finish today’s post as we started it. Besides knowing the daylight hours and the length of day that we can find in different parts of Finland, we have to take another factor into account: the clouds.

This past November was unusually cloudy, but the usual level of cloudiness is actually quite high too, as we mentioned. In comparison with the countries of Southern Europe, you get as many hours of sunlight in two days as Helsinki and other Finnish places might have in a month.

That can be pretty hard for those who are accustomed to lots of sunlight, even in winter. It is one of the things I miss the most while living abroad. Nature has a way of bringing balance to Finland by making natural wonders such as summer days with white nights and the Midnight Sun.

If you live in Finland, how do you manage the changes in the hours of daylight? And the cloudy winters?



Gordon Ramsay in Lapland: eating reindeer meat

We already talked about chef Gordon Ramsay trying Finnish food for the first time. I already said in that post that they should have given him some reindeer meat to try. Dishes with this kind of meat have always been my favorites of the Finnish cuisine.

A dish made with reindeer meat
A reindeer dish. It looks amazing. Source (CC: by)

And that’s what they have done this time: Ramsay went to Lapland, the North of Finland (to the Finnish city of Ivalo, to be exact) to try some reindeer meat. All of it framed by the Christmas time in Finland. ThisisFINLAND’s twitter account shared this happy link during this time of the year.

Gordon Ramsay visits Lapland

When I first watched this video of Gordon Ramsay tasting reindeer meat, and heard it starting with the first notes of “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis” from Tom Waits (his song “Big in Japan” inspired the title of this blog), I knew it was going to be a great video.

Ramsay said that he heard that reindeer meat tastes like the best beef, and goes to Lapland to prove this theory: You can see him taste it and cook it in different ways.

Gordon Ramsay
Chef Ramsay. I am a huge fan of his Master Chef USA. Source (CC: by)

Gordon Ramsay cooks and tastes reindeer meat: the video

This video is short but intense: about 15 minutes. Under it I wrote some highlights, by the minute, so you can conveniently skip to the part that interests you most.

The video is part of the “The F word” series. F of “food“, I presume, but another word that Gordon says a lot also starts with “F”. In some segments of this show he prepares some traditional dish for a celebration. This is the cause for his visit to Lapland: it’s Christmas time.

1.00 – Ramsay shows us the menu of a restaurant in Ivalo, a place where there are less cows than reindeer, and less people than reindeer too. He tastes the reindeer meat in different ways: smoked, sautéd and as a steak. He definitely likes this delicacy of Lapland.

2:35 – Ramsay meets with a Sami (the indigenous people from Lapland) that breed and hunt reindeer.

5:35 – Ramsay and the father of the family talk about whether it is better to hunt reindeer or take them to the slaughterhouse. Ramsay starts to get ready to hunt a reindeer.

7:10 – The last considerations and pulling the trigger.

8:20 – They skin the reindeer and show the reindeer meat.

9:40 – Ramsay has everything ready to cook the reindeer meat. He is going to prepare a stew with it. He uses local ingredients including lakka (cloudberry): a celebrated berry indigenous to Lapland in the north of Finland. He uses snow instead of water to add to the stew (I wouldn’t do that: it may contain – let’s say – some organic matter).

12.25 – Ramsay makes reindeer carpaccio from the meat and also prepares some glögi.

13:45 – The Sami family try the dishes of chef Ramsay and give their approval (they eat reindeer meat about 6 times a week, but Ramsay prepares it in a different way to how they are used to). As a token of thanks, they give Ramsay some dried reindeer penis meat – or that is how it seems, until the surprise is revealed.

The video ends, and it seems to me to be a great feature about cooking and eating reindeer meat in Finland and Lapland. Maybe it is a dish to consider when you prepare your Christmas dinner or your new year’s dinner.

Have you tried reindeer meat? Would you after watching the video?




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