Vappu – the spring fest in Finland

If you are in Finland right now you will notice that everyone is excited, and some are thrilled out of their minds. The reason is that Vappu is coming. And what is Vappu? It is the spring fest of Finland, the Labour Day and the May Day.

Vappu
I remember how, during my first Vappu, nobody could explain to me very well what it was all about. It took investigation and thorough questioning, but the answers to it were the same as I said above. But that wasn’t all.

Vappu in Finland

In Vappu you can meet two distinctive groups of people.

The first group are the students. They wear their colorful overalls and their graduation caps and they go out to celebrate and indulge for a couple of days. I like that.

Each faculty has different overall colors. For instance, in Joensuu, the Science Park people – with whom I proudly tagged along – were dressed in purple. Others were yellow, green, etc., making it easy to discover fellow people. The overalls have brands on them, mostly local, from companies who subsidize their costs to the students.

The overall from a Finnish university
An overall from one of the Universities of North Karelia
The second group are the Finnish people who don’t belong to any faculty, either because they are through with university, or because they never went. Nonetheless, they wear their graduation caps as well: mostly white and with a little black.

It seems the graduation from high school is a pretty important moment of every Finn’s life. They get the white cap that signals them as having finished high school and they treasure it all their life, wearing it on Vappu every year. I have discussed with Finns why they are so proud of having passed high school – especially in a country with a great school system – but I still don’t get it. Roses are another symbol of graduation day, where the Finns wear their best clothes.

Some Finnish grandpas wearing the white capTwo seniors wearing their high school graduation caps.

Vappu traditions

The university students are the ones mostly carrying out the Vappu traditions. The first tradition is to wet a representative statue of the city – for instance, Havis Amanda in Helsinki – with champagne and put a graduation cap on it.

In Joensuu the students have a giant graduation cap – 1 meter in diameter – and they march to the university buildings with the help of a marching band and put the cap onto one of the statues in front of the Carelia building. Pretty cool.

The giant cap
The giant cap being carried
Vappu also marks the real beginning of spring in Finland: Around the first of May there is no snow anymore (or, if there is, there are only little heaps of it left over in the shade), and the days are so long that they are inviting the Finns to party. During my first Vappu, we had terrific weather and we always honored every chance of having some drink on a terrace, an excellent moment to make some Finnish friends.

Beer on a table
A drink in the sun

What to eat and drink during Vappu

If you’re looking for a Vappu drink, try simä. If you prefer the food side, Vappu’s favorite is the munkki. Munkkis are Finnish donuts, and simä is a fermented drink that Finns make at home for this day. The munkkis I tried – homemade by the mother of a friend – were delicious, so I can definitely recommend them.

People, as I mentioned above, spend Vappu with infused happiness – yep, alcohol – outdoors, and having picnics in parks. Some Vappu parties can be found as well, and parties at night are common and almost a stop you can’t – and shouldn’t – miss. Student parties or club parties, you’ll have a great Vappu.

Vappu party
This was my first Vappu party

Party like is VappuMaking friends during Vappu

Enjoy your day. People are much more friendly than usual, and – who knows – maybe a Vappu romance can start (another great day for it will be Midsummer, but we will talk about that another day): Vappu, alcohol, picnic, outdoors, springtime. A mix that can’t and won’t fail.

Have you spend Vappu in Finland? What are your highlights for this day?



Fun maps of Finland and Europe, by Europeans

Some time ago we spoke about Finnish physical stereotypes and those of other European countries through maps.

If the idea you had of Finns is that of naturally blonde people with blue eyes, you were right.

Therefore, when I saw the following maps, I just had to go back to the post on stereotypes. This time, and on these maps, Europeans were asked about what they think of other countries, and these are the answers to those questions.

The fun maps of Finland and Europe that Europeans made

These maps and results allegedly came out of Reddit Europe, but I have browsed extensively and I couldn’t find the original voting, so you can take these results with a grain of salt. Nonetheless, since they are interesting, we will give them a little validity. The source of the images is imgur.

What European country has the worst accent?

French people has the worst accent of Europe

We know that the Finnish accent can be quite funny – if you want an example, check out the video of Markku from Finland -, but the Europeans have decided that the worst accent of them all is French. I’m not going to contradict them, but I like the French accent while speaking English and how they add the “ehhh, you know?“, every few sentences.

Which European citizens are the best looking?

The Swedish people are the best looking

It is true that Swedish ladies always had the fame of being good looking – although Finnish girls have told me in confidence that their sun tan is from solariums and they dye their hair, and therefore aren’t natural beauties. Regarding the Swedish men, some Finns have told me that they look – how to put it – “less manly” because of how they dress and their preference for grooming. These things are of course an exaggeration – I’m sure not all Finns believe this about their neighbors – but all these things I’ve heard from them.

Anyways, Europeans seem to like, democratically, Swedish people the most.

Which European citizens drink more than any other?

The Russians like their drink their most

If you’ve never been in a Nordic or Scandinavian country, you will find the concept of the Alko, a state-monopoly store for the sale of alcoholic beverages, surprising. In any case, the Nordic alcoholic beverage consumption pales in comparison with the Russian, Irish, German and British. What’s your opinion about these results?

Besides your own, what’s your favorite European country?

Germany is popular

Germany – the country I currently live in – wins big in respect to all the other European countries, and is followed by Great Britain, the Netherlands and France. Central Europe wins in this question, whereas Finland is the last one of the Nordic Countries, led by Sweden. Why do you think it is like that?

Which country is your least favorite?

Not cool, Russia.

The Finnish neighbors, the Russians, are the “winners” here… if we don’t count Vatican City, the most hated nation of Europe. We won’t talk about Vatican City, but we did have a fun time visiting Russia from Finland (a country from which you can visit Russia without a visa). Could it be Putin’s leadership and his attitudes towards homosexuality and Ukraine? Finland, with just 9 votes, is one of the least hated countries.

And the last question: Which country has the worst sense of humor?

The counry without laugh

This explains why some Germans find me hilarious.

What do you think of Finland after seeing thse maps? Where do you think it should be higher on votes, and where lower?



Salmiakki – the Finnish salty liquorice

One of the 12 ideas we gave you as a 100% Finnish Christmas present was Salmiakki, one of the food quirks of Finland.

What is Salmiakki?

Salmiakki isn’t a candy per se, since it isn’t sweet. This Finnish liquorice is known by different names in the other Nordic and Scandinavian countries, but in those countries I never saw as big a level of devotion to this food as in Finland.

Salmiakki is salty liquorice, and its main ingredient is the extract of the roots of the liquorice plant, ammonium chloride. From there it also derivates its name – from sal ammonicus to salmiakki.

A bar of Salmiakki
Tasty, tasty salmiakki, along with another Finnish confectionery.

The taste of Salmiakki: Liquorice taken to the extreme

If we talk about taste, you can’t describe Salmiakki’s one. Check out this video from Fazer, one of the biggest Finnish companies and best known for its candy. They made a commercial of their new Salmiakki ice cream and gave samples to Finns – who have been used to the taste their whole life – and foreigners that never tried it before.

What I believe is that everyone should try it. You will either like it or not, but you’ll have a conversation topic with Finns for your whole life. Many Finns don’t like it either, but some can’t live without its taste. Personally, I have to admit that I do like it: It has a spicy point to it, which makes it intense and quite unique.

There is another popular variation of Salmiakki: Vodka Salmiakki, usually sold under the Finnish vodka brand Koskenkorva. The addition of the salty liquorice makes the vodka thicker and more dense, so my recommendation is not to mix it with anything else and enjoy it as a small shot. The first time I tried it was when Lordi won Eurovision – a date marked in red in Finnish calendars – with some friends, and the opinions varied. I liked it, my friends didn’t.

Have you tried this Nordic delicacy? What’s your opinion on Salmiakki’s taste?



Sex in the sauna: 3 experiences

The thing goes like this: Whenever I am talking to someone about Finland or the Finnish sauna for the first time, it is almost guaranteed that they will ask me, in confidence, if the sex in the sauna thing is actually real. There are questions about if it is a good place to do it, if it is sexy, if everyone does it…

And at the same time it is strange to find someone who, having lived in Finland, hasn’t tried sex in the sauna yet.

Because of that, for everyone to know more about it, I write today’s post.

The sauna and the temperature

There are 3 types of sauna in Finland (albeit many strange ones). The Finnish sauna doesn’t have as much steam as the Turkish baths, but is in my opinion way nicer. To make the 90 degree Celsius sauna a bit more humid, you have to throw some water over hot stones. That will bring the heat up.

The stones in the sauna: be careful with them if you try sex in the sauna
The stones are on the right, over the oven. Source (CC: by-sa).

These temperatures alone should remove the sex in the sauna idea from everyone’s heads. But because the heat is hard to imagine if you’ve never had a Finnish sauna, the idea remains.

Naked in the Sauna

I’ve heard on some occasions that Finnish people don’t talk to strangers, but they go naked into the sauna with them. And it is partially true.

Another factor that suggest the idea of sex in the sauna is the nudity. Finns, unlike people from other countries, are not uncomfortable with the idea of being naked in front of others (this is also true for many Eastern European countries).

For the Finns, showing yourself naked in front of other people doesn’t necessarily have sexual connotations. The sauna can be mixed, both men and women – this isn’t as common outside family environment, but it happens -, and being surrounded by naked people of the opposite sex, it is normal to think about sex in the sauna. In the same way, if you google “sauna” and go to the image section, it is not uncommon to see images with sexual connotations (although, as with many other things, the image shown isn’t the real thing).

Even in countries where towels or swimsuits are required sauna equipment, the sex in the sauna idea remains in the collective imagination.

Sex in the sauna: experiences

I’ve asked several people who have lived in Finland for some time about this. All these people share their nationality with me and we’ll leave their personal details aside so they can tell us without embarrassment and openly about their experiences with sex in the sauna.

The first experience is this one: “I had this idea in mind before going to Finland. One day, in a rented sauna in my building, I could finally try it. The sauna wasn’t too hot in the beginning because we just started it, and there was nobody inside before us. In any case everything was getting hotter and hotter, and dry, but without reaching 80 degrees Celsius. I think we tried throwing some water over the stones once to make the sauna more humid, but it wasn’t a good idea. We should have thrown it over ourselves.

With all the heat you don’t really enjoy it, and I don’t think I will try again. The wooden benches aren’t too comfortable either. I have a further recommendation: remove all your gold or metal bracelets and necklaces: they’ll get extremely hot against the skin and you can burn yourself.”

sex in the sauna advice: the benches are hard
The sauna benches aren’t too comfortable.
The second testimony also talks about how complicated it is to have sex in the sauna:

“Finland, a party next to a lake and some alcohol (pretty cheap, I remember) is the best combination to get to a not so recommended idea. Suddenly you see yourself in great surroundings, surrounded by trees in the middle of a forest, dancing to music from other countries, and then an idea hits your mind (in this moment it is good to remember that the ideas influenced by spirit drinks aren’t as good as they initially seem). “Hey, there is a sauna here!” you say to yourself, while you tell your current sexy buddy your great/erotic idea.

So there you are, a bit tipsy – something also not recommended for a good session of sauna – and heating up your surroundings with your own body… and 5 minutes after starting you realize you can’t breathe. “Am I dying of love?” you ask yourself. And no, it is probably a heatstroke because of all the sport you’re doing in a closed room at 120º degrees. And pray for not having anything metallic on you: bracelet, watch, necklace… that will increase its temperature thanks to the love and to the burnt wood up to 500%… so be careful with the burns…

Summarizing: sex is good everywhere, but there are better places to do it than in a sauna.”

Girls in the sauna
Some girls in the sauna. Source.

The third story about sex in the sauna tells us the following:

“About sex in the sauna, I think that is something that everyone who’s not used to it has thought of. Everyone naked and with the heat… doesn’t it end like a porn movie?

I have to say two things about that. One, that I also thought this way, specially if you’re with someone who is more than a friend, and that I finally changed my mind. Two, that the Finns don’t think like that. For them the sauna is a place for cleanliness, relaxation (no, not that kind of “relaxation”…) and it has no sexual connotations, something that in the south of Europe might sound peculiar.

And even though I tell you that, there will come the day that you’ll want to try it nvertheless. Because, damn it, it will still be on your mind to try it out for yourself. My advice: don’t do it, not it the sauna at least. If you suddenly feel the passion, get out of the sauna, into the shower area or into the dressing room (if it is private, of course. If is public that is up to you…) and it will be much better.

I am no doctor, so I can’t give that kind of advice, but with the temperatures of the sauna, such an active exercise can be very bad for you, especially if you suffer some sort of heart disease. It is very hard for people to simply sit in the sauna for 10 minutes, so imagine how it would be if you add the sex in the sauna exercise on top. And you don’t want to do it quickly, right? Sauna is for relaxing.”

Summarizing

Another person I asked for this post told me that, indeed, Finns see the sauna as being an almost sacred place. A place for cleanliness and purification. A place where babies used to be born because it was sterilized, and that nobody in Finland would think about using it for sex.

That, and simply standing the heat is enough trouble inside a sauna.

Do you have some sex in the sauna experience? The comments are open, and you can comment as anonymously as you want.




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