Northern Lights forecast and predictions

A trip to the far North doesn’t guarantee that you will see an Aurora Borealis – even though some places are better than others in Finland, and at certain times you can see them better than at others (late winter and early autumn are especially good).

Is there a way to get a Northern Lights forecast or predictions?

In the following image we can see the current extension and position of the Auroral Oval over the Northern hemisphere.

Northern Lights forecast and prediction

This image is composed thanks to multiple passes of the NOAA POES satellite. The red arrow points to midday (and therefore there is sunlight there: no chance to see any Northern Lights).

In this link you can see the latest image of the NOAA POES satellite.

The golden rule to get your Northern Lights forecast: the redder the color of the Auroral Oval, the higher the chance that an Aurora will occur. To be more certain, we should also look at the “n” factor on the image; it will tell us how much we can trust the data. If n is bigger than 2, the data is pretty accurate. If it is lower, you can take the Northern Lights forecast with a grain of salt.

How is the Northern Lights prediction calculated?

The activity level of the Northern Lights is calculated statistically, in accordance with the flux of particles that travel from the sun and that ultimately provoke this phenomenon to appear.

The satellite makes a pass over the Earth every 10 minutes and measures the strength of the particles flux. This measurement is superimposed over an Earth map and gives a pretty good estimate of the place, the extension and the intensity that is happening on the Auroral Oval. Thus, all this information is used as a Northern Lights forecast on the Northern Hemisphere.

The forecast wast right: the Northern Lights appreared

If you’re planning to go this year to see the Northern Lights in Finland, a good place full of Aurora information is the National Research Center of Northern Lights in Sodankylä, in the Finnish Lapland. After all, if the Finns chose that place for their research facility, they know that a lot will happen there. Other great places with easy access to roads, towns and accommodation in that area are Luosto, Saariselkä, Rovaniemi or Oulu.

If you’re curious how the sky over Sodankylä is looking right now, here’s an updated photo of the sky in this region.

Have you used the NOAA POES Northern Lights forecast before? Do you use apps or other resources for forecasting Aurora Borealis? Let us know in the comments below.



Nordic VS Scandinavian? What’s what

When it was time to decide where I was going to travel to for my Erasmus – Sweden or Finland – it didn’t cross my mind that one of these countries was Nordic, while the other was Scandinavian. What a thing to look back upon! In my mind the terms Nordic and Scandinavian meant the same thing, and if there were nuances about their use, it did not seem important at the time. I just wanted to go up north, to a country where lectures were in English (and a country that was not the UK or Ireland) and that was enough for me.

In the end, equating these two important terms was a mistake. In the north of Europe, they magnify the little differences between one another and hold on to them tightly. Later on, and with the aim of speaking properly during my stay, I came across an article on a website called Nordic Culture. The article isn’t available anymore, but these ideas were the ones that I managed to save from it.

The debate: Nordic Vs Scandinavian

Did someone correct you when you called a Finn “Scandinavian”? Is Sweden a Nordic or a Scandinavian country?

As mentioned above, most of the world treat the words “Nordic” and “Scandinavian” equally, but that isn’t quite right. But is there a common definition? Apparently in the north of Europe, the countries themselves can’t agree on a definition of “Scandinavian” and “Nordic”.

Nordic or Scandinavian flags?
Are these flags from the Nordic Countries or from Scandinavian Countries? Depends who you ask. (But they are Nordic, I explain below) Source.

What is Scandinavia?

“An island at the border of the World”. That’s how the Greeks and Romans – the first to write about Scandinavia – said about this location. They had vague ideas about it, and thought its population was the same as in Germania.

There are two ways to approach the Scandinavian concept: geographically and linguistically. Geographically, there is such a thing as the Scandinavian Peninsula. It encapsulates Norway, Sweden and Lapland, the north of Finland. In this way, Scandinavia is just Sweden and Norway.

If we approach the matter linguistically, Swedish, Danish and Norwegian languages have a common word, “Skandinavien“, with a common meaning: the land of the Northern Men, which is for them Sweden, Denmark and Norway. This is the definition of Scandinavia most agreed upon.

But linguistically it also gets tricky: the Icelandic language also comes from the same linguistic root as the Scandinavian languages. Therefore, some people include Iceland in the mix. Furthermore, Swedish is spoken in some parts of Finland, as Finnish is spoken in certain parts of Sweden. An extreme definition, although not correct, of Scandinavia includes Finland.

Also, culturally and historically Sweden, Denmark and Norway had their own Game of Thrones, where Iceland was part of Norway and Denmark at some point, and Finland was part of Sweden.

What are the Nordic countries

Since these countries couldn’t agree, the French came to the rescue with another term: “Pays Nordiques“, Nordic countries, which also became a standard. It encpsulates Scandinavia, Iceland and Finland.

Besides that, one more term is “Norden”, which came out of the Nordic Council – a forum for inter-Nordic cooperation – to refer to these countries, but this term is quite unknown in English.

Nordic VS Scandinavian
This map is wrong and now you know why.

The ones left out: the Baltic republics and Greenland

The Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are not considered Nordic or Scandinavian. Nor is Greenland. Nonetheless, there are a some close ties with the Nordic Countries. The Baltic Republics have always been strongly influenced, especially culturally, by the Nordic Countries – the Estonian language, for example, is quite close to Finnish.

The same can be said about Greenland, a territory that is actually closer to the American continent than to Europe, but politically belongs to Denmark. Half of its history is very much tied to Denmark and that’s why some people tend to include Greenland among the other Nordic Countries.

In a nutshell

The best definition of Scandinavia? Sweden, Denmark and Norway. Of Nordic, the Scandinavian Countries plus Finland and Iceland.

More or less.

What’s your side of the debate? What did the inhabitants of these lands tell you?



Is it Finn or Finnish?

Funnily enough, I can translate some of a debate that we had on the Spanish Big in Finland website about the words “finés” and “finlandés”, since they are often used as synonyms despite not quite being the same.

One of them – finés – was for the language, and the other one – finlandés – was for the people who live in Finland.

Finn or Finnish?

In English, the debate, or rather the doubts around the words’ use, is a bit different. In English we have the words “Finn” and “Finnish”, which are not synonyms. The main difference between them is that the word Finn is a noun, while Finnish is an adjective.

Is this Finn or Finnish?
This is the Finnish language. Source.

When you talk about the people of Finland, you can say that they are Finns or that they are Finnish people. “Finnish”, without a noun next to it, doesn’t refer to the people. Here we can also attach any other noun that links to Finland like “Finnish language”, “Finnish design”, etc.

The Finns

“The Finns”, as such, refers to natives of Finland or the population of Finland. What they call themselves, in Finnish language, is suomalaiset (in singular suomalainen).

The Finnish flag.

Earlier we also said that “Finnish” is an adjective, for example in the case of the language. But since in Finland there are two official languages, we can distinguish between Finnish-speaking Finns and Swedish-speaking Finns. Another language that is not official is the Sámi language. The Sami people born in Finland – some of them are also from Norway and from Sweden – are also Finns. They are sometimes depicted as the original Finns, since they are the native population of the country (they look more like people from Mongolia than what we have in mind about the Finnish people).

An interesting issue? I think so.

And, last but not least, this is a Finn too. In fact, it is all of Finn.

Finn the human
Finn, from the great tv series Adventure Time. Source.



12 ideas for Finnish Christmas presents

Presents, presents. If you haven’t sent your letter to Santa Claus, and if you like Finland as much as we do, these 12 ideas for typically Finnish Christmas presents can be a good starting point.

All-Typical Finnish Christmas presents

1.- Fiskars orange Scissors

The Fiskars scissors are a Finnish icon of design, and something that pretty much every Finn has at home. They are so well made that they last for years, and can be sharpened and re-sharpened. In fact, they are so solid that the only difference between the new ones and the old ones is the faded orange tone, as in the following photo. They cost around €17.

Finnish Christmas Presents: Fiskars scissors

2.- A Moomin Cup or something Arabia

The Arabia brand is a classic in Finland. They make many types of ceramic objects and utensils. The most common gift from Arabia is a Moomin mug, with a price per unit of about €20. There are so many different models with great illustrations that I cannot name my second favorite, but I can definitely say that the one I own is my favorite – this one.

My Moomin Arabia mug

3.- Lakka liquor or a bottle of Koskenkorva

If you want to give away something this christmas with flavor and character, go for some of the best Finnish liquors. The Lakka – cloudberry in Finnish – liquor is a typical drink from Lapland, while the Koskenkorva (a type of bränvinn, similar to Vodka) is a classic from all over the country. They have a price tag between €10 and €15.

Lakka liquor
Source (CC: by)

4.- Marimekko

The products of the textiles and design house Marimekko are easy to spot for their bright colors and bold shapes. Every Finnish person has at least one (the average item count is probably quite high), and I have a Marimekko t-shirt that I wear with pride (€60). Even so, you can still find something small from this brand for a few Euros.

Marimekko t-shirt

5.- iittala

If the brands above specialize in textiles, ceramic and objects, iittala is specialized in glass design. The famous architect and designer Alvar Aalto and his wife Aino Aalto made designs for this brand, and they are always a great gift. For instance, this one on the picture: the Aalto vase.

An Aalto Vase, from iittala

6.- Salmiakki

Salmiakki is the strangest flavor in Finland. You either hate it or you love it, there is nothing in between. Salmiakki is a little gift, easy to transport in your luggage if you have been on a visit to Finland, but full of flavor. This black liquorice, extremely Finnish, will definitely test your Finnishness.

A bit of Salmiakki

7.- Something Fazer

If you already know the taste of the Salmiakki Liquorice is not for your loved ones, or you are not sure, you can bet on chocolates. Fazer is the chocolate brand born in Finland that sells and tastes the best. Its Fazer Blue chocolate was voted by the Finns themselves as one of the most Finnish objects of all time. There are infinite variations of Fazer chocolates and other sweets made from this brand.

Fazer = chocolate
Source (CC: by-sa)

8.- Some Angry Birds merchandise

Angry birds has a place in our hearts between love and hate. They have brought us hours of fun, but maybe too many. The company that has made all this possible and has licensed thousands of products that carry the Angry Birds brand is called Rovio and is Finnish. This is doubly good: you can give away something that someone needs (a new fun t-shirt, notebooks, and so on) and you can do it in true Finnish style at the same time.

Angry Birds

9.- A book from a Finnish author

Whether it’s the classic Kalevala, which tells us more about the Finnish Mythology, or a book of fiction, a book is always a great Christmas gift. Some titles that will rock as presents would be the biggest selling book written by a Finn, Shinee The Egyptian” by Mika Waltari; a book from one of the most beloved of Finnish authors, Arto Paasilinna (The Year of the Hare, The Howling Miller…); or finally some children’s books from Tove Jansson featuring the Moomins. Any of these would be a good choice.

The Kalevala

10 .- Kalevala Jewelry

If you want to go high-end with a Christmas gift and present that special person on your life with jewellery, this can also have a Finnish touch. In this case, the Kalevala Jewelry (Kalevala Koru) should be your choice. Rings, necklaces, bracelets and other ornaments can be found under this brand, inspired by old Nordic and Scandinavian themes, as well as the Kalevala book.

Kalevala Jewelry

11.- A Jopo bike

The Jopo bikes have DNA and design that are 100% Finnish, and with the current world trend to leave the car behind and take your bike everywhere (a trend I’m following as well), it would make a great gift. They aren’t as cheap as they used to be, but they’ve also become more stylish in return; you can get a Jopo from about 400 euro and give somebody a super Finnish gift.

A Jopo bike

12.- A Nokia phone

Before the phone division of the Finnish phone company Nokia transfers to Microsoft you can still get a 100% Finnish phone. And what better choice for this than a great phone from the Nokia Lumia branch: I have one and I love it. But if you want something else, Nokia is not only about phones: historically they have also sold a lot of different products, like rubber boots, wheels for cars and VHS players.

Smartphone Nokia Lumia

What’s your favorite Finnish Christmas present from the list? Do you miss a Finnish gift that you especially like?




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