Autumn in Finland: the Ruska and its colors

The beginning of the autumn is a great time to be in Finland. Whether you’re looking out a window, walking through the streets or simply standing in a forest, intense colors are all around you. The Finns call it the Ruska, but there is a lot more to this period of the Autumn in Finland than just a word.

Autumn in Finland

The Autumn in Finland

At this time of year, all the deciduous trees are shaking off their leaves to get ready for the winter. In Finland, a country covered with trees, this is quite a big deal.

This is also noticeable in the cities, which are also covered with vegetation; when the Autumn in Finland arrives the process of the leaves changing color begins. The trees and bushes show different shades of red, bright brown and yellow and make the country seem like a magical place.

Train Tracks

What is the Ruska

During autumn in Finland, you can use the word Ruska to describe the colored leaves. The word describes their vibrant colors, as well as the very moment of the Autumn. This is a special time in the country since there is still plenty of daylight to enjoy and the temperatures are still above freezing. The Ruska is the last reminder to enjoy the days before the winter comes and lays the snow all over the country.

Since Finland is full of wilderness, as we mentioned before, this can be seen everywhere. Every corner of the country will be special for the many shades of color that it displays: some streets will be mostly red, while others more yellow, and others brown or purple. Every day will be slightly different than the day before, and the falling leaves make a colorful carpet on the cities and forest.

Ruska in Joensuu
The colors of the Autumn in Finland.

What I like about the Ruska is that in Finnish language you only have one word – and avery short one, at just five letters – to describe the phenomena. Other languages have two or three words for it, or an perhaps even an entire sentence. It is said that this period of the Autumn in Finland is especially beautiful on the northernmost part of the country, Lapland. I saw the autumn in Joensuu and Helsinki, and I have to say that if it’s even better in Lapland, it must be truly unbelievable.

The perfect moment for seeing the Ruska is the end of September and the beginning of October, although every year is slightly different and it usually arrives in Lapland one week before the rest of the country. If you want to see more photos of it these are all the images on Flickr tagged with this word. For instance:

Autumn in Finland: the Ruska
Source.

Have you experienced the Ruska in the Autumn in Finland? What did you think and feel?



Maps of Finland vs. Europe that you didn’t know about

A physical map of Finland is a useful thing, but it doesn’t tell you much about the people who live there. The maps of Finland shown in this article put the country into a European context, and are useful for knowing more about what goes on within its borders.

Maps of Finland: genetics and more

Let’s start with a couple of maps of Finland that would confirm the Finnish physical stereotype: they are naturally blonde with blue eyes. One must add, though, that there are many Finns that dye their hair color dark.

Maps of Finland: blondes
Being Spanish, I have to admit that it comes as an interesting fact that Galicia is the region of the Iberian peninsula with the most blondes. Even so, Finland and the other Nordic countries still have the largest blonde population on the continent. In the north of Finland, where more Saami people live (they are naturally dark-haired), the blond concentration is smaller.

Maps of Finland: blue eyes
In terms of blue eyes, the same is true: Finland has a high concentration of blue-eyed people. In the far northern region, and due to the Saami population, the concentration of blue eyes drops. In a post at some point in the near future, we will talk about who the Saami people are and about their culture.

So far so good: most Finnish people I know fall into the patterns outlined above.

Maps of Finland: living standards

But what about going beyond the physical type? Here are some other interesting maps of Finland too.

Map of Finland on children well being

Finland has been rated as one of the top (that is, best) countries to be a kid (in 4th place after the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark, Source), and one best countries to be a mother (6th place, Source). Therefore, it’s no surprise to see Finland doing this well on this map either.

Productivity map of Finland

The Nordic countries, and Finland among them, have a broad reputation of being places with especially high salaries. That is true, but they also have some of the highest taxation in the world. In any case, we can also see on these maps of Finland VS Europe that they still are among the most productive countries in Europe, and Finland is therefore a good place to have a career. Iceland doesn’t seem to be doing too well after the crisis, and neither is my good old Spain.

Source of the maps: Eupedia.com. You can check out many more maps of Finland vs. Europe there, but I found these ones to be the most interesting.

What do you think about these maps of Finland? Is there any  other that you’d like to point out?



Security of your personal belongings in Finland: total

A recent study explaining that you’ll get your wallet back 9 out of 10 times if you lose it in Helsinki, reminded me of this topic.

Perceived security in Finland

One of the things that surprised us most when we arrived in Finland is the perceived security on the streets.

Walking on the streets of Joensuu, you’ll never feel unsafe. You can even do things like leave your bike unlocked for a couple of hours, and you can be sure it will still be there upon your return. Or you can forget your umbrella and come back some hours later when you remember where you left it, and it will be in exactly the same place.

Happenings such as these, at least for most people, are astonishing. Even people who look tough on the streets wouldn’t hurt a fly.

The strangest thing for me: wardrobes in public spaces

The strangest thing I found, however, were wardrobes in public or open-access buildings like libraries, schools or universities.

Instead of carrying your heavy winter coat and your snow trousers with you everywhere, Finns have huge wardrobes for all of their bulky clothing and accessories. Everyone leaves all they want to there: hats, coats, earmuffs, some bags, gloves and other winter apparel.

For me, coming from Southern Europe, it took about six months to feel comfortable enough to leave my things at the public wardrobes, and even then I made sure that my coat pockets were empty of things I’d regret losing. Up to that point, I took all of that heavy apparel with me everywhere – but only because in my country, my clothes would have been long gone if I left them alone.

Coat in a Wardrobe: there is security

I left the university late, and my things were still there

From then on, leaving my clothes in a public wardrobe became the most normal thing to do for me. Even in some places – like a school I visited while doing a study – the students actually weren’t allowed to wear shoes in class, and they only could do so in the corridors.

And, coming back to the study that shows that there is security in Finland because Finns are honest, when someone loses a scarf or a glove on the streets, if you come back to the exact same point, this piece of clothing will be most likely hanging on a tree branch. You can trust the Finns with that.

What is your experience with this – your personal security and the security of your things in Finland? Do you perceive security the same way or differently?



Types of Sauna in Finland

Even though I’m not in Finland these days, I do continue to have (and enjoy!) my weekly sauna. The saunas outside Finland are strange: people wear towels around their waists, you can’t throw water on the heated stones (there’s an electric system that does it automatically) and a lot of the time the temperature is lower than it should be. But is this a sauna? How many types of sauna are there? This is the question that we’ll have a look at here.

The Finnish sauna

The right way of having a sauna is a delightful experience.

Without any clothes on, one takes a shower beforehand (no soap). After that, it’s time to go into the sauna with a bucket and a dipper. Still with no clothes or towels inside the room, you pick a bench and have a seat there. The rocks are waiting for the water, and the temperature is about 80° C.


If you take a sauna and you’re not a Finn, you’d better have Sisu.

Every now and then – depending on what the sauna’s users want – water is poured with the dipper onto the rocks. The steam is released and a wave of heat comes through. If you have birch branches (in Finnish language they are called vihta or vasta) you can hit yourself with them: they provide a nice scent and improve blood circulation.

When you can’t take the heat any longer, leave the sauna to have a shower or to take a dip in a nearby lake (the extreme version of this is ice swimming: going for a swim through a hole made in a frozen lake). After that it’s time to relax and repeat the process as many times as you want! After the last round it is shower time, this time with soap. You will be relaxed and left feeling like new.

Types of Sauna in Finland

There are three types of Sauna in Finland.

1.- Wooden sauna. If you want to experience one of these saunas, you need to chop some wood (or buy the wood already chopped, of course), and burn this wood in the stove inside the sauna. Light it up and leave it burning for a while, allowing the smoke to leave the sauna through the little chimney. The rocks lie above the stove and, because of the nature of the sauna’s heat, the steam that is released when water is poured over the rocks is very wet and damp.
I had this kind of sauna only once in my life, and it was great. There I saw “the spirit of the sauna”, a Finnish tradition that I will talk about on a different article.

Types of sauna: a wooden one
A wooden sauna with its chimney. Source.
2.- The electric sauna is the most common in Finland. You can find it on Finnish homes – either one per house or one per building. This was the sauna we had for the Erasmus students in our building in Finland. For its size, price and ease of installation in any house this sauna is the most used in Finland. The rocks are heated by an electric stove, and that makes the steam that comes out of it a bit drier than the other types of sauna.

types of sauna: electric
This is the sauna we had on our building. The electric stove heats the rocks.
3.- Smoke sauna. Considered by many as THE sauna, the smoke saunas are rare. They are not built anymore, even though they were the standard types in the past. The process to heat them up is long and complicated, and that’s why they have lost popularity in relation to the other types of sauna. Furthermore, they are so old and dry that, since they’re built with wood, many of them burn (one can’t tell from the outside if the smoke is from the wood or the sauna is burning) and they are not re-built.

Nonetheless, the smoke saunas have real charm. The stoves don’t have chimneys and the black smoke remains in the sauna. Before having a sauna, it is necessary to let the smoke out and to clean the benches, since they might have some soot. The embers have heated up the rocks and it is time to get in.

It is said that the steam that this kind of sauna produces is the best, since it is softer.

A smoke sauna
This sauna is filled with smoke. It must be aerated before getting in. Source.

More about the types of sauna

In the following short film, called “Sweat“, the four-time World-champion of the Sauna enduring contest Timo Kaukonen shows us the types of sauna. And, also very interesting, shows us how he gets ready to compete in the sauna championship.

When was your last sauna experience and which one of the types of sauna was it? Mine was in midsummer, and it was electric… and what a great time it was!




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