Light in Winter VS Summer in Finland: a time-lapse video

Time lapse is an image technique that compresses a long period of time in a short video. It is usually done by taking pictures every x seconds (or minutes), that are then played in order, creating an accelerated and gradual effect. Thanks to this technique we can see things like a flower blossoming or how the Northern Lights move in the sky.

Light and darkness in Finland

Now that we are approaching the spring equinox – where the days and nights last the same amount of time – there is no better time to see the difference in the amount of light that bathes Finland in summer and in winter. I contacted the person who recorded the video and he told me that the location is Helsinki and the time of the winter video is January, while the summer part was recorded at the beginning of June.

Having lived both extremes, and that being something new for me the first time I was there, I must say that every year – even with more experience in the matter – I still get surprised myself. I do tend to enjoy the winter less, but on the other side I brighten up so much more than before during the months that the light is in the sky for almost 24 hours a day.

The time-lapse video about the light in winter vs. summer in Finland

It is an excellent document to understand why spring revolutionizes the people of Finland. You will see why they lighten up so much.

Have you ever lived such a dark winter? And what about a summer that bright? I close my eyes right now and remember how I lived the White Nights, those moments where the sun sets but stays right there on the horizon and then comes back up. It is the most invigorating feeling in the world.

Valentine’s day in Finland is all about friendship

No gifts, chocolates or flowers for your partner on St. Valentine’s day if you live in Finland. Almost.

It works like this in the Nordic (not Scandinavian) country: on Valentine’s day you’ll be looked at suspiciously if you make a great love gesture to your significant other. In Finland, the 14th of February has very little to do with crushes, couples or people in love. But nonetheless it has a special meaning.

Caring gestures in Finland

The Finnish culture, unlike for instance Southern Europe’s, isn’t a touchy one. A kiss on the cheek when you meet somebody – something very common in many European countries – will make Finnish faces turn red and, suddenly, everyone will feel very uncomfortable. In the same way, hugs are reserved for people that already know each other and share a certain degree of intimacy.

A kiss on the cheek
This only happens in Finland among very good friends. Source (CC: by-nd).

This is not something bad, and it is something that you have to understand when you travel to Finland. Simply, they don’t do it that way and they never thought someone else would like to do it differently. It is a cultural characteristic of the Finns. A firm handshake will be the most common greeting amongst friends and during introductions.

It might be difficult in the beginning, but it will be internalised quickly. I always try to adapt my manners while traveling. Sometimes I am in doubt when I change countries and hesitate between hugs, kisses or handshakes. But the proper greeting is something that you get used to very quickly.

St. Valentine’s Day is Ystävänpäivä: Friendship day

All this takes us to the meaning of St Valentine’s day in Finland. This day, traditionally romantic in the rest of the world, is something different in this country. The notion of the 14th of February as a “special day” arrived quite late to Finland, compared to the rest of the world: it was listed as a “special” day for the first time in 1987.

¿Me has regalado algo por el día de la amistad?

This is NOT a popular present for Valentine’s day in Finland. Source (CC: by-nc-sa).

Ystävänpäivä is the Finnish name for St. Valentine’s day. It means “Friendship Day” in the Finnish Language, or “Day of the friends”.

What you do on this day in Finland is to give cards and small gifts to your friends, and to receive them as well. No heart-shaped things, but instead small things for everyone you care about, no matter up to which extent. It is not uncommon, nonetheless, that being presented with a gift will result in a blushed face. I mean, a public declaration of friendship? It might be too much for some shy Finns.

But if you’re in love don’t worry: thanks to the Hollywood influence, Valentine’s day is also a popular date to declare your love or to get married.

Or to go and hike with friends.

Have you celebrated Valentine’s day in Finland? What do you think about the way they do it, the Ystävänpäivä?

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?

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