Visit Finland and whip yourself

Finland is not only home to Santa Claus, but wife-carrying competitions and birch-whipping sauna culture.

Finland keeps calling me back. Even though I never planned to visit the country, I’ve been to the land of a thousand lakes and a million trees four times. I grow fonder of the country, the landscape and the people with each hello (although Helsinki has never greeted me with sunshine). 

Here are a few reasons why you might like it too…

A mix of east and west and north!

Did you know that the biggest minority in Finland are the Swedish-Finns? That the Finnish language is more closely related to the Hungarians and the Estonians than their Scandinavian neighbours? That it’s another frozen world above the Arctic Circle? When you go to Finland, you’ll experience Scandinavian culture mixed with Eastern European influences.

Experience the sauna culture

Sitting naked together in a warm sauna is very natural to the Finns – as is jumping outside into a hole in a frozen lake, or rolling around in the snow when it becomes too hot! During the summertime, you might also be handed a ‘vasta’ or ‘vihta’, a bunch of fresh birch branches that you can use to whip yourself on the back. It stimulates circulation and gives a fresh aroma.

You can be as happy as these two chappies. Source: Visit Finland

It’s a land of contrasts

Be dazzled by the full bloom of Summer, and laze under the midnight sun. Come the turn of Autumn, the forests will turn a brilliant shade of yellow. The magical Northern Lights will dance above you in the darker months.

Yellow will never be so yellow again. Source:

Visit Santa Claus in Lapland!

Visit Northern Finland and you’ll enter the Arctic Circle. Santa Claus lives in his very own village in Lapland, where you can also meet his elves and other magical fairytale creatures!

At Santa’s house in Rovaniemi with the Nordlys network – spot me!

Watch a ‘wife carrying’ competition. 

Yep, it’s the land where strong men race to carry females on a special obstacle track in the fastest time. The minimum weight of a wife must be 49 kilograms, and different divisions include piggyback, fireman’s carry (over the shoulder) or Estonian-style (the wife is carried upside-down).

Those damn overalls

If you walk around Helsinki or any other Finnish city that is filled with uni students, you’ll spot them wearing overalls. They are called Haalarit in Finnish – and the dirtier, slimier and more gross they are with badges, the more respected the student who is wearing it is. It’s a ritual of passage for the uni students – and they wear it with pride!

The official party outfit is the “haalarit” or student overalls. Source:

This was a post I wrote for a friend for AFS intercultural programs. They were trying to convince students to go to Finland… so I ended with:

Oh, and by the way, did you know that Finland has one of the best education systems in the world? 

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