Basics about Finland
Who lives here?
Finland has about 5.5 million inhabitants and two official languages; Finnish and Swedish. 5.5% of the population has Swedish as their mother tongue, but everybody studies both languages at school. The Swedish speaking population lives mainly along the coast and the autonomic Åland Islands. The Sami people live in Lapland over a large area covering territories in northern Sweden, Norway and Finland. They have their own language and parliament but do not have an active minority status in Finland.
What does the land look like? Which are the major cities?
Up to 80% of the country is covered with woods and 10% with lakes. Approximately 188 000 of the lakes are bigger than 500 square meters and smaller lakes exist beyond count. The biggest lake is Lake Saimaa in south eastern Finland. The Finnish archipelago is the largest in the world with almost 180 000 islands and skerries. All of the islands and skerries have names, although not every name is written down on a map. Finland does not have any high mountains: the highest point is Halti, which rises 1324 m above sea level.
The capital Helsinki, Espoo, Turku and Tampere are the major cities in Finland. In Lapland Rovaniemi is the biggest city but (contrary to what most people think) not the home of Santa Claus, as he lives at Korvatunturi.
What is the climate like?
The Finnish climate varies by season. In Finland we have four proper seasons: winter, spring, summer, and autumn. Winter is the coldest time and it can get down to around -20 and -40 degrees Celsius, depending on the location. However, Finland is affected by the global warming and the winters are not always that cold and not as snowy as they used to be. The first snow usually falls in September in the north and late October/beginning of November in the south.
Spring starts approximately in March, but the weather varies a lot and there can still be minus degrees and snow in May. Recurring wintry weather in spring when temperature drops and it starts snowing has its own word in Finnish: takatalvi (directly translated “back winter”) and it happens every year. Floods are common in springtime when the ice and snow are melting. The trees are getting green and spring flowers cover the ground.
Summer is the warmest time of the year and during warm summer days the temperature can rise to over +30 degrees Celsius. Normally though, the temperature stays around +25 degrees Celsius during the day. The sea water warms up nicely during the summer and will provide an escape from the warmth.
In the south, the autumn begins in September with crisp morning air and windy days. The leaves on the trees are changing colours to yellow and red and the nature is getting prepared for winter. “Ruska” is the name for the explosion of colours during autumn and the most vivid colours are seen in Lapland. The worst storms usually occur in October and November.
Weather during the camp
During summer the daytime temperature usually stays above 20°C. However, there might be some rainy days or even stormy weather and the nights can be relatively cold, so please remember to pack some warm and rain-resistant clothes as well!
Aurora Borealis, or northern lights, are usually associated with cold nights, but occur all year around when the Sun is active. They are best seen during clear weather against a dark night sky and are more common in the north than in the south. There is even an aurora forecast website, where you can check where the northern lights should be visible. Check it out!
What kind of government does Finland have?
Finland has been an independent republic since 1917. The president is elected for a six year period. The Parliament consists of 200 persons elected by the people every four years. The government is the one deciding on everything and in fact there has only been two referendums (besides elections) in Finland since the independency: The abolition of the prohibition law in 1939 and about the EU-membership in 1994.
Finnish tap water is pure and safe to drink: no need to buy bottled water! It is common to carry a portable water bottle, however, and to refill it when needed.
Finnish prices are somewhat high compared to the rest of Europe. It is always possible to pay with cash, but many Finns prefer to pay with a credit/debit card. Most places accept Visa and MasterCard. American Express and Diners Club are commonly accepted as well. Visa Electron and MasterCard Maestro need internet access to work properly, so it is not possible to use them on trains, airplanes etc. where the internet is unavailable. Otherwise these are also very common means of payment.
Want to know more about Finland?
Check out the website Finland