How to Helsinki: Finnish Summer

“Kesätie” = Summer Road

Worldcon is in Helsinki this year. As a Finnish-American couple, we are very excited about this! In the coming months, we’d like to offer some practical advice about visiting Finland to our fellow fans who are considering going to the event but haven’t had experience with Finland and Finns before.

Erik here. There is something special about the summertime in Finland and if you haven’t experienced it before, you have a lot to look forward to. If you’re not used to the summer at high latitudes, though, you should know what to expect. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • The Finnish summer is a time of light. In northern parts of the country near midsummer, the sun is in the sky all night long and there’s no visible difference between midnight and noon. In Helsinki in August, although the sun does set for a few hours, it doesn’t get darker than twilight. Expect to see a lot of sun.
  • Unless it rains, which can happen a lot. There’s an old joke: “The Finnish summer may be short, but at least it doesn’t snow much.” Summer weather can be changeable, from cold, raw, and rainy to clear and hot. Be prepared for all possibilities.
  • If you’re not accustomed to the light summer nights, they can mess with your body clock (especially when piled on top of jet lag). You may find it easy to lose track of time without the changing light to cue your body to feel hungry or tired. Keep an eye on the time and make sure you’re eating and sleeping regularly.
  • If you’re like me, the light nights may also make it hard for you to sleep. Most hotels in Finland will have light-blocking curtains, but you may also want to consider a sleep mask. (I find melatonin very helpful for regulating my sleep as well.)
  • With the light nights, it cal also be easy to lose track of time if you have an appointment to make or shopping to do. Many Finnish shops and restaurants are not open as long as Americans may be used to, and they may have different hours in the summer (including some that have very limited weekend hours). It’s always a good idea to check store hours ahead of time.
  • Summer is also mosquito and tick season. If you’re going to the woods (which you definitely should, if you have the chance), make sure you protect yourself well with long, loose, light clothing and bug spray.
Finnish summer night
  • Despite these warnings, the Finnish summer is magical. There is really nothing to compare with the light, quiet summer nights. If you have the opportunity, go for a late-night walk. You’ll be glad you did.
  • Speaking of magical, don’t miss out on Finnish ice cream. Ice cream kiosks pop up all around in the summertime where you can get a cone or ice cream bar. Finns make good ice cream, and a lot of it is low-lactose or lactose-free (look for “VL” / “vähälaktoosinen” or “laktoositon”), and/or gluten-free (“GL” or “gluteeniton”).

I hope you enjoy seeing Finland in the summer. It is one of the best times to visit the country. It is also one of the best times for meeting Finns. The summer is a relief from the cold, dark winter and, at least for some people, it can have an effect on temperament. Characteristically dour, taciturn Finns can become more relaxed and open in the summer sun, even a little goofy. Summer is when this sort of thing happens:

Thunderstruck by Steve’n’Seagulls (LIVE) by Steve Seagulls

Enjoy it!

Images by Erik and Eppu Jensen

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.

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