Living in Finland
Finland is the northernmost country in the world after Iceland and the fifth largest country in Europe in terms of area. It is a country that has always been an important gateway between the west and the east. Finland is also a Nordic democracy with a population of 5.3 million inhabitants and the easternmost member state of the European Union.
Archeological finds in Finland prove that there were settlements soon after the last Ice Age, some 8000 years ago. The first Finnish tribes are thought to have arrived on the Finnish peninsula at the beginning of the Christian Era. Finland was a part of Sweden from the 13th century until 1809, when it became an autonomous Grand Duchy under the Russian Czar. After the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, Finland declared itself a free and independent state on 6 December of the same year.
During the Second World War, Finland fought both the Soviet Union and the German Third Reich but was never occupied. Since the War, Finland has pursued a policy of neutrality and military non-alignment. Finland joined the European Union on 1 January 1995.
Finland has Sweden to the west, the tip of Norway in the north, a long border with Russia to the east, and Estonia to the south, across the Gulf of Finland.
Finland has a long coastline of 625 miles. The archipelago to the south and southwest of the country contains around 30,000 islands, and is one of the world’s most beautiful marine areas. Finland is also a land of lakes: almost 200,000 at the last count. Two thirds of the country is covered by forest, which we like to call our “green gold”.
Finland is a long, narrow country. In the early summer, when people are sunning themselves on the beaches in the south, others in the north are still skiing. In terms of land area, Finland is the fifth largest country in Europe; with a population of only five million, the sense of space is truly amazing.
The climate is not as freezing as Finland’s location might suggest, partly because of the warming influence of the Gulf Stream. Summer temperatures encourage sun bathing, and the short but spectacular spring and autumn seasons help to counterbalance the effect of the winter. And at least inside it is never cold: Finns learned long ago how to build warm houses.
In Rovaniemi the first snow falls in late October and melts in early May. In December, January and February, at coldest the temperature can go down to -40 degrees Celsius. Some lakes and rivers may be frozen nearly half the year. Yet, periods of extreme cold are usually brief, and for most of the winter all kinds of outdoor activities are possible.
From October till April you will need a good pair of warm, insulated shoes or boots, a warm winter coat, a warm hat and mitts as well as woolen sweaters and long underwear. It is recommended that you wear several thin yet warm layers made of natural materials (wool, cotton) under your coat and pants, instead of only one thick layer. In other seasons normal European clothing will be enough.
Average maximum midday temperatures in Rovaniemi
In the summer months, Lapland basks in 24 hours of daylight. In winter, a blue-tinged darkness falls for about two months. This sunless period is called kaamos, the polar night. During kaamos in Rovaniemi, the sun rises above the horizon for just a couple of hours. Although the sun is out of sight for weeks, the snow on the ground enhances the light of the moon and the stars. Sometimes the aurora borealis (or northern lights) flickers across the Arctic sky in many nuances of green, red and yellow. When kaamos recedes, the days lengthen until, on the threshold of summer, the sun illuminates the landscape day and night. In the northernmost parts of Lapland, snow may still lie thick on the ground through May. If you are interested in knowing the local weather report, click here
The development of the Finnish economy has been rapid since the World War II. Today the main export areas of Finland are: the wood industry, chemical industry, electronics and electricity industry, metal industry and also machine and device industry. The best-known Finnish products are probably products of Nokia (communication devices). More than 90 per cent of industrial establishments are privately owned by Finnish investors.
The business structure in Finland is formed by services (67%), industry (30%) and agriculture (3%). Finland’s most important trading partners are Russia, Germany, Sweden and China. A general economic recession caused the unemployment rate to rise rapidly - from 3.4 % in 1990 to 17.9 % in 1993. It is now around 8%. The national currency is the euro - € - divided into 100 cents.
Finland, like the other Scandinavian countries, is known for its highly developed social welfare system, e.g., free medical care and education. The political system of Finland is also similar to that of the other Scandinavian countries. Finland works in close partnership with its Nordic neighbours: Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Finland is a parliamentary republic with a multiparty political system. Two hundred members are elected by proportional representation to the unicameral Parliament for a four-year period. Governments are usually coalitions of several of the many political parties. The President is elected by the people for a six-year term. The Government is appointed by the President and it must enjoy the confidence of the Parliament. The current President of the Republic is Mrs Tarja Halonen and the Prime Minister Mr Jyrki Katainen.
Languages and religion
Finland is an officially bilingual country. Its official languages are Finnish and Swedish. Finnish is spoken by most of the population, while Swedish is spoken as a first language by some 5 % of the Finns. In Lapland, the Sami language is spoken by some 1800 indigenous Sami people.
The Finnish language belongs to Fenno-Ugrian languages and is related to Estonian and Hungarian. It is considered to be a very difficult language to learn. However, it is useful to learn few words of Finnish while staying in Finland.
The first Roman Catholic missionaries arrived in Finland in the 12th century. Since the 16th century Finland’s largest denomination has been the Lutheran church: about 78 % of the population belong to Evangelical Lutheran church while 1% of the people belong to the Finnish Orthodox church. In addition to these, there are several other religious communities in Finland - like Jews, Jehova's Wittnesses and Catholic Church among others. In recent years the amount of those, who don't belong to any religious denomination has increased: at the end of year 2010 there were some 19 % of them.
Several public holidays - like Good Friday and Easter Monday - are celebrated annually in Finland. Please note, that the exact dates of some holidays vary from year to year. On these holidays, shops and banks are usually closed, and local buses have some changes to normal timetable.