Taylors in Finland

The Grand Adventure

Mary Ann's Fulbright Exchange to Oulu, Finland
August 2001 - June 2002

Finnish Notes

Some things we have learned
while in Finland



Click on photo or photo id in parentheses to view larger image.


Other Fulbright Exchange Teachers have also contributed their comments. These were written to help future Fulbrighters to Finland. If you are a "past Fulbrighter" and want to add or correct any of these notes, please contact me at johnmartintaylor@yahoo.com.


Finns are prompt - If the invitation says 1800 (6:00 P.M.), don't be "fashionably late". If they are visiting you, be ready, the door bell will ring at 1800.


Teaching supplies - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - There are no teacher stores in Finland, even in Finnish. You'll find a very limited supply of ideas in English. Bring anything you might think you will need for teaching materials with you. My school had no English-language textbooks. They expected me to get everything off the web in English including worksheets. Many web sites make you pay to download so bring what you can from your school.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - NO single-lined paper in Finland. Most writing paper is in the form of a grid with blocks. If you are used to American-style ruled notebook paper, good luck finding any in Finland. Overhead non-permanent pens are also hard to find as well as single hole punches

The paper size in Finland is A4 (8.27" x 11.69") vs. the U.S. 8.50" x 11". Remember to adjust your programs like MS Word, scanners, etc. before printing. All of the programs I use have A4 paper as a choice.


Single hole paper punch – If you use one in your classroom, then bring one. We could not find any in the stores to punch a single hole in some craft items the children made and Mary Ann wanted to hang.


Erasers - Are called rubbers in Finland (for rubbing out) so keep a straight face.

From Lori and David Heintz (Kuopio) - "I just want to use it and I'll give it right back."


Movies - Seats are assigned so read your ticket before you go in. No open seating like the U.S..

From Lori and David Heintz (Kuopio) - You can reserve up to three months ahead for a ticket. Most movies are in English with Finnish subtitles.


Teacher ID card - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Sign up for a teacher ID card before leaving the states. You will save a bunch of money at museums and receive discounts on bus and train travel. I got a card through Council Travel (note from John - name changed to StaTravel) (http://www.statravel.com/). My card says Teacher on it, but I have been using it as a student card all year.


Passport photos - Bring three or four extra ones with you. You may need them if you register in Finland and definitely need one to apply for a visa to visit Russia.


“A la carte” - In Finland means price-fixed, multi-course meal. Just the opposite of what it means in the U.S. where you order each dish separately.


Tipping - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Tipping is not needed or expected in Finland.

John - it does feel strange at first and I will have to remember to tip again once we leave Finland. If a credit card receipt has a space for tips it is probably because the bank's program came from outside Finland, not because a tip is expected.


Sales taxes -There are none in Finland while most states in the U.S.A. have some sales tax. In Finland, the tag or posted price is it. There is VAT (Value Added Tax) in Finland (and many other European countries) which is already included in the price shown.


Name Day - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - You will have a Name Day in Finland that will be celebrated versus your birthday. At my school the Name Day person brought in treats for the staff not the other way around. Look up your name day because it is a big deal in Finland.

Comment from John - At Mary Ann's school, Oulu English Speaking Classes, they still celebrated her birthday.


Finnish national flag - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - The flag is rarely flown in Finland. It will not be displayed daily like in America especially after September 11th. The flag in Finland is flown on special holidays (Father's Day) or for important country holidays (Independence Day).

John - some of the days - provided by our neighbor, Pertti:
(with updates from Maarit Pulli)

5 February - J. L. Runebergin - Finnish poet
28 February - Kalevala Day
9 April - Mikael Agricola - Language Day
27 April - National War Veteran's Day
1 May - Finnish Work Day and Student Day
12 May - J. V. Snellman Day

Second Sunday in May - Mother's Day

19 May - Memorial Day
4 June - Defense Force Day, Mannerheim's birthday
Midsummer Day, Flag Day - Saturday between June 20 and 26 - flag will be flown through the night.
6 July - Eino Leino - Finnish poet and Summerfest
10 October - Aleksis Kivi Day - Finnish author
24 October - United Nations Day
6 November - Swedish Day

Second Sunday in November is Father's Day

6 December - Finnish Independence Day

Days when Finland holds parliamentary / local elections, a referendum or European Parliament elections.

The day the Finnish president is inaugurated.


www.dialpad.com (or equivalent) - Sign up before you leave and use your U.S. address. Buy a good headset to plug into the computer. We have been happy with our Plantronics unit. 10.00 USD for 400+- minutes a month, use them or lose them; that works out to around 2.5 to 3.0 cents per minute. Call home for one-half of an hour for less than the price of a cup of coffee. (Spring 2003 - Dialpad has changed their plans so do some research; but probably still a good deal.)


www.Yahoo.com – Open a free e-mail account. You will be able to send and check your e-mail anywhere there is Internet access. My ISP (Internet Service Provider) in California would not accept e-mail that had originated from another server. I use Microsoft Outlook ® and use it to check my California account and our Yahoo accounts and send mail from my Yahoo account.

Another reason for a Yahoo.com or Hotmail.com e-mail account is that you may not be able to use your Stateside e-mail account to send mail. Some servers will not accept mail from users not logged in directly to the server (the system thinks you may be "spamming"). Also, some of the other teachers found the Finnish school servers were not always available. Also, when they tried to use their American school's e-mail account the server was off-line (remember the seven to ten hour time difference).


Microsoft Outlook® - if you use it on your laptop, I recommend you leave your computer date and time set to your Stateside time zone. First, you can easily see what time it is there, so you call at reasonable hours. Second - I changed my time zone, probably incorrectly, and many of my all-day calendar events (like birthdays, anniversaries, etc.) split themselves across two days. Took a few hours to clean up.


Listening music - MP3 and CDs – before I left I copied a few of our favorite CDs. You could make MP3 copies on your laptop and play them on it. Much less space and you can enjoy them anywhere you use your laptop. (Be aware of the copyright laws, etc. My copies are only of CDs I have at home in storage.)


Television and radio - Oulunsalo does not have cable so only four television channels are available. I bought a pair of good speakers for my laptop and we listen to BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/#) news during dinner. You can also catch NPR - National Public Radio (http://windowsmedia.com/radiotuner/MyRadio.asp and select NPR).


Doors - Most open out and many have sills that you must step over, so be forewarned and stand back and you knock.


Bus passes – Buy one if you use the local bus a lot. About a 20-30% savings and you don’t have to fumble for change every day. We charged the pass to our credit card (good if you collect frequent flyer miles, etc.). On our local buses you hold the card against the reader – it beeps and flashes green, yellow or red (OK, few rides remaining, no rides remaining). Students may be eligible for discounts and possibly a free pass for to/from school.


Car wash – Just like the states, except they give you a card to enter in the machine that opens the car wash doors and tells the machine which wash type you bought. The doors close behind you to keep out the cold air during the car wash. If you wash your car when it is at or below freezing then you must open all the vehicle doors and trunk and wipe down the seals and the surfaces they touch or else they will freeze together. In addition you should get some car lock oil to squirt in the door locks.


Fuel costs – About 3.75-4.00 USD per gallon. You pump and then go inside to pay. If you see a pump with a card slot it is for “automatic” billing using the company’s own credit card; don’t use that pump.  (In June, 2005, the Finland Diaries by the Washington Post, said gasoline was $5.50 per gallon.)


Parking – If you drive a car, get one of the blue plastic cards with a movable twelve-hour white dial. Look for the signs as you enter a lot or the beginning of a block. It will show a card or meter and how long you may park. You set the card for the time when you parked. If you park, like I did at the library, and forget the time card it is a 40 € (Euro) fine; you pay the fine at the bank the same way you pay your other bills. The meter zones are different. You park and then find the meter located usually in the middle of the block or at the corner. You insert the coins for the time you want (about 1 € for an hour, but it varies), push the green button and the machine will print a ticket. Put the ticket on your dash instead of the blue time card.

Click on photo to view larger image

Above card would be to park starting at 0400 or 1600. (4978)


Traffic - One different rule that has caught me unawares sometimes is that the car entering an intersection from the right has the right of way, even if you seem to be on the "through" street.

No right turn at a red light.

There are few red, octagonal STOP signs. Most intersections have YIELD signs. I have counted only sixteen STOP signs while we have been in Finland.


Finnish bank account – Open one for paying recurring bills like the utilities, telephone and cell phone bills. You will also need the account if anyone is to pay you money or expense reimbursement. You can pay the bank a little extra for Internet access to pay your bills or just use the terminals inside the bank lobby. We only have two telephone bills (house and cell) so I just take them to the local branch and have a teller process them for me. My statement will reflect a small charge for the manual handling. I tried the automatic machine in the bank lobby using the bank’s card but ran out of time trying to follow the screen and the English instructions I had been given and it “ate” my card. They had to issue a new card so I didn’t bother trying it again. To "fill" the account I make a cash withdrawal at the OTTO using my U.S. ATM card and walk inside and deposit the cash.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - I did not have any trouble using a bank card in Finland to pay my bills. The system in Lahti is so easy. I just place my card in the bank machine, enter my password, and stick my bill under the scanner. Everything was paid that day automatically for me. I never had my card eaten by the machine. At my bank there is always someone who can help you. The first three times I needed help until I understood the process. Since there are no checks written in Finland you must get a bank account to pay bills.


ATM machines – Are called OTTO in Finland. The machines seem to be everywhere. Sometimes the ATM of your own Finnish bank will allow you to make a larger withdrawal (but still within the limit of your card). Our bank, in the States, adds a 3.00 USD non-bank ATM fee for each withdrawal so I always get the maximum amount allowed. If your daily limit is low you might consider asking to get it raised so you may withdraw more at a single time. I use my U.S.A. bank ATM card and the instructions appear in English.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - ATM machines. Take out a few cards in the states to withdraw money. One card I had never worked all year. Luckily I had a second card that I made sure would allow me to withdraw money overseas. That card was an ATM card as well as a VISA card. That card has worked all year. On top of that I have a back up card just in case. You'll want to do all this before you leave the states. It is almost impossible to do once you are in Finland.


Credit cards – Keep at least one card with your home address so you can order things and have them mailed home. Then the items may be re-mailed to you. You also use this card for Dialpad and Yahoo (if you want extended services). The problem is that if you use your U.S. card, but with a Finnish address, you may not be able to buy things and have them delivered to your home address (because the delivery address and billing address do not match when the company validates the credit card).

We had our primary card address changed to Finland. The bill arrives with enough time to pay it. I also check it online.

You can use a credit card for almost everything over 5.00 €. I have seen it used for a cup of coffee and a roll. Then they may charge the minimum (probably around 5.00 €) and give you the change.


Cell phone - We recommend you buy one. We bought a used Nokia 5110, for under 50 USD, and our exchange partner loaned us a telephone (without the GSM card). Our monthly charge, with Sonera, is only 3.05 € (2.65 USD) and you pay about 16 pennies (0.14 USD) a minute for outgoing calls anywhere in Finland; no charge for incoming calls. You must have a Finnish ID to get a telephone so ask someone who has one to go with you. Just be sure that you ask that the bill for your telephone is addressed to you. Our first bill was sent to the Finnish person who provided their ID. You can ask that the bill be printed in English (at least Sonera would do that). If your bill is low you may not be billed until the following month.

I have been told that 78% of Finns have a cell phone. That probably means that seniors (“I don’t need that contraption”) and some children under ten don’t have them. Everyone else appears to own one and use it.

You can call anywhere, including long distance calls to the United States from your cell phone. I have no idea how much that costs, but it means that your cell phone could be your only telephone if you don’t need a landline for Internet access.

Cell phone bills here do not list individual calls like the U.S. bills. Just the type of calls, how many, how long and the charges.

I always put the telephone numbers in with the full string, including the country code so the cell phone will work, even if I am out of Finland. Three examples:

written as +358 040 555 1212
+358405551212 entered in telephone
+ is the symbol for an international call
358 is the country code for Finland,
40 means the number is a cell phone (the leading zero is dropped when the country code is used)
5551212 is the number.

or you could enter 405551212
but you could only place the call while in Finland.

+35885551212 where
+ is the symbol for an international call
358 is the country code for Finland
8 means you are calling a "land line"
5551212 is the number

Telephone numbers are not all the same length - I have seen six, seven and eight-digit numbers.

In our area, Oulu, cell phone numbers start with 40 or 50.

Have a few numbers handy and ask the cell phone store to load them for you so you have some examples.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Be careful using a cell phone to make calls. Double check the program you sign up for at the start. My cell phone company, unlike John's company, charges me a bunch of money if I call from my cell to a land line phone. From cell to cell all the same rate anywhere in Finland. From cell to land line phone a whole different ball game. I learned the hard way calling Kuopio and Oulu. I had a 300 dollar bill one month.


SMS - "text" messages from cell phone to cell phone is used a lot here. The message costs the same as a one-minute voice call. The phone system will, if the receiving cell phone is not available, store and forward the message when the phone becomes available again. The main advantage is the "store and forward" and the low cost.


Internet access - Like in the States it is usually available through your school. You can also sign up with a local ISP. DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) is available, may take a few weeks for installation scheduling and is about 115 € per month. I used Opoy Oy, the local telephone company. Our installers arrived ten minutes early, finished in twenty and were on their way in thirty only after I had started downloading e-mail.


Backpacks - Everyone uses them here. We bought two with us and use them all the time. Also, stores charge for the plastic grocery bags so you can save a little by carrying your groceries home in your backpack. Many store counters will have a small shelf by the register for your bag so it is within reach and easy to fill.

I suggest one with a handle, not just a loop to hang it up. If you want to carry it, rather than wear it, it will be much easier to carry.

Do get a few plastic shopping bags every week - they make good trash bin liners and leave you a handle to carry the bag to the garbage can.


Power cords - Buy an adapter before you leave the States. If your laptop power supply accepts, like my Dell, 100-240VAC, then you can cut off the U.S. plug and put on a Finnish plug. When you get back to the States, install a U.S. plug.

Finland uses 220 VAC. Some adapters only adapt the plug size without converting the voltage. Also, many converters may handle a laptop or something small but not a hairdryer so check the wattage the converter will handle. You may want to buy a hairdryer when you get here rather than carry it with you.

Click on photo to view larger image

This photo shows a plug and wall receptacle. The plug is 38 mm round (1.5 inches) and the pins are 19 mm apart (0.75 inches). Grounding, when necessary, is done by contacts on the sides of the plug. Non-grounded plugs will be flat, rather than round. (4949)

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Buy a set of plugs and adapters that are supposed to work in Finland and where ever you expect to travel.

John - I concur with Elisabeth. Buy them in the States if you can. The premise seems to be that whatever you have works where you are and you are buying adapters for where you are going.


Dark blue v light blue milk (kevytmaito) – both major dairies in our area use the colors to indicate the fat content. Dark blue has the higher fat content.


Spices, foods, etc.:
     Almond             Manteli
     Apple juice        Omenaa
     Baking powder      Leivinjauhe
     Baking soda        Ruokasooda
     Basil              Basilika
     Butter             Voi
     Cinnamon           Kaneli
     Clove              Neilikka
     Coffee             Kahvi
     Flour              Vehnäjauhoja
     Milk               Kevymaito
     Mustard            Sinappi (usually in tubes, not jars)
     Orange Juice       Appelsini
     Paprika            Paprika
     Pepper             Mustapippuri
     Salt               Suola
     Sugar              Sokeri
     Thyme              Timjami
     Vanilla            Vanilja


Recipes – if you have some you like, you should make copies of them and bring them along. Copy them so you can throw them away when your year is up and not have to pack them back with you.


Cooking – buy a set of measuring spoons and cups to bring with you. All the utensils in your "new-to-you" kitchen will be metric. We finally had someone mail us a measuring cup and spoons.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - I agree, bring a measuring cup and measuring spoons if you like to cook.


Groceries - Tough to find marshmallows for Rice Krispie® treats.

Fruits and vegetables (and "bag-your-own" candy) at the markets - take a plastic bag, select the vegetable you want, note the number on the sign over the bin, place the item on the scale and press the button corresponding to the bin's number. A bar-coded price tag will be printed for you to place on the plastic bag. This code is scanned at the register and includes the price. If you press the incorrect number, don't use that tag, just press the correct number and use the new tag.

Click on photo to view larger image

This tag is for some Jonathan apples. 1.694 Kg at 1.20 per Kg for a total of 2.03 €. (Or 1.694 Kg at 7.13 Finnish Markka for a total of 12.08 FIM.) (BC0002)



Click on photo to view larger image

The scales where you push the number for the fruit, vegetable or candy you bagged. The green stand in between the scales is for bad tags. (4594)

Chocolate - everyone agrees - the best to buy is the Fazer Rarlfazer 200g bar (all blue wrapping) for about 1.50 €.

Breads - lots of choices in the markets.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Some things you will never find in grocery stores include peanut butter, Jello, or chocolate chips to make cookies. The Finns loved it when I made chocolate chip cookies and brownies.

John - we found peanut butter somewhere but I don't remember where - either Stockmans or the "American Kick Ass" store in Tampere (we heard it closed early 2002).

Finnish foods do not have many preservatives so don't "overstock".


Candy – Finns have a sweet tooth. “Bag-your-own” at supermarkets and video stores. We have found that the video stores usually have a larger selection. One of the video stores in Oulu probably had over one hundred feet of shelving (like the fifteen feet shown below).

Click on photo to view larger image

A small candy selection at our local KKK Market. (4593)


Shopping hours – The stores are open Mon-Fri 1000-2100 and Sat 1000-1600 or 1800. Few open on Sunday except R Kioski (milk, ice cream, candy, magazines; like an American Seven-Eleven).


Alko – Beer and cider are available in the stores. Beer, wine and higher alcohol items are available at Alko, the government-owned stores.


Ice - you won't find any for sale. I was thinking of having a cooler of refreshments chilling in ice for our "Kiitos" party in May but didn't see any ice for sale anywhere. Finns freeze the reusable ice packs for coolers. It also meant I could not buy twenty-five pounds to try making home-made ice cream (but then, I was not able to find an ice cream maker either!).


Camera – Carry one with you everywhere. You’ll never know when you want to take a shot. We brought a digital with us and it gives you the liberty to take lots of shots since you can upload the photos to your PC. And digital images are easier to add to your e-mails for the folks back home (just remember to resize them so they are not too large). Bring an extra battery if it takes a non-standard size. Consider bringing a larger memory chip so you have enough "film" when you go on a trip and won't be able to download your images. Bring a spare camera battery as well.

Film processing in Finland is about 12-17 € for a roll of film.

From Marie-Camille Havard (Tampere) - Tupla-Kuvat had good processing and lower prices.


Prescriptions – bring as much as you can with you. For refills, arrange with someone to pick them up and mail them to you along with your mail.


"Over-the-counter" medicines - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Stock up on cold medicine that you can buy over-the-counter in the states; for example, decongestants like NY-Quil ®. You have to schedule an appointment with a doctor to get a prescription for over-the-counter meds found in the states. This is a huge pain so bring cold medicine with you.


Mouthwash – You will not see it in the stores – buy it at the pharmacy (Apteekki).


Vitamins – Relatively expensive. And like mouthwash, not in the stores; only available in the pharmacies (Apteekki).


Caffeine free sodas - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - there are none in Finland. You can find a few diet free sodas, but all have caffeine in them. This is very important if you tend to get migraine headaches caused by caffeine.


Coins and rounding - Although the Euro is used in Finland, they have not used pennies as coins for a while. The 1 and 2 penny Finnish Euros are not in circulation. If you charge something the exact price is put on your credit card. If you pay cash then 2 rounds down and 3 rounds up; that is, 1.52 will be 1.50 while 1.53 will pay 1.55. It is interesting to watch the children at the candy stores weigh their bags and always seem to end up on 2 or 7. One of the other teachers remarked that teaching rounding in math class was a challenge because the students rounded like it was money and would not round to 1 (1.524 became 1.50, not 1.52 and 1.514 became 1.50, not 1.51).


Video stores – Rentals are 3.00 € (about 2.55 USD). They have DVD’s as well.


Libraries - Go to the local library and get a card. The Oulu library has video tapes, probably a third of them in English with Finnish subtitles. And "the price is right”.

Late fees - in Oulu the late fees are 0.50 € per day.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Get a library card, but overdue fines are very expensive. I learned the hard way. The library can be a great source, but you will not find multiple copies of books to use in the classroom.


English language magazines – You will find a good selection to choose from; both at the library and at newsstands. However, the newsstand copies, in English, run from 6.00 to 9.00 € each. Much less expensive to have someone in the States use a USPS Global Express to send you any magazines you normally subscribe to or purchase.


Mail being sent/forwarded to you. We have had good luck with the United States Postal Service Global Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope (www.usps.com/global/deliveryoptions.htm). 9.00 USD for as much as can be fit into and still seal the envelope. Weight doesn’t matter – whether the envelope has six letters in it or six magazines (it would be difficult to exceed the four pound limit). Other than during the month after September 11, the envelopes have arrived in three to seven days. Surface mail can take six to ten weeks. Some class room supply boxes that I sent surface took ten weeks. Everything we sent from the States did finally arrive.

Whoever sends your mail will have to fill out the small, green customs sticker and declare what the contents are and their value. “Mail and 0” have been successful for our forwarded mail. Other items may be subject to customs. Then you will receive a notice that Customs has the package and you will have to go to a nearby Customs office to pay the duty or VAT.

Mail inside Finland usually takes one day. A letter is 0.60 €.
Mail to the States, sent Economy, surface takes four to six weeks.
Mail to the States, sent Economy, with a form, takes about ten days.
Mail to the States, sent First Class, takes about a week.


Sending supplies ahead - From Sheryl Wandelt (an alumni) - Put both your name and your exchange partners name on any packages you send ahead so either of you can pick them up. If only your partner's name is on the package there is the risk that the package might be forwarded (returned) to the States by the Finnish Post Office.


Finnish ID – We never applied for them. When we visited the magistrate’s office and explained that we had no Finnish income, the clerk said we shouldn’t need them. We have not yet needed them as of 25 April. At places, other than the cell phone company, like the doctor, video rental, etc. they will use your driver’s license or passport number to make something up.


Tourist Information offices - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Make sure you visit the tour offices. They have great information printed in English, at least in my town. My town also printed a list of events for each month of special things happening in the town. This was great since I could not read a Finnish paper. They told about concerts, movies, craft fairs, sporting events, etc. It was very helpful to plan trips around Finland.


Travel sites - Some of us have used them, at least for research (these are not endorsements – just leads):

         www.affordable-globus-tours.com
         www.budgettravel.com
         www.cheaptickets.com
         www.ebookers.com
         www.expedia.com
         www.www.finn-guild.org
           (Note: the membership fee is per calendar year)
         www.ryanair.com


Bus travel (long distance) - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - If you buy a bus ticket to travel anywhere in Finland the schedule is easy to use and the buses very reliable and on time. The best part about the bus is that you have the flexibility to come and go at anytime for up to a month. If you do not use your ticket you can bring the unused portion and get a refund (less a small fee). This is not so with the trains.


Trains - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Using the train has changed this year. When you book a train you must know the arrival and departure time. NO changes can be made. Little flexibility. You will also get an assigned seat.

John - the trains are smooth, comfortable, on-time, clean. I think the entire system is electric.


Tallinn, Estonia – worth a two or three day trip. We got a 50% train fare discount when we booked a package that included the train, ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn and hotel. We used the AREA travel agency. (See our 9 December newsletter.)


Clothing – Fearing the worse for winter, 30 degrees below sounds (and is) cold, we bought new parkas and snow pants. We had heard that clothing in Finland is expensive. Some is, some is not. I have looked at some winter clothing here and if there is a premium it is not more than 10% or 15%. Besides, the Finns have learned how to stay warm so you don’t need to buy, and bring, your heavy winter clothing with you; buy it in Finland.

Slip-on shoe spikes - we found them for 6 to 8 USD. They have studs (like tires) on the bottom and stretch bands over the toe and around the heel. Great for those days when it has thawed and re-frozen; otherwise you might slide your way to school some winter morning.

From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - Buy a black leather jacket or black clothing in general. It seems to be the main color in Europe, especially in Russia. If you wear black you might not stand out as much when you travel to other countries.


Eye masks - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - In some apartments and houses it is very light in the summer. What saved me to help me sleep was a very comfortable eye mask. It also helped with traveling on a boat if you end up sharing a cabin. It also helped me out when I stayed at youth hostels.

John - Mary Ann uses one since the bedroom curtains are only decorative, not light-blocking.


“Finnish Merge” – Probably should be the "European Merge" but we learned it in Finland. Don’t be surprised at the airport when they announce a flight is ready to board and there is no line, only the “Finnish Merge”. Everyone, from all directions, will approach the gate. You could be third in line and tenth on the plane. Live with it.

The banks and Post Office (Posti) will have machines to issue you a ticket so you are served in sequence.


“Finnish coffee” – Strong; not quite Espresso. One measure per cup and one for the pot.


Coffee shops – "Kahvila" - Anywhere you might wait there seems to be a small café that will have coffee, tea, soft drinks, rolls, candy bars and perhaps sandwiches. I have seen them at the library, doctors’ offices, cultural center, department stores and, of course, as a business at the corner. Coffee and a small roll will run anywhere from 1.50 to 2.50 €. Often there will be two sizes of cups, probably 1.00 and 1.30 €, or at least around that ratio.


Spare key - Get one made and bury it in your wallet, purse or backpack. For a while you will have only strangers next door, not neighbors you can wake up to get into the building.


Door keys may not turn when you first put them in the lock. Most, if not all, of the outside doors have double weather striping. This pushes the door firmly against the latch and prevents the key from turning. Press on the door to "unload" the latch and then turn the key.


Russia – If you visit, we were advised to bring your own toilet paper. Theirs has been described as ranging from, at best, "copy paper" through 600 grit sandpaper.

From Marie-Camille Havard (Tampere) - Credit card charges are subject to a 3% surcharge.

John - there was a cash machine at the St. Petersburg Hotel Moscow.

Gift shopping can be fun but do some price comparisons and, if purchasing from street vendors, bargain for a better price.


Zip-Lok ® baggies - From Elisabeth Young (Lahti) - You will not be able to find Zip-Lok baggies in Finland. If you are used to storing things in thick baggies with labels then bring them with you (shampoo bottles, lotion, snacks, etc.).


VCR - From Lori and David Heintz (Kuopio) - They use the PAL recording system here so tapes from the USA won't work here and vice versa.


DVDs - If you bring a laptop with a DVD player you may receive a message that it cannot play a DVD that you rent. I learned that there are "regional" formats for DVDs and Europe is different from the U.S.A..


Gifts - Keep a list of the gifts and who you bought the item for. Then you will avoid our problem of "what did we buy for him...who was this for" when you get home.


Differences in School - From Lori Heintz (Kuopio) -
Students need to pass Matriculation exams to exit,
15 minutes between classes,
No discipline problems, no fighting.
Choose voc-ed school or Lukio after MS, after HS-university or Poly-tech.
Best schools hard to get into,
5 absences total for each Jakso, 5 Jakso a year,
75 credits in 3 years,
personal pride to do very best and high motivation, college is paid for with stipend tax dollars,
checkerboard paper, not lined,
size of paper different (taller and thinner-A4),
2 hole punch in middle of paper instead of 3,
Roll can be taken by sign in (no official checking),
Don’t call home…ever, (student's home, that is)
some students come a long way to take classes (they have apartments at age 16),
no school buses,
lunch provided free-no ala carte, only one choice,
erasers called rubbers,
everything in meters not inches.
Art students pay $5 per Jakso for supplies adds up to $3,500 a year,
meeting each Tuesday at my school is held for 20 min during class time,
very competitive teachers, they want the permanent positions, not all get one


Differences in Foods - From Lori and David Heintz (Kuopio) -
Eggs not refrigerated,
chunky milk-buttermilk, not spicy-bland,
no pepper on table,
no regular white bread-loads of others,
reindeer, moose and salmon are regular fare,
no decaf coffee…what’s the use?,
hot dogs/sausage served without bun,
Kalakukko & muikku are specialties,
can purchase beer in groceries
but have to go to Alko store for wine and stronger beer and booze.
All grocers close by 6pm
and not open on Sundays in Kuopio,
R Kioski’s open longer but have just some foods mostly chocolates (Fazer is Finland’s brand),
have to weigh fruits and vegetables,
bag your own food at register,
and pay for bags,
The stores appear to have a larger selection of deli food and prepared food items to take home for your lunch or evening meal. There are not as many boxed, prepared meals like Sam’s clubs.
No pancake mix (but they never serve pancakes for breakfast...it’s dinner fare with fish eggs/caviar and sour crème.
Awful salad dressings.


Last Update 2005 07 06

return to top ^