When you think of Finnish winter the first images that come to your mind are probably Santa Claus, Reindeer and the Northern Lights. If that’s what you thought of then I can tell you have never actually experienced a winter in Finland.
Whereas, if you were to ask the Finns, they will tell you how miserable winter is because of the darkness and because of the ice.
There are definitely truths to both ideals of winter, Finns just tend to keep all that happiness close to them and tell you the negatives so you don’t get blind sided by blissful ignorance.
I know because I too was once not prepared for Finnish winter. Like you, I envisioned Finland as this winter wonderland full of snowy magic, northern lights, and beautiful winter landscapes.
Until I realized that with snow, comes ice. And with November, comes darkness.
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How Long is Winter in Finland?
So how long is winter actually in Finland? In my opinion winter starts in November but officially it starts in December and lasts until March. But please don’t get your hopes up for a Spring time because there is always takatalvi (back winter or the return of winter)
You might think it’ll come earlier than that but please just trust me, it doesn’t actually happen until the last week of May.
How to Survive Winter in Finland
In order to survive winter in Finland, you have to know what you are up against. I have already mentioned it but throughout the winter you will be facing long dark days and very icy sidewalks. In this post I am going to give you my tips to fight against both.
That way you can go back to your happy thoughts of snowy landscapes, northern lights, and of course good old Santa Claus.
Get the Right Gear
First and foremost, you need to have the right gear in order to survive a winter in Finland. After living in Finland these are the items I cannot live without during the winter.
- Nastakengät also known as spiked shoes, these shoes are a must have for the ice. My first winter in Finland I would slip and fall every 10 meters. So my second winter I invested in a pair of IceBugs and felt much more secure when taking my winter walks. Alternatively you can also test out Grippers if you don’t want to invest in IceBugs. Grippers are more cost effective and easier to take on and off since they are essentially an attachment to your shoe.
- Reflectors Finnish winters are dark, like really dark. It’s hard to see anything especially if you are driving. Personally, we own wrist reflectors and we leave them on our coats the entire winter. LED reflectors have been proven to be more visible but you will also be fine with the standard ones.
- Thermals you need to get yourself a pair of thermals. Winter in Finland is all about dressing in layers. There’s even a saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather only bad clothing. As a plus size girlie it has been hard to find good thermals that keep me warm. Thankfully Svala of Finland gifted Tuomas and I some of their thermals to test out. Right now it’s still the fall so we’re excited to see how they will feel during midwinter. (stay tuned for our product review post)
- Wool socks finally, get yourself some wool socks. Your feet will immediately thank you, wool socks are nice because they keep the moisture out and because of the material they don’t get stinky.
Get as Much Daylight As You Can
I never appreciated the sunlight until I moved to Finland. When I lived in the US, I lived in the state of Virginia. In Virginia the amount of sunlight is less in the fall winter but it’s no where as extreme as the darkness in Finland.
There’s a reason why you see memes or just on-going jokes about how people from the Nordic countries run outside for 5 seconds of sunlight. Because it really does feel like that.
During the middle of winter a lot of time you will be waking up before the sun rises and coming home while the sun is setting. So, if you can, try to take a mid day walk and find some activities to do on the weekends in order to get your daily dose of the sun.
People also use sun lamps, wake up lights, or even go to the tanning bed to help them feel more alert when the sun isn’t around as much.
Of course if you chose the tanning bed option remember to take care of your skin and not visit too frequently.
If you are also an immigrant living in Finland or one day have the hopes to move to Finland then there is one question that is bound to come up, “how do I make Finnish friends”. While the answer to this question can cause a long discussion the shortest answer is to just be social.
Also, Finns aren’t under this pressure to make friends, so while you may be excited to “have a Finnish friend”.
That kind of mindset is not only putting a lot of pressure on yourself but the Finns around you. Instead slowly integrate yourself into the culture and start learning the language.
Remember that good friendships take time and they aren’t something that should be rushed. A good way to get out and just be around people is by going to local events.
In Turku there is the Lighting of the Christmas Tree and the Christmas Market. You can try asking people around you if they are going or wanting to check out the event. Ask if you can meet them there to hang out and chill.
Again, I really want to emphasize that friendship is something that happens with time.
Until then, enjoy meeting new people and learning more about the community you are in, and how you can play a role in that community.
Learn How to Walk and Fall on Ice
No one, absolutely no one prepared me for the ice. Finns will tell you the worst part of Finnish Winter is the darkness or the slushy snow, but somehow they casually forget to tell you about the skull cracking ice.
Now, this next part is going to get a little physical. In the US I was a Physical Therapist so falls are something I take seriously.
I have listed additional information from other websites that can better explain things in more detail than I ever could in this blog post.
Additionally, any medical information discussed in this blog post should be viewed as advice. If you are ever in need of medical attention please seek out doctors and service providers in your area.
It is important to learn how to walk on the ice and to be cautious of it at all times. When walking remember to give yourself extra time and to take your hand out of your pocket.
Walking with your hands in your pocket or behind your back can lead to an increased chance of you falling.
A lot of people also suggest trying to walk like a penguin. This is honestly something I am still working on but you can visit Morris Hospital’s website to learn more about this topic.
When dealing with walking on ice it is also important to know the correct way to fall on ice. If you feel like you are going to slip and you aren’t able to correct and/ or catch yourself try to remember to bend your knees and protect your neck by landing on the side of your body.
You want to land on the side of your body to prevent any injuries of smaller bones (like your tail bone)
Additionally, for the love of all in the universe DO NOT and I repeat DO NOT extend your arm to catch yourself from falling, this can lead to you injuring your wrist or in extreme cases your shoulder.
You can read more about this topic and the mechanism of injury here on Propel Physiotherapy’s Website
Remember That It’s Okay to Slow Down
I come from a fast paced culture, where we are always in a rush to go to… well nowhere really. During my first year in Finland, I was forced to slow down and truly enjoy just being.
Honestly, simply just being, and living life without any rush could be a contributing factor to Finnish happiness.
When I truly experienced winter in Finland, I realized that it is probably because of the darkness that Finns slow down and become less social this time of year.
And that’s okay.
Life doesn’t always need to be lived in such a hurry. It’s important to appreciate slowing down once in a while and check in on yourself.
Your physical and mental health should always be a priority.
Remember that it’s okay to be tired and want to curl up and get comfy with a book. But with everything in life, it’s good to do in moderation.
Because of Finnish winters the Finns have come up with great ways to still be active during the cold dark months.
Really I am so thankful for winter activities.
Find a Winter Hobby
Another great way to be social in the winter is by finding a winter hobby. Finland is the country of clubs and sports, there is a club and sport for every season, including winter.
From what I have noticed in the Turku area is that most people will resume their club activities after the summer holidays.
If you are looking for a new hobby or want to find a group of people with similar interests as you then and you are in the Turku area you can find a course or 2 at Työväenopisto and Auralan kansalaiopisto.
Both of these places hold different types of activities based of varying interest from pottery to language learning.
You can find activities in both English and Finnish. However, there will be more classes in Finnish.
Additionally, there are other great winter activities you can test out to see if you like, that way the next year you can find the perfect club for you that wants to do the same activities.
11 Fun Activities to Do in Turku Finland During the Dark Winter Months
Compared to where I come from in the US, Finns do a great job of embracing the winter and cold.
I had to slowly change my mindset and realize there are plenty of things to do during the winter.
Since I live in Turku, this list is going to focus on places that you can visit in the Turku area.
Although, a lot of these activities are available all throughout Finland, so be sure to check what is available in your area.
Learn Finnish or Swedish at Työväenopisto
In order to understand a culture better it is beneficial if you learn the language.
Within the language you can understand people and the type of person you want to be in Finland.
Työväenopisto offer’s classes in a lot of different languages, and learning a language is a great way to keep your brain sharp and meet new people with similar interests.
You’ll hear a lot of people say that learning Finnish is hard, but honestly what language isn’t hard to learn.
As someone who has been studying Finnish for the past year, I feel that Finns tell you Finnish is hard not to discourage you but remind you to not be so hard on yourself to speak the language perfectly.
Besides, learning Finnish or Swedish will help you make friends faster in the future.
Take a Dip and Experience Avanto at Villa Järvelä
Avanto is a winter activity where places will cut a hole in the ice and you take a plunge into the freezing cold water.
I know, I’m really doing a great job of selling the idea to you, but hear me out.
According to the Finns, avanto’s purpose is to help increase blood circulation and metabolism. The plunge into the cold water also provides you with a boost of energy, which is definitely needed during the winter months.
I have not tried Avanto yet but honestly it sounds so exciting and something that I at least want to try once.
If you’re in Turku I recommend checking out Villa Järvelä. A lot of people have recommended their facilities to me and it will probably be the first place I go to try avanto.
Be sure to check back to this blog post for updates on the experience!
Play pool at Aurabiljardi
Another great hobby to pick up during the cold winter months is billards. I was surprised to find out the billard culture that is in the Turku area.
There are at least three pool halls in the center of Turku but our favorite it Aurabiljardi
Aurabiljardi offers a great atmosphere, a lot of pool and snooker tables, and even some special tables that I can’t quite remember the names of.
It doesn’t matter if you are new to playing pool or a seasoned veteran the place fits all your needs. Tuomas plays for Aura’s pool team so it’s probably one of the bars I’ve spent the most time in Turku.
Additionally, there is an international vibe that is unique to Aurabiljardi, so don’t be afraid of the language barrier at Aura.
Knit at ILO
This is another skill that I want to acquire, it feels like EVERYONE in Finland knows how to knit. It’s a great hobby, life skill, and it can help you to feel more prepared for the winter.
One of the best knitting shops in Turku is ILO, their shop has a great selection of products and they also host knitting meetings on Wednesdays and Saturdays, as well as host an array of events throughout the year.
I wasn’t prepared for my first winter in Finland, because I didn’t have the right gear and because time was still needed for me to embrace the “there’s a lot of fun things to do in the winter” mindset.
One thing that surprised me is how many people go sledding. The age doesn’t matter, if you see a hill covered in snow, you will see people of all ages sledding and having a great time.
The darkness times tend to bring out the most fun activities that can’t be enjoyed during the sunny summer months.
In Turku I have seen a lot of people going sledding around Turku castle.
Now I am wondering if Finns also hide their best sledding spots like how they hide their mushroom spots.
Watch a Hockey Game and Support TPS
Hockey is a big deal in Finland, a bigger deal than I thought it was going to be when I first moved here.
The hype around hockey in Finland is equivalent to the hype experienced in the US for Football.
In Turku there is a hockey area in Kupittaa, home to Turun palloseura or Turku’s ball club.
The people who live in Turku are eagerly awaiting for them to bring home the gold from the Finnish Hockey League (SM-Liiga).
TPS has come in second place for the past few years, so go show them your support.
Skiing at Hirvensalo Ski Resort
While writing this list I have realized that I need to do more things in the winter, now that I have the proper winter gear.
One of those activities is going skiing at Hirvensalo Ski Resort. During the winter in Finland, a lot of the exercise trails become ski trails.
Cross country skiing is a very popular activity during the dark months, and some people will use skis as a way to get around instead of bikes or driving (especially in Vuokatti)
Hirvensalo Ski Resort is located close to the main part of Turku and offers classes to learn how to ski.
Ice Skating at Parkin Kenttä or Kupittaa
Kupittaa has more of a circular track whereas Parkin Kenttä offers a larger space that is similar to a roller skating rink.
Of course both of these areas are outdoors making it even more important to have the right winter clothes when going out.
Experience Sauna, Kota, and Jacuzzi at Onnenpaikka
If you are looking for a warm place to relax then you have to visit Onnenpaikka.
Onnenpaikka is a community built for people who are into relaxing, meditating, and just wanting to have a peaceful experience.
Onnenpaikka has a public sauna, kota, float tank and jacuzzi. They also offer massages and yoga classes.
Their website is mostly in Finnish but if you are interested in finding out more information in English you can message them on Instagram or send them an email which can be found on their website.
Eat Lohikeitto at Kauppahalli
Lohikeitto, also known as Salmon Soup, is a Finnish food stable. It is typically enjoyed all year round but I personally enjoy it more during the winter months.
Lohikeitto is a good source of Vitamin D and enjoying a bowl of delicious soup is the perfect way to stay warm during the cold dark months.
Because there isn’t a lot of sunlight, medical professionals will suggest that you take a Vitamin D supplement.
To find what the correct dosage of vitamin D is for you I suggest you go to the doctors and ask before you start implementing them in your diet.
Get a Sun Lamp or Decorate for Christmas Early
Personally, we do not own a sun lamp. I am still on the fence if it is worth the investment, though the longer I live here the more I think it would be beneficial.
I am interested in this wake up light instead.
The Wake-Up light is said to emit light slowly and gradually, as to imitate sunlight. It would be nice to be able to do a product review in the future, and test it out for a whole winter to see its effects over a long period of time.
Currently, we just put our Christmas lights and decorations up as soon as it starts getting dark.
Seeing the glow of Christmas lights makes me very happy and gets me excited for the darkness