Life is about enjoying yourself, not just surviving, and this goes for Finland in winter as well. Winter in Finland can be harsh, too cold, grey and dismal with temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees Celsius, up to seven months of snow and ice covering the ground, and fewer than four hours of daylight at peak midwinter, but the arrival of the cold, dark, snowy winter doesn’t mean life stops. Finns always go to work or school in the morning no matter how cold it is or how much snow has fallen. They have plenty of ways to enjoy the winter season.
So , if you are visiting Finland during the winter, these are some top survival tips to help you not only stay alive but also to enjoy the Finnish winter with the snow-covered trees, magical pastel pink colors of the sky, golden sun light, frozen lakes and Northern Lights.
The secret of spending time outdoors in the winter is to make sure you are dressed properly. Finns wear thick trousers during the winter with long-johns underneath. On your top half, you will need a thick jumper, preferably one made of wool, and a good snow proof coat. Special attention must be given to protecting the feet, hands and head from the cold. Nothing will ruin the fun of outdoor activities faster than frozen feet. Gloves should be roomy with a warm lining. Headgear should protect the ears properly, and in very cold weather a silk balaclava is excellent for protecting the face. Remember the Finnish saying: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”
Go to Sauna
Sauna is one of the most popular activities in Finland where there are more than 3 million saunas in total. In winter, the sauna is a great place for warming up frozen fingers and toes. It is a place for relaxation, tranquility and deep thought. The sauna experience includes escape from the tensions of everyday life to another reality, towards calm and contentment. Some say that having a dip in a hole in the ice of a lake or the sea is one of the joys of a waterside sauna in winter. It will certainly improve your circulation, and at the very least, make you feel refreshingly alive!
Maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle
During cold and dark winter days, it is extremely common that you feel lazy all the time. To maintain good brain health, try to include a lot of vegetables and fruits in your meals. It’s also crucial to take vitamin D supplements every day, as the absence of sunlight can even make you feel dizzy at times.
Don’t forget to exercise frequently. Bouldering, gym and the swimming pool will help to cheer you up on cold and dark days. As a bonus, you get a healthy body, productive attitude and positive mind-set. Yoga is also a great workout regime for reducing stress and allowing for greater relaxation. It can be done from your home or in a classroom.
Escape your room
It can be quite boring and even depressing sometimes to stay at home on winter evenings when it gets dark at 3 pm. Get outside every time you see the sun actually shining. This is crucial to your well-being! There are not too many sunny days, and especially during the wintertime all of them should be appreciated and enjoyed outside. Besides – the sunny winter days are spectacular! Go wandering in the forest or to the seaside and admire the sunset colors.
Walking on ice
Nobody likes taking the risk of falling over on the ice and looking like an idiot, but it is unavoidable to get around during the winter. There is a trick to walking on ice, however. Walking at a regular pace doesn’t distribute the body weight in the correct way to stay upright on ice. The trick is to take short, quick steps, much like the way that penguins walk. You may still fall over from time to time, but locals expect this so they won’t laugh at you.
Watch ice hockey
Finns really love this sport and if you ask them which ice hockey team is the best, they’re going to answer “Finland”, of course. If you live with Finns prepare yourself to watch all the match and shout with them “SUOMI, SUOMI, SUOMI!!!”
As strange as it may feel, remember to breathe through your mouth rather than your nose when it is cold outside. This is because breathing in cold air through your nose and breathing out warm air can cause the blood vessels in your nose to rupture, giving you a nosebleed. Short hours of daylight combined with isolation and dreary weather can cause a feeling of physical and mental exhaustion and lack of motivation. These symptoms are normally felt during the early winter and are usually temporary, easing off once the body becomes more accustomed to the winter. It is difficult to get up when it is so dark outside, but doing so and going for a half-hour walk every morning will expose the body to sunlight and provide enough energy to get through the day. Light therapy lamps can also simulate sunlight and are easy to find online.
Enjoy the Snow
What a fantastic feeling to wake up one morning in the late autumn and look out of the window to see that the first snow has fallen! Children waste no time rushing outside to make their first snowmen and find the nearest sledging hill, while adults dig out their winter sports equipment. Other key sports are the various branches of alpine skiing, snowboarding and freestyle skiing. The latter are relatively new sports but they have rapidly become big favourites among the young and daring. Ice skating is another national pastime, like cross-country skiing.
Gather with friends
This might sound like a cliché, but hanging out with friends is one of the best ways to overcome the winter depression. Friends can have a great impact on your emotions, especially during winter. Just make spontaneous plans, meet at someone’s place, cook together, have some drinks and watch some movies.
Text: Basma Ragab (International Student Ambassador)