Experiencing Finland

Another month is over and I am already in the middle of my stay at the UEF. As everyone who has been on an exchange knows, the time flies so quickly because you see, try and experience something new every day. So these are my experiences from my everyday Joensuu life from the past month in brief:

In Czech we have a saying ‘to buy a hare in a sack’ to express when we unintentionally buy something we did not really want to buy. That is how my first visits to a grocery store in Finland felt like. Or maybe like buying a bag full of Kinder Surprise Eggs. You had never exactly known what was inside those packages until you opened them at home. Thankfully, after two months, grocery shopping is no longer such an adventure.

Another thing, I decided to get a bike so that I would be able to explore Joensuu more. But first, it was necessary to fix a few glitches on the bike. So I went to a repair shop and started to explain what I needed, but the repairman did not speak English. When he found out that I would not be able to express myself that well in Finnish, he pointed to the door and we went out where I tried to show him what the problem was. Alright, everything understood. Then came time to use my limited Finnish vocabulary. He started pointing at the opening hours on the shop door. I figured he meant the repair would take one week. Maanatai? – Joo. Just to be sure. Last thing: money. I could not remember how to say How much? However, thanks to my visit to the North Karelian Museum, I will never forget the word raha (money), so I used this one instead. For the non-Finnish readers of this blog – the word raha originally meant the fur of squirrel, which served as a payment instrument in Finland in the remote past. Anyway, the repairman stated the sum and our deal was concluded with a small ‘discussion’ on whether the mentioned price is for the repair of one wheel (yksi pyörä) or one bike (yksi pyörä).

One March afternoon, a few students from abroad and I had an opportunity to try snowshoeing near the lake in a place called Kuhamaja. The trip was guided by a student from a nature guide training course and it was kind of an exam for him. We were not mean and so we did not try to fake any injuries or other similar mishaps to see how he would try to solve them. However, some challenging questions were asked since many of the students study biology. The guide did not falter and showed his knowledge of a wide range of subjects. He also proved to be very self-sacrificing – providing less prepared students with his own clothes. A few items more and he would have to guide us naked. After the snowshoeing trip in the forest and on the lake, we headed to a small hut where we enjoyed roasted sausages and everybody could also try to prepare and taste lätty (Finnish pancakes).

Spring is finally here! At least in the Finnish sense of the word. I could also experience some Finnish Easter traditions. In part, they are similar to the Czech ones. Kids also go from door to door bringing willow twigs decorated with ribbons and reciting some rhymes. As for the Czech Republic, the difference is that only boys go and do very different things with those twigs than the Finnish kids (watch some video with Czech Easter traditions for better understanding). I was also recommended to try a traditional Finnish Easter dessert – mämmi (a kind of rye porridge). The Finns themselves told me that not everybody likes it and that it does not look very pretty. I did not get discouraged and bought quite a big box of it. It was not that bad as I expected, but everything in moderation, so it is now in my freezer waiting for some special guests. 🙂

And lastly, I got to see the Northern Lights. No need to go to Lapland to experience this, Joensuu city centre will do. Thank you to my housemate for the night ride!



Barbora Štivarová
trainee at the UEF Development Services