Winter in Finland

Writer: Agatha Aslanides

My name is Agathe Aslanides and I started studying at UEF in 2021. I’m part French and part Greek so moving to a cold country that has “real” winters with cold temperature was a big adjustment for me. I wanted to write a few lines to, hopefully, explain my own experience of Finnish winters and a few tips I have picked up along the way. A list of advice is available at the end of this page if you want to avoid having to read it all and just want to get the grips of it.

Sun behind the lake.

What to expect?

It’s going to get cold and dark, there’s no tiptoeing around that. It’s true that it might be very different that the winters you have experienced in the past. The months from October to December can quickly become dark and I remembered being surprised of how fast the temperatures dropped. The months from January to March can get very cold and the lack of sunshine was for me a difficult adjustment. With all this being said, there are tips on how to best manage it.

It is recommended to take some vitamins ahead of the winter months. I personally decided to take Vitamins D and iron from November to March. If you have any questions regarding what vitamins to take and where to find them, please reach out to your student tutors, your study coordinator or to the Finnish Student Health Service.

How to best prepare yourself and embrace this period?

The first advice I received by a Finnish person was “make friends, they will be your warmth soon enough”. This was the best advice I have ever received. I highly recommend nurturing those friendships whilst winter is setting. You can organise walks outside to discover your surroundings and get to know your new friends. You may want to go enjoy the dancefloor at Bepop, Hilona or Kerubi. It’s also the perfect weather to organise a hot chocolate/baking session in the warmth of someone’s apartment. Going for lunch on campus is also a good way to meet people and eat some delicious and diversified food. Any reason is good to spend time with your new friends and get more acquainted.

The second advice I received (this sounds narrated, but I promise it’s true) was to go outside every time you see some sun. It quickly became a habit to drop everything I was doing whenever I would see some sunlight to run outside and enjoy the feeling on my face. You will probably be missing this sun after Christmas so make sure to enjoy it when it’s here.

More personally, here is a few advice that I have picked up along the way. First and foremost, remember it’s temporary. The sun and heat will be back! Secondly, make sure you don’t let your inner clock think it’s bedtime at 3pm when there’s no more sunlight. What worked best for me was to plan something in the late afternoon/evening to make sure I would not be tempted to go to sleep too early. I would sign up for a Sykettä class at 6pm, organise a dinner with friends at 7pm or even plan to have a movie/reading night by myself before going to sleep. Any reason is good to keep a healthy and somewhat normal rhythm.

Those months were also the moment those friendships were personally very beneficial for me. With my group of friends, we had this rule that if we didn’t see one of us for one day, we would check on him. I remember once or twice a friend encouraging me to go outside and move. There are several activities that you can do in Joensuu when it’s so snowy and icy. Picking up a winter hobby is the best way to make sure you stay active and happy during this winter period. You can rent skis or ice stakes and enjoy the outdoors. For skying tracks, you can find them on the website. For ice skating, you can ice skate outside of the indoor ice rank for free any day. A few activities are also organised around campus, so I recommend keeping an eye out for the ISYY newsletter every Tuesday.

Let me emphasise this point: do not be scared to reach out if you need any help navigating this period. Everyone experiences it differently and there is help for you no matter what you need.

From March onwards, you will discover the amazing feelings of seeing the sun again, feeling the heat on your day for the first time in months, seeing the ice melt on the lake and the days getting longer and longer each day. You would have lived through your first (or maybe second/third/fourth) Finnish winter! Congratulations!

Here is a list of advice my friends came up with:
– Lean into the cosy winter vibes instead of trying to fight the cold and darkness. Pick up knitting, crocheting, enjoy cosy evenings with friends etc.
– Take vitamins and supplements. Remember to eat healthy.
– Get good winter gears. If you don’t have the right clothing and shoes, winter will be hard. Think of layers!
– Go for a daily walk even if it’s dark and cold outside.
– Make your room as cosy as possible.
– Find different places to study.
– Get a daylight lamp or use the ones available on campus.
– Buy a bike helmet if you’re planning to bike in winter. Buying spiked tires would also be a great purchase.
– Join official and non-official events. A few of my friends particularly recommend joining the JOY choir. In case (like me) you might not be very comfortable singing, I highly recommend going to listen to their concerts.

Agathe Aslanides
Student at UEF since 2021