How did the old Scandinavians survive in winter

This is how winter is fun!

Even when cold, darkness, ice and snow rule, life in Finland does not come to a standstill with the arrival of winter. On the contrary. Here you can learn how to not only survive the winter, but even enjoy it.

Finland is one of the northernmost regions in the world with permanent settlement. Depending on the part of the country, winter lasts between three and seven months. But no matter where you live, the winter is cold, dark and full of snow, but that doesn't disturb anyone. Neither freezing cold nor snowstorms stop the Finns from going to work or school in the morning as usual.

So what's behind the Finns' secret of getting through the winter safely and happily? Here are the eight top tips:


A cappuccino with a little cinnamon to top it off will warm you up.Photo: Tuomi

The Finns get going on dark winter mornings with coffee. It gives the strength to get through the day. Some even claim it helps them sleep. According to official statistics, coffee consumption per head of the population is 11.92 kg (2009), which corresponds to around 3.8 cups per day. For comparison: In Sweden it is 7.35 kg per capita, in the USA 4.09 kg, in Japan 3.36 kg and in Great Britain a modest 3.14 kg. In Finland, coffee is lightly roasted and is slightly more bitter than in Central Europe.

Serving coffee is an important part of Finnish culture. At hearty family celebrations, celebrations at work, receptions and visits to friends, coffee in pretty cups and sweet pastries are essential.

But actually the Finns don't need a reason to pour themselves a coffee. No wonder American-style café chains have become so popular in Finnish cities recently.

The Finns also like to drink other hot drinks in winter such as tea, cocoa, heated black currant juice and Glögi, the Nordic version of mulled wine.


Nothing makes you as lively and refreshing as a quick dip in icy water after the scorching heat of the sauna. © Finnish Tourist Board

Finland cannot be imagined without a sauna. There are at least two million saunas in Germany with a population of around 5.4 million people and 2.6 million apartments. And more and more saunas are being built, as most new apartments are equipped with an electric sauna.

In Finland you end the evening with a sauna. You can relax in it after sporting activities, sweaty work, or to express friendship and togetherness, as a conclusion of business consultations and at least once a week on the sauna day. At such important festivals as Christmas and Midsummer, the sweat course should not be missing. But in contrast to the popular idea abroad, there is no competition here about who can last the longest or hottest in the sauna. Around 80 degrees Celsius is considered a reasonable temperature in Finland.

In winter it is wonderful to warm your frozen toes and fingers in the sauna, to relax and to let your mind wander. It is a place of inner peace and contemplation beyond the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It is said that one of the main pleasures of a winter beach sauna is jumping into the ice hole of a lake or inlet. It certainly gets the cycle going and brings you to life.

Cozy warm apartments

Triple-glazed windows ensure that it stays warm inside, even when the temperatures outside drop.Photo: Marttila

When the thermometer outside drops to minus 20 degrees, you appreciate a warm house. Therefore, in Finland, the development of energy-saving and renewable resource-using construction technology has been strongly promoted. The building regulations stipulate that windows must be triple-glazed in new buildings. Pioneering technology are window panes made from solar cells. The outer walls of the houses have an insulating layer at least 10 centimeters thick and a draft-proof cladding.

Of the various heating options available, district heating, which is particularly common in the country's metropolitan areas, is also the most effective, economical and environmentally friendly type of heating. Compared to the separate generation of electricity and heat, the system saves around 30 percent energy.

The district heating comes from combined heat and power plants, in which heat is stored in water, which flows through a pipe network into the radiators of the individual houses and then returns to the power station, where the water is reheated and recycled.

Driving in winter

Engine preheaters ensure that the cars start without any problems even in the coldest winter. Photo: Sivula

Finns drive almost as much cars in winter as they do in summer, but driving in cold weather and on icy roads requires special equipment.

In Finland there is a statutory requirement for winter tires. It is valid from 1.12. until February 28th, but you can and must drive longer with winter tires if the road conditions require it. There are winter tires with and without spikes. During the regular TÜV inspections of the vehicles and police checks, special attention is paid to the condition of the tires, and anyone caught with a worn profile must expect a fine.

When winter sets in, caution is advised on the roads. Visibility deteriorates, the roads are slippery, braking distances grow and thick snow makes it difficult to control the car.

A blessing for drivers who do not have their own garage and have their car parked in the outdoor parking lot in front of their house in winter is the electric engine preheater, which is common in Finland. Not only does it make starting the engine easier, it also saves fuel. In the evening, drivers returning from work plug their car into a socket with a timer, which turns on the preheater in the morning. And so that it is comfortably warm while driving, cars built for the Nordic market often have heated seats.

This is how you get rid of snow

It's more exhausting than it looks, but he's still smiling. Photo: Tuomi

The northern regions of Finland have a solid snow cover from around mid-October, which can remain in northernmost Lapland until June. In the south, the snow lasts from around December / January to March. There are practically no snowstorms or cold falls that paralyze traffic and the whole country.

This is because the Finns are always prepared to fight the snow and road maintenance is regulated by law. Private landowners and communities share responsibility for maintaining the roads. Local authorities ensure that clearing vehicles are available to make roads passable, that salt and gravel can be spread to make smooth paths passable.

The sparsely populated rural areas of Finland have long stretches of roads that are maintained by private landowners and road cooperatives. With the help of reflective poles along the country roads, snow plow drivers can still see the course of the road even in the strongest snow storm.

And that's how snow is fun

Sledging is a matter of attitude. It's the same with winter: just relax and enjoy! Photo: Tuomi

What a joy to wake up one morning in late autumn and the outside world is suddenly white. The children storm out immediately, build a snowman or run to the next hill to slide down. The adults meanwhile dig out their winter sports equipment.

What a joy to wake up one morning in late autumn and the outside world is suddenly white. The children storm out immediately, build a snowman or run to the next hill to slide down. The adults meanwhile dig out their winter sports equipment.

Downhill and other alpine sports, especially snowboarding and freestyle skiing, are also popular, although some of them are more for the younger and more daring. Ice skating, another national sport, is also popular. Many municipalities maintain ice rinks on school grounds or other suitable locations in winter. All over the country you can find ice rinks for ice skaters, clubs and of course ice hockey teams. Ice hockey is the biggest spectator sport in Finland.

Just a matter of the right clothes

In overalls, romping around in the snow is no problem at all. Photo: Heittola

The Finns are almost as much outside in winter as they are in summer. The secret is the right clothes. The bottom layer should be breathable. New materials let the moisture out, but keep the heat inside and the skin dry. An intermediate layer made of a material, the choice of which depends on the weather, is worn over the underwear, for example fleece or wool on really cold days. The outer clothing must be wind and water-protecting, but breathable, comfortable and, depending on the weather, lined.

In freezing temperatures, you should pay particular attention to the protection of your feet, hands and head. Moisture-permeable, non-rubbing socks for the feet, woolen socks over them and finally comfortable, well-insulated shoes whose soles should have a good profile. Nothing spoils being outdoors in winter like cold feet! Gloves should be roomy and lined, and headgear should also protect the ears well. In really cold weather you should wear a face mask made of silk.

There is a Finnish saying: “There is no such thing as bad weather, but bad clothing.”

The joys of winter evenings

Action and excitement determine Finland's most popular team sport in winter.Photo: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Some may imagine that the dark winter evenings in Finland are boring. But that's not true. Finns are the most active readers in the world and this pastime is supported by the extensive library network. The Finns also use the winter evenings to study or to learn something new. There are around 250 adult education centers and training centers in the country that offer inexpensive courses: languages, handicrafts, social topics, art classes, sports ... whatever is current and what interests people. This educational work has a long tradition. Around 800,000 citizens take part in their courses every year.

Finland is also the promised land of civic associations. The country has 123,000 registered associations. Statistically speaking, every Finn belongs to more than one of them. You take care of municipal as well as international issues in a variety of ways. They practice sport, do cultural work and solve local problems. You support international development projects, stand up for children, the elderly and the disabled, and of course you get together with like-minded people.

There are many culture and sports enthusiasts. Every self-respecting city has a theater and a remarkable number of them also have a city orchestra. The most popular performances are often sold out for months. Of all indoor sports, the ice hockey games attract the most fans to the stadiums on the long winter evenings.

Winter has a lot to offer the Finns, whether at home with a good book, in a Portuguese class or in the stadium cheering on their favorite team.

From Salla Korpela


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