Life around the world

Sunday, 29 September, 2013 - 09:58

Culture clash: UK and Finland

by LaurenS

What do you visualise when you think of Finnish culture? 2 years ago I wouldn’t have even been able to point the country out on a map, let alone tell you about its culture. Now I can tell you much more than an average Brit probably could.

During my first year studying at the University of Chester, I met other students from across Europe who were spending a year in the UK through the ERASMUS programme, which enables higher education students like me to study or work abroad as part of their degree. Throughout the year I was able to share the students’ experiences of British culture, which led me to learn about the differences in culture between the UK and Finland and establish lifelong friendships with some Finnish students.

During one of my first conversations with a Finnish student, I learnt that Finland is situated in northern Europe; the name of the capital is Helsinki and it has a subarctic climate, which means it often experiences very cold weather during the winter. From then on it was interesting to discover the differences in culture through the ways in which we reacted to the world around us. For example, winters in Finland can reach -45 degrees and experience heavy snow, which I experienced when I visited Finland during the Christmas holidays. Finland is very well equipped for this weather and continues to maintain daily activities with little difficulties. On the contrary and to the amusement of many Finns, snowy conditions in the UK often appear dramatized as what seems like a small amount of snow to a Finn can cause British everyday life to grind to a halt.

Winters in Finland can last from November to April and include a period in which the sun doesn’t rise, which can vary from days to months. Similarly, during midsummer there is a period when Finland has no sunset at all. Perhaps the sauna, which is popular with Finns in all seasons, is used as a method of enduring this extreme weather.

This experience has demonstrated to me that travelling abroad does not only impact your own life, but it can also impact the lives of others too. Experiencing languages and cultures that I am unfamiliar with has now become one of my passions and I look forward to discovering other cultures and their fascinating similarities and differences that make them so unique.

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