You know you’re in Finland when…

Some days I wake up and it takes me a while to realise I am still in Finland. Voices float up from the street and then it dawns on me, ‘Oh yeah, I’m in Finland. And everyone speaks Finnish.’

I’m also reminded by things around our house, as although ours may not be a typical Finnish home, I’d say it is pretty standard for most Helsinki apartments.

Here’s what is different to our home in New Zealand:

There are two front doors, about five inches apart and the first front door has a slot in it for the mail to be delivered through.

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Just inside the apartment are two open wardrobes for hanging jackets and putting shoes. As winter approaches this becomes even more important and now holds gumboots, gloves, hats and scarves too.

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There is a thermometer just outside the window near the front door. As winter approaches we check it every day before we go out so we dress for the weather and not our heated apartment.

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There are heaters in every room that are turned on by the building manager once the temperature drops below a certain level for a few days in a row.

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The washing machine is in the bathroom.

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There’s a sauna off the bathroom.

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The pipes in the bathroom are exposed.

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The windows are triple-glazed and there are two doors out onto our balcony to keep the cold out. In summer we had the balcony open but you can also pull the windows across to make it more like a conservatory.

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This photo was taken before we unpacked but is pretty much how our balcony looks again as the plants and armchairs have been brought inside for winter.

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We’ve seen dramatic changes in the view from the balcony in the five months we’ve lived in this apartment.

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July

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August

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September

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October

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November

You may notice that every apartment has external ladders too, which I believe is to do with removing snow from the roof. There are not many chimneys either, although Joulupukki (Santa Claus) comes in the front door on Christmas Eve so no worries there.

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Oh yes, and there’s always this: the Finnish flag which is raised by each building manager on public holidays and special anniversaries. My brother-in-law also told me the flag will be raised to half-mast if someone in the building has died – a good time, he says, to call in if you are looking for a place to rent!

Update: how could I forget this??

13 thoughts on “You know you’re in Finland when…

  1. That’s interesting, except for the sauna, exposed pipes and flags, everything else seems so normal and usual to me. I wonder what it’s like in your home country that you found this unusual :))

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    • Well our houses are notoriously cold. We grew up with a fireplace that heated the house. Now many people have one or two heat pumps that blow hot air around the room. Many older wooden homes in NZ look great but are drafty with single-glazed windows. Our winters are much milder than Finland but if you live in a house that hasnt been modernised it can be difficult to ever feel very warm!

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    • And the mail is generally delivered at street level to a mail box. And if you didnt have a laundry the washing machine would probably go in a special cupboard or the garage before the bathroom, (chances are you’d have a bath tub and shower already in your bathroom).

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      • That’s surprising to hear about the hearing – I always thought that you get cold winters over there, so presumed you’d have proper heating and double/triple glazing. It’s something like what we experienced in Shaghai, they also have drafty single glazed windows and no heating. I felt like I was freezing to the bone :s

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  2. Pingback: What to expect when renting a Finnish apartment | A Guide to Finland

      • Really? But the doors are next to each other, not like a double door wbere you can keep the inner door closed while you open the outer door so the cold air doesn’t get in. I was in Helsinki this month and the apartment building we stayed in had this on several apartments, but I couldn’t find anyone who could explain it (and I couldn’t find anyone who actually lived in the apartments with the 2 doors to talk to). Thanks!!

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      • I know what you mean but those doors also keep snow & rain out as they are usually the entrance at street level. This however is 3 levels up so acts as extra insulation, rather than an air lock. When closed its like having double-glazing. Our single doors in NZ always had a draft allowing cold air in around the edges whereas these don’t. If I learn more I’ll update here!

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