Excuse me, do I work here?

New Zealanders love a good DIY ( Do It Yourself ) attitude – build your own fence, concrete your own driveway…but Finns bring it into the everyday as at most cafes you’ll find it’s DIY dishes.

You don’t actually have to wash them but there’s usually a place for you to scrape your dishes, stack them and sort the rubbish from the recycling.

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Having grown up with school lunches provided I’d say most Finnish adults are used to this and probably do it without thinking.

It’s great actually – it means the tables are cleared before you sit down, even when the staff are busy.

Used dishes stand & bin at Fafa's

Used dishes stand & rubbish bin at Fafa’s

At Cafe Regatta there are a couple of places for customers to stack their used dishes. You can also have free coffee refills and you get 5c back each time you refill your cup….*

So if times were tough and you were really desperate, you’d probably only have to drink 45 cups of coffee before you started to make your money back and started getting paid to stack that one dirty cup.

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Cafe Regatta

 *the beauty of this is no one wants a 5c piece in their wallet so they tend to go straight into the tips jar

The secret to good housekeeping (Finnish style)

I have a very close friend in New Zealand whose house is always clean and tidy. Despite a busy schedule she takes pride in keeping her surroundings neat and somehow finds the time to do so. Recently though she confided that she has on occassion hidden dirty dishes in her oven if she doesn’t have time to wash up before guests arrive ( I once hid Jonathan’s Christmas present in the dishwasher because I knew at the time he never opened it, but that’s another story).

Our kitchen in Helsinki

Our kitchen in Helsinki

Here in Finland they have thought of one of the best ideas I have come across for keeping the kitchen tidy. We are lucky in our current kitchen that we have lots of bench space, but when we haven’t its annoying to have to compete with a dish drying rack for room. Like most people we often leave our washed dishes to air-dry too, meaning there can be a pile of dishes out on the bench.

The dish drying rack hidden in the cupboard above the sink

The dish drying rack hidden in the cupboard above the sink

So I love the Finnish idea of having a cupboard above the sink that has two drying racks installed. Underneath is a drip-tray that catches any water. You just wash the dishes, stacking them in the cupboard as you go and then shut the doors. When you come back in the morning the dishes are dry and ready to be put away (or used from the dish rack). The flipside is it also means your oven can be used for other things – like stashing unfinished ironing before you answer the doorbell.