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Finland is located in northern Europe and is considered one of the Nordic countries, along with Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Iceland. Territorially Finland is the eighth largest country in Europe (338 500 km2). In 2010, 77 percent of the land area was forest land, 9 percent was agricultural land and only just over 4 percent was built-up areas. Finland therefore has many forests and a huge number of lakes. Finland also has numerous islands.

 

Climate and Seasons

Finland has four distinct seasons.

 

Winter is cold and snowy. Winter in Lapland lasts for half a year, whereas in southern Finland it lasts for a third of the year. Winter temperatures can fall up to 30 degrees below zero (Celsius). In winter, the sun does not rise to the north of the Arctic Circle in Lapland. This is known as kaamos, or polar night. In the northern areas of Finland, the polar night lasts from a few days to up to 50 days.

Spring is the shortest season of the year. It only lasts for one and a half to two months. Nature undergoes significant changes during springtime. The snow melts, as do the lakes and seas that freeze in the winter, and the growing season begins. In Finland, plants only have one growing season, which lasts from spring to autumn.

Summer is a warm season that lasts climatically for about two months in the north and about four months in the south. Summer is usually thought to include June, July and August. In the summer in Lapland, the sun shines round the clock. This phenomenon is known as the midnight sun or the nightless night. Summer in Finland may occasionally be hot with temperatures rising over +25 degrees (Celsius). Sometimes it may also be cool and rainy in the summer. It rains evenly throughout the year in Finland and there are no particular rainy seasons. However, it rains the most in July and August.

Autumn lasts for about two and a half months. It is the time to gather the harvest from the fields and pick berries and mushrooms in the forests. In autumn, the weather gets colder and nature prepares for its winter rest. 

Nature in Finland

Finland is a sparsely populated country with many forests and lakes as well as unspoiled nature. Finns appreciate nature and enjoy getting out into nature. Many people enjoy hobbies in nature, such as fishing, cross-country cycling, ice swimming, or hiking. The forest is never far away, not even in the capital city. In addition, cities have many parks and other green areas where you can spend time. Keeping nature and the environment clean and free from trash is important to Finns. Littering is considered careless and impolite and you can also be fined for it.

Finland has so-called everyman’s rights (jokamiehenoikeudet). They give everyone the right to travel in nature regardless of who owns the land in question. This usually means that you may roam in nature, pick berries and mushrooms and go fishing. However, you are not allowed to harm nature or the plants and animals or leave any litter in nature. You may also camp out in nature, meaning that you may pitch a tent and spend one or two nights there at a time, without disturbing the landowner. Camping out on beaches and in parks is usually not allowed.

Population of Finland

The population of Finland is about 5.5 million. Finland is a sparsely populated country compared to many other European countries. Most Finns live near the coastline in the southern and southwestern parts of Finland. Lapland is the least populated area.

Today, 70% of Finns live in or near cities. The largest cities are Helsinki, Espoo, Tampere, Vantaa and Oulu. Altogether just over 1.5 million people live in these cities. The capital region, meaning Helsinki, Espoo and Vantaa, is home to over one million people.

In 2015, about 55 000 children were born in Finland. Back in the 1940s, the number of births per year was more than twice as many. The so-called baby boomers were born between the years 1945−1949. The war had just ended, and people were very optimistic about the future. As a result, many children were born and families were larger than they are today.

Similarly to other industrialized countries, the population of Finland is ageing. Population ageing means that people live to a greater age and less children are born than before. According to the population forecast, up to 26 percent of the population will be 65 years or older in the year 2030, whereas in 2010, this population group represented 17.5 percent of the population. An increasingly smaller working-age population will be caring for the ever-growing aged population. Today, 1.7 children per woman are born in Finland, whereas in 1950 the number was 3.5.

Finland has Two Official Languages

Finland has two official languages, Finnish and Swedish. About 89 percent of Finns speak Finnish as their mother tongue. About 5 percent of the population of Finland is Swedish-speaking. The status of Swedish as the second official language is a result of Finland being a part of the kingdom of Sweden for many centuries. Many of the customs and laws related to the religion and culture of Finland as well as its administration and legislation date back to this era.

Other languages spoken in Finland include Russian, the Sami languages, Estonian and Arabic. Russian and Estonian are commonly spoken in Finland, because many people from both of these neighbouring countries have immigrated to Finland. The number of Arabic speakers is also growing. The Sami languages are minority languages spoken in Lapland. The other minority languages of Finland are Finnish Romani and Finnish Sign Language.

Finnish Culture

Many of the Finnish celebrations and traditions are based on religion. Some of the traditions have a Christian background, whereas others stem from the time when Finns practised nature worship. Today, many Finns see the traditions and celebrations above all as free time that can be spent with family, relatives or friends.

Finland has many flag days, which are marked in the calendar. They are special occasions when the Finnish flag is raised on flagpoles for an entire day. The calendar and the news will tell you what the occasion is and whether the day is also a national holiday with no work or school.

Finland - Civic Orientation Textbook

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