Differences Between France and Finland – Humanities Essay
Before coming to Finland, I thought that I would be head over heels facing a strange world with no sun, long nights, and icy cold snow all around. I thought I would be disorientated by meals made of fish days after days,
especially salmon. My imagination seemed quite limited about all the other aspects of a Finnish “way of life”. I didn’t know so much about Finland and I couldn’t manage to picture it as a real country: it was like a “white mystery” which attracted me a lot.
The first thing I noticed when I travelled from Helsinki to Savonlinna was this flat landscape. I come from Grenoble in the south east of France, a town situated in the Alps, where, anyway you look, huge mountains prevent you from seeing on the horizon and make you feel in a safe fortress. Here, when you cross a frozen lake, you can’t see anything on the horizon but snow plains… It’s an amazing landscape and I love it ! I have learnt that the highest top in Finland is Halti (1328 m) ; in France it’s the Mont Blanc (4808 m) which shows a huge difference !
The second thing I noticed, still in this journey, was the endless view of snowed trees all around for miles with an empty sky surounding the horizon and without any city. It’s something really different from France…but easy to understand when you know the Finland’s area is 338 142 km² for 5 183 542 inhabitants that is 15,33 inhabitants/km² whereas France’s area is about 551 500 km² for 59 765 983 inhabitants that is 108,37 inhabitants/km² ! Finland has some place left for nature which can not be found easily in France…
The last thing I noticed during this trip was the silence on the bus! We were the only people talking, which made me feel uncomfortable at first, but after few days in Finland, I could see that Finnish people are quite shy and silent people and then I understood that nobody was dead in the bus and that there was no reason to keep quiet…? !! The second thing about Finnish people which seemed quite strange for me at the beginning is the big space between people. I am under the impression that people keep a kind of distance with the others. For example, Finnish people I have met don’t kiss to say hello or goodbye, which is a highly usual thing in France. Maybe these characteristics about Finnish could be explained by the geography of the country…There is many space here for everybody so people may be used to keep their distance and may need that to feel good.
Something really typical from Finland which does not exist at all in France is sauna. It’s amazing to see how people like it and how many saunas you can find in a km² !! But, here in Savonlinna, I got used to go at the swimming pool everyday however I was a bit stunned by the nakedness. Indeed, in sauna, you have to get naked, and people have no problem with that, girls go there with their mothers and sometimes with their grandmothers, then everybody take shower and go back, still naked, without any towel, in the changing room in which there is no cabin to change one’s clothes. For me, it’s not so much shocking, I know that everygirls is the same and so on, but I really can’t even imagine myself going naked in a sauna or in any other place with my friends, mother or grandmother!
Food is a matter of state importance in France and I was surprised to see that the Finnish population does not deal with it the same way as I do. I have an insight of Finnish food habits during my training as I work in a place where elderly people come several times a week. They spend the day, have some fun and eat breakfast and lunch there. The main thing is the unbelievable number of coffees drunken everyday by almost all the Finnish!! The difference with France is not only the consumption, but also the way to drink it: loads of Finnish drink “white coffee”, with milk, which are quite long ones whereas in France, you drink only a little cup but quite a strong, and if you need milk, you have to ask as it is not an usual thing in France. When I observed people drinking coffee, I had the feeling that there is kind of a “coffee culture”: people drink coffee to start off the day, after lunch, in the afternoon and so on. However they really appreciate it as they take time to dress the table, to help oneself, to relish it… Coffee is also always served with food: slices of bread at breakfast, biscuits, cakes or karjalan piirakka in the afternoon snack.
In France, at breakfast, people usually eat some slices of bread (the most popular one is called “baguette”, it’s a long white bread) with butter and jam. Here, bread is quite always a wholegrain one on which the Finnish put some slices of cheese, ham, margarine and some vegetables (cucumber, tomatoes, salad…). I have also seen many old people at work eating some porridge in the morning but not with oasts, I’m not sure of that but I think it’s wheat, that they cook in water or sometimes milk.
At lunch, my first observation is that the Finnish have lunch quite early (11 am, in France it’s not usual to have lunch before 12 am). Lunch is quite the same as in France for entrée and main dish which is meat or fish with vegetables, but people drink milk, and put some margarine on the slices of bread.
The last thing about food I have noticed is that many people, during the day, drink sirop and no pure water.
Some others differences…about sports, I have noticed that here when you talk about ski, people think about cross country skiing whereas in France and especially in my region, ski means for everybody alpine skiing. I have noticed that the most popular sports in Finland are especially healthy ones, like cross country skiing, ice skating, running, biking, swimming, Nordic walk and so on. In a general way, I think Finnish people have a healthy life, and take a better care of themselves than French people. According to what I saw still at work, the Finnish appear less stress than the French and it even seems to be connected to the general way of life : jacouzis and saunas everywhere, healthy food, few smockers places, regularly practice of sport, and of course this peaceful environment!
Last observation, life in Finland is really expensive, some people say that it is the same in all the Nordic countries…?
To conclude, Finland is quite a different country compared to France, in many ways. I think most of the differences can be explained by the simple fact of geography, weather and temperatures, density of people in a km²…
I am pleased to live in Finland for now. I think it’s a nice and beautiful country. Moreover, it’s really interesting to live for few months in such a different cultural way of life. I am crazy about nature and sport, and here I have so many opportunities to take advantage of it ! Sometimes I’m thinking that I could live here…but the Finnish tongue seems to me so difficult that I have to think deeper about this possibility! Anyway, my stay in Finland will remain for an happy and cherish time!