Clumsy, Funny and a Bit Painful: How to Lose Your Finnish Winter Virginity with Dignity

In December 2018, I experienced my first Finnish winter. It was everything I ever thought it would be.

When I arrived back in the UK and work after the Christmas break, the typical post-holiday question the British love to ask, “what was the weather like?” was replaced by my work-mates by “How cold was it?” We all know that a cold, snowy and dark day is the hallmark of a Finnish Winter, so it was of no surprise that my answer to my curious colleagues was “Yes, it was -10, snowy and got dark early.”

But, just like losing my virginity at the age of twenty-five to that blind bearded lady who told me not to tell anyone to spare her the humiliation, my first Finnish winter was a surprise. As my five previous visits to Helsinki happened in the summer or late Autumn, I was genuinely shocked to see how different the city I thought I knew so well became in the winter. Most people think of Finland in winter as a cold and challenging terrain, and I knew too that the winter was a serious affair. But my experiences of the long, light nights in the hot summer of 2014 and 2017 almost made me remember Finland as - and I’m laughing as I’m writing this - a country with a Mediterranean climate.

But like the breathtakingly beautiful summer experience of witnessing the sunset at 11 pm, then rising again at 3 am, winter in Helsinki provides many moments where all you can do is stop in your tracks and say, “Wow!” So, onto the logical side of the spiritual winter experience - here are three important tips to help you prepare for your first Finnish Winter.

1. Take the Correct Winter Clothes.

Frostbite has a way of ruining even the best holiday, and keeping your limbs attached requires proper winter clothes specifically designed to protect you from temperatures of -15. Thankfully, there are retailers such as that provide the correct clothes for sub-zero temperatures. Buying these clothes is not a waste of money, and you can’t make-do by just wearing three jumpers.
Here’s a list of the correct clothes:

• Snow boots (or walking boots that keep ice and cold air away from your feet. Remember, the toes are the first to fall off.)
• Wool socks
• A base layer and thermal underwear (life without a penis does not look interesting)
• Ski trousers (tough jeans are fine when you have a warm day of -10)
• Fleece shirt
• Wool jumper
• Thick gloves
• Wool hat
• Scarf

2. Go to the Sauna.

I have never felt a better feeling in this life than the feeling of walking out of the cold Finnish night and into the warmth of a sauna. Not only is this psychology satisfying, but the change in temperature is great for circulation and makes your skin feel baby soft!
Make sure you don’t get all British about it an insist on wearing swimming shorts.

Get naked,
get warm,
get happy!

The qualities of the sauna deserves a blog post for itself. So, i've given it one. Click here to read why the sauna is fantastic for your health.

3. Remember the importance of Hygge.

Even small walks in the cold can burn lots of energy, and that low energy combined with the darkness of the Finnish winter is a recipe for a low mood. Toughness is a character trait Finns are rightfully proud off, but they also know the importance of being cosy and warm. Hygge; the Danish concept of creating wellness, contentment, and happiness at home is as important in Finland as Sisu.
Eating a hearty winter dinner with a great friend or partner in a well-lit room, laughing lots, talking, goofing around, feeling cosy and watching comedy will help you through even the coldest days. The importance of this practice should not be undervalued or under appreciated. To use a quote from one of my favourite movies, “Remember, no man is a failure who has friends!”

So, don’t let the harsh Finnish winters scare you! Finland is as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer… it’s just a lot colder and there’s less light. Obviously!

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