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Turku, Finland, from a boat.
Turku, Finland, from a boat.

Boat Ride Across the Baltic

The Swedes are notorious for traveling to Finland across the Baltic Sea to purchase cheap booze, particularly those in Norrland for whom it is a relatively short distance to Finland. This may strike a Finn as ironic, considering that Finns travel to Tallinn, Estonia via cruise ship to purchase inexpensive alcohol, particularly those near Turku, Helskini, and in other southern areas of Finland.

Nonetheless, Swedes enjoy the boat ride there and back and frequently end up imbibing too much alcohol, turning the voyage into a great big party.

The Finns and Swedes have an interesting relationship that must be largely dependent on perspective. For example, a number of Finns and Finnish Americans have shared with me that Norwegians are those considered the “black sheep” of Scandinavia, while some native Swedes have told me that it is indeed the Finns who are looked down upon, and that everyone is really jealous of the Norwegians due to their wealth and prestige.

Red houses dot the Finnish and Swedish countryside.
Houses painted red are seen throughout Finland and Sweden both (shown here: Finland).

Whatever the case may be, these opinions cannot be considered facts, but rather just that: opinions. I will be revising this section as well as I continue to speak with more people and increase my knowledge of the relationships between the Norwegians, Swedes, and Finns. These countries share many commonalities in climate and geography, yet also exhibit differences which make each culture unique. It has not yet been determined how in-depth the exploration of this topic will be on, but as my experiences develop so may the body of information I have on this subject.

The Finns

My own experiences traveling to Finland have dictated and influenced my impressions of the Finns. Finns’ alcohol consumption must certainly rival the Swedes. There is a substantial amount of booze-drinking, with alcohol being the number one cause of death for men and the second cause of death for women in Finland. I was not able to drink while in Finland, so my first hand accounting is limited, and extends only to my husband and those we were with. Finlandia is certainly not a popular brand of vodka there, as it was intended for purchases made by exporters, and the Finns much prefer to swill Koskenkorva.

Aside from their hearty thirst for liquor, the Finns are quiet, contemplative, beautiful, friendly, and helpful. I had the luxury of spending a day at a Finnish spa with a group of older Finnish women; we conversed in English and I found them to be polite, cordial, and easy to talk with.

Finnish spa
Finnish spa near Turku, Finland.

Much like the Swedes, fish is a primary staple of their diet, and herring is especially popular. I was not able to enjoy the herring to the extent the Finns did; I found it difficult to believe that they could enjoy eating the smallest bones, the ones they were unable to pick out.

Not dissimilar to the Finns, we too, took a large cruise ship from Helsinki to Tallinn, Estonia, for shopping and respite (everyone needs a vacation from their vacation, right?) We witnessed crowds of Finns piling off the boats returning from Estonia, clearly drunk and mostly in very good spirits.

Perhaps the Swedes and Finns are not the best of friends, but there are certainly some commonalities there.

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