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The Heart of Finland: My Hometown Helsinki

기사승인 2019.09.11  11:47:00

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- 외국인 학생의 홈타운 투어: 핀란드 헬싱키

 

   
▲ The architecture of the Central Station in Helsinki, Finland

    When I first came to Korea, I was surprised by how many people knew about my home country, Finland. Our population is very small compared to the rest of the world, so I had not expected anyone to know about us. It is a great feeling; whenever someone hears I am from Finland, the first thing they say is usually either “hyvä hyvä” (good good) or ask about Xylitol. I think it is amazing that even here in Korea, on the other side of the Earth, people still know about my home country.
    However, while many people know about Xylitol and Finland’s great educational system, I would like to introduce everyone to my hometown, Helsinki! There are plenty of more cool things to know about Finland, and the best place to start is, of course, in the capital city.

A Paradise for Anyone with a Sweet Tooth
    Let’s begin with what is most familiar to everyone; Xylitol. Of course, Xylitol gum is popular for a reason. Finland has a booming business in producing candy and chocolates, and the heart of that lies in Helsinki. Every shop, whether it is a big supermarket or a small convenience store, has endless shelves full of different kinds of treats, as well as gum and pastilles, all of which are made with that key ingredient, Xylitol. It is a little dangerous for the wallet, however: when I was younger, I used to spend all my allowance on candy as soon as I got it. It is just irresistible!

   
▲ The plaza in front of Lutheran Cathedral (left) and the statue of Alexander II in Helsinki, Finland

    Helsinki, just like Busan and Yeosu, is a city right next to the sea. This means there is a lot of fishery; one of the most popular marketplaces in Helsinki is right on the coast, and you can buy fish straight from the fishermen’s boats! You can also enjoy fried sardines as a special treat, or enjoy ice cream with fresh berries. Or, if you are feeling adventurous, there is a fortress standing on a small island outside the coast called Suomenlinna (Finland’s Castle). I have spent many school trips there, and going into the old ruins is a really cool experience! It is especially nice in summer, when you can bring a picnic basket and sit on the grass and enjoy the cool ocean breeze.
    While Finland is a country with a small population, there is a huge variety of cultures meeting in the capital city. Helsinki organises a lot of festivals related to everything from art and music, to food from all over the world. Finland is very close to nature, so most of the country’s traditional food comes from the forest. The most popular dishes include a spread of mushrooms and berries picked from the forests outside the city, and choosing a traditional Finnish dish is an adventure in and of itself. For example, you can enjoy dishes such as reindeer with lingonberries, or even bear meat. Of course, if the thought of eating bear is too intimidating, you have plenty of other cuisine to choose from. Helsinki is home to an amazing variety of European restaurants, where food from all over the world fuse with Finnish flavours, so you can take your pick without worrying.

Art and Nature at Every Corner
    Did you know that in 2012, Helsinki was named the Design Capital of the world? Finland has a lot of famous artists, both painters and designers such as Alvar Aalto, and their work can all be found in museums in Helsinki. The people in Finland are very interested in art and have collected traditional and contemporary work from all over the world, and there are always new exhibitions opening across the city. 

   
▲ A Marimekko flagship store in Helsinki

    Finland’s love for art and design can also be seen in the architecture. While most buildings in the heart of the city might look modern at first glance, the old structures and facades of the buildings have been well preserved. The best example of this is the Helsinki Central Station. Giant stone men stand guard next to the train station’s doors, sculptures that have become so popular, they’re the face of railway travel across Finland.
    While Finland is a pretty big country, the population is very, very small (only ~5,000,000 people!). This is because Finland has a lot of beautiful forests, and enough lakes to earn the nickname “The Land of a Thousand Lakes”. This is why Finnish people have such a great love for nature. In fact, it’s common for a Finnish family to have an apartment in the city, and then a separate house somewhere in a forest or next to a lake. In Finnish, this is called a “mökki”, typically a small cottage where they spend holidays or even weekends. They go mushroom- or berry-picking in the forest, sunbathe on the porch, or enjoy some time in the sauna and swim in the lake before returning to the busy life in the capital city.

Every Finn Is Quiet and Humble
    So what about the people who live in my hometown? When you first meet them, Finns are very quiet and private people. There is a strong expectation to respect each other’s personal space and privacy, and to not show emotions to strangers, so Finnish people will usually not be the first ones to start a conversation. But don’t let that scare you off; as soon as you have introduced yourself, Finns are some of the nicest, most helpful people you will ever meet! They are very humble and will always be incredibly happy when someone shows curiosity for their country or culture. If you ever meet a Finnish person, well, do what you have already done to me and show that you know even just one thing about Finland. After that, it is smooth sailing!
    I hope you could learn something new about the cultural hotspot that is my hometown, Helsinki! Writing about my hometown like this really makes me miss Finland. I always say I do not miss it because it is so cold, but thinking about all the good things there really does make me feel homesick. Life in Helsinki is not as busy as it is here in South Korea, but there are still plenty of fun and interesting things to do!
 

By Von Bruun Maja Elisabeth, Sophomore, Dept. of English Language and Literature

Maja Elisabeth 영어영문학과 2학년 tribune1968@cnumedia.com

<저작권자 © Chonnam Tribune 무단전재 및 재배포금지>
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