- -  Day # 49  + +

EU > Finland > Jyv?skyl?

Getting (un)dressed

Jyv?skyl?, FI (View on map)

Summer has not yet ended officially, but the changing colours of the Finnish trees show that colder seasons are on their way. Temperatures are on their way down, heading for levels close to minus 30 in wintertime. Finland is covered in snow a good part of the year, giving the country an entirely different face. People change as well, but the impact on daily life is fairly limited. Here`s an overview of Finnish tactics to stay warm.

Johanna (23):

`There is no bad weather, only poor equipment`
`Sex`, says Tinna with a broad smile (23), while her boyfriend Aapo (24) adds that the sauna also helps a great deal in warming up `The cold gets into your bones, and going to the sauna is a good way to get it back out`, he says. Winter may be the most suitable season for going to the sauna, but Finnish people actually enjoy them all year round. They don`t necessarily go to public saunas. Many have saunas in their own houses, or at least some of their relatives or friends do. People living in apartment blocks risk not having access to a private sauna, but any other type of house would be likely to include a sauna of some sort. Summer refuges often have one near one of the many lakes. Which comes in handy, because the most common thing to do after having a sauna is jump into the nearest body of water.

While many Finnish activities take place in the individual sphere, going to the sauna is one such things that can be enjoyed in groups as well. Student parties, for example, are often held in places where a sauna is nearby or even in the same building. Mixed-gender saunas are the norm and people get bare naked. Nobody sees this as a problem though. Nudity is perceived as entirely separate from sex. Sauna precedes all other personal interest and being naked is considered nothing more than natural.

Maybe their fondness of getting naked comes from the fact that they need to wear so much clothes when they are out in the cold. Johanna (23, photo) learns me a very common saying in Finnish, which perfectly explains the way Finnish people think about winter: `There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad equipment`. And that is how they laugh at the Italian Pendolino train which is supposed to connect North and South Finland all year long but keeps breaking down when the weather gets to cold.

Finns put on several layers of clothes and all appear to be fat for a few months. When it`s very cold and dark - the shortest day in Jyv?skyl? is only 6 hours in length - it`s even hard to recognise friends in the street. `I put on thick socks, two pairs of trousers, one of them designed to be worn under jeans, then a shirt with long sleeves, a warm winter jacket, gloves and a hat`, says Johanna, `but life goes on and the weather is never an excuse to cancel whatever activity`.

Shoes off
Meri (29) shares the opinion that winter is just another part of the year and not really a big deal. Most things in Finland have been designed to be equally useful during summer and winter. Houses for example are equipped with triple glass, double doors and central heating as the average standard. When visiting someone`s house, you are expected to take off your shoes in the entrance hall, because melting snow and ice in the house are not invited along with you.

Finns obviously tend to spend more time indoors in winter. They are more likely to drive a car than to cycle, the latter being quite common in summer. Cars are obliged to have winter tyres with small metal balls in the rubber, all winter long. Some places are more easily accessible in wintertime. Lakes are covered with such a think layer of ice, that the water no longer forms a natural barrier to get to a place. Ice skating can be practised as well, on several prepared and cleaned areas.

At the moment I am writing this, the streets are still full of people. Hats have started to appear and so have gloves. But with temperatures still reaching well over 10 degrees, and no snow on the ground. Whatever is going to follow is starting to be difficult to forecast. Winters have been milder and less snowy, while throughout all of the year, extreme weather is occurring more and more frequently. Debates are going on as to whether this climate change is due to global warming. Most people think it is.

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