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Even in the cultured capital, Helsinki, the air is clean, and the countryside has a cool beauty. The western coast is fringed with countless islands, while the southern Saimaa district is drenched by myriad sapphire lakes. Here you can sail, fish, or take a relaxing sauna followed, of course, by a dip in the lake. In Kuusamo, there are ancient forests where bears and wolves roam, and where lichens glisten on the trees lining the waymarked walking trails. And in Lapland, far to the north, the indigenous Sami people still tend their reindeer herds when they’re not surfing the Internet: Finland is one of the most technologically switched-on countries in the world.

Practical Information

Area: 338 145 km² (130 559 miles²)

Capital: Helsinki. Population: 560 000

Population: 5.2 million

Currency: Euro (Eur) = 100 cents

Government: Republic.

Tipping: Once non-existent in Finland, tipping is becoming common. A 15% service charge is included in the bill in hotels. Restaurants and bars have a 14% service charge weekdays and 15% on weekends and holidays. The obligatory cloakroom or doorman fee is usually clearly indicated.

Legal drinking age: 18 years, but consumers must be 20 before they can buy the stronger alcoholic beverages

Time zone: GMT + 2 (GMT + 3 from last Sunday in March to last Sunday in October)

Languages: Finnish

Additional descriptions

Finland: Social customs

Shaking hands is customary. It is customary for the guest to refrain from drinking until the host or hostess toasts their health with a ‘kippis’ or a ‘skol’. Casual dress is acceptable. Finns appear sometimesRead more to be rather reserved and visitors should not feel alarmed if there is a lack of small talk during the first half hour or so. Shoes are usually removed when entering someone’s home.

Finland: Food and local specialties

Potatoes, meat, fish, milk, butter and rye bread are the traditional mainstays of the Finnish diet, but food in Finland has been greatly influenced both by Western (French and Swedish) and Eastern (Russian)Read more cooking. Tourists can expect excellent fresh fish dishes such as pike, trout, perch, whitefish, salmon and Baltic herring. All are in abundance most of the year. Each region has its own traditional dishes. In restaurants (ravintola), the menu is continental with several Finnish specialities. Inexpensive lunches are served at places called kahvila and baari (the latter is not necessarily a licensed bar). Things to know: Restaurants are divided into two classes: those serving all kinds of alcohol and those serving only beers and wines. Waiter service is common although there are many self-service snack bars. Bars and cafes may have table and/or counter service and internationally-known beverages are available. In restaurants, beer is served from 0900 and other liquor from 1100. All alcohol is served until half an hour before the restaurant closes. Nightclubs are open to serve drinks until 0200 or 0400. Service begins at 1100 and continues until the restaurant closes. The national specialties are: The province of Åland has Skärgårdssmak, or ’Island flavours’, and features mainly local fish. Karelia à la carte focuses on the Karelian buffet traditions and wholesome stews and casseroles. Lapland à la carte features reindeer meat, smoked or in other forms, fish and Lapp puikula potatoes, with cloudberries for desert, often served with hot toffee sauce. Kalakukko, a kind of fish and pork pie, baked in a rye flour crust, and karjalan piirakat, a pastry of rye flour stuffed with rice pudding or potato and eaten with egg butter. Various kinds of thick soups are also popular. Koskenkorva or Finlandia vodka schnapps, traditionally drunk with lamprey, Baltic herring or other cold fish. The Finnish berry liqueurs, mesimarja (arctic bramble), lakka (cloudberry) and polar (cranberry). Finnish vodka, usually served ice-cold with meals. Finnish beer is of a high quality and mild beers are served in most coffee bars.

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