Finland, Suomi in Finnish and Finland in Swedish, is situated in northern Europe, approximately between 60–70°N latitude and 20–32°E longitude. A quarter of the total area lies north of the Arctic Circle. Neighbouring countries are Sweden to the west, Norway to the north, Russia to the east and Estonia to the south.
The population of Finland is approximately 5,4 million. The country is sparsely inhabited; the population density is 17,7 persons per sq.km. Nearly two thirds of the Finns live in urban environments. The largest cities are Helsinki, the capital with a population of 605 000, Espoo with 257 000 and Tampere with 217 000.
Other important cities are Turku with a population of about 180 000, Vantaa with 205 000 and Oulu with 191 000. About 3,6% of the population are from abroad, of which most are Russian, Estonian and Swedish.
Finland is a republic that became independent in 1917 and a member of the EU in 1995. The head of state is the President, currently Sauli Niinistö (2012-). The 200-member single-chamber Parliament holds the supreme political power. Parliamentary elections are held every four years.
Nature and Weather
Finland is known for its forests, lakes and archipelago. Nature itself and being close to nature plays an important role in the Finnish way of life. Anyone may wander freely in almost any part of the countryside, even on privately owned property (not in people’s backyards). It is also permitted to pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers as long as they are not endangered. This concept is known as the everyman’s right. For more information visit the web page www.outdoors.fi .
Finland has four distinct seasons and during one calendar year the weather may change from one extreme to the other. The coldest month is February when the average temperature in Turku is –6.2 C (21 F). In practice, this means that the temperature may, even within a few days, vary from e.g. –25 C to + 5 C (-13/41 F). July is the warmest month when the average temperature in Turku is +16.5 C (61.7 F). In reality, you experience the change of temperature from about +13 C (55.4 F) to +30 C (86 F).In Lapland you can experience the “midnight sun” north of the Arctic Circle where the sun does not set for about 10 weeks in summer. During the same period, the sun only sets for about two to four hours in Turku.
Finland is an officially bilingual country. The two main official languages are Finnish and Swedish.
Finnish is a Finno-Ugric language, which is closely related to Estonian and distantly to Hungarian. The Finnish vocabulary differs widely from that of Indo-European languages thus Finnish has a reputation of being a rather challenging language. However, the grammar is systematic and logical and the pronunciation is fairly easy.
Swedish belongs to the northern branch of the Germanic languages and is spoken by approximately 5,5 % of the population (as their mother tongue).
Today most Swedish-speaking Finns live in the coastal area or in the archipelago. The Swedish language of Finland is not grammatically that different from Swedish in Sweden, but in terms of pronunciation and vocabulary they may differ quite significantly.
A third official language is the Sámi language, which is the language of the Sámi people in Lapland.