Image: Timo Newton-Syms
Finland can sometimes be a difficult place to get to grips with, especially if you don’t speak or read either of the official languages, Finnish and Swedish. So, to help Finns, immigrants and foreign Finophiles alike get a new perspective on this Nordic wonderland, we’ve gathered a list of blogs written in eloquent English about a wide range of subjects related to life here.
Remember the discussions on the virtues of the Finnish education system? The details of that may be up for debate, but a couple of things are for sure.
- It pays off to make teacherdom a well-respected profession through high education
- Boston-born teacher Tim Walker enjoys his work at a public school in Finland.
On Taught by Finland blog, Walker into detail on both expat life in general with its whirl of cultural differences. Walker’s writing has been prominently featured in The Atlantic.
It also seems like Walker might feature in the upcoming Michael Moore movie.
If you have a deep investment in Finnish society in every other aspect but the language, you will surely want some inisight in English. Finland Politics offers just that. Run by a married couple of communications professionals, the blog features insight from various commentators, including professionally translated commentary by prominent Finnish politicians.
Looking for something lighter? Melanie Dower of Hello Helsinki might offer just that, with the still fresh eyes of someone’s who’s moved across the globe a spouse’s job. Her recent guide to Helsinki on Design Sponge reveals impeccable taste for culture, food and design.
On her own photo-rich blog, she gives her readers quick glances at family life in Finland, with short commentary. We’re sure her old friends and family back in her native New Zealand enjoy her work
Don’t let all the whitespace in their layout fool you: Migrant Tales is a heavyweight champion of documenting personal accounts and deep musings on the experiences of immigrants in Finland. The ambitious project has been up and running since 2007 under the direction of experienced journalist Enrique Tessieri with help from several others.
The site’s tone reveals a deep passion about Finland as home while the entries makes no effort to hide the occasional frustration of trying to fit in and anxieties of facing discrimination.
Are you fascinated by cities, architecture and at the high stakes endeavors of building modern infrastructure? If you do, Timo Hämäläinen offers an interesting angle at his blog Urban Finland.
Here is the story so far: Modern day Finland is a pretty huge chunk of land for only five million inhabitants, Mass urbanization has mostly been a post-WWII project, and as a child of its age, Finland is a parade of sprawling, car-oriented suburban planning. Plot twists are provided by short-lived industrialization and longtime regional politics hell-bent on maintaining the illusion that everybody works at a farm.
Hämäläinen, who’s been featured in The Guardian and The Atlantic’s Citylab, latches on to this narrative, and like many urban planners of his generation tries to carve out an escape hatch from suburbia to dense, beautiful, sustainable and walkable cities. Until he succeeds, some of us at Ink Tank actively try to avoid most of Finland except for downtown Helsinki.
On the lighter and more upbeat side of the Finnish-English blogosphere, we find Amazing Finland by Swiss expat Sabrina Salzano. In a down to earth style of writing, Salzano compiles quick and likable photo essays on everyday things, cultural phenomena as well as stuff the every kind of tourist might find interesting.
Stylist and set designer Jenni Juurinen documents Finnish fashion and interiors with stunningly beautiful photos. Her posts are pretty short and appear and in Finnish with English summaries. This could be super useful to you if you’re trying to pick up some Finnish, which as they say, can be pretty hard.
Ever read a fanzine about a city? We haven’t before, but HelsinkiIn seems a pretty lot like one. On the site, a pseudonymous expat picks up on phenomena like cultural events, strikes, nature spots, the sudden change of landmarks. Best of all, the site currently gets frequent updates, so maybe sign up for some nice tips!
Back in 2012, The Wall Street Journal’s blog crew discovered Hel Looks, a true classic among Finnish blogs. Started back in 2005 by street photographers Liisa Jokinen and Sampo Karjalainen, the site documents what they describe as Helsinki’s diverse fashion among people who really, really pay attention to being originality in personal style.
In a country with a culture where sticking out may be frowned upon, it’s not surprising that Hel Looks at times been mocked as a parade of attention seeking art students, but the crowd depicted is diverse in age.
Hel Looks has mostly been on hiatus for a couple of years, but returned for a batch fresh photos during the summer of 2015, so it’s definitely worth checking out. The reason for the hiatus is the creators’ move to San Francisco. Their spinoff project SF Looks continues the tradition of documenting inspired street fashion.
Manned by a small army of expat photographers, Humans of Helsinki picks up a great concept from the already legendary Humans of New York. Simply put: they walk around the city, ask people for permission shoot their portraits in everyday settings and request a short comment or story. We think this is a beautiful way of giving a million faces to the world trend of increasingly international and urban character of human habitats.
We think the Visit Helsinki Blog deserves a mention. It may be an official, city-run tourist info blog, but that doesn’t at least reduce its value. The site focuses on personal recommendations from locals on what so see and experience both in the city and out in nature. It’s concise, well-edited and features beautiful photos.
So, Helsinki, right? What about the rest of Finland? Well, gorgeous nature and stuff. And luckily, a few energetic university towns, like Tampere.
If you want to read about Tampere with an International perspective, check out Dirty Cars And Million Cows. Started by a local hostel owner and a couple of expats, the blog chronicles the ins, outs and what-have-yous of being a foreigner in a city that remains a smaller, less international place than Helsinki, but still an ace place to live.
Written by a Bavarian blogger living in Finland, Finteresting is an interesting (and punny) blog about life in Finland. Arctica, the blogger behind Finteresting, documents her “observations of life in Finland, from trivial to extraordinary.”
While ThisisFinland isn’t the work of a single blogger but rather the Finnish government, we had to include it, simply because it’s such a beautiful place to hang out. It’s recent redesign, has made it as much as pleasure to look at as to read. With a huge range of stories on a huge range of subjects, it caters to everyone from tourists to Helsinki townies.
Bonus blog: Ink Tank Finland
Okay, we know we have our cow in the ditch, but we’re very excited about our new Finland-themed section and it seems we’re not alone. Last month over 70 thousand Finns read our Finnish stories, along with a ton of American Finns. With a marvellous mix of Finnish and immigrant writers, our aim is to showcase Finland to the world, and to Finns, in a refreshingly different way.
There you have it, 14 fantastic Finnish blogs in English. Needless to say, we love them all. But what about you? What’s your pick of the bunch? And, if it’s not here be sure to let us know in the comments below.
Joel Willans is the Editor or Ink Tank and Co-founder of Ink Tank Media. Author of the short story collection, SPELLBOUND: Stories of Women’s Magic over Men, his prize-winning fiction has been broadcast on BBC radio and published in dozens of magazines and anthologies worldwide. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.