We recently participated in the Worldwide Culture Swap, where families (or schools) exchange cultural packages and learn about another culture. The letter and package was so thoughtful! Learn about Finland with us:
Hello, my name is Emma and I’m 11 years old. I have only recently begun learning English at school so my mom is helping me write to you. I will help you learn about Finland! I live in Vantaa, Finland, which is part of the greater Helsinki area. Helsinki is the capital of Finland and I go to school there. There is what Finland looks like, can you find Helsinki?
Yes, you’re right: it’s in the south, right by the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Finland. As you can see, we have Sweden as our neighbor in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east. Finland is a bilingual country and everyone learns also Swedish at school even if most of us speak Finnish as our mother tongue.
Even though I live in Finland, I’m not only Finnish. My dad is French so that makes me and my little sister Sara, 6, French also. Mom says we’re not half and half, but both Finnish and French. This is why this package will be a bit French too. Here’s a map of Europe, there’s 2000km (1300 miles; it’s as much as from New York to New Orleans) between where we live and where my grandparents live.
At home we speak Finnish and French and my sister and I go to the bilingual Finnish-French school. We go visit our grandparents in France at least twice a year. This past summer we spent 7 weeks with them in Chalon–sur–Saône in the Burgundy region. The region is called Bourgogne in French and as it s happens, that’s also our family name!
1) I made this for you with my grandmother, we collected lavender from her garden and made them into what the French call “Pot-pourri.” You can for instance put it in a drawer and it will nicely perfume your clothes.
2) Special sugar from my grandparents’ region. Blackcurrent (Cassis) is a typical flavor there- I hope you like it!
Back to Finland.
3) After the sugar from France, you will need to take care of your teeth! Finns have very healthy teeth (for the most part), and this is because of something called Xylitol, a natural sugar extracted from birch trees. Nearly all chewing gum in Finland has Xylitol in it, and children at school usually take Xylitol pastilles after lunch because of its dental benefits. So were sending you a box of these pastilles, which tastes good and are great for your teeth! These you can find in the bag with funny creatures on it. They are called the Moomins and they are characters from books by a famous Finn, Tove Jansson.
All Fins love them and there is even a Moomin theme park, which you can see here.
Go ahead and open more envelopes:
4) Recognize these birdies? They’re the Angry Birds from Finland! Everyone seems to know them, but do you know why they are angry? It’s because the green pigs have stolen their eggs! I would be angry too! All Finland is crazy about the Angry Birds; there is an “Angry Birds Land” and close to where we live also a playground with the same theme.
5) Hockey! That’s the favorite sport in Finland. We’re pretty good at it too, even if we didn’t do too well this past year. The year before we were World Champions after beating our dear archrival Sweden! Here are a few stickers and tattoos, which say “Go Finland!” (The tattoos can be cut in smaller pieces before putting them on so that everyone gets a flag). As you can see, he Finnish flag has white and blue in it. We say the blue is the sky and the thousands of lakes, the white is the snow in the winter and the reflection of clouds in the lakes in the summer.
Next I would like to take you a bit further up north to Lapland. In the summer the sun stays up all day and night. We call it the midnight sun. In the winter however, it’s dark most of the time. Luckily it’s not so bad because of all the white snow- and sauna, another Finnish invention! But now it’s time to introduce you to another famous Finn. I’m sure you know him, but you probably thought, like many others, that he comes from the North Pole. Please open the next envelope (number 6) and I will explain to you how things really are:
6) You guessed right, I was talking about Santa Claus! He actually comes from the Finnish Lapland, a place called “Korvatunturi,” which translates as “Ear Fell.” As you can see from the brochure and the book we made about his home, it’s possible to meet him and his elves at the Santa Claus Village by the Arctic Circle. Finnish children receive their Christmas gifts already on Christmas Eve, which of course makes sense as this is where Santa Claus and his reindeer take off.
There are other interesting things in Finland and we’ll let you discover some of them on your own. Hope you liked getting to know Finland! If you have any questions, please contact us!!!
Emma also sent us a CD-Rom with pictures and a short film about Finland, plus a CD with children’s songs in Finnish. She also included travel brochures about Finland and about their capital Helsinki, with a children’s map of Helsinki. What an incredible Culture Swap package!!!!! Thank you so much Emma for sharing a bit of Finnish culture with us- we loved to learn about Finland! Emma’s mom is the founder of Be Bilingual and has written a fabulous practical guide for multilingual families.