Finnish Alphabet and Language – Finnish Culture for kids

The Finnish alphabet is based on the Latin script as well as on the Swedish alphabet, Swedish also being the second official language in Finland. Officially the Finnish alphabet comprises 28 letters: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, X, Y, Z, Å, Ä, Ö although the letter W is also commonly listed behind the V.

The main peculiarities in the Finnish alphabets are the last letters Ä and Ö. Finns refer to them as ääkköset, playfully changing the Finnish word for alphabets, aakkoset. The letter Å, is commonly known as “The Swedish O”, since it actually isn’t used in Finnish words.

Of the letters in the Finnish alphabet, many are not used in typical Finnish words. Letters such as Q, X or Z don’t exist in the Finnish language. Some others, like B, are mainly used in new Finnish words that have been derived from the English language: banaani – banana or bussi – bus. Finns have also developed this funny habit of changing common foreign words to sound and look like Finnish, by adding an “i” at the end.

Common Words and Phrases

Finnish language has a very difficult grammar but basically the pronunciation has simple rules. Each letter stands for one sound and is pronounced in the word. Vowels and consonants may be either short or long – short sound is written with a single letter and a long sound with a double letter. This can be the tricky part when learning to pronounce Finnish words, because it is essential to recognize the difference between such words as tuli (fire), tuuli (wind) and tulli (customs). The mains stress in Finnish is always on the first syllable, although it might be spoken so softly a foreigner might not even notice this.

The ”ääkköset”, letters Ä and Ö, can be difficult for non-native speakers to pronounce properly, especially in combinations. Try yourself with good night greeting “hyvää yötä” or good day “hyvää päivää”. Don’t forget to distinguish the short and long sounds!

Other common words and phrases:

Hi! Hei/Moi/Terve!
Good morning! Hyvää huomenta!
Good evening! Hyvää iltaa!
Welcome! (to greet someone) Tervetuloa!
How are you? Mitä kuuluu?
I’m fine, thanks. Kiitos ihan hyvää
Thank you (very much) Kiitos
You’re welcome (for “thank you”) Ole hyvä
See you later! Nähdään taas!
Good bye! Näkemiin!
Can you help me please? Voisitko auttaa minua?
Where is the (bathroom / restaurant) Missä on (vessa/ravintola)
Go straight, then turn left / right Mene suoraan, sitten käänny vasemmalle / oikealle
One moment please Hetki pieni
How much is this? Kuinka paljon tama maksaa?
Excuse me / Sorry Anteeksi

Luckily, Finns in general speak very good English so no need to worry if learning to speak Finnish seems too difficult!

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Common Finnish Names – Finnish Culture for kids

In Finland a new born baby has to be given a first name within 2 months of the birth. Traditionally the name is announced by the parents during the baby’s christening which is usually held when the baby is about a month and a half old. Until then, the parents tend to use a nickname for the baby and keep everyone excitingly waiting for them to announce the final choice. There are rules as to what kind of name or names can be given but mostly Finns like to give traditional names anyways.

At the moment most popular new names are Sofia for girls and Elias for boys. Common are also Venla, Aada, Emma and Aino for girls and Onni, Eetu, Leo and Aleksi for boys. It has become trendy to use international names and make them sound more Finnish, like Sofia from Sophie. On the other hand, possibly as a reply to the fashion of internationality, very traditional names like Aino have also gained new popularity. Many parents also like to combine modern and old names, since children can be given up to 3 first names.

Most common Finnish names are Maria, Helena and Johanna for girls and Juhani, Johannes and Olavi for boys, if you count the names of all the living Finns. Some of these names are Finnish versions of biblical names and some have their background in history or in the Finnish mythology. Some common Finnish names also have a meaning, like Satu – fairytale or Helmi – pearl.

Finland also has a long tradition in celebrating name days according to their given name. Most Finnish names have a name day in the Finnish almanac, which is updated every 5 years. A name has to have been given to at least 500 people for it to be considered as common enough to be added to the almanac. Although, if the name is missing, a person can still choose to celebrate a name day according to their second or third name – or making up their own date, just for the fun of it.

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Finnish Children Stories – Finnish Culture for kids

Finnish children stories have a long history but weren’t really distinguished from the general story-telling tradition to begin with. Storytelling has long traditions in the Finnish culture and history and stories were told for children and adults alike. Stories and myths have been told for as long as the history can look back to but the Finnish children’s literature can be seen to have begun on 1543 with Mikael Agricola’s Abckiria – book.

Historically children’s stories were traditional Finnish folklore and mythology. Stories were also used to teach children what’s good and what’s bad and to be obedient and respect their parents. One of the most famous Finns, the Santa Claus who still lives in Northern Finland, has also a long tradition in children’s educational stories. Finnish children have always been taught to be nice and obedient, or else Santa Claus won’t bring them gifts at Christmas!

Finnish children stories have got their influence from the Bible, nature, history, famous European storytellers and especially Kalevala, the Finnish national epic which had great impact on developing Finnish national identity. Unsurprisingly, nature and its creatures have played a big part in the stories. Traditionally Finnish children stories have also had a taste of reality in them and fantasy literature is still quite new in Finland.

(One of the best known and most beloved fantasy stories is “Pessi and Illusia”, a fairytale by Yrjö Kokko, who wrote the story as a Christmas gift to his children when he was fighting in World War II. It’s a story of the troll Pessi and fairy Ilusia. Pessi´s father, the Great Pessimist, believed that people are too blindly trusting of the future. Illusia´s father, the Grand Illusionist, on the other hand, wove a web of hopes and dreams from people´s imaginations. Without that web of hope, no one would dare to live a single day on the earth. From the love of Pessi and Illusia was born a new human, who was neither a troll nor a fairy, giving hope to the people during the war.)

The most famous children’s stories in Finland are the Moomins, created by the Swedish-Finn Tove Jansson. Moomins are a carefree and lovely family of trolls, living in the Moominvalley who with their various friends and neighbors get into all sorts of adventures. Their charm has enchanted large audiences and the stories with their very human message have also been filmed many times. Nowadays the moomins can be visited in a fantasy team park Moomin World in the city of Naantali in Finland.

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A Brief History of Finland – Finnish Culture for kids

Having the history of being alone in the rough environment, Finns have a tradition of surviving. Hundreds of years ago the Finns already had to learn the means to cope with long, bitterly cold, and snowy winters. The only way to survive was to understand the nature, and to live in harmony with nature, instead of trying to fight against it. Of course, inventing the sauna helped too!

Traditionally, Finns have loved their peace and quiet and have equally respected everyone else’s right to theirs. When Sweden (until the beginning of the 19th century) considered Finland as one of their backyard villages, Finns quite naturally, and without complaint, went along with this shift. Keeping the house warm and the children fed was what mattered, there weren’t yet much ambitions for more. As far as the Finns were concerned, Swedes were the rulers, and so be it. The Finland war 1808-1809 stirred the harmony and led to Finland becoming a part of Russia.

Being under the rule of the great and powerful eastern neighbor didn’t feel quite that natural for the Finns anymore. The Finnish identity is much closer to Swedish than Russian so slowly but steadily the hopes of independence from Russia started rising up. Towards the end of the 19th century Finland managed to gain an autonomous position from Russia and finally became an independent state on 6th of December 1917.

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The development might have been slow until the 19th century but once given the chance, Finland has quickly risen up to be one of the most developed states in the world. Finland has fought vigorously to remain independent and succeeded in it, despite the odds having been against them. The famous Finnish “sisu” – guts to go through a solid stone if needed – proved its power in the brutal Winter War of 1939-1940 against Russia. The chances didn’t look good for Finland, with its 4 million people in total, when Russia in the heat of the World War II decided to invade Finland, with whom there is a 1000 km joint borderline. The size of Russia’s army was about 25% of the entire Finnish population, whereas the tiny Finnish army had trouble providing even for ammunition. There was no chance to win, but the Finns describe the end result as having finished second – Finland didn’t lose its independence and that was what mattered.

Since then Finland has been a rising star in the western world. It quickly recovered from the losses and began to further develop the country. For a small nation, it was crucial to open up for the West but also make friends with the great Eastern power, Russia. Old rivalries can’t be forgotten but Finland has managed to establish a healthy relationship with its neighbor. Still the West is where the true Finnish identity lies. Finland became part of the European Union in 1995 and joined the Euro among the first countries to do so. In 2010 Newsweek magazine’s survey named Finland the best country to live in the world.


Today, the Finnish school system is praised around the world and it has one of the healthiest economies in Europe. The Finnish prides, Nokia cellphones, are known all around in the world and, hands up, who doesn’t play Angry Birds? Most Finnish inventions and prides of the trade, as Kone elevators or Abloy locks, get less publicity but are great success stories for the small country.

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Finland culture for children – Finland Currency

Finland Currency

Finland currency is of the euro currency. On January 1st 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries. Before 2002, the national currency of Finland was markka. Like in America, all debit and credit cards are used as well, even more than physical coin and print.



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Finland culture for children – Music of Finland

Music of Finland

Music is more of a hobby for the Finnish people, than a job. Almost every child learns to play an instrument at some point in their life, and schools even started having classes for it during open hours. Pop music and heavy rock are two of the most commonly played genres of Finland. In fact, most musical groups and bands of Finland happen to be either of metal fate or heavy rock focus.


The Kantele – Finland’s National Instrument: The kantele is the oldest Finnish folk instrument, and is classed as a cordophone, or, an instrument whose sound arises from a string stretched between two fixed points. This is the main instrument of Finland, for traditional folk music, outside of rock and heavy metal, and pop as well.


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Finland culture for children – Finest Finnish Attire (Traditional Clothing of Finland)

Finest Finnish Attire (Traditional Clothing of Finland)

Finland fashion is bright and warm, handmade and of high quality. It is young, tricot, and often knitted. It is fashion forward, and bold in its unique design, and it appeals to many demographics. It is like western culture fashion, in which it is aesthetically appealing to both the very young generation and the very old generation as well. The bright color is to offset the very cold months, and it helps to be able to see during snow storms. Finnish clothing is unique and trendy in its patterns and textures. In the 19th century, when the sewing machine was invented, the clothing turned into a fashion phenomenon. Bold stripes, flowers, and many abstract figures are the markings of Finnish attire, ever since they started being created.


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Finland culture for children – Celebrating Holidays and Festivals in Finland

Celebrating Holidays and Festivals in Finland

Christmas: the number one festival and holiday of Finland is Christmas and all of the celebrations that accompanies it. There are many parties at places of work, educational facilities, and nightlife locations. On Christmas Eve, families bring in Christmas trees to decorate, while listening to music, dancing, and eating with each other. At about midday on Christmas Eve, “Christmas Peace” is declared by the president from Turku, the former capital of Finland. Families put candles on the graves of loved ones on this night, and hymns are sung for the remembrance of them. There are meals and then on Christmas morning, there is a service to hear the Christmas message.


Midsummer: The second most important celebration of Finland, Midsummer is all about the sun, and how it remains above the horizon all night long. This happens around midsummer solstice, and everyone can be spotted sitting around bonfires with their families at their cottages.


Easter: Religion is big in Finland, and church is the number one aspect of Easter. If nothing else traditional is followed, Easter is and will always be. Children grow grass on plates indoors; they decorate Easter eggs and Easter cards. On Palm Sunday, children dress up as Easter witches going around houses with springs of willows in their hands. As a reward for reciting a special verse they get chocolate eggs or money. While there are aspects that are a bit different, Easter is celebrated in Finland like Easter is celebrated in America.


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Finland culture for children – Fun Finland! (Places to See)

Fun Finland! (Places to See)

Lake Inari: Sitting on the north of Lapland, Lake Inari is a huge tourist attraction. Trout, Perch and Salmon can be found in the bunches here, and this is where tourists comes to see them swim upstream. Lake Inari is also home to the burial ground of the Sami people, called Hautuumaasaari Island. It is quite popular for its history of the people and the city.


Helsinki Market Square: Filled with many vendors, souvenir shops, cafes, and many other tourist attractions, this market square is a major spot and frequently visited area of Finland. Your children will love looking at all of the decorated shops and traditional scenery here.


Esplanadi Park: This Park holds many picnics and family gatherings during the summer. There numerous live shows for children, and musical events for adults. There is always so much room for kids and their pets to run around and just have fun.


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Finland culture for children – Customs and Etiquette

Customs and Etiquette

  • Men shake hands, while maintaining direct eye contact. Women will say hello or shake hands, while maintaining direct eye contact, but this is not a contact culture so there will be no kissing or over touching.
  • Expect Finnish people to be direct, but they are not trying to be rude. Listen intently, while interrupting is taken highly offensive, and considered rude.
  • When someone asks how you are doing, they would like a sincere response, not a quick and simple “fine, and you?”.
  •  Gender roles are fairly flexible.  It is not uncommon to have a stay-at-home dad and the working mother.
  • A shrug can show indifference, so do not shrug if you really care about an issue.
  • Punctuality is important so it is best to be on time.


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