SQUIZ THE WORLD (1400 × 700px)

Squiz the World goes to… Finland

Map of Finland: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finland#/media/File:EU-Finland_(orthographic_projection).svg
Explore the Finnish seasons: https://en.ilmatieteenlaitos.fi/seasons-in-finland

How to see the northern lights: https://www.visitfinland.com/en/articles/how-to-see-the-northern-lights/
Santa Claus village: https://santaclausvillage.info/
LohiKeito – Creamy Salmon Soup: https://finland.fi/life-society/delicacies-from-the-top-of-the-world-go-down-well-northern-finnish-recipes/

Each week, we give the world globe a spin, and see where we land. Then we take the kids of Australia on an audio excursion to visit that country and its people.

I’m Amanda Bower, and today on Squiz the World we’re visiting Finland, which has been in the news lately because it’s applied to join NATO—the military alliance between the United States and European countries. That’s a big deal, because Finland’s eastern neighbour is Russia… For decades, Russia has felt threatened by NATO, and Finland has chosen not to join the alliance. But when Russia invaded Ukraine, Finland changed its mind.
But Finland is much more than just a place that borders Russia … in fact, it’s said to be the happiest place in the world! Let’s find out why. Strap yourselves into the Squiz Kids Super Fast Supersonic Jetliner as we take off and take a squiz at Finland …

Just the Facts
As you’ll see on the map I put in your episode notes, Finland’s other neighbors are Sweden to the west, and a slice of Norway to the north. Some people might tell you that Finland is a Scandinavian country, but feel free to correct them! Finland’s language and people are different from the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

And it’s more than just their language that makes Finland stand out from other countries. It ranks at or near the top of the world when it comes to education, media freedom, economic competitiveness, human rights, and quality of life. And apparently, all those things make Finland’s 5 million citizens extremely happy—the country has come first in every World Happiness Report since 2018—a study that surveys people in 150 countries about how happy they are with their lives.

Personally, I find Finland’s results extremely impressive for a place where one third of the country is above the Arctic Circle, and winter lasts well over three months. In fact, the average winter temperature doesn’t get above zero, and in the far north, the sun literally doesn’t rise for 51 days… or should I say nights.

|But the Finns are a tough bunch—and it helps that every house in Finland has a sauna, a big wood-panelled steam room where you can warm up on those freezing days. Finnish sauna culture is so important that it’s actually recognised by the United Nations! So now you know.

Whenever you travel, it’s important to learn a few words in that country’s language. It’s a great way to show respect. So, let’s….

Learn the Lingo
In Finland the official languages are Finnish and Swedish. We’ll save learning some Swedish until we visit Sweden, but we have Squiz Kid Eino here to teach us some Finnish. Eino, how do we say Hello?


Ooh, that’s not too hard. Moi, Moi. Go on, you give it a try!

People are always really grateful when you just try to speak their language. They may even thank you for it. Hey, Eino, how do we say thank you?


And Kiitos to you, too!

Now that we can communicate a little bit, it’s….

Time for School
The Finnish education system is one of the best in the world. Why? Well, a lot of people say it’s because each year, a full time Finnish teacher spends 200 fewer hours than an Australian teacher in front of students.

They’re working during those 200 hours, though, marking, prepping, and creating lessons that suit the needs of their particular students. If you’re listening to this in a classroom, turn and look at your teacher. Does their face tell you that they’d quite like those 200 hours each year, too?

|Education is free in Finland, all the way from primary school through to university. Kids also get free school lunches, including a warm meal. Speaking of warm… or the lack thereof… Finnish kids walk to school, even in winter, and play outside in the snow everyday at school. There’s no rainy day or snowy day recess inside, like in Australia.

Kids who live near the Swedish border and speak Swedish at home go to Swedish language schools, but starting in Grade 3, they learn Finnish and the Finnish kids learn Swedish. In year 4, everyone starts learning English.

One of the best things about visiting another country is immersing yourself – that means surrounding yourself – in a different culture. So…

Let’s Get Cultural
We are heading to Lapland, a magical place in far north Finland where you will find the midnight sun in summer, and the northern lights in winter.

What are the Northern lights?

Well, energised particles from the sun are constantly slamming into Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds of up to 72 million kph. Our planet’s magnetic field protects us from that, and the particles are sent towards the south and north poles, which are the strongest parts of our Earth’s magnet. There, they interact with atoms in the atmosphere and cause beautiful, dancing waves of light.

The aurora australis is at the south pole, and the northern lights are called the aurora borealis. If you’re in Lapland between September and March, you can see this incredible display on just about every clear night. In southern Finland, it’s only visible about 15 nights per year. I’ve put a link in your episode notes with photos and more information. That’s definitely something on my bucket list.

Lapland is also home to Europe’s only remaining indigenous population, the Sami people, who have inhabited the region for thousands of years. They speak their own language, and live in an area they call Sapmi, which covers the northernmost parts of Finland, Sweden, and Norway. Traditionally, the Sami were nomadic, meaning they moved around and lived in tents, making their livings from fishing, fur-trapping – meaning hunting animals for their fur – and sheep and reindeer herding.

Yep, Lapland is home to about 200,000 reindeer … and where there are reindeer, there must be… Santa Claus! When you cross the Arctic Circle in Lapland, you will come to Santa’s Village and his famous Post Office, which receives around half a million letters every year from children all over the world. And yes, of course I’ll put pictures and the address in your episode notes.

Alright, being out in the cold always gets me hungry. I think it might be…

Dinner Time
Now, reindeer meat is eaten in Finland, but the rivers of Lapland are also chock full of salmon, which I think might be easier for Aussie kids to find at the supermarket.

I’ve put in your episode notes a recipe for LohiKeito, a creamy salmon soup which is found on restaurant menus all over Finland. There’s also a recipe for a special kind of flatbread from Lapland, which requires the ingredients to be very cold – easily achieved in northern Finland, but you’ll need a fridge – and the oven extra hot. So, get some help from a grownup!

The S’Quiz
This is the part of the podcast where you get to test how well you’ve been listening.

Question 1. How many extra hours of preparation time do Finnish teachers get compared to Aussie teachers?
Question 2. What does every Finnish house have, to help beat the winter blues?
Question 3. What’s the name of the indigenous people who live in Lapland?