Nature is a very big part of Finnish identity. Whether it’s a question of what is special about Finland, what is Finland known for, besides heavy metal, or what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Finland, the answer always is nature.

Finland is known as the land of the thousand lakes. To be more precise, Finland has more than 180 000 lakes. That’s quite a lot for the country the size of California. We also have a lot of forests and fields and rivers too, not just a land of lakes.

We value nature highly, it’s part of our everyday life, and even Finnish cities have lots of greenery and parks and water elements, so we don’t forget that nature is a part of us. To be fair Finnish cities are not really big anyway, at least when it comes to population. Suburban neighborhoods count as cities too and many of those have still a lot of forests in and around them. When you look out of a Finnish window, you’ll always see a tree or many, most of us see a forest too.

It’s important to Finns to maintain our bond with nature. From when we are young, we are taught to respect nature, to appreciate what we have, and how we can take care of it for the future. At daycare we take our small Finns out every day to play for hours, no matter what the weather is like. Rain or shine, it’s fun any which way. Many times the children, with accompanying adults, take small field trips, since there always is a forest or at least a park very close by to the daycare center.

We even have Nature Daycare Centers, where the early education of children is built and focused around nature itself. Where the emphasis is to support the development of the child’s positive relationship with nature, and to guide the child to a sustainable lifestyle. Where the idea is that anything you can do inside, you can do outside, even baking. And not just with sand and mud, but actual edible ingredients too.

Of course we continue to learn about nature through the rest of the school years too. Field trips are still a big thing, and we spend gym classes and recess outside. Not all of our gym classes, we do inside sports too, but there’s a lot of outdoor sports too, like soccer and baseball (Finnish kind, not the American version) and skiing and skating. Orienteering is a very Finnish school sport too, it’s a perfect way to teach the children about maps and navigation, so if ever an evil witch with a gingerbread house tries to eat them, they’ll know how to find their way home. And it’s still very common to send our schoolkids to the forests every fall, during school hours, to pick berries for the lunch ladies to make desserts and porridges from.

And we go outside on our free time too. Fishing is a big thing, kids love it, and hunting too. When they get a bit older usually. Fishing is okay but you don’t want to give a rifle to your small child. You can’t either, since there’s a test you must pass if you want to be able to use a firearm for hunting purposes in Finland.

There’s not a lot of Finns but there is a lot of Finland, and many Finns own their own part of this great green land. Some own many parts, and a lot of the parts are forests. We’d even go as far as claiming that most Finnish people know at least one person who owns a part of Finnish nature.

There’s magic in Finnish nature too, but that’s a story for another day.

— Editors

The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.

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