“When I arrived in Finland it was summer, but still it was very cold. Then came the winter, the like of which I had not previously experienced. It was amazing. The cold was incredible.”
These are the words of a man from Somalia, who has lived in Finland for years. When he arrived, he knew nothing about the Finnish climate. Nowadays, videos and photographs circulate quickly on the Internet but, in his opinion, you cannot truly understand the Finnish climate until you experience it yourself.
For example, in the capital city Helsinki, which is situated in southern Finland, the average temperature in January is –4 °C, but from time to time it can drop as low as –25 °C.
“In winter, when I met asylum-seekers who had just arrived in Finland, they wondered how they should actually dress. Nothing seemed enough to keep warm,” remembers a Kurdish man who lives in Finland.
There is normally snow in Finland throughout the winter, more in the north than in the south. A woman from Iraq came to Finland during a snowy winter, when the snow was knee-deep.
“I spent half an hour looking around the town and, when I got home, I had trouble finding our house, because there was snow everywhere,” she remembers with a smile.
The hottest month in Finland is July, when the average temperature in Helsinki is +18 °C. On occasions, the temperature in summer can climb to almost +30 °C.
Survive the cold by dressing correctly
“In Afghanistan there are almost 300 days of sunshine per year, and you can also see the sun in the winter. At first I wondered why people in Finland sing about the sun, which we take refuge from. Now I understand, as in the Finnish winter you hardly see the sun at all,” laughs a man from Afghanistan.
In the Finnish capital of Helsinki, in December there are just five hours of daylight. In northern parts of Finland, in the middle of winter the sun does not rise at all and it is even quite dark at midday. The man from Somalia says that the darkness affects his mood and that he dislikes the darkness more than the cold.
“The climate in Finland is very different to what I am used to. In Somalia, day and night are always about the same length, and the climate is definitely more pleasant than here.”
A man from Afghanistan who has lived in Finland for 10 years believes that the rest of the world does not know the conditions in Finland very well. His friends living in Afghanistan find it difficult to believe that it is so dark and cold.
“I tell my friends on the phone that it’s dark when I leave for work in the morning and, already just after three o’clock in the afternoon, it’s dark again. They have trouble believing that.”
The bright summer is beautiful
The counterbalance to the dark winter in Finland is the bright summer. In southern Finland, midsummer nights are only about five hours long. In northern Finland, dusk does not even fall in midsummer, let alone darkness. This makes summers beautiful; at midnight you can read a newspaper outside in natural light.
“Before I came here, all I knew was that in some regions of Finland one half of the year is dark and the other half light. At first, the long days of summer can cause sleeplessness, as the body doesn’t know when it’s day and when it’s night,” says the Kurdish man.
In the opinion of many, so-called ‘white nights’ are beautiful and they get used to the light. It can, however, also cause religion-related difficulties in adapting. The man from Afghanistan says that, last year on the Muslim Hijra calendar, Ramadan in Finland fell between 6 June and 5 July. In northern Finland at that time, the sun did not set at all and, even in southern Finland, there were only five hours between sunset and sunrise.
“I am a Muslim and of course I have to pray. But last summer it was very difficult. Night-time, when we could eat, was very short, meaning that our period of fast was very long.”