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Blogg: ESC volunteer Varvara about life in Finland

If someone asks me what Finland is for me, I probably will not be able to find one single word to describe all my delight after 4 months here. For me it includes amazingly beautiful nature and fast-changing weather; simple, but amazing Finnish design and adorable moomins; wonderful people; sauna and unusual food, and much more.

Привет! My name is Varvara and I am from Siberia, Russia. Since February I am volunteering in Villa Elba, where I help the staff with various youth activities and organizing services for groups. I am happy to share my first impressions of Finland in general and of my project in particular. But first things first –

Nature. It plays a truly important role in Finnish life. I noticed that most people spend their time outside in one way or another – in winter everyone was skiing and ice fishing and then closer to summer everyone is cycling, jogging and barbecuing. Regardless of the season, people often walk in the forest, and I joined this activity with great pleasure! As in Russia, the weather changes very fast and it makes you really appreciate every sunny day. However, as people say, there is no such thing as bad weather – only inappropriate clothing.

People. Finns are one of the nicest, caring and wonderful people. I often received help from strangers, not to mention my colleagues and friends. To some, Finnish people may seem shy and cold at first, but I find this in common with the Russians – we simply do not smile for the sake of being polite. This seeming severity disappears when you begin to communicate with a person and get to know him better.

Finnish design. For me, this is a genuine delight! I really love interior design and architecture, and I truly enjoy having walks around Neristan in Kokkola – where old Finnish houses coexist with modern furniture and decor shops and trendy coffee places. For me, Finnish design is the embodiment of conciseness, convenience and beauty.

Second hand shops. It is literally the best thing in Finland! The culture of second hand shops is really strong and you can find everything there from the clothes for every occasion to books, furniture, decorations etc. For example, last month I bought a cake mold in perfect condition for 50 cents!

The Moomins. Before my life in Finland, Moomins were already firmly associated with this country for me. These wonderful characters can be seen absolutely everywhere – bags, clothes, toys, etc. A special item is Moomin mugs, which you can find in almost every Finnish home. I am truly in love with these adorable creatures – how can I not be? In addition to the cute appearance, in Moomins books can be found important and deep philosophical thoughts about life and existence, which makes this literature a real masterpiece for all time.

Sauna. In many ways, I find sauna very close to the banya (Russian sauna). Nevertheless, Finnish sauna culture takes such a huge place in the life of Finns that I also find myself sharing this love for it and thinking from time to time “I feel like going to sauna right now”.

Unusual food. Mämmi, salmiakki, sima, tippaleipä, voileipäkakku… I have tried many unusual dishes during my time in Finland and I liked it! I am sure that new culinary masterpieces are ahead of me.

Project. I spend most of my time helping with youth work in Villa Elba and I really enjoy what I do. It is very interesting to observe from the inside how the leaders work with groups and its dynamics, what games and activities are being held, how the preparation for projects proceeds and help with everything that happens. I try to remember everything and absorb new experience and knowledge.

I am looking forward to our summer camps – it will be very interesting and exciting. See you there!