Tag Archives: Finland

Pre-Christmas party with EOTO

Christmas time means pre-Christmas parties and for our eight meeting we went to the EOTO Christmas party which was at Solu. There were many other students from around the world who were also participating the EOTO course. Many students had brought some traditional food and snacks from their home countries to share with everyone. At the party me and Jocelyn talked about Christmas traditions in Finland and the Netherlands.


In Finland we celebrate Christmas on 24th December, Christmas Eve. In the morning of the 24th there is a children’s TV show where Santa Claus takes calls from children and they also show traditional Christmas animations and movies. Christmas is spent with family. Many families go to church on Christmas Eve and for most of them Christmas is the only day of the year they go to church. Some of my family members go to church in some of the Christmases but not always. Personally, I don’t go to church because I have resigned from the church.  In the evening, after the church or some other activities, there is the Christmas dinner which consists of oven-baked ham, root vegetable casseroles, mixed beetroot salad, smoked salmon and many other different salads, meat and fish dishes. At some point, usually after dinner, Santa Claus comes for a visit. Santa Claus’ visit is usually a tradition only if there are young children in the family but some families hire one even when the children are older and don’t believe in Santa Claus anymore. Children sing songs to Santa Claus and then Santa Claus brings presents to everyone. The presents can be placed for example under the Christmas tree by family members if Santa doesn’t visit. After Santa Claus leaves the presents are opened and the rest of the evening is spent with family. Rest of the Christmas (25th and 26th) is usually spent with family and I personally visit my grandparents and my boyfriend’s family on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.



In the Netherlands the Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Day 25th and the second Christmas Day 26th. I already posted a blog about Dutch traditions and I told about Sinterklaas. On Sinterklaas’ Day children get presents so it is not a common tradition in the Netherlands to give presents on Christmas Day. Christmas is more spiritual and it involves church. In the Netherlands Christmas is also spent with family and it includes a Christmas dinner. A Dutch Christmas dinner usually includes roast pork, vegetables, homemade bread and pepernoten.


Although very similar, there were surprisingly many differences between Finnish and Dutch Christmas. It was nice to get to know more about Dutch traditions and the pepernoten cookies that Jocelyn had brought were so good I’m going to buy them too!

About school at school

Our fourth meeting took place at TAMK since our subject for the meeting was school and education. We taught each other how the school systems in our countries work. We also talked about different student benefits and expenses as a student.

In the Netherlands the primary school starts at age 4 and if you’re born at the end of the year you might have to retake the first year since you’d be missing too much. That differs from the Finnish system where everyone starts school at the same time in mid-August in the year they turn 7. Before primary school the kids might go to a kindergarten but it’s not mandatory like it’s not in Finland either.

Primary school lasts for 8 years so when going to secondary education they are usually age 12. In secondary education there are three different choices for high schools that are VMBO, HAVO and VWO. The choice is made based on test results from primary school.

VMBO (”preparatory middle-level applied education” or pre-vocational education) lasts for four years and it has four different levels (TL, GL, KBL and BBL). The levels go from most theoretical path (TL) to the path that emphasizes vocational training the most (BBL). After VMBO the student might go to work or continue studying at MBO. MBO (”middle-level applied education” or secondary vocational education) lasts for 2 to 4 years depending on the level. Students in MBO can choose a more school-based path where training within a company takes 20-60 % of the time or an apprenticeship education where training is more than 60 % of the study time. After MBO the student can enter the job market or continue studying in HBO.

HAVO (”higher general continued education” or general secondary education) lasts for five years. The first three years all students study the same subjects and after that they enter the second phase where they have to choose a profile. The different profiles are Culture&Society, Economy&Society, Nature&Health and Nature&Technology. A HAVO diploma provides access to HBO. HBO (”higher professional education” or polytechnic / university of applied sciences) usually takes 4 years (bachelor) and after that you may apply for a master’s program or enter the job market.

VWO (”preparatory scientific education” or pre-university education) lasts for six years and it is the highest variant in the secondary education level. The studies in VWO go on similar way as in HAVO but the difficulty level is higher. In VWO students also have to choose between the four profiles. With a VWO diploma a student can continue in WO (”scientific education”) that is only taught in research universities. WO also has a bachelor’s (normally 3 years) and a master’s (1-3 years) programme. After a master’s degree it’s possible to apply for a PhD candidate position at a university.

Although the school systems have similarities there are also a lot of differences. In Dutch school system are three options for secondary education where there are only two options in Finland. Also, the compulsory education in Finland ends after comprehensive school (or when it has passed 10 years since the beginning of comprehensive school, at age 17) and in the Netherlands it ends when you’re 18 so for example after VMBO a student must go at least two years to MBO.

In the Dutch system there is a possibility to “level up” after for example finishing at HAVO you can take final year of VWO and apply for WO. And it is also possible to go from HAVO to MBO. Usually students just follow the path as it is planned. It seems a bit weird because secondary education starts as early as age 12 and I know that many Finnish people who finish high school at around age 18 still don’t know what to do in the future. In Finland both high school and vocational school are equal when applying to a university or polytechnic (depending on the degree of course).

In Finland the education is free at all levels. Of course there are some private schools too that have tuition fees but they are not very common. In the Netherlands the education costs after secondary education. In the Netherlands students don’t get a student benefit from the government but they can apply for a cheap loan. In Finland a student can get student benefit from the age 17 on (depending on parents income and other things). In higher education parents’ income can’t decrease the amount of the money anymore but there are many other factors that affect the amount of money that you can get. Finnish students can also apply for a loan.

I find different education systems interesting as you may have realised from the length of this post. It’s interesting that even though we’re all students in TAMK at the moment we come from different study backgrounds.

Eight Meeting – Family and Relatives

We met at TAMK library again for this meeting. The topic for today is family members and other relationships. I already know most of them in Finnish but  I also learned some new ones.

I really enjoy the process of teaching Spanish, even more than learning Finnish. Sometimes I get very passionate about some topics and start explaining some curious words and grammar issues. I know that they are quite advance topics, but I am not pretending Janica and Getuar to learn them know, but just to make them awake that Spanish can be sometimes very tricky! For example baby in Spanish is “bebé”, but if you write “bebe” it means drink.

We have a lot of fun telling all the family members, Janica remembers a lot of them even when she stayed for a short time in Argentina! She says she is not good with languages but I don’t think so, I think she has a great capacity of learning and remembering!

These are some of the words we learned:
Finnish, Spanish, English:

Äiti, madre/mamá, mother.
Isä, padre/papá father.
Veli, hermano, brother.
Sisko, hermana, sister.
Isoäiti, abuela, grandmother.
Isoisä, abuelo, grandfather.
Täti, tía, aunt.
Setä, tío, uncle.
Vanhemmat, padres, parents.
Serkku, primos, cousins.
Tyttö, chica, girl.
Poika, chico, boy.
Ystävä, amigo/amiga, friend.
Tyttöystävä, novia, girlfriend.
Piokaystävä, novio, boyfriend.
Vauva, bebé, baby.

This was a really nice meeting, for the next ones we are planning to have a Christmas party at Janicas’s place and going to Vapriikki Museum.

Fifth Meeting – What time is it?

For this meeting we met at the Waffle Café again!

We learned about how to say the time. Telling the hour in Finnish is quite similar to English, but is Spanish it is slightly different. What we did was drawing some clocks with different cases and wrote the time in Finnish and Spanish. I think we need to practise a lot to learn it properly.

We learned the greetings we should say depending on the time of the day.

We also talked a bit about Lapland because I really want to go there this year. Getuar has never been there but Janica has worked there during Christmas season some time ago. So it was good that she could gave some tips 🙂

Third meeting – Learning numbers

For this meeting we went to Hesburguer because I really wanted to try Finnish junk food ;P we also had some discount coupons so we decided to use them.

The topic of the meeting were the numbers. I already learned them in my Basics of Finnish course but I thought it was good to remember them, and also Getuar don’t know the numbers in Spanish. We learned to count from 1 to 100. Janica remembered pretty well how to say numbers in Spanish.

They also told me that when people talk in Finnish they might say a shorter version of the numbers so I will be very aware when I go to the supermarket to recognize the numbers.

The meeting was very fun as we were eating hamburguers and also telling some stories about our lives.


First meeting – Coffee and introductions

Our first meet was held at Wayne’s Coffee, after some weeks of deliberation on when to meet. Initially we were a group of 5 people, but in the end just 3 of us remained: Janica, Getuar and me.

I arrived to the Coffee in the exact moment when Janica and Getuar was meeting each other in the line. I was a little bit nervous about the expectations they would have for learning Spanish. But I was relieved after meeting them. They are so nice!

The first thing we did was buying some coffee and sitting to introduce to each other, we have a very nice talk about who we are and what we do.

Janica is from Tampere and last semester she went to Argentina for a exchange, for me that was a relief because she is used to hear people speaking like me (for example uruguayan and argentinian people will pronounce the word ‘Yo’ as “Sho” instead of “Io”).

Getuar is from Espoo but he is studying at Tampere. Getuar is a triplet! so he has 2 sisters. He was born in Finland but his parents are from Albania. I really liked to hear about the story of his parents.

I told them that I am from Uruguay, from a city called Rivera which is located in the border with Brasil. In the other side of the border there is a Brazilian city called Santana do Livramento, and the only things that divide the two cities is a street and a park. You can cross freely from one country to the other whenever you want.

We started to learn basic vocabulary. We learned how to introduce ourselves, how to say hello/goodbye and some other useful phrases:







I really liked this meeting  because I was able to meet Janica and Getuar and also to learn some new vocabulary. I am looking forward for the next meeting.


8th meeting: Christmas traditions


This time around we decided to go to see the opening of the Christmas market with Fruzsi and Boti in Keskustori and talk about our Christmas traditions.


We did not have any bigger plans for this meeting, just to meet up, walk around the market and see where the conversation would end up. Actually, meeting in the Christmas market was a good idea in a sense that we were able to see the things we were talking about in real and we also found new topics to talk about when seeing things.


However, ones again we realized that our cultures are rather similar to each other. There are no so many differences when it comes to the decorations, food or giving presents. It seems that those traditions are either Christian or European, and therefore common for us all.

The biggest differences we were able to name was that in Hungary it is not Santa Claus, who brings the presents on 24th of December, but baby Jesus. Even so, also kids in Hungary do believe to Santa Claus. He visits on 6th of December.

Another difference, though a very small one, is that in Hungary it is normal to hung candies to the Christmas tree whereas in Finland it is rather rare according to me.

Finnish traditions and holidays

This time Elisa and I drank some coffee, tea & chocolate cake and we talked about something that really interest me: Finnish traditions. First, I taught Elisa about some Dutch traditions and after that she told me about Finnish traditions. It’s funny that the traditions are so different but also a little bit the same.


The first Finnish tradition we talked about was Loppiainen or Epiphany. This takes place on the 6th of January. This is basically the day when they take their Christmas decorations away.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday takes place the Sunday before Easter. On this day kids dress up as witches and the pick out a tree branches. The kids decorate the tree branches with feathers. They will go from door to door to say a poem to wish the people good health. In exchange for saying that poem they will get some candy. This holiday kind of reminds me of the Dutch holiday Sint Maarten.


Vappu is on the 1st of May, but the celebration last for a week. This is a communistic celebration. In Tampere there is a market at central square. During this holiday there is also a lot of nonsense stuff like a lot of balloons and fart pillows. A lot of people will drink champagne and make their own sima. There is also a lot of food like Munkkis.

Last eve of April

On the last eve of April, a lot of young people will go out and drink all night. They always put a hat on the maid of Finland statue.


Juhannus is an ancient Finnish holiday. It always takes place on the Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June. The main festivals during this holiday take place on Thursdays. A lot of Finnish people will go to their cabins in the forest and celebrate it over there. In Tampere there is a festival called Underground Midsummer. There is always a bonfire and there are dances. For example, the midsummer dance. There is also a myth that if you put seven different flowers on your pillow, you will see your future husband in your dreams. This is something some of the younger girls do.

All Saints day

This day takes place on the 1st of November. A lot of people go to the cemetery this day to light a candle.

Independence Day – Suomi sata

Finnish Independence Day is on the 6th of December. This year it’s a really special year for Finland, because Finland exists 100 years this year. In 1917 was the independence of Finland from the Russian republic. Before being a part of Russia, Finland was a part of Sweden. During Independence Day there will be a reception where the president and famous people shake hands.


New Year’s Eve

On the 31th of December it’s New Year’s Eve in Finland. This means fireworks and getting drunk. Some people will melt a horseshoe and the shape will predict the next year.

It was really interesting to hear about the Finnish holidays and traditions. Like I said before, some of them I celebrate as well, but there are also a few holidays I have had never heard of before.





Let’s talk about education

Our fourth meeting was about the education systems. We met this time, how appropriate, at the university.

My expectations were that the Finnish and Dutch education system are pretty similar, but that was not the case. It’s totally different from each other.

The Finnish school system starts at age 6. Kids will start preschool. At age 7, kids will go to basic education. The basic educations has 9, sometimes 10 years. The 10th year is for those who need a little bit more time and for those who can’t decide what to do next. Most pupils are around 15 or 16 when they finish basic education.

After basic education, pupils can choose between Upper secondary school and Vocational school.

Upper secondary school

This is kind of similar to high school. This will take 3 years, and this is particularly theoretical education. Pupils will get different kinds of subjects and after Upper secondary school, Pupils can to vocational school, university of applied sciences or university.

Vocational school

Vocational school is a school for pupils who already kind of know what they want to become. This is particularly practical education, you can study for cook for example. This will take 3 years and after vocational school, pupils can look for a job and gain work experience, do another vocational qualification, go to university of applied sciences or go to university.

University of applied sciences

Most pupils are around 18 or 19 years old when they finish upper secondary school or vocational school. One of their options is going to the university of applied sciences. This will take 4 years and after finishing the university of applied sciences, you will get a Bachelor’s degree.  With a Bachelor degree and work experience, it’s possible to go for a Master’s degree.


The other option is going to the university. This will take 5 years. After the 3rd year, students will have their Bachelor degree. After the 5th year the students will get their Master’s degree. After getting a Master’s degree it’s possible to get a licentiate and a doctor’s degree.


A fun fact about the school system in Finland are the graduation caps. After graduating Upper secondary school, Finnish students will get a graduation cap.


Like I already said before, the Finnish education system differs a lot from the Dutch system. In the Netherlands, children will start school when they are 4 years old. They will start high school when they are about 12 years old.

Another really big difference between the systems is the fact that in the Netherlands, after elementary school, pupils will get classified on level. The level decides to what school they will go after high school.

It was really interesting to see the 2 education systems next to each other and it was also interesting that the systems differ a lot from each other. After seeing them next to each other I can’t say which system I think it’s better, because they both got their pro’s and con’s.


6th meeting: A quick visit to Vapriikki

For our sixth meeting we decided to see each other in Vapriikki to go to the National History Museum, since we had been talking about moose and deer flies during our last meeting. So, why only to talk, since you are also able to see! As we decided to go on Friday after 17pm, we did not have to pay for the fee, which was very convenient.

As it was about the Finnish nature and animals, I tried to explain Fruzsi and Boti some interesting facts about them. However, during our conversations I realized that Hungary is rather similar to Finland, when it comes to nature and animals. Not so many differences there. However, Fruzsi and Boti told me about some flying insects that do glow while flying, and I don’t think we have such.

For me the biggest outcome of this meeting was to have a nice continuum for the last meeting. To take one thing from a level of words a step up to something concrete. I personally love it when one thing leads to another. Also, since I last time got so exited about the image of a rural Hungarian village with interesting traditional events, I would now very much like to visit one, especially, if they have flying and glowing insects.

The picture above is from a movie The Princess and the Frog by Disney.