Welcome to Jyväskylä, the jewel in the crown of Central Finland. Whether you like it or not you are going to be living here at least for a little while, and you might as well make the most of it. All it takes is an adventurous spirit and an open mind. I’ve lived in Finland for some time now, and I’d like to offer you the benefit of my experience with a few suggestions of things do that every visitor to this fine city should try at least once during their stay here.
1) Try and learn at least a little bit of Finnish right away. Most Finns don’t actually give a rat’s ass if you can speak Finnish or not – they love to practice their English/German/Spanish/French, but they will be delighted if you at least try and speak their language once and a while. Ignore the rumors that Finnish is difficult, it’s just different.
The fact of the matter is that if you go to a bar or café and are unable to order a beer or a cup of coffee in Finnish after a few weeks in the country you are either apathetic or lazy. Take advantage of the quality Finnish instruction provided by the University language center while you can.
2) Nothing says Finland like a sauna on the shore of a lake surrounded by forest. Luckily for those of us who live in Jyväskylä there are several lakeshore sauna options within the city limits. Meloiloa ry (the local canoe and kayak club) operates a recently remodeled sauna on the shores of Lake Tuomijärvi, just a short bike ride from the student village. The sauna rental fee is 90 ? for a 3 hour session. Take along a few friends, a towel, and your preferred beverage and feel what it is like to be a Finn, if only for a few hours.
3) Far too many foreign students limit their weekend nightlife to the corporate cookie cutter clubs downtown. Step outside of the box and check out some of the independent bars and clubs that Jyväskylä has to offer, even better, check out the bands and deejays that perform at these clubs. A few suggestions: Tanssisali Lutakko, a music venue operated by Jelmu, the Live Music Association of Jyväskylä, has a couple of shows worth seeing this month – living legend Kauko Röyhkä will be rocking the house on September 17th, and super-smooth troubadour Ville Leinonen will be performing there on the 24th. If you like to dance, do yourself a favor and catch at least one NS Klubi event at Musta kynnys. The NS Deejays are among Finland’s finest and they know how to keep the dance floor moving. Vakiopaine is another great venue for live Finnish music and I’m not just saying this because I work there. Two Vakkari shows that you don’t want to miss in September – Muuan Mies on the 17th and Joose Keskitalo & Kolmas Maailmanpalo on the 23rd.
4) Get out and enjoy the Finnish nature. This requires nothing more on your part than a bicycle or a decent pair of walking shoes. Get off the pavement and into the woods. Jyväskylä is absolutely rich with hiking and biking trails.
5) If you really want to understand Finland, hang out with Finns. Some foreign students tend spend their time in the company of other foreigners. While this may seem comforting and easy, you are doing yourself a disservice. Finns may seem reserved and shy at first, but this is no reason to deny yourself the opportunity to make the most out of your Finnish experience. Don’t sell yourself short; make the extra effort to get to know a Finn or two, because nobody will be able to explain Finland to you better than a native and as the saying goes -“a Finnish friend is a friend for life”. And for you Finns reading this, consider taking a foreigner under your wing, show them the insides and outs of your country and culture and help make their experience in Jyväskylä something they will remember for the rest of their lives.
The writer aims to be the most overeducated bartender in the city of Jyväskylä