Nearly 200,000 lakes, saunas and art festivals contribute to the unique experience that is Finland, one of Europe’s most magical countries. Its landscapes are diverse, ranging from coastal plains to inland rivers, lakes and hills. Finland is a country that celebrates summers of seemingly endless sun (still daylight at midnight!), and dazzles with coloured lights (Aurora Borealis) in the near total darkness of winter! And Finnish Lapland – in the north – is where you’ll find the legendary reindeer! Life in Finland may include skiing (in winter), hiking, sailing, and a balanced mix of small-town life and modern city life.

People & Culture

Finland’s indigenous heritage can be represented by the country’s national languages – Finnish and Swedish – as well as common Nordic and European cultural aspects, due to its history and geographic location. Finns invented the sauna over 2000 years ago, and 90% of the population have a sauna at least once a week. The Finnish people have a reputation as being thoughtful, unemotional and reticent. Key Finnish values are common sense, education, honesty and equality.

Climate & Geography

Contrary to what we may think, Finland is not part of Scandinavia, even though geographically and politically it is part of the Nordic region. Nevertheless, culturally, it is considered Scandinavian. One third of Finland is after the polar circle, and in winter the weather can be very cold up there, with the lowest temperature reaching -51°C. Most of the population lives in the south with the average winter temperature in Helsinki sitting around -2.5°C, and summers are warm.


While it has been said of the French that they live to eat, it has been said that Finns eat to live. Everyday food tends to be simple but nutritious, and mealtimes less formal than in some other countries. During the weekdays you may prepare and eat food on your own. On weekends, many families dine together and catch up on their activities for that week. Meals may include meat, fish, potatoes, pasta, bread and dairy products. Coffee is a favorite beverage, even among teenagers, often with a sweet wheat bread called pulla.


Finnish is the main language in Finland, but Swedish is also an official language. Language classes will be offered to help you gain proficiency, but English is very common in Finland and a large part of the population speaks business English. Many Finns speak three or more languages. Finnish is acknowledged as one of the hardest languages to learn. Finns call their own country ‘Suomi’.


Finland has one of the best education systems in the world, so you can expect classes that are both engaging and challenging. You’ll most likely be enrolled in a public high school (lukio) where the year is divided into five or six terms. You’ll study a few subjects intensively each term, including Finnish, Swedish, maths, science, psychology, art, music, history, and geography. And don’t be surprised if your Finnish classmates are more direct than what you’re used to; they might even refer to teachers by their first names.


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Host Family

AFSers have lived in communities all throughout Finland, but you’ll most likely find yourself in a small town or rural area in the southern half of the country. Finns are generally kind and open-minded, even though they can be a bit shy at first. Families are usually small, with only one or two children. People in Finland appreciate punctuality, good manners, and practicality. Equality is also very important, and it’s common for both parents to cook dinner or clean the house.

Teenage life

Teenagers in Finland have a lot of independence and enjoy spending time outdoors, even in the winter. Finland’s active culture includes cycling, boating, skiing, soccer, track and field, and pesäpallo (Finnish baseball). Finnish teenagers attend high school formal dances called vanhojen tanssit with both modern and traditional music. The most active evenings are Friday and Saturday evenings when people like to go out. Teenagers usually go out with friends to the movies, to have coffee with friends, or hang out at a friend’s home. They may also go for a walk around in the city and people who have their driving license (and a car!) go “cruising.”

Let AFS guide your intercultural adventure

AFS provides comprehensive orientation for all students and families before, during and after your exchange – AFS volunteers will be there to support and guide you the whole way through! In-person orientation camps in New Zealand and your host country are supplemented by our world-leading online Student Learning Journey, which is an interactive course that brings AFSers from around the world together to develop essential global skills, learn intercultural communication techniques, and practice social impact. This journey will help you maximise your experience, cope with the challenges of navigating a new culture and community, and gain knowledge, skills, and a global understanding throughout your time abroad and as you return to your home country. Find out more about our educational expertise here!

Explore the Programmes Available in Finland

Canva – Snowy Forest at Winter_edited


  • DestinationFinland
  • DurationsYear
  • Program Dates
    • Aug 15, 2025 - Jun 16, 2026