Wednesday, 8 August 2018

13 Tips for Foreigners Invited to a Mökki

The Finnish vacation period is coming to an end, and with it so does the main mökki (Finnish cottage) season.

I have been lucky enough to spend quite a lot of time in mökkis, so I thought I would provide my fellow foreigners with some tips, should they ever be invited to one..


Disclaimer: Like all my blog posts, the following is entirely subjective and not based on statistically significant evidence.

1. Don't be fooled by the location's name
I have just spent the summer in Kokemäki (2.5 hours West of Helsinki), and not seen a proper hill (mäki) – a few bumps in the landscape at most. Similarly, places with the word koski (rapids) in them probably won't offer thrilling white water experiences. Finland is beautiful, but don't expect the location of the mökki to have anything to do with its name. It's just creative marketing.

2. Tractors lay eggs
Not strictly about mökkis, but still related to the Finnish countryside. It turns out Finnish tractors lay eggs. You can see large white "traktorin munat" dotted around the fields on the way to the mökki. Rumours have it they contain baby tractors. Or maybe just straw.

3. Mökkis are 1970s time-capsules
If you ever wondered what happened to the world supply of rattan furniture, flowery wall-paper, orange and brown paint, you will find the answer at the mökki.

4. The Internet will probably be much better than the toilets
The mökki I was at this summer had a 60 Mbits fiber Internet connection, and an outdoor toilet. This says something about Finnish priorities.

5. Peeing al fresco is socially acceptable
Possibly as a consequence of mökki's toilet situation, it appears totally acceptable for children and indeed adults (both men and women), to pee in the bushes.

6. Finnish mosquitoes prefer foreigners
Mosquitoes are a fact of life at mökkis. As a foreigner, you will be prime target for these evil ladies and, unlike the Finns, your immune system will not be even remotely ready for their vicious bite. Expect noticeably large lumps to develop in places you didn't think possible.

7. You will wear plastic sandals
Mökkis are places untainted by style and fashion. Plastic sandals, Crocs™ or the like, are de-rigeur for outside-wear.

8. Your plastic sandals will be kidnapped
Don't get too attached to your plastic sandals. A plastic sandals sharing scheme is in operation at all times at the mökki, and your sandals will be part of it. Plastic sandals are parked near the entrance of the cottage, ready for anyone to "borrow". If you can't find yours, just borrow someone else's.

9. The barbecue will take place
A mökki barbecue will always take place on the agreed day and time, regardless of the weather. I have seen one being cooked in a hailstorm.

10. You will eat potatoes and cucumber
In the summer, boiled potatoes will be served every day for both lunch and dinner. Cucumber will be available with most meals. Get used to it.

11. The water is "refreshing"
One of the main purposes of mökkis is to provide a place to swim in nature, be it a lake, a river or the sea. The water can be warmish, but typically it's not. No Finn will every admit to that though. The water is never cold, it's "refreshing". Don't be fooled though!

12. You will find the sauna a weird experience
Sitting naked with friends and strangers in a steam cooker, and then jumping with your nude companions into "refreshing" water is weird enough.  But you may also be offered a twig of birch to whip yourself with to make the experience more fulfilling (or stranger depending on your perspective). And you may also be given a felt hat to wear. On your head. In a steaming hot place. Finnish saunas are weird places for foreigners.

13. You will have a good time
Mökki-life is simple and uncomplicated. Suspend prejudices, judgement and inhibitions, and you will enjoy it.

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