The First Two Things You’ll Hear

When we first starting interacting with Finns, whether they were work colleagues, relo related, or whomever we’d have a brief conversation with, two things would be mentioned. No kidding. These same two things. Every time. We have duly loaded these into our hearts and minds as foundational for our existence here in Finland. I’m sure there are many many other things that should be in that baseline set of cornerstone knowledge and we’ll continue to build on that as we go… but these are the main two as initially instructed: Finland has 1) ‘Everyman’s Rights’ and 2) The highest quality tap water in the world.

Let’s break them down:

Jokamiehenoikeudet (Everyman’s Rights)

Finnish ‘Everyman’s Rights’ gives everyone the right to enjoy the wide variety of outdoor pursuits anywhere in the country’s vast forests, fells, lakes and rivers, with very few restrictions… The concept of everyman’s rights confers both this incredible opportunity and significant responsibility. There is no free lunch here. People get and give and all are asked to be grown-ups about it. For the good of the countryside and for everyone in it. It seems that Everyman’s Rights is as much about exercising Finnish freedom as a part of Finnish society as it is about enjoying the great outdoors wherever and however you’d care to. Here you are just one part of a whole. No better or worse than your neighbor, with no more or fewer rights. Can you imagine Americans thinking that? We are capitalistically cultivated individualists. Encouraged to generate wealth with which to purchase our own places dedicated to our own private use. That’s exercising American Freedom, by gum. To be fair there are of course exceptions in both countries, but in general, being taught the concept of Everyman’s Rights appears to be just the start of learning that is also an ideological ocean between America and Finland.

You may

  • walk, ski or cycle in areas outside private gardens and land that is in a specific use, i.e. cultivated fields
  • stay for a short period in any area where access is otherwise allowed (for example put up a tent, but not too close to people’s homes)
  • pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers
  • fish with a rod and line, and through a hole in the ice in wintertime
  • boat when the water is melted or walk on the ice in wintertime.

You may not

  • disturb other people or damage the environment
  • disturb nesting birds or game
  • cut down or damage trees
  • collect moss, lichen, soil or wood
  • disturb the privacy of homes
  • litter
  • drive a motor vehicle off the road without the landowner’s permission
  • fish and hunt without the appropriate permits.

The Cleanest Tap Water in the World

Drinking tap water is a privilege Finns get to enjoy on a daily basis. Finland’s tap water is among the highest quality in the world and is not only completely safe but a pleasure to drink. In Finland, tap water has been found to be significantly cleaner than bottled water. You can drink tap water everywhere. You can also fill your own bottles with clean and refreshing spring water for free, as many locals do. “

Not much else to say on this… Finnish tap water is genuinely incredible. UNICEF has recognized it as one of the top 4 cleanest in the world.

Safe water from our tap is a wonderful thing to count on, and is certainly not taken for granted! The legislative prioritization and infrastructure investment required to successfully supply 5.5 million residents in a primarily rural country the size of California with the world’s cleanest tap water is significant. Out of the faucets of each and every home here flows the very embodiment of care for the people of Finland.

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