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Love for Finland is (almost) everywhere. And yet some of these love stories are particularly worth telling. Perhaps you have already noticed: In addition to the German-speaking social media accounts, there have been new Little Finland International on Facebook and Little Finland International on Instagram channels called “Little Finland International” for a few days. Behind the English-speaking profiles is the Finland-loving Slovenian Neža, who lives in Austria with her Finnish partner and two children.
How did she fall in love with Finland? What are her favorite Finnish specialties and “must sees” in Suomi? And how did she get into the Little Finland team in the first place? Find out more in my entertaining interview - you also have the opportunity to win one of two Finland gourmet packages, both of which were put together by Neza!
Neža: Hello René! Nice to meet you! I've been following your channels for a while before joining the Little Finland team.
Well ... it's quite a long story, but I'll do my best to keep it short. I started studying in Linz, Austria, in 2010. A year before that, in 2009, I met my current partner Antti through a company called Blue Tomato. You should remember this name for later. We were both customers then. We talked for a long time on Facebook, then started using Skype and finally decided to meet in person in London in 2011. Over the next year we visited each other in Finland, Slovenia and Austria. In 2012 Antti decided to move to Austria and we have lived here ever since. This summer Antti got a job so we moved here from Linz. It seems like it is meant to be since we met through this company exactly eleven years ago (laughs).
Neža: I was in love with the Nordic countries long before I met Antti. I had never been there before, but I felt a strong pull in that direction. Finland was at the top of my bucket list, and that's one of the reasons we started talking.
Finally, I visited Finland in 2011 and immediately fell in love with the country. For some reason, I felt at home there. Like I've been there before. It was Christmas time when I first got there and I came back just two months later because I loved it so much: the nature, the people, the atmosphere, the food, the silence...
Neža: It's wonderful! Our two sons speak four languages - Finnish and Slovenian as mother tongues, English and German as second languages. We speak English with Antti and German is the language of our environment.
Finnish culture is very important in our family. From the language, books, clothing, celebrating Finnish holidays and traditions to preparing Finnish food. I've already took as my own some of these things completely, even though I didn't grow up with them (smiles).
I also learned a good portion of Finnish together with my sons. I understand everything my partner and our children speak; but don't ask me about politics or other difficult topics in Finnish (laughs).
Neža: I don't have any particular bands or musicians in mind. I always fall in love with songs and then listen to them a thousand times. When I clean or cook, I often listen to a Finnish radio station.
A funny story: Once I happened to hang out with Olavi Uusivirta. I had no idea who he was. We had a layover between flights with a delayed connecting flight to Helsinki and started chatting. Just before we left Helsinki Airport, I finally asked him what he does for a living and he said, "I'm making some music. You can check it out on Youtube". So I made a note of his name and checked it later when I got to Antti's house. His whole family couldn't believe that I happened to hang out with Olavi without knowing who he was (laughs).
Neža: That's a tough question because I loved every place I've been to. Nevertheless, here are my “MUST visits”:
I love visiting Helsinki for a few days every time I travel to Finland.
We spent many summers and winters in Savonlinna. I would highly recommend visiting Savonlinna to everyone. Especially if you are a nature lover - rent a holiday home by one of the surrounding lakes and spend your vacation there. It's so peaceful, beautiful, clean ... And take a boat trip across the endless lakes ... I could go on forever. Your batteries will be recharged in no time.
Then a short story: We won a trip to Lapland in 2018 as part of a Facebook competition organized by Visit Rovaniemi. In the end, we went there with the whole family (our youngest child was only two months old), and it was mind blowing. The journey of our life. We will definitely be going back there too.
I also love to visit Koli National Park whenever I can. Put this place at the top of your bucket list, you just have to go there!
Neža: Korvapuusti (cinnamon rolls), pulla (yeast bun), gingerbread, Karelian pierogies (team rice!), rye porridge, toasted rye bread with salted butter, Fazer Blue chocolate, glögi in winter, original Lonkero (gin long drink) in summer, blueberry pie ... The list is long. I love Finnish food. And I love to make it.
Neža: I love to share my love for Finland. The nature, culture, original recipes, festivals and holidays ... So there will be a lot of them (smiles). I would like to invite everyone who wants to get to know Finland better, everyone who misses it and wants to see it more often on their feed, and everyone who wants to try delicious Finnish food recipes to join us on this platform.
I would like to bring Finland closer to everyone. It always made me sad because it always felt so far away from us when we landed back in Austria. The food, the products, the Moomins. It was almost impossible to find these things here in Central Europe. Until we discovered Little Finland (smiles). I am so happy to be able to take care of this platform as it brings Finland a little closer.
Neža: That is another nice story (smiles). We were dreaming about opening a small shop selling Finnish products here in Austria. As I said above, it was really difficult to get Finnish goods here. I dreamed of calling my business "Little Finland". However, it was all just a daydream, as we were already very busy with children, studies and work.
One day I stumbled upon the Little Finland Instagram account and I had to see who had stolen my idea ... (laughs) I ended up ordering a long list of Finnish products 5 minutes later. We were so happy to get them! I contacted Mari and told her this story. The rest is history. (smiles)
Neža: Of course! We have been dealing with this topic for a long time. At some point we even looked for apartments. But then this happened, then that, and another child came along, new work, etc. So we're still here (smiles). We don't have any fixed plans for the future, so we're very flexible. Wherever life takes us, we are with it. And if it takes us to Finland, all the better.
Little Finland (René): Thank you for your time and welcome to the Little Finland team!
Exclusively for her debut, Neža has put together two great Finland packages that contain some of her personal favorites from Finland. You can now win one of these two packages: 1) Family Package or 2) Party Package!
1) Family package content:
-Moomin shopping bag Little My pink
-Muurla Moomin Retro, Enamel Mug 0,25l light blue
-Kiilu Moomin reflector Moomintroll
-Moomin cup cake form package
-Fazer Moomin fruit candies 40g
-Fazer Milk Chocolate plate 200g
-Cloetta Tupla Maxi 50g
2) Party Package content:
-Koskenkorva Salmiakki Salty Licorice Liqueur 32% 0,5l
-Hartwall Cool Grape Long Drink 5,5% 0,33l
-Linkosuo, Rye Chips Sour Cream 150g
-Fazer Milk Chocolate Licorice & Rasberry 200g
-Cloetta Tupla Double Layer Licorice 50g
Just tell us which of the packages you'd rather win and jump into the lottery pot. You are also welcome to tell us which Finnish products you definitely want to have in the Little Finland range in the run-up to Christmas.
How you can win? Simply click on the competition posting (German) on our Facebook page and tell us which of the two gourmet packages you want to win.
Participation in the competition is possible until Wednesday, 16th September 2020. The winner will be notified in writing.
Conditions of participation gourmet package competition
Text René Schwarz, photos Neža Hribar
About the author:
René Schwarz grew up half Finnish and bilingual. The self-employed copywriter and author travels regularly in his second home country and loves to share his passion for Suomi with others. He has been doing this on his blog FinnTouch since the beginning of 2016, where you can find numerous travel tips for Finland, interviews with Finnish artists and very personal stories. Have a look at www.finntouch.de!
* Applies to standard deliveries in Germany. For delivery times to other countries and information on calculating the delivery date, see here
Prices are tax included