I Didn’t Choose the Mökki Life, the Mökki Life Chose Me

#TalentedByNature Talent Ambassador Jonathon Murphy his experience with the traditional Finnish cottage life. Take special note of the helpful do’s and don’ts list at the end!

Text and images: Jonathon Murphy

If you spend your summer in Finland you will almost certainly find yourself at a mökki, or summer cottage. Whilst these come in all shapes and sizes – from modern villas overlooking a private lake, to tiny shacks in the middle of the woods – the philosophy remains the same: taking time away from work and getting back to nature.

Unfortunately, I have a somewhat complicated relationship with Finnish nature. On the one hand, I can appreciate its breath-taking scenery and the tranquillity of walking alone in the forest. On the other, I have always disliked camping, the taste of semi-cooked food and the feeling of tiny creatures running over my ankles…

I often feel unfairly targeted by mosquitos, wasps, nettles and basically any natural feature with a jagged edge. Thus, I am usually a somewhat reluctant participant in any outdoor activity.

However, participating in a mökki loma is a rite of passage here, especially for those of us trying to integrate into Finnish culture. Therefore, last month we loaded up the car and headed into the wilderness with the Finnish side of the family.

We rented a mökki near Jämsä, a couple of hours north of Turku. Our cottage was in a secluded location with limited phone signal, but still had running water and an indoor toilet (thereby meeting my minimum requirements for any holiday).

During our stay, I got to experience all the classic elements of summer cottage life: grilling food around a campfire, taking a rowing boat out onto the lake, and running from the icy water into an unbearably hot sauna. Despite my initial apprehension, it was a lovely week, and such a great feeling to finally see family and get out of the city for a while.

I’m not sure I will ever be a full summer cottage convert, but I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in experiencing Finnish culture. I can also offer some top tips if you share my distrust of the outdoors:

  • DO visit your local pharmacy beforehand and stock up on allergy tablets, bite cream and plasters. Only use them late at night so you still appear carefree to the Finns.
  • DON’T wear swimming trunks in the sauna. You will get some strange looks from your father-in-law.
  • DO bring clothes for every occasion (the campfire is never as warm as you expect).
  • DON’T forget to pack the jaloviina, lonkero, or alcoholic beverage of your choosing (if you don’t drink alcohol, it will still be gratefully received by the group).
  • DO remember to pull both oars of the rowing boat equally, otherwise you will just go round in circles.
  • DON’T loudly complain that the lake is too cold to swim in (even though it definitely is).

Follow Jonathon (@flambard61) and other #TalentedByNature Ambassadors on social media, and read more about their experiences by clicking here!