Finnish culinary delights: mämmi/memma

Unlike many people tend to say (you have maybe heard of former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi's comments around 10 years ago), Finland is full of interesting food! In this post I'm going to introduce you mämmi/memma!

This dish has traditionally been eaten around Easter in the western parts of the country (it became generally known in Eastern Finland and Lapland only in the 1930s). It's made of rye flour, rye malt, water and syrup (nowadays also zest of bitter orange is being added). It's first left to sweeten before getting slightly boiled and, at last, cooked in the oven. The process itself is relatively time-demanding; nowadays most of mämmi/memma is being sold in the food shops. There are estimates that say that around 2 million kilos of it are being sold yearly.

How do you eat this stuff then? Many people prefer to eat it with cream, milk or sugar. More recent combinations contain vanilla sauce or vanilla ice cream. In this photo I'm enjoying it with oat-based vanilla sauce. Splendid!

Don't let the suspicious looks to fool you. It deserves a try at least. Who knows, you might start to like it? ;)

- Pekka


There is a similar kind of dish in Iran, which is called samanu (made of germinated wheat).

Pekka Toivonen
14.03.2017 kl. 20:30

Being sustainable in Finland - Zero Waste

I became interested in Zero Waste in last summer when I started following the blog Grön i Åbo. The first step for me was to start drastically diminishing the amount of plastic in my daily life. It basically meant that I started paying more attention to packaging I'm buying alongside with my food. Lately I've been also applying it to personal hygiene items, such as toothbrush and razor. Basically Zero Waste means that you try to produce as little amount of waste as possible. Here are some tips I can give for you based on my own experiences so far:

1. Sort out your waste

It's no rocket science. Biowaste, cardboard, paper, metal, glass, and so on. If you happen to live in Student Village during your stay in Turku, you'll find brown biodegradable paper bags in the garbage sheds, which are meant for biowaste.

2. Recycle your bottles and cans

Read more about bottle/can recycling from my previous post.

3. Refuse take-away cups

The water bottle is made of metal and I carry it regularly with me. I have even started carrying my own cup with me in order to avoid the use of paper cups.

4. Prioritize recyclable packaging and loose weight food.

"A normal day in the food shop". Fruit and vegetables in loose weight without any plastic, eggs and oatmeal in cardboard. If there would be meat/fish, it would be without plastic as well. Some tips for places for buying stuff:

Kauppatori/Salutorget (the market square)

Best place to get fresh produce!


Located very near to the former one, it has some specialized shops for meat, fish, spices, et cetera.

5. Cursed be the plastic bags

Canvas bags to the victory!!! If you study in UTU or ÅA, they will give you one bag on your arrival when you register to the university, so that's a good start. In case you wish to have more, you can buy those with a couple of euros from Red Cross Kontti second hand shop.

This was a short introduction to Zero Waste. I hope that it was helpful for you.

- Pekka

Pekka Toivonen
28.02.2017 kl. 20:07

Special guest star, parte 2: Julia

The second part of special guest star apperances on the blog will tell about Julia's experiences in Turku.

How did you meet Pekka for the first time?

I met Pekka first via email and facebook since he contacted me to introduce himself as my tutor. It was a very nice gesture. Then, when I arrived to Turku it was -10°C, and coming from a warm city, Lima, I was freezing. Some students I met on the way and I took a bus from Helsinki to Turku. And here is where I met Pekka: he was waiting for me and another student at the bus stop since he was our tutor. He picked us up in his car, and drove us to our residence. He showed me my room, he also gave me my bed sheets, cooking pot, and other basic things each student received at the beginning of the semester, and that Pekka kindly brought me home. I must mention that not all tutors received their exchange students so warmly and caring as Pekka did. Finnish people were said to be distant but Pekka gave me the opposite impression. And in the following months, I just realized that they were the politest people.

Tell us about some unique moments during your exchange in Turku.

I have to start talking about Vappu. Normally, there aren’t too many people walking on the streets in Turku. But during this day, the streets were full of cheerful people talking and laughing. Normally, Finnish people enjoy their time alone but this day the collective spirit surrounded the whole city. I met many Finnish students and I had an amazing time with them. We went to a boat bar and all I can describe now are my feelings since words tend to be forgotten with time. I was excited and I didn’t want this day to finish.

In spring, the Aura River looked fantastic. The riverside was also amazing, full of tulips and light green grass, the restaurants and cafés were full of people and the atmosphere was enchanting. My Finnish friend Sirja taught me to prepare karjalanpiirakka and told me many interesting things about Finnish society.

Also, I remember that time when I saw the northern lights. We climbed to a hill in Turku and saw them there for the first time (I didn’t see them when I went to Lapland). I sincerely had so many unique moments in Turku with many people I truly care about, so many anecdotes and wonderful times. Also living in Finland gave me the opportunity to travel to other European countries during my exchange time, living in Turku gave me a complete different view of what a society is.


What were the strangest things you encountered?

A drunk 80-something-year-old lady asked me to help her open her door at 10 a.m.

Students partying with the overalls

Students being upfront to the teacher about their opinion of a course without the teacher getting mad or resentful

Going on a cruise to Estonia to buy (a lot of) alcohol

I started drinking milk at lunch

Public naked sauna

Tips for incoming students?

Always live the moment

Go to sauna (many times!)

Organize your time, be responsible

Pay the university’s sports fee, it’s really worth it

The most memorable moments were alcohol-free

Walk along the Aura river

Make Finnish friends

Meet people from all over the world!

Travel as much as possible

Go see the northern lights

Go on a cruise! (Stockholm is an amazing destination and ESN cruises are 100% fun)

Buy fresh vegetables and fruit at Kauppatori :)

Go swimming!

Take tons of pictures of the places and with your friends, those are moments that will never come back

Go to Turku’s library, it’s amazing

Anything else?

Let your friends know how special they are. Being an exchange student was, for me, the best thing that has ever happened to me since it gave the chance to grow so much as a person and also academically. I’m sure I’ll never forget the amazing time I had living and studying in Finland and visiting other countries. I’m planning to do my Master’s degree in Europe.

Muchas gracias Julia!!!

- Pekka
Pekka Toivonen
25.02.2017 kl. 17:11

Being sustainable in Finland - tips for caring about the environment and saving money

Finland is definitely not one of the cheapest countries to live in. In the beginning you may be double-checking the receipts the food shop and wondering if it's correct. I want to give you some tips for saving money while being in Finland. The environment will also thank you, which is the most important thing in my opinion.

How to not end up in dire straits? Here's something to get started with:

1) Collect empty cans and bottles

You get money from empty cans and bottles when you return them to a food shop in Finland. The returning machines are usually located either near the entrance (eg. K-Citymarket in Kupittaa/Kuppis and Prisma in Itäharju/Österås) or in the beverages section (eg. K-Market Puhakka in Hämeenkatu/Tavastgatan, not far away from the universities). It goes like this:

glass bottles (no matter which volume): 0,10€

cans (no matter which volume): 0,15€

plastic bottles, 0,5 litre: 0,20€

plastic bottles, 1,0 litres (updated February 18, credits for my friend Janne) and upwards: 0,40€

You put the cans/bottles to the returning machine according to the instructions in the machine display. After having finished you will get a receipt. You give the receipt to the sales clerk and you get the money.

NB. Cans/bottles imported from Estonia/Sweden don't qualify in most of the cases, you return them but receive no money. However, if you live in Varissuo/Kråkkärret, the local returning machine will give you money out of those (at least it did back in 2013).

February 16, 2017:

Bottle returning machine in K-Market in Kirkkotie/Kyrkvägen (near student health care) accepted two liquor bottles imported from Sweden ferries. Don't know if this is the case all the times.

I personally do always have a stash for empty cans/bottles at home. When I go out, I make sure that I have a small canvas bag with me in case I see any cans/bottles on my way so that I can pick them up. That's easy, eh?

Back in the days I was hosting several pre-parties in my common kitchen so that I baked some pizza and offered some snacks. People who came over left their cans and bottles there and when I returned those to the shop the following I got 30-40€ on average. That equals to more than 10 student lunches!

How many empty cans and bottles have been returned so far this year? Follow up real time here:

- Pekka

Pekka Toivonen
17.02.2017 kl. 19:32

Special guest star, parte 1: Luca

In the first part of the special guest star appearances in my blog you will meet Luca, a dear friend of mine.

How did you meet Pekka for the first time?

One thing combines people all around Europe: football. I met Pekka because the both of us are great football lovers, and furthermore we support the same football team. It was the 11th of January 2015 and in my hometown, Roma, there was an important match: AS Roma - SS Lazio. I had arrived in Finland some days before and I really wanted to watch that game, so I reached a local pub in Turku called Pikku Torre (you guys should go there!), where I had to meet three guys: two italians who emigrated in Finland (Stefano and Michele) and a Finn who spoke italian fluently and knew every AS Roma player and remembered the result of every match in Roma’s history, Pekka! That match finished 2-2 and our common hero, Francesco Totti, scored a double. Football links people. After that evening we became friends, watched many games together (both on tv and live) and he helped me a lot with suggestions and tips. He is the best international tutor in the town, no doubt.

Tell us about some unique moments during your exchange in Turku?

I will answer with just one word: Vappu. Vappu is not just a holiday, it is a state of mind. All the students, Finns and foreigners, occupy the streets and the parks of the city for a couple of day, partying, drinking, playing, having fun. Everything starts in the morning of the 30th of April when everyone joins the university wearing weird coloured clothes (you will understand what am I talking about); it is the beginning of a very long party that lasts until the night, in the clubs, pubs and houses, and the day after, for pic-nic and barbecue. The peak of the day is around 5 p.m. in front of the Turun Taidemuseo (Turku Art Museum) when a parade takes place and people celebrate the moment drinking, dancing and flapping a traditional white hat in the air. I really enjoyed Vappu, so much so that I came back with my girlfriend in Turku a year later to live again that experience, of course with Pekka! Wonderful days.

What was the strangest thing you encountered?

Is walking through the Cathedral square running into squirrels and hares strange enough? Or maybe is watching the northern lights stranger? Yes, for an Italian this is strange. And also other things related to climate and weather have been very unusual and unexpected to me: in Turku I saw the first snow of my life, I looked at the sunset at lunchtime and four months later I looked at the sunset in the middle of the night.

Tips for incoming students?

Don’t be scared of the cultural and environmental differences, because you will come back home enriched. Enjoy every service and activity that the university and the student organisations will provide you. Try to visit cities and countries around Turku (I would suggest, for example, to visit Naantali, Helsinki, Tampere, Rovaniemi and Lapland, Stockholm, Tallinn, Riga). Don’t feel unease with Finns: probably they will appear very different from you (especially if you are not from Northern Europe). They seem a bit cold and often they are quiet and silent, but give them a chance and, if you are lucky, you will find kindness and help.

Anything else?

Forza Roma and see you soon, here in Roma or in Turku.

Grazie di cuore Luca, e SEMPRE FORZA ROMA!!!

- Pekka
Pekka Toivonen
13.02.2017 kl. 15:20


"Je pense pas à demain, parce que demain c'est loin"

...because tomorrow is far away. My blog takes its name from an IAM song from the album L'ecole du micro d'argent from 1997. Demain c'est loin That's what I want to think about my future: it's better to try to take one day at a time. Seven years in the university feels almost like a lifetime.

That being said, I think it's good to say a few words about myself. My name is Pekka and I'm 25 years old. I'm studying in University of Turku (UTU): Italian is my major subject and as minors I study Nordic Languages, Education, Studies on Multiculturalism and Latin. My aim is to teach Italian and Swedish in the future in other words.

Since 2014 I've been truly active in the international student spheres in Turku. I started volunteering as an international tutor in my university and I got to know many many people thanks to that. I'm still active, but my time around here starts to wind down. That's why I wanted to make this contribution to all of you folks down there who are planning to come to Turku.

I'm glad if my blog can contribute to your stay here.

Peace out!

- Pekka




Pekka Toivonen
13.02.2017 kl. 15:18

Pekka Toivonen
Demain c'est loin

Välkommen! - Welcome! - Benvenuti! - Velkommen! - Tervetuloa!

My blog will give you worthful inside tips concerning student life in Turku-Åbo and now more recently Vaasa-Vasa. Those posts I will mainly post in English.

I will also be posting about political issues, such as language policies, educational policies and integration. Those posts will be written in Swedish/Finnish/Italian/English.

All photos posted are mine, if not cited otherwise.

Hope you will like it around here!