About a month ago we left for our first “big” trip as a family and flew from Zurich to Helsinki, a 2.5 hours flight. Finland holds a special place in my heart, I have spent one year here as an exchange student when I was a teenager. Needless to say that I have countless memories – 99% of them are really good ones so I always enjoy coming back.
Sitting on the plane with a sleeping baby on my lap I realized that it has been 15 years since my exchange year and over ten years since my last visit. Time truly flies when you are having fun! I was lucky having seen many other places in the meantime but the closer we got to Helsinki the more excited I got. I was looking forward to showing my husband and our baby parts of this beautiful country and meeting with my former host family and a few friends.
In need of diapers (we did not carry many thinking it is a waste of space and cheaper in Finland anyhow) our first trip on Finish soil lead us to a grocery shop. To some of you that might not sound overly exciting, but we always like to go shopping like locals. One can argue that nowadays it is not as special any more as you tend to get everything everywhere in the world. We actually found some Lindt chocolate in a small grocery shop in Mumbai…
But I still think you tend to find a lot of stuff which you don’t get at home, and this is what makes walking into a food shop an adventure. We usually stroll down the aisles, browse through the shelves for unknown foods and drinks and end up buying some local beer, wine and snacks – you can see, we really try hard to immerse into the local food culture 🙂
When stepping into the Finish grocery shop my eyes lit like a kid’s eyes in front of the candy selection. I spotted many things I liked during my exchange year. I kind of forgot about them but the moment I saw them I had to get them:
Ruisleipä: Dark, sour rye bread. Save to say: the Finish national bread!
Karjalan Piiraka: Karelian Pies; small pies/pirogs with a rye crisp and a potato, barley, buckwheat or rice filling. Butter is spread over the hot pastry before eating.
Pulla: Pastry with crushed cardamom, it comes in different shapes and with different “extras” like raisins, almonds or cinnamon.
Salmiakki: Liquorice, the Finish specialty you either love or hate. You will find everything with salmiakki flavor, from ice cream to liquor.
Pommac: Bubbly soft drink made of berries and fruits, matured in oak barrels for three months.
Viili: Fermented diary product – a bit like yogurt – but with a slimy, gelatinous consistency, which probably doesn’t look that appealing but it tastes surprisingly mild.
Leipäjuusto: “Bread Cheese”, a mild cheese from Lapland which reminds me a bit of Italian Mozzarella or Indian Paneer. You eat it as a dessert with molt berry jam.
Geisha: Chocolate from the Fazer brand; even the Swiss consider it to be fabulous 😉
Easy to see that we did not walk away with only diapers. Eating my favorite Finish foods made me feel like coming home instantly and it put a huge smile on my face. My husband liked all of the things I got, so I had to share them 😉
The one thing I didn’t buy is potatoes. I don’t know how many kilos of potatoes I ate during my time in Finland; I got really tired of it!
Most of the times one of our last stops in a country is again a grocery store: to buy the things we sampled and liked in order to take them home as souvenirs. Usually they don’t last that long. This time, we had to organize a box as we could not fit all the groceries into out one suitcase we had taken. Everything arrived safely!
So tell us, do you like to visit local supermarkets when abroad?