A typical day for Finns

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In this blog, we examine what a typical day for Finns is like. We talk about how Finns in general organize their days and what kind of changes typical days in Finland have gone through over the years. 

This blog is part of our series on Finnish cultural blogs, which we have previously collected together into a single blog post. No matter whether one is visiting a country or planning on living there, getting to know the culture of the place is a big part of the fun. In the latter case, it’s also a necessity. At least if one wants to thrive in the new life. 

Cultural descriptions, however, are always aggregates of selected aspects of behaviors, habits, and histories of particular places. They always present or look at a place and its inhabitants from a specific point of view. This point of view is from very high up and as such often glosses over minority cultures or subcultures. Individuals, individual circumstances, and situations cannot fit into these descriptions either. 

This is very much true for this week’s topic. It is based on the Time Use Survey Data of Statistics Finland. This is an interview survey that describes the time used for various activities. It examines the daily and weekly rhythm of time use in Finland. It also examines the time spent together with others. Statistics Finland conducts this survey about once every ten years. It is clear, then, that this is very much an image from up high. 

This time the Time Use Survey includes an extra twist as well. Statistics Finland conducted the latest survey during the worst Covid years. The extraordinary circumstances associated with the pandemic naturally also affected the daily and weekly rhythms of Finns as we will see. 

With these caveats in mind, let’s look at what a typical day for Finns looks like. 

A typical weekday for Finns

Statistics Finland tell us that Finns clearly go to be later now than they did in the past. This trend towards later bedtimes, however, is not a recent trend. Survey data from the late 1980s already show that the shift to later bedtimes had started to happen. In 1979, about 50 % of 10 to 64 year-old Finnish residents were in bed by 10.10 pm. By fall 1987, a little over a third was in bed by then. In surveys done this century, it’s been less than a third. 

So, Covid didn’t change our bedtime habits. It did, however, amplify a trend relating to the time we get up in the morning. In the fall of 2020 and 2021, about ⅔ of the 10 to 64-year-olds were still in bed at 6.40 in the morning. Earlier, in 2009, 59 % was. In contrast, only about 40 % of the 10 to 64-year-olds were still sleeping at that time in 1979. Naturally, with remote work and school, we didn’t have to get up as early as before. 

During the last four or so decades, the structure of weekdays has pretty much stayed the same for those working or studying in Finland. The lunch break, which for the majority takes place between 11 am and 1 pm, still punctuates the day as it has for decades. Survey results from the pandemic years, however, show that the timing of the lunch break had become less regular. For example, at 11.40 am in 2009 more than half (67 %) of 10 to 64-year-olds were on a lunch break. At the same hour in 2020 and 2021, however, more than half (57 %) were not eating lunch. Rather, they were still busy with work or school. 

Men, however, more clearly have their lunch between 11 am and noon during weekdays. In women’s survey data, there was no such clear time slot for lunch in their workday.  

For the last couple of decades, the overall time used to watch tv on weeknights hasn’t changed much. Even now, the peak time for watching tv in Finland is between 8.30 pm and 9 pm. This corresponds with the main news program of Yle. Around 10.30 pm there’s a significant drop in tv watching.

Social interaction with others decreases further

In the 1970s and 80s, social interaction with others on a weeknight was notably more common than it is now or even in the 1990s. 17 % of 10-64-year-olds in 1979 were in social interaction with others at 7 pm on a weeknight. In 1987, 15 % were. So, we see a slight drop there. In subsequent surveys, however, this portion had dropped to only 9 %. Overall, social interaction after a work day or a school day is notably rarer now than it was in the 1970s and 80s. This statement holds even if we account for the fact that today social interaction also takes place virtually.

People in the 1970s and 80s socialized more also during the weekends. In the 1970s and 80s, approximately 20 % had social interaction with others on a Saturday night between 6.40 pm and 9.40 pm. In 2009, the percentage hovered around 15 % for the same time frame.

Social interaction on Sundays has also come down significantly. In the 1970s and 80s, the time period between 1.40 pm and 7.40 pm was clearly an important time for socializing. In the 1979 survey, for example, the percentage of people socializing with others during those hours was above 20 %. Two decades later in 1999, the peak time was at 6.40 pm and then only 14 % reported socializing with others. 

I am a child of the 1970s and 80s. I remember visitors (family members, my parent’s friends, my own friends) just coming over to our house unannounced and hanging out. And we did the same. Then things changed so that arranging a get-together with someone meant complicated maneuverings with one’s calendar. And the idea of just dropping by unannounced became unheard of. I thought this image of social interactions in the past was just nostalgia for something that never actually existed in real life. These statistics, however, show that something has indeed changed in our social interaction in Finland from those decades. 

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