The secret of no snow days

Since I arrived in Canada, the second most asked question (right after “Where is Finland?”) has been whether we have snow days in Finland or not, and because the answer is no, why not? But before I answer this question, let me give you some background info about Finland.

Finland is a country located in northern Europe between Russia and Sweden. We’re pretty far north, the southernmost part being almost on the same latitude as Whitehorse, and a third of the country is located above the Arctic Circle. The climate is pretty much the same as in New Brunswick, with four seasons and the same kind of nature. The only difference is that we don’t get quite as much snow. In New Brunswick, it’s not uncommon to get snowstorms with 40 cm of snow overnight, but that rarely happens in Finland. And if it happens, we still don’t get a day off from school.

There are a couple of reasons for that, and the first one is: we’re simply better prepared. Most of the snow in Moncton is cleared by private contractors. In Finland, this is all done by the city. Katarina Koch from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture, says that the main reason why the schools don’t close is because they don’t have to. After a snowstorm of 20-30 cm, the roads will be clear in the morning for people to go to school and work.

Another reason we have no snow days is that we don’t have any school buses. Everyone uses public transportation or their own car. A big worry in North America is that a bus full of kids will drive off the road and kill everybody. In Finland, this isn’t as likely to happen, because most little kids don’t go by bus. Finland is also one of the safest countries in the world, where nothing ever happens, so kids can safely walk to school without being kidnapped or run over.

But what if it gets really, really cold? In southern Finland, there are usually a couple of weeks in January and February where the temperature goes down to -30°C. Schools are still open, and kids just put on more clothes and maybe get a drive instead of walking to school. Elementary schools and pre-schools usually have a rule where if it’s -15°C or colder, kids can stay inside during the breaks.

So, basically, the Finnish government doesn’t close the schools, but rather lets people use their common sense to decide whether it’s safe to drive and to drive carefully. If you’re snowed in you don’t have to go, or if you feel like it’s too cold to function. And after all, we only have a few snowstorms per year, and rarely any buses off the road.

But, still, do I wish we had snow days? Absolutely, yes!

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