Finland - self-service in cafes, lockers with refrigerators, recycling of botles...


Here in Finland, there is a very rational attitude to lunches. Many people don’t take little details into account, they care more about food taste and choice, and a possibility to eat fast.

In many cafes, it is assumed that after eating, a customer brings a tray with dirty dishes to a special desk. In other counties, you might have experienced such approach in cafes at IKEA shops. But in here it is in use everywhere, even in quite expensive cafes which sell coffee and bun for €7.

In those cafes which have a lot of visitors during lunchtime, the customers need to bring the dishes back to the kitchen through a special window. There is a special container for food leavings; dishes, glasses, and tray go each into a separate box. Sometimes there is a need to sort cutlery. After doing this, it is possible to wash hands with water or to use napkins. However, to my taste, it ruins a positive lunch experience. I understand that this is saving from the economical perspective, but I would pay one or two euro more for not to sort leavings. But it looks like the local market does not consider table service as an addition which is possible to sell. Lunch costs the same in the places where customers are required to deal with dishes and where they are not.

Shopping malls

These are storage lockers in a shopping center. There are +4C and -13C options. In there buyers can store their cool or frozen buying and continue shopping or go to the cinema. That’s free of change.


This beauty salon is called “Tähtisilmä” which translates into “Star Eye”. A girl with such a name is a character in one of the fairy tales by Finnish writer Topelius. It it a symbol for both visible beauty and inner strength. In the second picture, there is an image of this character by Russian artist Tamara Ufa.


This is how bottles are given back for recycling. Their price is included into price of drinks and you can get it back in this machine. Note that it knows many languages. We switched to Russian.

Such machines are placed in the shops. There is a place for garbage nearby, you can throw a plastic bag there (it is usually dirty because of the liquid), and also sinks to wash your hands.
The machine gives back a receipt with a sum to return. It can be used to partly pay for the next purchase in the shop. It is also possible to get cash, but paying with receipt is better. Anyway, we are going to buy something and take the bottles with us.


In Aalto university there is a lof of places to work and study. WiFi is offered everythere in the campus, so that you can sit with your laptop in amy cafe, library or in a hall. I use this for remote working. However, it is still not convinient to make Skype calls from such places. But with that the Uni helps as well: there are isolated rooms in every building, which is possible to book with a mobile application or using a tables next to the door.

This is the room I’ve just booked. The rooms are different, but I especially like this one because of the large sofa. There is also a display, we used it once together with my classmates for working on a presentation. And, of course, there is a borad; this room is called “brainstorming”. There are others in the same building: one where everything is black-black, and another one where everything is about birch.

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© Varya Stepanova, 2018. To contact, email me.