Comparing food options in Finland, United States

This story was originally published in the second edition of The Lion’s Tale (November 6, 2020).

When I came to America and went to Publix for the first time, I realized that a lot of the food is very different from what I was used to when it comes to packaging and variety for example. Stores are in general so much bigger here in the US.

We have a couple big stores, but small boutique sized grocery stores are a lot more common in the area where I live in Finland. Here are some examples of how food looks different from where I come.

Milk: Milk in Finland is packaged in cartons, made of recyclable cardboard, instead of plastic jugs. Yogurt and juice is also packaged in these cartons.

Butter: We do not have butter in sticks, but in plastic containers with lids. This is also why baking with an American recipe is really hard back home. You need to convert “sticks of butter” to grams, as well as cups to deciliters and Fahrenheit to celsius.

Water: The water that comes from the faucet is drinkable and tastes the same as the water in bottles. We also have a recycling system that lets you return empty bottles and cans back to the store from where they go to a recycling unit and turn to new products. Every can and bottle is worth 10-20 cents and so after recycling a whole bag of bottles you get a little money, which encourages sustainability.

Cookies, chips and other snacks: The variety in a normal grocery store is huge compared to stores from where I come. Just the Oreo section here is about as big as the cookie selection in regular supermarkets back home. The variety of different cereals is also very big here as compared to Finland. In bigger grocery stores in Finland, there is always a section, where you can choose from different candy and pay by weight. We also have them at movie theatres. They are unfortunately not in use at the moment because of the pandemic.

School lunch: In Finnish schools we get lunch for free. It is paid for by the taxpayers and so it is very inexpensive at the point of sale. The average lunch per person in Helsinki costs about $1. There are usually a few options to choose from like pasta, potatoes or rice, with some sort of sauce or meat. There is always salad and bread and both a vegetarian and vegan option as well. The food is not very high quality, since it is so cheap, but it is warm.