Finland blogger René Schwarz saw an opportunity in the pandemic
The summer house office in a Finnish forest is even more precious to the blogger than his home office
Blogger of all things Finnish, René Schwarz: “I always try to think positive“
Nearly all German-speaking people who have the slightest interest in Finland have probably heard about René Schwarz’s blog FinnTouch. He could be considered the unofficial Finnish ambassador with thousands of followers across social media channels. As a media entrepreneur and blogger René tried to see the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity and came up with a new kind of live entertainment concept with his Kalsarikännit programme. The name of the programme is the Finnish word for drinking at home with no intention of going out.
Big shock in early March
“I had planned on focusing more on travel blogging this year. Then the coronavirus crisis started in March and everything changed. During the first few days, I was in a state of shock, I was paralysed,” René says.
René, who is half Finnish, started his FinnTouch.de blog in 2016. On his blog, he writes about his second homeland, provides travel tips, interviews Finnish bands and showcases Finnish products. For more than ten years, he has been his own boss and written texts for different customers.
“Naturally, I was very scared about what would happen to my work at first. No one could have foreseen how long the ‘lockdown’ would last and how it would affect my customers and my work,” René admits.
René already worked from home
Luckily, René’s work did not dry up due to the pandemic. Actually, the opposite happened:
“For some reason all of my customers wanted my help all of a sudden. That is why it was not difficult for me to think positively,” the blogger says with a smile.
Many people in Germany, in particular, were new to working from home, whereas it was business as usual for René. He had been working from his home office for years, and he likes the flexibility it offers.
“I can take my small son Jari to daycare in the morning and play with him in the afternoon, if I want. Then again, I often sit at my computer late into the night, but it does not bother me,” he says, pleased.
During the worst stages of the pandemic he would work especially intently to keep his business successful. And then he happened on a new innovation.
Tastings on Facebook brought friends of Finland together
“I had had the urge to organise tastings with Finnish drinks for some time. Originally, I was going to host the events at a bar or restaurant. Then COVID-19 came along. A good friend of mine invited me to an online tasting organised by a German brewery. That’s where I got the idea: why don’t we do this with Finnish beer and other drinks?”
The creative idea developed into a tangible concept quite quickly. Together with his business partner Mari Raatikainen, who is in charge of the Little Finland online shop, René invited some of his followers to the first Kalsarikännit live event already on 3 April. It was streamed live on the blog’s Facebook page. The followers had the chance to order the tasting set in advance, and glasses were raised virtually during the live stream. The concept worked.
“More than 50 friends of Finland participated right at the beginning. They ordered the tasting set and had a lively chat with me and the other participants online. Today, we have seven live streams under our belt, including a festive stream for Kirami’s 19th birthday, when we sat in a genuine Finnish hot tub. This has grown into a lovely community, and many participate every time. This would not have happened without the pandemic,“ René says.
With his Kalsarikännit live streams, the fan of Finland brought some joy and sense of community to many people during trying times. Not to mention that his idea helped the Little Finland family business clear the ‘lockdown’ with minimal damage, and the blogger had no need to worry about the future of his business.
“After the summer break, we will have new live streams at the end of August. We will be hosting a Finland vs. Sweden special event, for example. And I have plenty of fun ideas in store,” René says with an enigmatic smile.
I missed water
Even though René Schwarz was able to make something positive out of the pandemic, there were some things that he missed.
“I really missed water during the pandemic,” René admits.
René has been swimming and bathing in a sauna regularly for years, which is an important way to relax after working in his home office. During the coronavirus pandemic, he was unable to visit his favourite spots for months, because all of the locations were closed.
“You can image how pleased I was to be able to bathe in the Kirami tub when we made our live stream at the German retailer Holzimgarten.”
Now the blogger is excited about his annual trip to Finland.
“We are planning on some fun cooperation projects, which will allow us to visit interesting places. We will be reporting everything on the FinnTouch website. I am glad to have new cooperation projects with Kirami in the works,” René lets slip.