Finnishness in the point of view of a Finn

Finnishness in the point of view of a Finn

 

A very weird word as Finnishness can mean so much for us northerners, who are understood by no one and live a peaceful life in a place that many can’t even point on the map. Unless you’re well educated of course, no shots fired towards anyone… I’ve visited multiple countries in my short lifetime, and each and every time it’s so wonderful and funny to tell some facts about us Finns; About our personal space (Of course showing the picture of the bus stop is a must when talking about this subject), our weird sauna traditions that might or might not include swimming in a frozen lake or rolling naked in the snow, or how crazy everyone gets when Finland wins the world ice-hockey championships (hope for the best! Edit: Well turns out we won!!!). For myself, the most important traditions we have are the midsummer’s celebration (with kokko of course, see pic1) and the midwinter’s cold nights (pic 2). It’s kind of funny since both of the celebrations include the use of sauna and swimming in the lake. Doesn’t matter if the lake is frozen or not. We swim in it. Always.

pic1 pic2

 

Many Finns come across as silent and self-centred, but the reality is, after an awkward small talk session, we turn out to be one of the warmest people you’ve ever met. Seriously. And if someone after a small talk session doesn’t open up, just give him/her few beers or shots of vodka and witness the results yourself; truly warm people! Oh, and talking about alcohol, we Finns have even invented our very own alcoholic beverage, which we love so very very much. It’s called Lonkero (pic3), which is basically a long-drink, but not quite. To understand how it differs from a long-drink that can be ordered in a bar across the globe, you just have to taste it. It’s same but it’s different, and it’s better.

pic3

 

We Finns are proud of our country, but we welcome anyone for a visit or two. Anytime. And if I’ve learned something from my previous holiday trips, is that many people eagerly want to come and visit Finland after all of the funny stories I’ve told and the pictures of our nature (pic4) I’ve shown. Everyone’s welcome to Finland!

 

pic4

 

“Why would you move here?”

Not that long ago, I caught myself asking this question from this Irish guy who had just moved to Finland. What he answered is not relevant, but I think this question shows pretty well the humility of us Finns. We know that we are a small nation in the Northern part of the world, and we work hard to make people notice our existence. Still it always seems to amaze us if someone knows something about our culture or if someone is willing to be a part of it.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares someone knows finland

Just about a month ago I read this article about the quotes that describe the Finnishness the best. One of them was “Ei minua varten tarvii keittää” which can be translated to “There is no need to cook just because of me”. Finnish people are usually very modest and they do not want to bother other people with their needs. This can be seen in everyday life, for example in public traffic. People do not want to sit next to people they do not know and they certainly do not want to communicate them. Even when they are sitting next to the window in a bus and want to get out. Some brave individuals might say something to the person sitting next to them, but most of the time they are expressing their need to get out by coughing or moving restlessly. Sometimes, in worst cases, this might lead to travelling couple of extra bus stops, but that is OK as long as you do not have to talk to strangers.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish memes bus

The modesty can also be seen in other situations. I often overhear people talking about the problems they are having, for example with their family or co-workers. Other people have annoying habits and the Finns like to complain about them to their friends. This sounds really normal and it happens everywhere, right? The difference is that we do not do anything about it. Again, we are trying not to bother others with our own needs. This might lead to bigger problems later when the little annoying things pile up and people need to confront them.

The humility and modesty can also be seen in the following situation. Try to compliment a Finn. Or try to tell them how wonderful their country is or how well something works. Normally people would say “thank you”, if you compliment them and they might even carry on the conversation about well-working public transportation or good healthcare. “What is the reaction you get from a Finn?” you might ask. Instead of “thank you” you will get some mumbling about how “it is nothing” or “this old thing” or some argument how there should be more busses from Hervanta to Tampere City Center.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle complimenting a finn

In Finland it is very common that people speak at least two languages. We are taught English and Swedish in school and many people speak at least English pretty well. The problem with learning languages as a Finn is again our modesty and our perfectionism. We often compare ourselves to native speakers and get frustrated if we are not on the same level as them. Many of my foreigner friends have told me that they find it easy to communicate in Finland and that almost everyone they have met has spoken really good English. Despite of the good level of English, people are too shy to speak it, because they do not trust themselves to be good enough.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares english

All this modesty in humility hides the fact that although we always find something wrong with Finland, we are secretly very proud of it. It is our “isänmaa” – “father’s land” and we want people to know us and our country. We are happy if someone asks something about Finland, knows someone Finnish or has visited our country. It is a topic that we do not get tired talking about. Especially when we are a little bit drunk. But we will not get into that in this post.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares someone knows finland

In conclusion, we are always comparing ourselves to “bigger” or “better” things and often forget or ignore the fact that we seem to have it all figured out pretty well.

How I see Finland

In my opinion, Finland is one of the best places to stay, when it comes to conditions, the standard and the quality of life. Especially elderly people and children are treated really well in this country. In general people are extremely honest and encourage other people to have the same courtesy. The stereotype about Finnish honesty is purposeful and truthful, and Finns like to highlight it. For example if you lose your wallet here, you have way better chances at getting it back, than in many other countries. I personally have had an experience of forgetting my bank card in the ATM machine and then getting a call from a stranger that found it to come and collect it. You can’t not respect that. As it was said in another blog post, I agree that ”honesty is the foundation of a safe and functional society.” (Sahamies, J. 2019 blogi)

(https://adage.com/creativity/work//38028)

In addition to all the good benefits and support you can get from the government, Finland also provides exceptional educational opportunities. Here you can basically educate yourself to become whatever you want as long as you have the motivation and the dedication to do it, the doors are open. People from all over the world come here for the education opportunities and in some cases may even get a job and stay here. Most of the exchange students I have spoken to, have said that they love it here. The only negative aspects were the weather conditions and sometimes the food.

(https://www.tuni.fi)

Why the food? Well, Finland isn’t really known as the most food oriented country even though there are some amazing Finnish dishes, which will make your mouth water. Still, because Finnish people tend to settle for less, they don’t make a big deal out of a meal. Salt & pepper is all you need for seasoning.

Mostly the food is considered to be healthy and versatile. To people like myself who are picky with the food, it may seem a bit boring at times. People from countries where food is held in a high standard, would probably also want to spice it up a bit, since they are more used to the strong rich flavors.

(https://finnishcrashcourse.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/food-culture-in-finland-tradition-habits-and-particular-dishes-part-1/) Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Finnishness to me

Finnishness can mean many things. When I think about the word ”finnishness” I get really warm feelings. Feelings that comforts me and reminds me of the safe, clean and wealthy country I am living in. But it’s not just the place. It’s the people and the culture that have shaped through the years.

Finnish people are hard working and we don’t mind from small setbacks . I believe that’s the reason of how we have survived here in the cold north. A great example is that Finland was the only country to pay war reparations after the world war 2. Especially the elder people appreciate people who work hard. Though the culture is changing and the younger ones doesn’t see eye to eye in that one.

The best thing in Finnishness is the honesty. It’s the most important virtue a one can have. I think it’s the foundation of a safe and functional society. Being able to trust the official authorities and the people you meet every day is just simply great.

Finnish people have been ranked as the happiest people on earth. And no wonder, it’s not like we smile the most or have the greatest lives, but were are usually satisfied with the basic things. We have a good social security, a great education system and a clean nature.

I think Finnishness is a great thing and we have so many things to be proud of.

Finnishness

Writing about Finnishness is actually pretty hard. I wouldn’t say that I am the most Finnish person that there is or that I am super hyped about Finland as a country but it is definitely a great thing to be a Finn. Here’s some reasons:

Nature

I am not a huge nature loving person myself even though Finland gives one of the best opportunities for enjoying it in the world. You can freely walk wherever you want to, go camping or swimming and collect berries and mushrooms pretty much anywhere for free. Still, I often find myself being amazed of the beautiful surroundings.

Finnish shyness

Finnish people are often being told to be shy and quiet. I think that is both a good and a bad thing. I personally love that you don’t have to make small talk with everyone in Finland if you are having a bad day because no one is expecting you to. It is also great that Finnish people usually have a big need of personal space and it is ok not to be the most social person ever.

Then again, it can be a bit weird for foreigners when trying to get to know a Finn. We might easily seem mean or not interested, but that usually is not the case.  I have being told so many times by my foreign and also some Finnish friends that ‘you seem so shy and focused on your own stuff but when you start to talk you just wont stop’, and I think that applies to quite many Finns. We just need a little time to get comfortable.

It’s safe in here

Finland is a safe country to live in. You can walk alone in in the middle of the night even in the big cities and you don’t have to be afraid. Finnish people are also usually very helpful, if something happens, someone will help you – though you might have to ask for the help yourself, Finns might not offer it to you without asking. It’s also safe in the way that you can trust the police and health care to take care of you. We are also offered a lot of support by the government in form of free education, maternity leaves, unemployment support and other great things which you might not get elsewhere.

Top 3 Finnish brands

Marimekko

Marimekko is a Finnish design brand founded by Armi Ratia in 1951. Marimekko is known for graphic and colorful prints for clothes and other textiles. The most known design is simple striped print called “Tasaraita”. The brand is respected amongst Finnish people and you can see people wearing it and decorating their homes with it all the time. After all these years it is still very trendy and valued.

 

Fazer

Fazer is a major company in Finnish food industry which includes sweets, bakery products, restaurants and cafes. It is founded and named by Karl Fazer in 1891 when he opened a French-Russian styled confectionery in Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Their most known product is Fazer Blue which is milk chocolate wrapped in blue paper. Fazer symbolizes Finnish quality and taste. It is a great souvenir to bring from Finland.

 

Artek

Artek is a traditional Finnish furniture company. One of the founders was Alvar Aalto, who is well known and respected architect and designer in Finland. Other founders were Alvar’s wife Aino Aalto, visual arts promoter Maire Gullichsen and art historian Nils-Gustav Hahl and it was founded in 1935. For Finnish people Artek is a timeless classic. It is quite expensive brand so having Artek’s furniture in your home shows good taste in design and quality. Most iconic product is a simple and practical wooden stool.

 

All these brands have in common simple but timeless style. Classics work through time and that is what makes those brands traditional and valued from generation to generation in Finland.

Finnish lifestyle

Finnish lifestyle varies depending on the time of the year. The seasonal changes can be seen in our behavior and in our habits. Many of our hobbies and eating habits varies depending on the current season. We are blessed to have four different seasons (at least for now) and they mainly control our flow of life. This post presents the different seasons and Finnish ways to spend them.

Autumn

Autumn is all about getting back to the routines and schedules. Finns have returned from their vacations and are ready to start their normal daily rhythms. This can be seen from crowded gyms and public transports. Mostly Autumn is pretty hectic time and many Finns might feel themselves stressed after the Summer. Weather is getting more rainier and those bright nights are only a memory at this point. Some might feel a bit melancholic about the Summer being over. But still, many Finns also love Autumn because you can stay at home during your free-time without feeling bad about yourself for not doing anything.  Roots, mushrooms, blueberries and apples are some of the most common seasonal ingredients used. Many Finns grow these themselves or picks them up from the near forest. These ingredients can also be found from many of the marketplaces or  from local markets at reasonable price.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle syysmarkkinat

Winter

Winter is the time for different outdoor sports such as downhill skiing or just regular skiing, skating and ice fishing. Many Finns travel to the Northern Finland during their holiday to experience the different outdoor possibilities. I bet coffee is probably the most used commodity at this season because the evenings are so long and the mornings are dark. The “sun” rises around 8-9 am and sets around 5 pm. People staying in Finland are highly recommended to take extra D-vitamin during Winter time. All in all Winter in Finland is pretty amazing and offers something for everybody. If you like playing in outdoors when it’s -20 degrees, great, or if you’re the type of person that likes staying at home under the blankets- this is the perfect season for you.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle lapin luonto

Spring

Spring is the time when nature and people wake up after the long Winter. During Spring most Finns plan their summer activities and prepare themselves for Summer. Students are looking for internship and summer job places, companies are hiring new employees, people will prepare their summer cottages and book vacations. Spring in Finland goes fast, everyone is hyped about upcoming Summer and setting expectations for it. People start going out more and wearing less. Narcissus is the symbol of Spring. These flowers can be seen decorating many household’s kitchen table.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle kevät

Summer

Ah the long waited Summer. Like I said earlier, we Finns set a lot of expectations for Summer. Summer is the time to spend time with friends, family and with different hobbies. Most Finns head to the cottages for summer and spend their vacation there. Some travel to countries where there’s actually warm to get proper tan. Some Finns take part in many of the festivals and celebrations that all most every city organizes. There’s something going on in every summer day. The most popular food ingredients are different berries and fruits and meats that you can grill: sausages, stakes, fish… anything mainly. Finnish Summer is truly time for celebration and relaxation.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle kesä

The Finns’ relation to nature

The Finnish nature is something that Finnish people are really proud of. It’s an important part of the Finnish culture, national identity and everyday life. In Finland the nature is all around you no matter where you are. Even in the cities you can find forests and lakes and experience the Finnish nature. After all, 78% Finland’s total area is covered by forests and 9,4% by lakes.

Lake Saimaa, Finland. Photo by Katariina Korhonen

Enjoying the nature often means clearing your mind, having alone time and relaxing but to different people it can mean different things. One of the best parts about Finland’s nature is that you can experience and enjoy it in so many different ways: you can go biking, hiking, picking berries or mushrooms, swimming, canoeing, camping, skiing – you name it. The Finnish nature has a lot to offer and so it has something for everyone.

Välijoki, Finland. Photo by Katariina Korhonen

Finnish people have a kind of built-in need to be in touch with nature. The Finnish nature represents peace, safety, silence and purity, which are essential values to Finns. I think, the Finnish nature answers to the need of silence and peace that Finns have. In my opinion, the Finnish nature reflects the Finnish identity and mentality. Finns are often described to be silent, persistent and though, which, I imagine, comes from having roots in the majestic Nordic nature.

Snowy forest in Välijoki, Finland. Photo by Katariina Korhonen

 

Finnish Living

Cottage culture

There is about half a million summer cottages in Finland.

Most Finns have lived in rural areas, and many Finns have liked the peace of the countryside. Many city dwellers are balancing their busy lives. Cottage offers the opportunity to temporarily break free from imposed sanctions and do things that are important to you and not imposed externally.

The cottage environment is expected to be unspoiled, wild, unpolluted and simple, as opposed to cities, and is sought for spiritual cleansing and expansion

I have too diligently spent time at last year acquired a cottage, which is located in far away from where i live. The most important thing for me is changing the landscape.

 

The cabin in the picture has been in use by my close family for about a year, with a small yard with, outdoor sauna and an outdoor shed. The cottage has no special amenities except radios. The cottage warms up on cold summer nights and in the winter with chopped trees. The cottage originally has been a house for husmann. A husmann lived in a cottage and then leased a nearby farm paid with manual work on the owner’s fields. There is nearby a big land which used to be a farmfield.

The cottage has been recently painted and renovated. It has a water post from where water is carried inside. Modernizations has been also made, a small space in the former hallway has an electric toilet installed and electrics have been pulled to the house.

Finnishness

Finnishness to me is about the bigger picture. It includes the humble Finnish people, monotonous language, the culture and the pride of being a Finn. A typical Finn is usually pretty introvert person until you get to know him/her. Once you got to know a Finn personally they are really open, warm and talkative.

 

I believe that one cause to the “shyness” comes from the language. Finnish language is monotonous and it makes other language’s words harder to pronounce unless you’ve used to be in interaction with them. If typical Finn from street starts to speak English it’s normally basic “rally” English. If you’re wondering what that sounds here’s a sample from rally driver Gronholm himself:

 

 

The culture is hard to describe. It’s something that you really need become part of. Finns might not be the most outgoing sort but they always have something weird to do or in this case eat. Finns have few really delicacies; mämmi (rye pudding), mustamakkara (black sausage), salmiakki (salty liquorice), ruisleipä (rye bread) and karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pasty). These are a-must-have treats to taste if you’re planning on visiting Finland.

 

Finns take pride being true to themselves. They think they can do everything by themselves and will not ask for help unless it’s necessary. If you see a Finn fall down or working on a hard project – I ensure you that the Finn will work it’s tail off pretending that everything is going well and stuff seems under control even thought they might be in deep trouble trying to keep face. Asking for help is big step for a Finn.

Finland is country of thousand lakes with lots of forests and great nature. Finns have great opportunity to escape to the nature and possibly go relax to cottages with their closest ones which is great feature in this time of technology. In the summer Finns like to spend time on the waters or beaches and eat great barbeque food. This is Finns best time to recharge batteries and collect thoughts.