FINNISHNESS IS SECRET KEY TO HAPPINESS

According to UN report Finland was the happiest country in the world in 2019. What can be the reason for this phenomena in this dark and cold country where we silently wait for a bus in wet rain slush what feels like most of the year? Happiness can be measured by life expectancy, social security, economic status and so on but let me tell why I truly feel that I live among the happiest nation in the world.

You can consider every finn a master of meditation, we do practise it every day whether we know it or not. Imagine a morning bus, everyone sits quietly gazing through the window and if possible on the window seat and no one sitting next to you. That is important to us, gathering thoughts and being with just your own self, that sounds like meditating doesn’t it. That bus ride does not sound so grimm now if you consider everyone just meditating on their way to work, sound nice actually.

Little meditation inspiration from the finnish summer. You can play it on background while reading.

You may hear lots of stereotypes about finishness but actually underneath the surface you can find the happiest nation in the world, it just depends on the way you look at things. Key to happiness maybe?

Finnish nightmares, author Karoliina Korhonen

 

Honesty, personal space and bad food

Safety and freedom are some of the best things I like in a Nordic country. I can just go to walk alone in the middle of the night in a park and the risk of anything bad happening is really small. I also appreciate the nature. I can go to a summer cabin or just hike in the nature and enjoy its beauty, breath the pure air and swim in a fresh water lake. Well, I don’t own a summer cabin but I go to my friends’ cabins. Sometimes with friends, we rent a cabin for some occasion like the midsummer solstice celebration. I guess that I will miss the Finnish sauna a lot while being out of the country. Going to a sauna and swimming in a lake is the best combination ever.

As a Finn I was subjected to the horror of bad Finnish food. In school, at home, in many places. Of course I liked some foods like Karelian pies or mämmi. After I moved into my own apartment I stayed as far away from most Finnish foods as possible. After a long time I’ve understood that many of the foods can also be done well. I learned to cook some of them and nowadays I have started to appreciate more and more of the typical Finnish foods.

 

We have survived from from our bigger neighbours attempt to occupy our nation. We have learned to survive in the harsh conditions of the north. We were a second nation in the world to implement full universal suffrage in 1906. Finnish culture has lots of music, literature and everything. We have interesting history. There are many things I wish to know better. We are tough and reserved but on the other hand all the Finnish people I know are different. Maybe the things that are most common to us are need for personal space and honesty. Maybe those are the most common Finnish traits that define us.

My thoughts on Finnishness

When I describe Finnish people to others, I usually just say that we’re quiet or shy. I don’t personally really think that, but compared to other nations we really seem like it. But I think what really defines us more than “quiet” is “honest”. There’s no need for courtesies or small talk: we just say what we have to say and that’s it. It might come across as shy, quiet or reserved but to me it’s all I need. The concept of small talk was so unfamiliar to me that I’ve really had to put my back into learning it! I still struggle with it from time to time. It’s also hard to tell sometimes if a foreign person is qenuinely interested in talking with me or if it’s just small talk. Usually with Finns I don’t have to worry about that, which is relieving. If somebody asks you how you’re doing and you answer with how you actually feel, it’s only normal and even expected.

Even though the way Finnish people speak can be a little short on words, our language is really versatile. It’s wonderful that a lot of Finnish people can speak many different languages beside Finnish, but sometimes I wonder if others have noticed the beauty of their own language. I find constant joy in all the wonderful little phrases and words that have gained their meaning in the older times but which are still used today. Sometimes while talking I realize what the words we use actually mean. For example “marraskuu” means “November”, but what it literally means is “moon of the dead”, but you never really stop to think about it!

To me Finnishness culminates in how our language could bend into so much to best fit what we’re feeling inside and yet we choose to say so little. Only the necessities.

That… And the completely bright nightless nights when you can just sit on a dock watching insects fly over a lake, hear a faint cuckoo from the forest and smell the smoke coming from the chimney of a sauna. That too.

Summer in Finland, view of a lake

Finnishness

Even though we often joke about “it’s like winning in the lottery to be born in Finland”, I think we really are the winners.

Something I really appreciate in Finland is our nature. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can always find a forest in a short walk. Walking in the nature is so calming and peaceful. Many people have their own summer cottages, where people spend a lot of time during summer. They swim, goes to sauna, grill and just chill.

During winter, it’s really popular that people go to public saunas, sit butt next to butt each other and go to ice swimming. For foreigner it might feel strange, but for most of the Finns it feels really good and feel very Finnish. It’s funny though how Finns are absolutely fine sitting very close to each other in sauna naked, but in bus stop they stand at least one meter from each other in fully clothes. 😀

For me, Finnishness is…

For me, Finnishness is probably mostly about behaviour and the way we think about everything without even realizing it.

To my experience, Finns are used to too good. We have amazing system yet everyone feels bad about it. Working with Americans, for example, I’ve realized how little we praise everything – I wish we knew more about the ‘fake it ’till you make it’ way of talking about everything. Finnishness is sadly about not knowing how to respect things – neither good or bad ones. I’ve learned form other cultures that even if something wasn’t 100% perfect, you can be proud of it and happy with it. You can say to others ‘I love you’ as a greeting just to make them happy. And I believe saying those things make them real eventually.

What’s awesome about our thinking is that we don’t even realize how good we want to make everything. We are reliable and we always want to improve everything – this is something I used to take for granted but later realized that this is totally not happening everywhere. Finns want to make everything as effectively as possible and the idea is always to do everything the best way we could. We question bad behaviors and systems and keep fixing them all the time. We’re always mastering everything – which is even a problem somethimes. We’re so good at optimizing we don’t even have work for everyone.

For me, Finnishness is the will to make everything always better with the downside of never seeing what we actualy got done. On some rare occasions, luckily.

Image result for finnish

Luckily sometimes, like when Finland turned 100 years old, we spend time reminding ourselves of all the good in Finland.

Finnishness

What do I remember when I Hear Finland?

Dark and cold weather, people whom you can trust, and of course beautiful summer

Image result for finnish weather

The first question I always get from people out of Finland is about the weather, asking: is it really six month dark nights and six month sunny days I Finland? 

They think that people in Finland are really into themselves. Alone, drunk, but happy. That could be true and one thing that I couldn’t get it yet is about Finland being one of the happiest countries in the world! really? A few days back I read an article that one in every five Finn is depressed and most of them don’t admit that. 

Finnishness is also about how good Finns trust each other in society which is one thing I really like about.

One more thing that I appreciate about Finland and the Finnish workplace is the way colleagues interact with each other, the way they communicate with each other and with their boss. The boss is just the position most of the time, otherwise, they work together just like normal colleagues. It is really different than many other places around the world.

My thoughts about Finnishness

Finnish nightmares

For me Finnishness is a lot about personality. Finnish people need their own personal space and peace, even in public. If you go in to an elevator with other people in Finland, you don`t get much eye contact, because all the other people are staring at their feet, ground, walls or the roof of the elevator.  If you accidentally put out words like: “good morning” to a stranger in an elevator with you, you might just get odd looks like you would have escaped from a mental hospital or something. You can also see the need of a personal space in public transport like buses or trams. You can never sit beside a stranger, if there is even one empty pair of seats anywhere on the vehicle, because if you do,  you probably get the same kind of look than in the elevator when you open your mouth.

Sauna, beer and sausage

Three words that fits in to any Finns mouth. No matter if its spring, summer, autumn or winter, this holy triangle is close to every Finns heart. Especially in summer, the beer and sausage part takes a big part of a native Finns life, because grilling is the thing you just have to do at summer, no matter if it rains or shines. More than just a few times i`ve grilled under umbrella, but it is worth it, because the sausage tastes even better when you have needed a bit of sisu while cooking it. Being a fanatic fan of ice hockey is also big part of Finnishess. That is why the holy triangle will be emphasized during ice hockey world championship games, and once in a blue moon when Finland makes it in to the finals or even wins the cup, the importance of these things go off the charts. These things walk hand in hand.

 

That is what being a true Finn is.

My Experiences of Finnishness

What I’ve heard is that Finland is one of the happiest countries in the world if not the happiest. At first, I thought, how is that possible with the cold temperatures and dark winters. In the past few years, I’ve had the chance to travel, work, and study abroad and now understand why Finland is such a great country and why I love living there.

Finland is very dark during the winter, and it does get very cold, which can be frustrating at some point, but we do have saunas and homes that are built to keep us warm during winters, we have a lot of activities to keep us busy and to enjoy the cold. We eat quite healthy compared to other countries where I have been, and we are active. We do like to spend time on our own, but we do hang out with friends and interact with people more than most people think. The summers are amazing, and the lakes are perfect for swimming. The nature is also breathtaking during both summer and winter. One of the significant roles in happiness; however, in my opinion, is the good social security system in Finland. This causes less stress and more freedom, for example, students, medical care, the elderly, homeless people, and the unemployed. The social security system also has its flaws, but I do think it brings more happiness and less stress to society.

My experience of Finnishness. I have lived in Finland since 2007. My parents are Finnish, and most of my friends are also Finnish. In my experience, compared to the places I’ve been, Finnish people and Finnishness can be described as quiet, hard-working, loyal, and misunderstood people. By misunderstood, I mean this because we do not show our emotions as clearly as the Italians or Spanish people, and we are bad at saying what we mean. Finns can also be very shy sometimes, which adds to the misunderstood part.

But all in all, I think most of us Finns are packed with good morals and a good heart. We are proud of our country and our ancestors, who helped defend it. We are proud to be Finns, and we are proud of our culture and everything that belongs to Finland. And yes I do consider myself a Finn even though I wasn’t born here.

My experiences of Finnishness

Nature

It is just impossible to talk about Finland and Finnishness without mentioning it’s nature. The cliché of Finland of being a land of thousand lakes is not only true, it underestimates the nature of Finnish nature. But as well as man can call Finland a land of thousand lakes Finland could be called a land of thousand swamps. Finland’s Finnish name Suomi can actually have it’s origins in the word suo ”swamp”. As well as there are lots of different words for different kind of snow, there are also lots of Finnish words for different kind of swamps also. And then there is of course also forests. Lots of forests. You could say that forest is the place where Finnish people are at home or at least it is a place where Finnish person must go from time to time to feel healthy and well.

Balancing

Finland has a relatively short history as a country or even as an nationality. Finland was inhabited by few different tribes after ice season. There was no idea of Finnishness for a long time. People understood each other but for example written Finnish had lots of differences in 16th century depending the person who was writing. Finland was being ruled by Swedes for centuries and then by Russians from 1809. The idea of Finnland as a nation started to rise in the end of 19th century and Finland gain it’s independence partly by kind of an accident in the stormy season of Russian revolution. Soviet Union tried to occupy Finland in 1939 in Winterwar, but for a surprise for all the world didn’t manage to conquer small and poor country. Finnish people are very proud of this part of their nation’s history. Later being a small country beside a huge Soviet Union was a struggle for Finland who wanted to attach to west but needed to also retain good relations with it’s eastern neighbor. Finland needed to balance between east and west. I think this shows still nowadays as a some kind of carefulness.

Music

As a music student I can not leave unmentioned something about Finnish music.

If you ask from average Finnish person how he would describe Finnish music I am quite sure that first thing he would answer would be that Finnish music is melancholic. That is at least partly true that there are lots of music in different genres that are composed to minor key and it gives to a song or a piece a melancholic feeling. This is typical especially in old Finnish folk music. But it seems that Finnish people like to listen minor key songs also nowadays.

It has been said that in Finland there are most of metal bands per capita in the world. I believe that it is true or at least we are head to head with Norway. Maybe that tells something about us surviving dark and cold winter. You just can’t compose samba or reggae in that kind of conditions.

One of the greatest song composers of Finland is Toivo Kuula. He was born in 1883 and died only as 35 years old in the after match of Finnish civil war in 1918. In this video is performed one of his songs.

 

My Experience of Finnishness

What I miss and don’t miss about Finland when travelling?

Answering the question above is the easiest way to notice what’s different or special about Finland.

Well, the first thing that I notice when away is the maybe the finish temper. Its actually almost famous worldwide. People think that Finnish people are really introvert and I’m not even disagreeing. Its really rare that someone tries to start a conversation with you without a really good reason. It starts with not even looking others in the eyes or greeting while for example passing them on the streets. If you manage to start a conversation Finns are actually really friendly people. You may notice that the conversations skills may be a bit rusty at the beginning but that’s understandable because of the lack of training. People often tell me that I’m really social for a Finn. I normally answer that that’s because I’m half Austrian. 😉

 

The next thing is kind of obvious. The Finnish nature is one of a kind. We have so much nature compared to cities and industry. The fact makes the air in Finland very pure and clean. Its really easy to go hiking and find peaceful places in Finland. I do appreciate that a lot but after some time you really miss the action.

Finnish people commonly hate the bureaucracy and VR which basically is the national train company. I think the lack of appreciation results from not knowing of worse. After spending time in “less organized” countries I really miss how well everything works in Finland!

“Kaikki toimii kuin junan vessa” “Everything works like a toilet in a train”