Monthly Archives: June 2016

Midsummer in Finland

Now that midsummer (Juhannus) is here and many of the Finns are heading to countryside to enjoy the long weekend with friends and families or to attend some festival around Finland it is quite acceptable time to think about Finnishness. Afterall midsummer is an important part of Finnishness and it is around the time when the days are the longest in here.

juhannus_

Midsummer in Finland usually might include watching a bonfire (kokko) and eating grilled food, going to sauna and having some alcoholic beverages. And not to forget that the night barely gets dark at all which allows Finns to enjoy the long bright day before the fall comes with long dark days.

Another way to spend midsummer in Finland is to attend one of the festivals around the country, especially for the younger people.  Renting a cottage or staying in a tent with friends and to see live Finnish artists or bands to perform is a way to enjoy midsummer nevertheless the weather.

Savusauna

When first thinking about the word Finnishness it brings to my mind nature, lake, sauna and good Finnish food, such as rye bread, Fazer’s chocolate, liquorice, Karelian pasty and pea soup. A bright summer nights and dark, cold, snowy winter days. These are just the first things coming to my mind, which probably are very stereotypical.

A Finnish person is also big part of Finnishness. Describing a Finn would include a quiet, calm, honest, enjoying own personal space and not caring too much about small talk. Alcohol would be part of the picture too. I personally do not completely agree with the stereotypical Finn but there are some truth to it.

Thoughts on Finnishness

Let’s start by introducing a few funny Finnish competitions..
Paskanluonti (“shoveling the shit”)
Saappaanheitto (“throwing the boot”)
Suojalkapallo/Suopotkupallo (swamp football)
Eukonkanto (wife carrying)
And yes, there’s a World Championship which exists in all these fine sports!

paskanluonti saappaanheittosuojalkapallo40468-2014pekkahonkakoski9

There’s various stereotypes about different countries and nationalities. However, many of those stereotypes have at least a grain of truth in them. Most Finns are shyish, rather calm and quiet and used to a big personal space, small talk is rather unknown and the language is complex with its multiple declinations and oh, the word “please” doesn’t exist. This doesn’t mean though that Finns would be rude, most of us are just… modest. And we can make a polite request other ways than using this exact word.

What all these more or less accurate stereotypes tell of Finnish people then? Finnish people appreciate talking when there’s something important to be said and words are taken seriously. We have also a lot of well describing and very exact words to make the point quickly, long explanations aren’t needed. Calm talk is often preferred over intense discussion or debate. I once heard that Finnish is a language that can be spoken without interruptions as it’s possible to speak also when inhaling but ironically Finns aren’t that talkative.

Maybe as the population of whole Finland is only a part of the number of inhabitants in some major European cities for example, we have had the possibility to get used to a larger space around each person. Maybe being modest has over the time been considered better than being too proud of yourself. And our language has surely developed around the things that have been important such as describing the snow – there’s tens of different words for that topic! Speaking of snow, the weather with its dark and long winter time must have also had its effect on the nature of Finnish people. I was once told as an honest observation that “the spring has come, Finns smile again”.

But what things make Finland what it is? Sauna, lakes, bright summer nights, calmness, quietness and cleanliness, sisu, foods such as mämmi, liquorice (salmiakki), rye bread, karelian pies and Fazer chocolate..

saunatime1saunatime2

For now, I’ve lived abroad twice, once longer. When coming back to Finland after two years spent in France I noticed something peculiar, I was being far too polite. And the people didn’t really know how to react to that so they mostly just ignored my courtesies. I also remember the moment of receiving my very first cheek kiss from a Greek friend, she just hopped up from the bench and mooched my cheeks. I was horrified as it was something completely unexpected for me.

“Insert text here”

With a completely empty head and lack of time now during the summer I am finding myself sitting at my computer and writing this text – or to be exact, I am thinking what should I write here. My head is empty, but I’m sure I’ll get something soon.

I wake up every morning either at 6:10AM or 5:10AM and go to work, I get home around 5-6PM and head directly to the gym. By the time I get home after all the “must do” activities I am hungry as a Lion and there is no way I can sit down and put my mind into a school task which tells me to write about a Finnish culture – which I still do not understand till this very day, even after me living in Finland for the past 24 years.

And to make it even more harder, the Euro 2016 and daily football games are killing the lovely vibe and thoughts of the school task we were given – the task I obviously would do if I had the time…….. and motivation 😉

uefa

Nevertheless, I can say a word or two about the things I became familiar with during my long life in Finland – if you can call 24 years a long enough period of course.

  1. Rallienglanti. Yes, this is something we “Finns” know very well. Translated it means: Rallyenglish or to describe it differently it means: broken English with twisted pronouncing. It is common, it sounds funny and it is a big part this country.
  1. Sisu is the reason why Finnish people complaint day after another about an issue, but still never do anything about the actual problem, because let’s face it, complaining is easy behind the backs. The meaning of Sisu = gut.

Source for the Sisu: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisu

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However, do not mix it with this sh**! This is one of the “traditional” Finnish “candy/sweet” and boy is it lovely! This is one of the most horrible things you can eat on the planet and it is a huge part of the Finnish culture. (yes it looks like it says Gifu, but that’s just the bad font on the package).


Now, there is many more and I am sure many of you already know a few odd things and are familiar with Finnish habits and ways of functioning. The most common ones are probably already mentioned or will be written about sooner or later.

I will make a quick memo on the things that comes into my mind about Finnish culture during the next minute.. Yes, I will time it.

Here we go…

Olut, Viina, Perkele, Smalltalk or lack of it, Smiling is out of the question, because people might think you are an idiot, complaining, food is expensive, jopo, Tarja Halonen looks like Conan O’Brien, Forests and Lakes, Nokia is kaput (and has been for the past 8 years) but people still buy it to support Finnish products…

And of course the next winters weather prediction by Kummeli (another Finnish popularity)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QPmeXtUnchI

“Hello! Next winters weather . . . . . . snowing and everybody is pissed off . . . .”

 

Finnishness through stereotypes

To me Finnishness is partly following certain stereotypes or at least making sure everyone knows the stereotypes even if they wouldn’t really picture the speaker himself/herself – I mean not everyone here loves ice hockey or spend hours in sauna, but they still understand that these things are important part of our culture and keep spreading it around. I guess we find joy and feel proud about the image we’ve gotten: We’re happy to be seen as a small, dour nation where everyone loves black candy (salmiakki), sauna and personal space, haha. On more positive side people are trustworthy and friendly after you get past the cold exterior.

There are many comics about Finns and the stereotypic Finnish personality. We’ve already met Matti, the main character of Finnish Nightmares on this blog. These comics squeeze up so well how most Finns are and what they feel in different situations. I can relate to many of these.

Read more Finnish Nightmares here
Read more Finnish Nightmares here

I can’t help but to chuckle bashfully everytime I read Country balls and SATW comics where Finland appears. We know exactly how other countries see us and the fact that the comics humor me so much confirms what I said at the start – I’m proud of my country and I enjoy the image we have even if it wasn’t 100 % me or even the people closest to me here.

A-Bad-Day
About 6 years ago Finland lost to Denmark in Ice hockey world championship and it was quite a humiliation [Comic: Scandinavia and the world by Humon]
From my own experience I can say that Finns are quite reserved people, but not nearly as lonesome as most stereotypes suggest. Some of the stereotypes state that a Finnish person can barely handle a smile from a stranger, but I’ve proven that wrong many times. …Just don’t expect a kiss on the cheek as a hello from me if we meet somewhere on the Finnish streets.

Statistics show that yes, we really do love saunas since we have so many of them compared to our population, but having a sauna in your house doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d use it for the purpose it was made, few of my friends keep their saunas cool all year long and just store stuff there as if it was an extra storage room.

A quick glance at Finnishness

During my travels outside Finland I’ve observed foreigners reactions and behavior against Finns. When I’ve introduced myself as a Finn, the reactions have been positive every time. From this you can conclude that certain characteristics unite us Finns. I’ve noticed that Finns have a reputation of being trustworthy above all. One Yank I met didn’t even know exactly where Finland is, but still he had heard only good from us, and most importantly knew we weren’t Swedes.

Me and few of my friends put the Finnish reputation to the test during our road trip in Jordania when we agreed that at the first military checkpoint we speak English and don’t mention our nationality. The result was a full vehicle and passport check. At the next checkpoint me as driver shouted from the car window, in arabic, “Hello, we are from Finland” and without a doubt the soldier greeted with a smile and a thumbs up and let us be on our way without any further questions. At that time I really understood how superior our reputation is around the world, even in a poor city at middle of Jordanian desert.

Finnish reputation has spread over the Red Sea to Jordanian desert

Of course, Finnishness is much about preconceptions which are true in far too many occasions. For you who wants’ to get familiar with Finnish culture and blend in, here’s a small to-do list just for you:

– Learn to hide you feelings. Work your poker face daily.

– Get to know Finnish traditional delicacies like mämmi and salty liquorice. After that, offer them to any foreigner and laugh at their reactions.

– Watch highlight videos from Youtube of ice hockey World Championships from 1995 and 2011. Learn who Timo Jutila is and what “6-1” means.

– Learn to hate Swedes. Hate their language, friendliness and their trendy clothes. Hate also Finnish Swedes, they are almost as bad as Swedes. Or maybe even worse with their boats and accent.

– Never ever talk to a stranger if they don’t start the conversations. Just don’t. That’s definitely not Finnish.

– Be proud of everything related to Finland. But don’t show it to anyone.

Horrible day for a Finn

 

So here was a quick glance at Finnishness and what it means to be a Finn. Hope you enjoyed!

Already a bit of Finnish

Since I have been living in Finland for 3 years, I have got a great  impact of Finnishness on myself. When I come back to my home country, Ukraine, I find out that people behave in not proper “non-Finnish” way.

First of all, politeness everywhere on Finland is my favourite Finnish feature. People are relaxed and not usually in a hurry, easily stop to help or advise. For instance, shop assistants in Finland are extremely polite: they smile, wish you a pleasant evening, have a small talk with you or joke (which actually sound normal and nothing special), but.. it never happens in Ukraine! All people are in hurry, running, afraid of strangers on the street. Shop assistants are sometimes rude if you take too much time. When visiting Ukraine I always get mad on shop assistants because I think they are screaming on me, forgetting it is normal in this country.

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The other things I extremely love about this country and people are:

-safety – I am not worried anyone will steal my thing on the street, public transport, I even can leave my bag on the chair and go order my meal! Poliisi is always around to help as well.
– fresh air and clean tap water – better health and money spent on water saved are guaranteed!

finnish_nature_by_karil-d33kaat

 

Although, some aspects of Finnishness I still don’t like:
– shops are closing early, closed on holidays, alcohol is selling only till 9
– salmiakki and any food with its flavour!!! why Finns always treat me with salmari shots at the bar??
-going to sauna before  going to the club – how about looking fancy?make-up?

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Anyway, I am getting more Finnish year by year and I like it! I think I could be a good representative of Finland at my exchange destination =)

 

I’m Finnish, but am I Finnish enough

You all know the funny stereotypes – always drunk, always quiet, always scared of people. Those are funny unless repeated ad nauseam. I am Finnish, but I lack the things that supposedly make a person Finnish. When I’m going abroad to study, I will present as myself first, but inevitably also as an ambassador of Finland. I chuckle often at stereotypes, but should we really plant this image in everyone’s minds? Imagine if everyone presented themselves as knife-wielding drunkard misanthropes abroad?

I suppose this is part of the Finnish sense of humour. I believe it is good to have a sense of self-irony and joke about ourselves every now and then. But I also believe we should try to present or create more positive stereotypes in addition to the old. Finland is a country that has succeeded in rising from devastating conditions and create a welfare state with low corruption and high living standards. We have created many technological advancements. We even created the perfect pizza, Berlusconi. Amongst ourselves we often call each other fair, honest and hard-working. But why must we always push ourselves down when presenting us to foreigners?

I am guilty of this humbler-than-thou behaviour as well. And after having studied for two years and gotten to know plenty of non-Finnish students, I have learned that people are generally more annoyed at people who constantly present themselves as worthless, ironically or not. I will strive for balance in this regard and become more positive. If you have done well, you should recognize it even if it’s not the best. You got the silver medal? Wouldn’t you like to hear “a job well done” instead of “well, you did everything you could.”

hsvsforbes

Finnish vs. US reporting style (credit Jocka Träskbäck)

I will do my best to present the more positive aspects of being Finnish to the world – but I don’t even drink coffee or like salmiakki.

 

My Experience of Finishness

Finishness (video)

I moved to Finland 4 years ago and since that time I was thinking about how to became a Finn.. and there are some points I figured out:

  • Blame everything on Russians. Everything. If you can´t blame it on Russsians – blame it on Sweds
  • Give up  small talk and just shut up. It’s so cold, even inside, so don´t waste your energy

  • Finn is a master at least 3 languages – too shy to speak any out loud, but has the supernatural skill of being able to speak fluent Swedish/Russian after 5 beers
  • Begin your never-ending battle with Kela. ( those bastards, they only want your money.)
  • You plan your Saturday around the fact that Alko closes at 6 pm. The weekend is not enough for getting boozed up, so you need your pikkulauantai (little Saturday) on Wednesday nights to get smash-faced
  • Laught at noting but Finnish stamd-up comedy

  • Potatoes are the glory of each meal and RYE BREAD is your everything. No Thursday without a bowl of pea soup and pancakes with strawberry jam
  • You are fully aware of the Finnish KKK — kebabin kautta kotiin ( to go home through Kebab)
  • Finss love expensive, bad quality coffee and expensive, bad quality beer

  • And of course, JÄÄKIEKKO

 http://9gag.com/gag/aVQm5WM