In Finland we like to play frisbee golf and it is a growing hobby and even competition sport in Finland. Many new tracks has been built in Finland only in couple of years and they are still building lots of new tracks in different cities. Frisbee golf is a sport where you can chill with your friends and maybe have couple beers while playing or you can go pro and try to compete with the best players in Finland. There are even competitions where players are coming further. For example there is always some players from canada etc. I play it as a hobby for spending time with my friends and enjoying summer.
In Finland there are many great motorsport drivers and people working with motorsport. In Formula 1 there has been 9 drivers and two of those, Kimi Räikkönen and Valtteri Bottas, are still driving. We have also MotoGP drivers Mika Kallio and Niklas Ajo. Couple succeeded teams also come from Finland, Koiranen GP in GP3 and Formula Renault, Ajo Motorsport in MotoGP. We have even champions in WRC rally and about 10 drivers in history. I think Finnish people have great drivers in every motorsport because most of them start very young. Even I myself have been driving a car since 6 years old. And the wheather conditions are so shifty that you will learn to drive on either dry, wet or snowy surfaces. My favourite driver is Kimi ”Iceman” Räikkönen and I have watched every F1 race in this year and in couple of years before.
There are loads of fine posts about Finnishness and I think they have brought up all the major points of Finnishness so let me share my view of the Finns themselves so that you can have a further understanding of what means to be a Finn.
I remember when I was in Rome for a holiday in February few years back and when we came back I was in a light trench coat and in ballerinas for it had been a spring in there. Anyway when I stepped outside the Helsinki-Vantaa station I noticed it was snowing outside. And in that moment I realized that I was back home. I was freaking freezing standing there in ballerinas but I couldn’t care less for it was snowing. I had to travel in the trunk of our car because we didn’t have enough space and it was so cold because there were no heaters. But the funny thing is I was actually overjoyed. It had been this beautiful and warm spring in Italy but sitting there slowly freezing I was happier than I had been on the trip. That is something so Finnish that I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
I think our nature has a huge impact in our customs. We have large forests that last as far as eye can see, thousands of lakes and acres after acres of farmland that glows golden in the autumn sun. Yes, the nature is magnificent, yet a bit scary and lonesome. And the people who have grown within these forests are also a bit gruesome, proud even and for sure love their personal space, but they are also warm and caring when it counts.
And we are stubborn. And it is not just that we don’t like to admit that we are wrong. We kind of have this principal to not listen to anyone, especially outsiders, when it comes to choices that regard our own life or any choices now that I think about it… But it also unites us. We stubbornly claimed that we are not Swedes and we will not become Russians so we must become Finns.
Nowadays the nationalism has calmed down a bit and isn’t any more so dramatic that it used to be. These days we cheer for our sport teams and athletes and are joyed if they win, extremely so if our hockey team wins the world championship. We bicker amongst ourselves but defend each other against everyone else if there’s a need. Oh, I almost forgot to mention we also don’t care what others are thinking about us and actually encourage the clichés about us. And in the process we make fun of everyone thinking like that. It raises our spirit.
I think that is enough for now, keep in mind that this is just my opinion of us and maybe it’s just us in Häme who are slow and stubborn. But hopefully this has given you a new aspect of thinking. Personally I don’t trust anyone else’s opinions and prefer to make my own choices, but suit yourself.
I’d like to think Finnish people are hard working and honest. We respect silence and our own boundaries. Maybe just because of that there is one summer cottage for almost every 10th of people living in Finland. That is where most Finnish people tend to spend most of their holidays, with the nature in silence.
Sauna is a traditional place for us. That is pretty much the only place where those boundaries that I mentioned earlier does not exist. You go to sauna naked to sit side by side enjoy the heat with strangers, friends or family.
Seasons in Finland varies so much! In summer it gets really warm and the days are really long. In fact in midsummer the sun doesn’t set at all! However summer is short in Finland and the autumn kicks in really fast and hard. Sunlight is not really a thing in Finland during the autumn and winter. Days are really short and when there should be sunny it’s mostly just really cloudy, foggy and cold. It’s quite depressing but when the spring starts and the sun starts showing again it really brightens every ones moods.
Being a finn isn’t just about blond hair and pale skin. It’s about being who you are and be proud of it. In Finland, we are able to represent our own values and respect others: one could say that equality and respect are the foundation of our society. In my point of view that’s what makes Finland such a great place to live and which should always be remembered.
When it comes to respecting others, the most showing part is that space-thing. One meter between friends, two between strangers, preferably hundred between houses, that’s how we’d like it to be. When the population density reaches 2 people per km2, it gets easier to breath and feel yourself. What a pity that this is possible mainly only in the Lapland (picture under) or Karelia.
Even though finnishness is often associated with stubborness, it doesn’t mean that we would try to hold back developmet. We have our school system (one of the best in the world by the way), universities and reseach centres. Every now and then some finnish or partly-finnish invention comes up and everyone’s all crazy about it. So quite important part of finnishness is finding new ways of doing things. Not being stuck to the old ways.
After spending a lot of time quietly observing the land and its people it became quite clear that the Finnish people were directly shaped by the Finnish land, and the peoples nature reflected the nature of the land.
These Finns are quiet and reserved people, just like the long Finnish winter is quiet and cold. The Finn escapes the long dark inside itself, this leads to the Finns introverted nature.
The Finns are a steady and trustworthy lot. This they have learned from the wind-swept rocks and rocky islets that face the north wind with steadfast determination.
Some Finns have even started to mimic the rocks themselves and appear stone-faced and cold.
There are hundreds of more similarities that could be drawn between the nature of the Finn and the nature of Finland.
The Finns dark sense of humour that reflect the deep dark lakes, (and black coffee).
The unrefined and unapologetic disposition of the Finn that reflects nature in its honesty and sincerity.
But lastly I want to mention the Finnish summer. If one manages to endure the winter of a Finns friendship he might be rewarded with the overabundance of the Finnish summer, when the sun never sets, one is never in want and life is a never ending party. But just like the Finnish summer the happiness of a Finn is a short lived thing and usually by morning comes the merciless hangover and the Finn reverts to his quiet and reserved nature.
Finnishness is weird. It’s probably one of those things I could try to explain for someone from outside Finland for years, and still not manage to grasp the purest essence of it. Yeah, yeah, there’s ice hockey, sauna, metal music, nature, salmiakki, moomins, yada yada, but essentially, I have to confess I have no idea how to explain the Finnish mindset properly. And really, I thought I had a clear concept of it inside my head, since I’ve worked and spent plenty of time with other than native Finns for a few years, and you’re bound to come across the fundamental differences by that, in one way or another.
I’m not big on stereotypes, such as being quiet (I’m not – most of time), being extremely honest (that I am, but not all Finns are), or loving sauna, salmiakki, coffee, ice hockey, moomins and metal music. Well, I do love all of those things – my passionate affection to the magical black liquid substance that keeps me awake knows no boundaries, I still find the moomin family as lovely as I did over 20 years ago (and our kitchen may or may not feature a few moomin-adorned items), sauna is a borderline sacred place, and one of the first things I did after getting accepted for exchange to Tilburg was to google the town’s hockey team, Trappers (which is a pleasantly well-succeeded one in the NL’s scale, too). My working life and free time have largely revolved around music and especially metal music, but while extremely Finnish, being one of the country brand’s newer flagships, it has brought me a lot of friends from abroad. You see, Finnish metal scene does not live up to the closed and closed-minded, reserved community stereotype. In case you’re not a terrible far-right redneck who can’t stand any foreigners ever (except if they’re Iron Maiden or Metallica), as a Finnish metalhead you likely have at least a few friends from abroad. The bands reach out early on their career, end up playing in nearly every corner of the world, but in their music maintain “the Finnish touch” that tells you where they’re from. It’s a thing in their sound and lyrics you can pick up, but not really describe: it just sounds Finnish. The same goes with a lot of Finnish photographers – when I studied photography, I learnt quickly to recognize “Finnish eyes”, a way Finnish photographers look at world, and could see from a bunch of photos which ones had been taken by a Finn. These days I wouldn’t recognize them as easily, but I was surprised to learn one of Instagram’s most famous nature photographers was a Finn; Konsta Punkka’s photos look so… worldly? Really, he could be from anywhere, just judging by his photos. It’s not a bad thing, per se, just surprising.
To some extent, I feel that things like that have been said as compliments for quite long in Finland – “it doesn’t look like it’s from here”, meaning that for instance a movie, or a music production, looks and sounds like it’s made in “the big world”. Realizing that made me think of some controversies in Finland and being Finnish: we’re extremely proud of what we do and have here, our quirks and specialties, but at the same time praise someone for not seeming like you’re from here. We’re proud of our language, but rather switch to English with all non-natives than teach them to speak or write it.
But so, stereotypes. For what foreigners know, Finns are quiet and shy, except we’re not. We’re actually pretty loud and obnoxious at times, but we just get irritated when someone else (be it a Finn or a foreigner) is, at the wrong time at least. We’re also usually helpful and glad to do the effort of showing you the right way to train station, tell you what it says in the cheese packaging in grocery store and whatnot, if you ask us – we probably won’t ask if you need help, because we don’t want to interrupt (or think it’s not our business). We’ve often been described super modest, and ok, at least I’m usually not good at taking compliments, but is there really a way taking one gracefully? Anyway, the options are usually either “oh it’s really nothing” sort of approach, or being an outright douche about your looks, achievements or whatever (though this probably applies to some amount of people everywhere). If you find a middle way, you’re basically a superhuman. Apparently we can’t do small talk and can come off as rude, or at least blunt or even stupid, but believe me, after years of being taught we can’t do polite small talk and teachers paying extra attention to that, we’re at least constantly thinking about how to small talk politely. We might also apologize for not knowing how to do that, while trying to talk about weather.
You might have heard that personal space is kind of vital for us, and yes, that one applies. When we first meet someone we like to keep them at arm’s length, and with casual acquaintances, like most classmates or work buddies, we maintain some distance. If we become friends, the amount of touching increases significantly – it’s all about getting to know and trust someone, being comfortable with them, and knowing you can let them inside your circle. So there’s absolutely nothing personal if a Finn backs off or doesn’t touch you after a handshake, they just don’t know you yet. Other stereotypical characteristic that still holds is the Finnish silence, and my, do we love that. I’m damn talkative, and it’s not all that uncommon among Finns than people seem to think, but the ability of being completely silent with someone in the same room, I cherish that with all my heart. It’s easy to be quiet all by yourself, but a friendly, unforced silence with someone is almost like meditation. And yes, you can (usually) tell it apart from silent treatment easily, just watch the mood. Also, you might hear that the easiest way to bond with a Finn or get them to open up is over a few drinks, but that doesn’t apply to all, of course. Some keep their distance even while drunk. What about heavy drinking in general? Yeah, we do that, I’m not even going to try to deny it. But again, it’s not for every Finn even, so being surprised if someone tells you they’re absolutists would be rude.
And nature, that’s a huge deal. People here have been genuinely worried about city kids not learning to move around in the wild, or at very least learning to tell one tree, plant, or animal in their close surroundings from another, and to me that’s sort of a weird (and a bit scary) concept to begin with. Even though I consider myself a city person and have lived in mid-sized and big towns and cities – on Finland’s scale, which is not all that much – for most of my life, knowing my way in the woods, recognizing edible berries, and knowing how some wild animals are supposed to behave are kind of no-brainers to me, things you are just supposed to learn as a kid. It could be that if Finns separate themselves too much from nature, they’d lose something essential for being Finnish. Not everyone likes to hike, hunt or fish, or go berry and mushroom picking (I don’t enjoy those too much, either), but I believe that all Finns enjoy the closeness of a forest and flowing water more or less. So perhaps it’s the constant presence and acceptance of something wild being out there that makes us how we are? Then again, there’s already (adult) people who seem to be very afraid of the wild, almost hysterically so.
What also seems to be important is the balancing between darkness and light. It’s rather dark for most of the year, so when the sun starts to show up more in the spring, not just the nature but also Finns sort of “wake up”. Suddenly we’re all busy seeing friends and spending time outside, whether it’s at summer cottage, beach, bar terrace or a festival. After the weather starts getting colder and the leaves start to change, things slow down, almost like hibernating. But the nice thing about winter is how snow lights up the darkness, northern lights colouring the sky, how stars look brighter, and how every place is adorned with Christmas lights and candles. The light during winter is different, but all the more beautiful within the darkness. And the darkness isn’t so bad, either – it can be like a blanket, hushing you in to spend time with yourself and family, a permission to slow down and focus on things you don’t do during summer. By Christmas time, the winter solstice falls near, too, so it also means that we’re turning from darkness towards light again, and that – if anything – is a thing to celebrate. As much as midsummer’s nightless night calls for celebration, yuletide and new year’s have equally lot to do with light. When you look at the whole picture, a lot of important things during a Finnish year revolve around light, waiting for it to return or its constant presence.
So yeah, I don’t know if I just scratched the surface here. There would be so much more to this and then some, and I could still feel the whole concept of Finnishness could be explained with a few well-built sentences, but I hope here’s at least a start.
As a Finn there are three things that always come to my mind when I think about Finnishness: honesty, equality and sauna.
We Finns value honesty very much. We say what we think about something and we mean it. This is both a good and a bad thing. For example in business it’s very good that you can count on what has been agreed upon. Then again when having a conversation our honesty may be interpreted as being rude to someone.
Equality is so deeply rooted to our society, that we don’t always even notice it ourselves. One of my personal favorites is the absent of gender specific pronoun. Equality is also tied with our education system, which provides free education to each and everyone. If that isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is!
Sauna is what symbolizes my finnishness the most. It combines the above-mentioned honesty and equality together. Nowhere can you find a more honest Finn, then being in sauna with them. Also in sauna there are no titles, all people are equal in sauna.
One of the biggest cultural differences that I have noticed between Finns and rest of the world is that we can be perfectly at ease with silence even though we are in company. I noticed this especially when I lived for a week with a French family in Belfort, when the mother thought something was wrong if we Finns were quiet during the car ride. We had thought it a bit odd instead, that the mother had tried so hard to keep up small-talk — we were perfectly happy with just appreciating the passing scenery. When we explained this to the French family, they told us that they felt really weird if things were silent, especially if you didn’t know the people very well. Silence for them, was a mark that something was wrong.
In addition to Finns being a silent bunch, we normally are not that well versed in the art of small-talk. I had a course in the University of Eastern Finland, where our American professor tried to hammer us some basic dos and dont’s in especially the Anglo culture. First of all, the professor told us, Finns are too honest and straightforward. If someone asks us how we are, we genuinely answer how our day has been; usually the ‘how do you do’ is however, just a polite expression.
There is also something else that stayed in my mind from the course: in the Anglo culture there is a habit of saying the person’s name a lot when you are talking with them. I had never noticed before, but we Finns don’t generally do that. For that reason, our professor emphasized to us, that we should really pay attention to people’s names when they are introduced, as it is expected to use them later in the conversation as a sign of respect.
Apart from being quiet and having to work on our conversation skills, we Finns sure do love our summer cottages. Maybe it’s because we want to escape to spend our sparse summer months somewhere with even less people, maybe it’s because usually the sauna in the cottage is superior to the one at home. When I was younger, most of our summers were spend in the cottage, and though I go there myself much rarely now, my parents still flee there right when the first a bit warmer weekend comes in the spring.
Even tough I’m not Finnish, I lived here for most of my life, since childhood. And first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Finland is education.
Finland provide high quality of education, which is also encourage kids to be independent individuals. Teacher viewed as almost a friend and called by a first name, which is often surprising for foreigners. Kids really are important for Finish society and they are surrounded by love and care from the government and people around from the early days.
Despite that, Finns often grow up to be shy. Most of the Finnish people would shy away from conversations and “small talk”. It’s probably a rumored national mentality, and even I somehow assimilated it, living in Finland from childhood. My speculation about the reason might be that Finns don’t like empty talks. Talking should be useful: helping with some problem, for example. I always got help and friendly guidance from random people when I needed it.
I should mention one category of people, eager to start a conversation in buses and trains: elderly people :D. Sweet grandmothers just love to have a nice chatter, and I have no idea how it fits into the idea of an overall shy mentality :).
My most favorite part about Finland is it’s nature. For people who like warm summer days I have a joke: “Finnish summer is great, last time it was on Thursday”.
Of course Finnish summer is a bit longer than that – 3 months a year, and Finland being a land of a thousand lakes and islands offer lots of ways to enjoy hot and sunny days. But if you don’t like heat and love winters white from snow, that’s your country :). Finland in winter remind you of a childhood fairy tales. No wonder they say rumored Santa Claus lives here, in Lapland!
Finland have 4 seasons in total, and every single one of them have amazing coloring of sky and trees. You have especially good view on surrounding lakes, fields and sky since many Finns would prefer solitude houses away from the noisy neighbors, so Finland don’t have that many big cities to loom in the background (hint: it’s hard to live in Finland without a driver license, unless you live in big city).
Finns preserve their trees and animals. Along the roads you’ll see lots of trees and nets: to prevent animals from straying on the roads and to keep them in their natural habitat.
In the end I want to add only one thing about Finnish Language:
Finnishness could be found so easily as a foreigner in Finland, since I have lived in Finland for 2 years so far. And I found out that Japanese have so many points to correspond with Finnishness. One example could be broader personal space. Finnish people needs to have this personal space unlike French where they hug and kiss to the first time meeting person. It is really similar to my Japanese culture where we even do not hand shake for the first time meeting. (Hand shake is normally used for business meeting.)
In addition, Finnish people doesn’t answer clearly with Yes/No. Their answer is often described with longer sentences without conclusion. We Japanese also prefer not to state Yes/No to keep the conversation very flat with each other. Discussion is rarely occurred during casual meeting with friends.
Finnish finds more culture in their lifestyle and from nature. Such as Sauna, Nordic designs , Fabrics, and social welfare. For example, marimekko’s fabric design is always inspired by Finnish nature. Work-life balance is concerned so importantly by having more rights to choose what the employees wishing, thus Family can spend more time together. I think it comes from the severe and long Finnish winter when people have to spend most of the time indoor. And they have to collaborate each other effectively so that they will not die in long winter.
Finnish lifestyle became role model for some countries like Japan, and lots of Japanese people are fascinated by its effectiveness and comfortableness. I was also helped by this life style throughout my Uni life. I have never had extreme stressful time because the nature was always close to refresh my mind, and school gives student always chance to recover our studies by the great system of student councillor and retake.
And this is what i like about Finland but at the same time, makes me wanting more to see arts and architectures in cultural city by traveling another countries.
Entrepreneurship is always a hot topic in Finland. Slush Helsinki, and Tokyo is getting bigger, where investors and start-ups gather together to network and create new business contract. And students are always encouraged to involve to these startup events for free as volunteers. The reason why Slush was founded is quite interesting to find Finnishness in the business side perspective. « Slush » means the wet snow which Finland experience in November, and the event is held around this time to boost Finnish and world entrepreneurs to come up with great business ideas. The message here make people come out from there home to this chilly and wet weather. And it has been a big success, that the event is now held in Japan and China, two of the biggest business market in the world.
Anyways, Finnishness is attractive enough to make anybody comfortable being in Finland. Especially for Japanese there are not so much difference EXCEPT for the weather 😛