To understand a Finn

A couple of years ago I spent a lot of my time travelling alone. I love meeting people from different cultures, since all cultures have their own way of thinking. Of course, Finns understand each other the best through the history, language and culture. Especially culture, like the Finnish sense of humour, can easily go over foreigner’s head. During my travels in Iceland I met another Finn. Our Icelandic friend invited us to her house, and together with some Spanish and Japanese travellers we one night sat down to watch a classic Icelandic movie (can’t remember the name). It was exactly like the Uuno Turhapuro movies we have here in Finland and the absurdity of the movie was funny. The Spanish and Japanese travellers didn’t quite understand it, so I think it tells something about the mentality us Northern Europeans have.

nobody in their right mind

The Finnish sense of humour is dark, dry, subtle and often sarcastic. Even though we won’tmaybe admit it, we enjoy the horrible weather our country has. It gives us something worth complaining every day! It even gives us a reason to talk to each other. Oh, the numerous times I’ve stood in a bus stop and an elderly people has started a small talk about how beautiful/horrible the weather is. Same goes with public saunas. I’ve never sat in a public sauna where everyone has been quiet. I wonder if that’s a situation only a Finn can experience and properly appreciate, since the Sauna Chat ™ is usually in Finnish.

The Finns are often described to be serious and cold, but when you live in a country where most of the year it’s raining either water, snow or wet snow, it should be understandable. I wonder why Mediterranean people are usually described to be lively and friendly? 😉

Finnish language is notoriously difficult for foreigners since it’s in a small Finno-Ugric language family, which also includes Estonian. Many Finnish jokes are wordplay or puns. Many Finnish words have multiple meanings, depending on the context. One of the best examples is the word “kuusi”, which can mean either a pine tree, a number or “your moon”. It can be a cause of headache for foreigners who want to learn Finnish. However, learning Finnish lets you in on a wonderfully weird sense of humour.

So, in conclusion, to me Finnishness is a way of thinking. Our country is beautiful and people seem to be born with an appreciation of the nature, but in the end it’s more what’s inside our heads that make us Finnish.

1 thought on “To understand a Finn

  1. Haha, thanks for this post. I have a couple of good friends from Finland, but I didn’t know most of the things you talked about. And so many puns in the language must be only a good thing… 🙂

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