Monthly Archives: March 2017

Finished with Finnish behavior?

I have thought about Finnishness a lot. I find our culture and behavior peculiar and interesting: On the other hand I sometimes feel very annoyed with our country and the way we act but on the other hand I’m extremely proud of being born in the great North and I’m always eager to have a chat about Finland.

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Okey so let’s dig in to my thoughts. These are not facts or proved knowledge. Only my experiences during these past 21 years of wandering around the globe.

People from Finland are cold. You can blame the weather and our inheritance for our behavior, but it’s a cold hard fact (see what I did there? 😀 ) that we Finns are as warm as the summer we have. We usually avoid unnecessary touching and showing affection.

I find it frustrating that in our country you have to give handshakes – not only to new acquaintances but sometimes you have to share this weird habit with relatives or even with some friends. I never thought  handshaking is something natural to human beings and it always feels a bit forced – and the worst part is that it only makes you feel uncomfortable and the situation itself might become even more awkward. Unlike a kiss or a hug might release some tension and create a connection. But you know what’s even more awkward than a lousy handshake? No handshake whatsoever. Sometimes I find myself stuck to a situation where the other person doesn’t seem too interested in meeting you and even the small effort of touching the other person’s hand seems like too much to do.

But when you finally do get to know a Finnish person (even though the part where you meet and get to know to a Finn might be hard)  you’d got yourself a life-long friend. Finnish people are so loyal and honest and they pretty much stick around, no matter what’s the situation.

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Another thing you need to know about Finns is that we are very persistent. We even have a very special word to describe the typical Finnish persistence, sisu. It means being single-minded and relentless. Quitting is something that Finns find unsettling and the job has to be done almost perfectly. This quality is good and bad at the same time: Even I can see this feature in myself even though I’m not the most typical Finn to say the least. I basically never give up and maybe some times it would be better to just say “no” than force yourself to do something unpleasant.

And most importantly. The weather. It’s a really big deal to us. You’d think that we are fine with every type of weather but the reality is actually the exact opposite. We have a tendency to complain about the weather a lot. During summer is either too hot or too rainy. During winter it’s either too warm or too cold. When it’s spring, it’s snowing. And when it’s autumn, it’s dark. This is our circle of life and we should all appreciate it more. When you think about it.. not many countries have that much variety when it comes to weather….

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I’m just kidding… The sleet is awful.

Okey, I just realized my list is not too positive. But you should all know Finland is still the greatest country to live in and there’s not enough slush in the world to change my opinion about it.  Imagine, we have

  • opintotuki aka study grants
  • santa claus
  • reindeer
  • mustamakkara aka the black sausage
  • summer houses
  • forests
  • thousands of lakes
  • ice-fishing
  • ice-swimming
  • blonde guys and girls
  • blue eyes
  • rye bread
  • basically no corruption
  • snowmen
  • Finnish Christmas
  • sauna
  • Finnish summer and never ending sunlight
  • oats
  • Karelian pasty
  • one of the best education systems in the whole wide world
  • one of the happiest people in the world!!!! 🙂

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Yes, we are amazing. Keep up the good work Finns!

-Erika

Finnishness

A lot of stereotypes are related to the Finnish culture and people living in it. Finns love sauna, salmiakki, getting drunk, lakes, personal space etc. We would have a lot to offer to foreigners and other countries as well but we are so modest in marketing ourselves. There are pure nature and music that are not as appreciated amongst us as it should be. When I’ve travelled abroad I’ve come to notice that people know a lot of Finnish bands, but they do not know they come from Finland. Tourism is a part that could be vastly improved, if skills existed, or the will. As we love our personal space, it could be we do not want to promote ourselves and want to stay on our own. Although the younger generation has been able to see the world as a smaller place, it has changed perception.

For me one of the most loved Finnish things is sauna, as to many others as well. Abroad it is one thing that I miss, to go to sauna whenever I want in my own home. This comes as a huge surprise to people coming from other countries, to tell them that there’s practically sauna in every house. Nudity related to this liked activity is a weird one too. Where we love our privacy, in sauna we can go naked and sit next to each other, whether with strangers, friends or family or whoever is with us.

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Sauna is best when connected to a lake environment. A cottage by water and most preferably including sauna just next to the coast, creates a perfect atmosphere. Finns are obsessed with weather conditions in general, but for me in this kind of moment, it really does not matter what kind of weather is occurring.

A sad part of Finnish, if we can say culture, is the problems caused by alcohol and prejudices. For some alcohol takes the violent person out of you, for some no amount is enough, so it causes various difficulties. Prejudices are not only restricted to immigrants and refugees but also to people who are different or in a leading role (whether in politics or business). Envy is one of the sins that’s amongst us in a strong way.

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Finland holds some special qualities and if only we could get rid off the downsides, I’d suggest everyone to join the country. Unfortunately this is not, nor will ever be the case. I’d love to show foreigners the magic of Finland, not the everyday life.

Finnishness

Finnishness, what does it bring to my mind? Four seasons, unique nature, weird traditional food, friendly and modest people and quite silent but more social when talked to.  We have four seasons: winter, spring, summer and fall but they vary every year. We always hope that we will have winter with snow and sun so that we can enjoy skiing, downhill skiing and ice swimming. We also hope for warm summer that will last longer than just few days during summer months. We have this common joke in Finland that this year summer lasted only for one weekend. I think only Finnish people might get that.

Unique nature is definitely one of the attractions for tourists in Finland. Of course we Finnish people appreciate it too. Our land is called as the country with thousand lakes. We have beautiful forests where you can go and pick berries and mushrooms or just to have a walk in the woods. In Northern Finland where the weather is colder you can see deadwood. Our nature changes as the seasons change too. It feels like a privilege to have this kind of nature where you can go at anytime and enjoy peacefulness… and unfortunately some bugs too.

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Continue reading Finnishness

“Weather obsessed Finns”

Finnish people are often called as very silent people. Some say Finns only speak when needed or asked and most of the times answers are short and simple. No any meaning to be impolite.

Finns are also called private people, they take care of their personal space and do not open up so easily or fast. Finns enjoy minding (only) their own business (without meaning to be rude) and they do not want to draw attention to themselves.

Still they are worried what other people think about them and what kind of image other people get about them. Other people meaning as neighbours, relatives, friends, and every other Finn but also foreigners, people from other cultures.

 

I have discovered a side of Finns that we truly are interested in and even (a bit) obsessed with. The climate and the weather. Whether it is a holiday or just an ordinary day, we really want to know is there going to be a sunny or a cloudy day, when it is going to rain or snow. It does not matter if we have decided to spend the whole day inside. Still we must know the weather.

The weather is the topic of discussion everywhere: it is so easy to have a small talk with a Finn: just say something about the weather. When talking on the phone with my grandmother, we talk about the weather, not because it is the only topic, no, we have so much else to talk to, but because she actually cares how has the weather been in Tampere, as we live in different parts in Finland. I ask about the weather just to be polite.

 

I was wondering, why? Why we care so much and why we want to know everything about the weather. Why we check the weather forecast every day, couple of times per day.

Then it came in my head: We live our lives from year to another “in the hands of nature”. The weather and the four seasons of the year affect in our daily life so much, telling us what we can and cannot do.

The weather defines our free time activities. We have all four seasons of the year so we must change the activities when the season changes. In the spring and summertime people spend lot of time outside, doing gardening, enjoying the sun… In the autumn and winter people prefer to stay inside.

Most of the times people say about Finns that we kind of wake up in the spring and summertime, when nature wakes up again and sun is shining. On the contrary, in the autumn and winter people “fall asleep” as there is so much darkness and bad weather.

There is one excellent joke about Finns and the weather. Here is it: Finnish stand-up comedian Ali Jahangiri’s video about Finns and the weather:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61tnAhvdZpo

(Sorry, it is only in Finnish…)

Finland

What comes from Finland?

Many people don’t know much about Finland when you go abroad. First thing what people know is of course the nature and Lapland. And what I love about our nature, is that it’s near. You can usually just walk outside and you will find a forrest or a park just in few minutes. You don’t have to drive half an hour just to see a tree.

salmiakki

Second thing that people often know is that we love sauna and then there is the weird black stuff we love to eat, salmiakki.

moominBut people don’t always know there is many other things that comes from Finland. First: Moomins. Almost every child has seen them, but not many knows where they come from. Correct answer: Finland.

 

 

We finnish people usually love sports and especially winter sports like icehockey and skiing. So of course we have many famous athletes too, like Lasse Viren, Leo-Pekka Tähti, Kimi Räikkönen, Enni Rukajärvi, Antti Ruuskanen, Tero Pitkämäki and of course Teemu Selänne and every other icehockey player. suomi
And when this amazing athletes competite, we cheer for them and when they win, we celebrate big time. Like now, when Iivo Niskanen won the 15km cross country skiing, they actually change the one of the biggest news paper’s name in eastern Finland  for one day to be “the Iivon Sanomat” (Iivo’s news), just to celebrate him.

Many famous brands also comes from Finland and people use them everyday, they just don’t know that they are actually finnish. For example: Nokia, Marimekko, Minna Parikka, Iittala, Fiskars.

And of course the two most important: Santa Claus and Darude, they also come from Finland!

Finnishness

For me, being a Finn mostly means the opportunity of being whatever I want. We have  a great social system here which enables us to f.ex study whatever we want FOR FREE from the first grade to the university. Also, we have the purest and the most beautiful nature that is always nearby, wherever you go.

PEOPLE

There is a certain stereotype of Finnish people. They say that Finns are rude, introverted and emotionless. Partly, that is true. We may seem rude, because we don’t have the culture of finns“small talk” and that leads us to mostly answer shortly or by only one word. We also tend to speak quite monotone because that’s just how our own language is. That stil doesn’t mean that we are rude- it’s just our way to talk.

What comes to being introverted, it might be quite true with the majority of Finnish people- until we get some alcohol. Alcohol also triggers those “un-spoken” feelings and emotions, that we don’t show. But honestly, atleast most of the young people are quite open and enjoy talking and interacting with people (also when sober). It is true that we need our “own space” sometimes and we enjoy of being alone but don’t we all?

NATURE

In Finland we have the most stunning nature. We have thousands of lakes and forests, hills and gorges, northern lights and nightless nights. The best thing about Finland is that we have four seasons which are all different and beautiful. In Spring the nature starts to bloom: snow melts and creates small streams, birds start to sing, tulips and other flowers burst from the ground and trees start to grow their leaves. In Summer everything is green and bright: sun doesn’t set, grass and trees are full of verdancy, rain is warm and the sun is warmer. In Autumn everything is colorful: fall colors spread everywhere, mushrooms and berries can be found in the forests. In Winter there is snow and stunning views: every tree is covered by snow, the air is cold but clean and in the evening you may see some northern lights.

SAUNA

There is one thing that we Finns love the most: sauna. It’s true that almost in every house there is one. We use it at least once a week and spend there the whole evening. Some people think that we have them because we have so long and cold winters and that’s why we need this cozy warm place. But we also use it in summers. Actually it might be that we use sauna more in summers than in winters! Guess why? Because of the summer cottages. Almost every Finnish family has one and it’s the most common place to spend time in the summertime. There Finns don’t only go to sauna but also swimming, barbecuing, rowing and spending time together.

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Auf Wiedersehen mein liebes Finnland!

Right now I am sitting in a train from Rovaniemi to Helsinki, with a heavy suitcase on the seat next to mine.  Having spent a wonderful winter break at my sweet home in Lapland, I head to Germany with a lot of mixed thoughts and feelings. I am surely more excited I’ve ever been in my life before. Living and studying in Germany has belonged to my dreams since my childhood, and I’ve somehow always felt at home when I have been there before. However, Leipzig is a new town to me, and five months is the longest time I’ve ever been out of Finland. And I am gonna miss things, A Lot of things! This morning I had to say farewell to my parents and grandma, who all are very dear people to me. And all the sweet people that I have  had a wonderful privilege to work and spend time with in Tampere, I so hated to say good bye to them! But life goes on, and I am going to carry the good memories with me. And after all, its only five months till I’ll be back to Finland.

All right, lets cut this melancholy that hits you sooo easy when you’re a Finn, and give a great big hand for the future!  In case you who are reading this (and thank you indeed for your time! 🙂 ) didn’t know, I am a cellist, and I’m heading to one of the greatest music cities in Europe! Leipzig has been home for names such as Johan Sebastian Bach, Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann, from which the latter two have been teachers in the same school I’m going to study at! One of the prides of Leipzig is also the city’s orchestra, called Gewandhaus orchester. It is one of the top orchestras in the whole wide world, and I cant wait to get to listen to it! I am also very very grateful for having a chance to meet, play chamber music and make friends with new people that I am gonna meet there, it’ll be great for sure!

I understood that in this first blog I should share my views about Finland and being a Finn. Because Finns never talk more than what is necessary, I am going to cut straight to the point in focus. So here’s what follows, no more nonsense. Please fasten your seat belt. Are you ready? All right, here we go. I’m just kidding. And being a bad Finn. 😉  Last Christmas me and my sister gave to our grandparents as a gift a book called Finnish nightmaresIt’s a book about the situations Finnish people stereotypically consider  as awkward. You’ve probably heard about it already, such a hilarious book! I sure can identify some of the stereotypes in my own personality as well, but on the other hand, if you see only the awkward situations, you’re, in my mind, missing the main point of a real Finnish character. To find that, you need to focus on the main character of the book. He is called Matti.

Matti

When you investigate how Matti interacts in the situations, you will probably notice that he is in fact quite humble, kind and caring person. Those are all good characters right? Of course a Finn might want to have little more own privacy than a person from Brazil, for Example. Or take a step backwards when a person from Paris comes to have a chat with him or her. But if you think that five and a half million people are spread over the area roughly as large as Germany with almost 90 million citizens, you’ll realize that that is how its ment to be. We have a lot of room per person here, lets be proud of that!

Furthermore, what I didn’t find from the Finnish nightmares, was the proudness and pure solidarity that lies deep in side of a Finnish person. Although in Finland it is very honorable to succeed in life personally, we are still people who can cooperate with eachother very, very well indeed. When Finns get together, what is needed to be done will get done in the fast and well planned way. (That can also be related to the hubleness and being caring, as a Finn doesn’t wan’t to waste the coworkers´ time by being inefficient. 😉 ) The proudness of a Finn can be seen in the endeavor for always doing everything well and right. When a Finnish person fails or sees something wrong in his or her character, that person is going to work hard to make things right in that area, to meet the high standards one has set to him or her.

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So, tomorrow when I leave Finland, I will step into the plane as a Finn, proud of myself and proud of my country. I will probably be the last one to step out of the plane, as I will be carrying my cello with me in the cabin. ( And because there might not be many other Finns who want to be polite and give a way for everyone else first. 😉 ) I will miss the nature, snow, midnight sun, and good tasting water from a tab. More than that I will miss all the lovely people here in Finland, and the rich language that we have the privilege to use with each other. But although missing things, I am so much looking forward to the coming spring. Leipzig, you better brace yourself cause here I come!

Finnishness

I wasn’t born in Finland and my family’s culture and customs are a bit different from Finns. However, I have lived most of my life here in Finland and I think some of that “Finnishness” has rubbed on me, because quite often you can hear my relatives say “That’s so Finnish.” Here’s just a few of mentions.

Personality

Now, people often describe Finns as very shy and quite rude, but my experience isn’t quite like that. There are outgoing and loud people among Finns, just like in any other country. Finnish people just usually tend to avoid unnecessary small talk and complimentaries that they do not mean. I guess I would describe them as very straight forward kind of people, who value their privacy.

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Sauna

People often think that Finns like the sauna because of the cold winters, but they also use them during summer time. Of course a hot sauna feels good after spending time clearing your driveway from snow, but I would say that the sauna has more of a social meaning. Families and friends gather around for “sauna nights”, which often would include food and drinks such as beer. Sauna is also probably the only place where Finns are fine with sitting next to each other in close proximity. Completely nude, might I add.

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Summer cottages

Finns appreciate and are very proud of their forests and lakes, which is probably why they build/buy/rent summer cottages near lakes and spend their summers there. Typically Finns prefer more rustic cottages that don’t include the luxuries they have at home, because the whole point of summer cottages is to enjoy the nature and do outdoor activities, such as barbecuing, fishing and swimming.

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Finnishness

Finland is the land of thousand lakes, but who are the habitants known as Finns and what is the typical Finnishness ? I’m giving you the answer from my point of view:)

Four seasons

No, I’m not talking about the luxury hotels when I say four seasons. I’m talking about Finlands’ one of the special things; spring, summer, autumn and winter, which together compose “four seasons”. Special about this phenomena is that every season has its own character and positive side.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomen ruska

Finlands winter is the longest, coldest and darkest of the seasons, but it also has positive sides. Myself, as maybe many of other finns think that if there is not snow in the winter and especially at Christmas, then it’s no real winter and Christmas time. In winter the white, sparkling snow and the January sun is great experience. Spring is knocking on the door already!

Spring is the time, when finns are “waking up” and smiling behind their sunglasses. In winter you don’t see so many people hanging on the streets because its so cold, but spring is encouraging people outside. You know it’s spring, when you smell fresh grass, see the first coltsfoot and can take of your jacket.

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Finns appreciate the summer a lot, because they have waited it almost nine months to come again. Finns like their summer hot, but not too hot because then the weather is too stifling for the people who has cool weather most time of the year.  Finns enjoy the summer with full hearted, because they don’t experience it too often.

After short and hopefully warm summer it comes autumn, which makes the trees to bath in colours. Leaves paint themselves from green to yellow and finally to bright red. I think this is with summer the most beautiful season. In autumn the finns starts to welcome the winter by wearing woolsocks and lighting up candles.

 

Sauna

Sauna belongs to finnish culture and finns belong to sauna. In Finland the winter is long so we need something to warm us up and sauna does the trick. Sauna is still needed also in summer and quite many finns have own sauna at their summer cottage, next to the lake of course. The best feeling is to run to the refreshing lake from hot sauna.

Finns think that the sauna is a place to relaxation, silence or a long, deep chat. For finns the nudity in sauna is very natural and even a group of unknown finns together in sauna is not suprising anyone.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomalainen sauna

Finnish sauna speciality is a “saunavihta”, that is made of birch branches. We use saunavihta to hit each others backs to improve the blood circulation. Birch leaves also give a good smell to sauna.

 

Finnish personality

I think finns are a bit quiet and introverted especially when they meet new people but they still enjoy exploring new cultures and meeting new people. Finns just don’t want to make a “scene” of themselves and they rather observe first and they warm up a bit by bit.  Even though finns are quiet, they are very helpful and friendly also for the unknown if they ask for help or wnat to chat. Usually finns don’t start the conversation with unknown people, but they answer when asked. Some finns are flattered the given attention but some try to stay concise.

Finns are usually hard working people, very consicientious and quite self-critical. They always want to do their best. Finns are also cultural people now a days; they know what happens in the world outside of Finland, are interested of other cultures and english skills are mainly fluent. Finns hear english from tv all the time and at school english is taught well from third grade.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle avuliaisuus

I think finns have good skills at serving a client and maybe this is because education highlights the interaction between customer and servant. Good customer service is shown at shops, health care and between people when they interact with each other. We finns don’t show our real nature at first  or not even the second, but when we do, we are worth of getting to know for!

Finnishness

Finland is a beautiful country, four seasons, sauna and people. Even though Finnish people might seem like those who want to be left alone, when you get to know us, we cannot stop talking or laughing.

Sauna:

Sauna is probably the most Finnish thing there is. There is approximately 4 million saunas in Finland and population is only 5,4 million. It might sound crazy for foreign people that finns get naked, get into this “room” where is gloomy and they throw water on a sauna stove to make the room even hotter. There is nothing like the feeling you get when you run from the sauna and jump into a lake. Sauna for me means relaxing and spending time with your friends and family. Sauna is in a major role in Mid Summer with lake, friends and good food. We don’t stop swimming from the sauna during winter, thats called ice swimming.

Cottage sauna

 

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Nature

Finland is known as the country of thousands lakes. That is probably why nature is in a huge role of Finnish culture. We do sports in outdoors, we spend summers in the cottages in the middle of the nature for example. The nature is beautiful because of the four seasons. When comparing winter, spring, summer and fall everything looks different. That is the true beauty. For me, nature is the place where you can be alone and relax, or have fun and spend time with your friends.

Four seasons

People

Finnish are known as the people who do not talk much and need their space. It is very common that Finnish people try to avoid awkward situations where you need to talk to a stranger. This picture captures the feeling, when you do not have your own space and you need to talk to a stranger.

Public transport

But when you finally get to know someone and became friends, people are more open and even talk. But not if I don’t know who you are.

The only exception is Ice Hockey world championship. When Finland won,everyone celebrated together and there was no awkwardness talking to a stranger because Finland was the Champion in ice hockey.