Monthly Archives: July 2017

Finnish national identity and free time activities

Elements of Finnish national identity

I’d summarize the elements of Finnish national identity to grumpy yet friendly people, a chilly yet beautiful environment and a indebted yet strong nation. For a foreigner the Finns might seem a bit asocial at first, but once you break the ice with them by simply engaging them into a conversation, their friendly and communicative characteristics begin to arise. Small talk isn’t a natural part of Finnish communication in general, so they’re quite bad at that, but when you get to a conversation topic they can familirialise themselves with, the akwardness begins to fade.

The Finnish environment consists mainly of lakes, forests and fields. The southern part of Finland is mainly flat, but the northern part (Lapland) has a few bigger hills / small mountains, which are called tunturis. Lakes are spread all over the nation and I’d say its one of the best features the Finnish nature has to offer; endless swimming possibilities wherever you go. The climate in Finland is quite chilly due to its location in the northern hemisphere. The winters are long and mainly damp or slushy, yet there still are some snowy periods in Lapland. The summers on the other hand are a bit chilly too, even though you get a few days over 25 degrees celsius when you can get your share of red burnt skin that hopefully turns into a light tan instead of melanoma.

The Finnish nation in general is technologically advanced yet an indebted one. The whole nation is undergoing some financial savings and the government is constantly searching for ways to bring the economy back to a debt free state. Being part of the EU is an important matter for the government yet it has been an opinion dividing subject for the people since the day we joined. The price level in Finland is one of the highest in Europe due to high taxation yet for example the health care system is basically sustained with that so in my opinion it really pays for itself. In general, Finland can be considered as a welfare state and due to working healthcare and pension systems as well as basic municipal services its a no brainer for me.

 

Finnish free time activities

The Finns have plenty of unique free time activities from boot-throwing to swamp football in the summer and from ice swimming to ice rallying in the winter. Not to forget the most obvious, Sauna, of course. The basic types of spending free time in Finland can include various activities but I’d say the most common ways of fighting the stress of work are having a sauna, spending time with family and/or friends, enjoying some alcoholic beverages at home or at a bar and relaxing in a cottage near a lake or a river. The best way to really maximize the pleasure is naturally to combine them all together with a added possibility for some barbeque. A Finnish TV-advertisement states that the best place for a Finn to be is alone in a summer cottage during the summer near a lake after Sauna and with a sausage in his/hers hand. As accurate as the statement is I’d still switch the alone part to with friends and family. After all, alone you couldn’t have a proper game of darts or “mölkky” before relaxing in the heat of a wood-heaten sauna in the evening.

Cottage sauna

Finland is like me: awkward and metal

That’s something that I often heard: Finnish people are awkward. It turns out that what even Finns themselves name “awkward” is actually introvertness.

When I first thought about moving to Finland, I was told to BEWARE of the Finnish coldness, weather-wise and character-wise. Now, weather-wise, “cold” wasn’t a total lie. Character-wise, it wasn’t either, but it somehow felt differently. In three points, I will demonstrate why everything about the introvert character of Finns was a relief for me.

No small talk

Small-talk… Why is it necessary? Well, Finland understood it very well: Finnish people do not keep small talk and if they ask about your wellbeing, it is because they genuinely care. And trust me, it’s a relief for introverts. Finland teaches you how to value silence and conversations, as well as how to truly get to know somebody.

Respect for nature

Finnish people hold in their culture a deep respect for nature, and I think it is not too much to say that nature is thankful to them. As demonstrated in the pictures below, Finland holds a lot of unexpected views and landscapes that they enjoy in silence. Because pictures speak louder than words, I provide you with a picture taken in Riihivuori, near my boyfriends’ mother’s place.

Valued friendship

Coming to Finland, one think stroke me at first: it felt very difficult to find friends. Now, a few years later, I realize that it is much easier. In a lot of cultures, the notion of friendship is kind of blurry, as people being extra-nice does not always guarantee true friendship. In Finland, it might take time for people to become your friend, but when you are friends with a Finn, you are trusted and can trust your friend, even with thousands of kilometers apart.

 

Now, I am aware that all of those traits are very personal, but it is my vision of Finnishness. All in all, coming to Finland is, I feel, a total yes or a total no. Either you love it, either you hate it, and I happened to love it. And, as I mentioned metal in the title as a reference to the reason why I fell in love with Finland in the first place, I will leave down there a link to one of my favorite Finnish bands…

 

Finns and their characteristics

For me something that departures us Finnish people from other in the world is our personality and culture that you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Even compered to our close neighbours Sweden and Russia, we have our own thing going on. I thought that I would write more about a couple of things that I like and can relate to about us Finnish people and our characteristics.

The respect for silence

I love the fact that Finnish people don’t have to talk all the time when being in interaction with people. We don’t do small talk that good, which can be a problem when we are with other people from abroad that like to keep the conversation going. That’s why we Finnish people can be considered rude sometimes although we don’t mean to be. I like the fact that you can sometimes be silent with a friend and it’s not awkward. It’s nice to

The Finnish resilience

I think Finnish people are strong and persistent.  We don’t give up easily. Our Finnish resilience, also called “sisu”, means a certain kind of courage that can be seen at moments and situations where success has come against odds. In the history of Finland, we have shown our “sisu” in different sporting events and in the winter war. I think “sisu” is seen in every Finn in a daily basis in our lives. Just the mentality that we have for things that we are passionate about.

Punctuality

This is also something I really like about Finnish people. We are almost always on time and if are late we are very sorry about it. I’m the kind of person that is rather early that late and that’s why I appreciate that Finnish people respect the schedules and plans that have been made. I think this is something at foreigners appreciate about us Finnish people. We are reliable in business and in personal life.

 

Finnish lake scene at night
Finnish lake scene at night

A few things about Finland

Cold, dark and lots of snow; these are the things that pop into most people’s heads when asked about Finland. To me, however, Finland has always been at its best during the summer. There are several jokes about the Finnish summer, like how short it is, but at least it doesn’t snow much, or how last year Finnish summer was on a Tuesday. Still, cold or warm, wet or dry, there’s nothing that compares to it, to me at least. Everyplace is green, and you can literally smell it in the air. Seriously, if you’ve ever wondered what the color green smells like, just come to Finland in the summer.

tampere kesä

 

Still, it is the light that has the biggest effect on people. Or that’s what I think anyway. See, most people remember Finland for how dark it is in the winter, but what they forget is how light it is in the summer. The sun just doesn’t seem to want to do down. It really is in the summer that the Finnish nature, and even more, the Finnish people, come alive. Or maybe that’s just me.

keskiyönaurinko

 

Despite the coldness of our winter – and sometimes the summer as well, there is one food that Finns enjoy more than any other country in Europe, and that’s ice cream. Even if you look at the whole world, we eat more ice cream per person than almost any country in the world, only Americans, Australians, and New Zealanders eat more. We eat approximately 12 liters of ice cream every year, and considering the ice cream “season” only lasts approximately from June to August that is a lot of ice cream to eat. Our ice cream consumption is only rivaled by our coffee consumption, where we are undisputed winners with 10kg per person per year. In Finland, ice cream and coffee are literally their own food groups and during the summer it feels like there isn’t a street corner where you can’t find a hot cup of coffee, and a cold ice cream cone.

vanilja_kenya

Finland is full of large forests and beautiful lakes, and many tourists come here to enjoy the gorgeous nature. Despite that, you shouldn’t ignore the city life in Finland. Our cities seem small to us compared to the metropolises of the rest of the world, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find things to do in Tampere or Helsinki. Finns, just like the rest of the world, are busy, city-dwelling people, not some mystic nation living in the forest, in igloos, communing with wild animals. That isn’t to say we don’t enjoy our beautiful nature and everything it has to offer but sometimes ordering takeout home without having to leave your couch is just as enjoyable.

helsinki

3 things to love about Finland

Delicious food

There are many great foods in Finland. Most of the people are totally in love rye bread, which is not just healthy for you but is a Finnish super food too. Other delicious foods are for example smoked salmon with potatoes with a side of fresh salad from your own garden. One of the most famous treats are Fazer’s chocolates which are popular abroad as well.

RUISLEIPÄ

Cottage life by the lake

Finland is know for its many lakes and about 10% of Finland’s surface area is covered with water. Therefore, lakes are a huge part of our nature. The other thing thta is really common in Finland are the summer cottages. Almost every Finn loves to go to the country side in the summer time and some cottages can be used in the winter time as well. Spending time at the cottages has become a tradition and a trend. The cottage boom began when people moved after their jobs to the cities, but they didn’t want to spend all of their freetime in the city. Finns are nature lovin’ people and what could be better way to explore the nature than enjoy the day in the lake house.

KESÄMÖKKI

Finnish design

The country is know for other things too besides food and nature, it is known for modern yet classic design pieces. You may have heard of Artek, Iittala and Woodnotes. They have at least one thing in common, which is quality. Finns value quality and good desing, which in fact is combined in these brands. They are all unique and known for their designs, people recognize them easily and they are classic symbols to the Finnish design. The designed furnitures tend to be minimalistic and they remain classic throughout the years and for this reason they can be combined easily with other furnitures and different styles.

ARTEK

Finland in quotes

“Our country may seem like a big magical forest when you approach by plane, but on the ground it’s a big circus of highways, suburban living rooms and bourgeois first world problems.”

It’s true we have beautiful forests and lakes, but do we, the city folks, really enjoy them as well as we could? I used to live in a suburb which was very close to nature, I could even see a small beach and a lake right in front of my apartment window and I would often visit it. But most of the time I was the only one there, and the reason behind it couldn’t have been the lack of people because there sure was several block of flats around there.

“Winter is coming. And it doesn’t bring out the best in people.”

I love finnish summer, people are smiling and the sun doesn’t go down. We spend time outdoors enjoying the warmth and company of our friends with no hurry. Unfortunately this only lasts for a couple months, the rest of the year is quite the opposite.

“It takes over half a century to really open up about war trauma.”

This might seem a bit deep, but I feel like this has something to do with the so called “finnishness” and how we as finns are today. Especially when it comes to strangers, we don’t like to open up about our problems and will rather keep them to ourselves. Perhaps this comes from the era of wars, where we focused on surviving and not complaining about it. Though maybe there is a change already in progress, I would like to see a day where everyone would be more open and nice to each other.

“You’ll feel more at home if you learn to appreciate the empty space between conversations.”

Quotes by Thomas Nybergh

Ariel
Note: slight exaggeration may be visible

an abundance of nature and coffee


Nature

We have four very specific and very different seasons. And thousands and thousands of lakes (according to finland.fi, 187888 lakes to be exact). It’s definitely beautiful and Finland is known for its nature. And as a Finn, it means a lot to me. I can just go into a forest with no worries and I’d find my way around (you definitely can’t just go into a jungle in India or to a forest in Texas) and all the nature is just there for everyone to share and to enjoy. It changes and dies and it always grows back and it’s so fresh and so green. In Finland everyone definitely should make a huge attempt to go and enjoy the nature. Go to a cottage in the middle of the forest with no running water and try to see what it really feels like to be in the midst of nature. Everyone I’ve ever asked have found it really peaceful and even cleansing or detoxifying. Culture today is so busy that most people forget to appreciate the simple things around us like nature and fresh air. So I definitely identify nature to be one of the most beautiful and typical aspects of Finland and being Finnish.

winter wonderland

DSC01540

DSC01608

(Lack of) Small Talk

Another thing that I identify as typically Finnish is the lack of small talk. Finnish people don’t typically have an appreciation for talking around things and exchanging “useless” pleasantries (like what is very, very typical to American culture). It’s not something Finnish people do. I’ve found it strange after living in the US that people didn’t actually want to talk about general small talk things with me. I’ve learned it to be polite to discuss general things like the weather and my own plans with people that I’m conversing with in a professional manner or just to talk to them. So being Finnish means skipping all the “useless” stuff and getting straight to the point. It saves lots of time for sure and might make it easier for some people to communicate.

Coffee

Finnish people are the biggest coffee drinkers globally, according to the International Coffee Organisation (ico.org).  I didn’t actually drink coffee until I was maybe nineteen and I didn’t really think about drinking coffee being abundant or odd until I moved to other countries and realised that the people who live there don’t drink coffee as often as maybe my family or extended family or friend’s families did. But according to nordiccoffeeculture.com, Finns are “the übermensch of global coffee consumption, a society so saturated by coffee that the market is literally maxed out”. Apparently we couldn’t drink more coffee even if we tried. So being a Finn definitely means enjoying a cup of coffee a couple times a day as I’ve witnessed so many Finns do. Maybe we just aren’t as easily affected by caffeine as a nation or maybe evolution has made us that way (I know my parents drink coffee quite a lot as well).