Monthly Archives: September 2017

Nature sets the mindset

Finland – the land of thousand lakes, lush green nature and shy people who are hard to get to know and go to sauna a lot. As a Finn, I’ve heard this a gazillion times and as all of those notions are true, there is more to us Finns than meets the eye.

As there are so many forests and lakes, it is natural (pun intended) that our culture has become so closely entwined with it – in the past as provider of food and shelter and today as a sanctuary where people can rest and forget the hectic outside world. The feeling you get from watching the sun set behind a lake, seeing the Northern Lights dance upon a frosty winter sky or just gazing at the stars in dark autumn night is just indescribable and it has had a profound effect in us.

There are even studies about how walking in a forest will lower your blood pressure in 20 minutes and I believe that we Finns have known this all along, nature gives us peace of mind and we just want to enjoy it. That background added with the traditional Finnish logic of if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, it is better to be quiet and say nothing at all. That can easily show differently on the outside and is at least partly the reason why Finns are so unfamiliar with small talk.

I remember reading an article about which European citizens travel the most and was really surprised to find Finns in the top 3. The article explained that Finns don’t travel abroad that much but the reason that put them in top places of list was, of course, summer cottages. And there was a staggering number of 502 900 of them in 2016. So that’s where we are, not talking and going to saunas most of the time.

My theory is that the nature has shaped us into who we are and how we see the world and personally, I couldn’t be happier.

 

My experiences of Finnishness

I have lived in Finland for around two years and Finland leaves me a peaceful image on my mind. Probably because everything is white in the winter and Finnish people are all kind to me. When I arrived in Finland at the first time, I found that it was so hard to get close to Finnish people because most of them are so introverted and barely talk to each other. But after a period of time, I started to have some local friends and feel that making friends with Finnish people was not that hard as I imagined.

I was born and raised in a warm city so that Finnish winter would be a really special existence for me  because I have never been through such cold winter in my life. I tried a lot of Finnish activities such as ice-skating and skiing. I have experienced northern light for the first time as well. I haven’t been to Lapland yet, and the northern light there would be even stronger. I am putting Lapland on my to-go list and definitely will visit there some day.

Another typical Finnish thing that I have to mention is Finnish Sauna. Before I came to Finland, I have had already heard that Finland is famous for sauna. After arriving here, I finally got a chance to experience it. It was in winter, me and my friends were staying in sauna for around 15 minutes and we rushed out and jumped into the ice water. That was crazy and I felt like I challenged myself. Anyway, this experience is like once in a lifetime and I really had a lot of fun.

Winter and Christmas – Two things I love the most

I love Finnish winter and especially Christmas. In our family Christmas is the biggest and most awaited time of the year because then our whole family meets together to eat and drink. We also exchange gifts on Christmas Eve and even begin buying presents for the year after in January. Yeah, that’s really crazy but our family loves to buy and especially make the presents by themselves. My granny knits socks,my mum is always baking, my little sister paints or draws something and I usually make some decoration like candles, wreaths or decoration lights.

I also love the Finnish winter but I live in the South so there isn’t the kind of winter that I like – snow, snow and much more snow. That’s why I go to Lapland almost every year with my family or friends. Our family love skiing, skating, snowboarding and downhill skiing.

       

Lapland is the largest and northernmost region of Finland. Although Lapland is the largest region in Finland, only 3.4% of Finland’s population lives there. The very first snowflakes fall to the ground in late August or early September over the higher peaks and the winter is long, approximately seven months. The coldest temperatures in winter vary from -35°C to -45°C in Lapland but if you wear your thickest winter jacket and beanie you will survive 😉

 

 

Nature in Southern Finland

Finland is well known for a beautiful nature. There are many places where you should go and see. Lapland is of course one of the best-known places in Northern Finland. There are also amazing places in Southern Finland which are not that well known.

Now I tell you about one place in the Southern Finland which is called Kiikunlähde. Nature Spring is located in Hollola, Finland. Spring is 400 meters long and 100 meters wide. The water is so blue and bright that you can see the bottom of the Spring. I visited there last summer with my friend and I think it was worth it. For example, you can make a road trip with your friends in the summer and visit there during that trip.                                                                                 Kiikunlähde
There is also lots of other places where you can add to your road trip. Repovesi National Park is located in Kouvola, Finland and it’s not far away from Kiikunlähde. Nuuksio National Park is located in Helsinki metropolitan area. Both of those places are full of activities so you don’t get bored. You can hike, canoe or bicycle all day long. I think National Parks is good way to see the Finnish nature.                                                                     Necessary tourist picture

Feelings of a Finn

Finland is a beautiful northern country full of nature and free space for everyone. During everyday life in Finland, there are some feelings that aren’t so easy to understand, until you feel them by yourself. Those feelings may be weird, surprising or just funny, but you can experience them just because you’re living in Finland. Here are few examples of them:

– When you go outside of the town and feel the complete quietness

Sometimes it’s amusing to go to outside of a big city and realize that you are completely alone in there. There may be just tens of kilometers of road surrounded by forests until the next city.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle forest road finland

– When you feel it’s too cold outside

Sometimes during the coldest days of winter, you go outside from the door to the freezing air and get the instant feeling that you just want to turn around and go back inside.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle blizzard finland

– When you haven’t seen sunlight in a whole day

Sunlight in winter is not so easy to get if you’re not outside for a whole day. At the northern parts of Finland, the sun doesn’t even rise at all for few weeks in winter.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle sunset finland lapland

– When you go swimming in cold water after Sauna

When you go straight from 80 degree sauna to swim in a frozen lake and get that feeling when your heart pumps faster than ever before.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle ice swimming cottage finland

– When you like to eat something that doesn’t look so good outside

You may like to eat a black sausage made from pork and pig blood, which looks more like an ordinary sausage that has just been in a grill for a little too long. Or at Easter, you may get some ‘Mämmi’ as a dessert, which doesn’t look so tempting dish.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle black sausageKuvahaun tulos haulle mämmi

/Pauli Suurpää

Top 3 things to do when trying to be Finnish!

For reasons unknown to me, there seems to be a growing need for people to find fact based and proven methods to achieve a certain state of “Finnishness!”. To meet this need head-on I have compiled a list of undisputable facts about what you need to be doing in order to achieve this elusive goal.

  1. Become one with the Rye Bread

Like with many other cultures, the way to start on the path that is knowing real Finnishness is to fall in love with its cuisine.  Often times the food stuffs consumed inside certain cultures are a great way to get glimpse inside the mind-set of a nationality.

In Finland’s case, that glimpse requires the consumption of some stone-hard, teeth-breaking, soul-draining and man-kneeling Rye Bread. This thing is hard as life. There is no place for egos here and humility is paramount when partaking in chewing of this life altering substance. It has kept the bowels of many generations of Finns clean as a whistle through centuries.

It truly is the perfect metaphor for the Finnish understanding of itself and its position in the world, which is to be humble and hardworking over everything else.

If you are successfully able to chew through a packet of “Jälkiuunileipä” you truly are one great step closer towards finding real Finnishness!

 

  1. Practice the art of intense listening

Second skill to acquire when aiming for that sweet, sweet title of a “Finn” is quietness. Silence. The art of no-talk-and-have-the-expression-of-deep-thought.

This skill involves the usage of many facial muscles: Squinting of your eyes to add some gravitas and give the impression of focus, tightening of lips to make sure you don’t give out your position on the matter that’s been discussed too early, slowly nodding maybe for approval or maybe because he arrived to a conclusion of some sort, who knows?

The point is, just be quiet and keep your distance. It will make you seem a lot smarter than you probably are and it will cut down the time required to spend on these annoying social-interaction situations (which, by the way are hated by all Finns).

 

  1. Sauna: institutionalized nudism

Last thing you got to learn, in order to receive your congratulatory, Finnish government mandated Waist Pack, is to embrace yourself, without any clothes, in a hot and steamy room with complete strangers, while whipping everyone inside that steamy and hot room with tree branches.

While doing this holy ritual, it will dawn upon you that everything you read on this list of must-dos is a fallacy. While inside that hallowed space of a sauna, sitting butt-cheek against a butt-cheek with strangers, all the things you got told about Finns wash away. Suddenly closeness isn’t a problem and a non-stop conversation, with some dry jokes, becomes the standard. Life doesn’t appear as hard anymore and inside that dark, steamy room you can finally see that those weird Finns with their weird tribal customs aren’t really that weird or different after all.

Sami Juntunen

General opinion of Finnish people?

I’m trying to wrap my head around the general opinion of Finnish people. If I think about it from an “outsiders” point of view, I see a nation that is doing quite well, people who might be a little bit reserved but who are still very helpful, kind and are open minded.

When talking to people who are not from Finland and asking, “What is your opinion of a Finnish person?” sometimes the answer is that we are shy and quiet and sometimes that we are loud and talkative (this one usually happens if you drink alcohol).

Some have a language barrier with foreign people, maybe their English is not so good, so they seem shy and quiet, even though maybe they would like to get to know the person.

Something that I’ve been wondering a lot is why do the Finns need so much space, where does it come from? Even when we talk to each other we keep our distance. For me, it’s funny, it’s just how we are. A funny example of the need for personal space you can see in this picture where Finnish people are waiting for the bus.

 

I also recommend visiting a blog called Finnish Nightmares. It is one of the funniest pages ever! There is so much truth in the posts, but it really is just funny!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares

I will end my post with telling you my favorite thing about Finland.

So for me it really is the summer, going to the cottage with my family, going to sauna and going for a swim in the lake. I can’t experience this often since I usually have been away the summers, so when I get to go, it makes me so happy. The forrest surrounds me and it really feels like you can just forget about all your problems, they seem so far when you are so relaxed.

/Katariina

So, Finland and stuff.

Language and communication

One of the most important parts of Finnish culture (at least to me) is our language and the way us Finns communicate. Finns are very straightforward, and our language lacks many of the polite frills that many other languages, and especially English have. A coffee is ordered by saying “coffee” not “one coffee, please”. If we bump into another person we often say “whoops” instead of “sorry”. If there is nothing to say, we really say nothing.

Silence can be quite uncomfortable for people who are used to small-talk, but Finns are able to enjoy company without saying a word.  These are also the reasons why Finns may come off as rude or cold to people who are not from here, but that’s hardly the truth. If we ask “how are you”, it’s not because it’s polite, but because we want to hear the answer.

Climate and nature

Us Finns are so used to our climate that we take it for granted. I’ll admit, it can be cold. Oh, so cold. But we tend to forget how much worse it is to live somewhere very warm. Grass is always greener on the other side and so on, but if you are cold, you can put on more layers of clothes. Turn up the heat. There is only so much you can do if it is very humid and hot. You cannot escape it. The climate in Finland is actually a very pleasant one to have, and one we should cherish of instead of complain about.

Even if you live in a bigger city, nature is never far away in Finland. Finns love their outdoor activities, and thanks to our full four seasons, there’s something out there for everyone. Whether it’s skiing, berry picking, running, geocaching, biking, hiking… you can enjoy it all in the Finnish nature and forests. A run in the woods is one of my favorite past times after a stressful day, and it’s something I really miss if I can’t do it.

“I can walk that far”

Not sure which topic this specifically relates to, but in my general experience, Finns are used to, and are comfortable with walking to places. This has to do with Finland being quite sparsely populated.

Many people are originally from areas where distances between places (such as your home and the nearest shop, or maybe your school) are much longer than the average distances in cities, and most often you had to go by foot because public transport might not even exist. There are no “snow days” in Finland. You’ll be damn sure we still walked to school in knee deep snow, or in any other kind of weather condition.

At least this habit of ours is a healthy one to have.

Finnishness to Me

What does Finnishness mean to me? First my mind  was totally empty but then I started to think about the things that makes me feel like being at home, where I can be me, where I’m the happiest.

The thing I’m going to miss the most during my exchange is being at our Lapland cottage with my family. That is the place where I can relax and where my ”real home” is. I love the trips to picking up blueberries and cloudberries, walking in the woods with our dogs, listening the silence, driving a snowmobile and seeing the pure, untouched finnish nature.  Many times when going to outdoor sauna I stop to stare at the evening sky with all its stars and listen to the wind. No traffic or neighbors, only the natures own sounds.

One thing that I usually notice but don’t really pay attention to is that in Finland we have many dialects. They all have their own sounds and words. Some dialects sound funny to my ear but also many says that my Lappish dialect is weird or sounds cute. I think dialects tells more specifically where we are from and that is something that we should appreciate and to be proud of.

Silence and the Forest

First thing that comes to my mind when I think about Finland, and being a Finn, is the forest, lakes and the silence you find when you wander through the nature. When I was young I didn’t think about it, but now I know that the silence is not something everyone has. That might be one of the reasons why going abroad sometimes feel so scary to us. We simply aren’t used to the constant noise of traffic and people talking. Of course there is plenty of noise in Finland too, but not in the same scale, and here we know how to escape it!  

  

Why Finns enjoy peace and prefer to keep their privacy? Maybe it is because we have an easy access to it. We don’t need to rent a cottage far away from the city, usually we just happen to own one right outside the town. We are lucky to have space around us, and that has affected our customs and free-time activities.

We often take it for granted, but every time I have gone abroad I have realized that nature is one of the most important things we have in Finland. It might not feel unique to us, but the fact that everyone has an easy access to a forest is something we should appreciate more.