There are many things in Finland which are part of our identity and some of them are no-brainers for us. For me the most important Finnish thing is cottage life. Finnish people love nature and being close to the lake or sea. Finnish cottage life is unique because there are not many countries where people have a cottage besides their house. Almost all of my friends’ families have a summer cottage and some of them have two summer cottages. In Finland you can also rent cottages if you don’t have your own. I think that Finnish people love the peace and nature sounds in cottages. And of course they can enjoy about Finnish nature and go into the sauna and swim in the lakes.
In my opinion, Finnish food is different when compared to other countries. For example, salty liquorice, Karelian pastry and rye bread are foods which almost every Finn are used to eat since they were kids. I love rye bread and I know that I will miss that the most. We can also pick up some berries from the nature, for example, blueberries and raspberries and put them to the freezer. That is how we can have vitamins during the year. Of course we also have some traditional foods, for example, lamb and “mämmi” which are connected to Easter.
Like for all countries sport is really important part of the identity of Finland. The Finns really love to watch sport but also do it. It is common to have some sport hobby as a child and that may last many years. Usual sports in Finland are ice hockey, soccer and Finnish baseball for example. Watching sports get people closer to each other and during the world cup of ice hockey people are really communal. They are gathering together to someone’s house or to a pub and supporting Finland’s team to win.
I have many things that I identify with Finns and Finland. As I have lived abroad by myself before, I think they are easier for me to recognize that maybe to someone else who has not been living abroad before. One of these things is the some of the really basic characteristics of Finn’s personality. I find it really interesting how everything is so well in Finland (generally speaking and as well as when comparing to other countries) but still, there is always something to be unsatisfied with. I think it is a funny way of thinking but really common to many Finns, and I think for people abroad it is something really hard to understand. I also fall into this “Finnish” personality type as well. For example, when someone asks me how I am doing, the most common answer is “okay”. If I would say “I’m good” or even “I’m excellent” it would feel like I would be exaggerating.
Also the traditional foods we eat in Finland I find really dear and Finnish as well. For example makaronilaatikko, karjalanpiirakat and korvapuusti. These are some of the foods I was used to eating in Finland, but when I moved to the USA where there was not a chance of getting these foods so that they would taste the same as back home. Even though I got used to living without these foods, I don’t think there’s anything that could overrule these foods.
The thing I feel is the most Finnish thing is the sauna. That is the thing I feel I have always missed the most when I have been traveling or living in different places. Even though there have been “saunas” but where people have sat with their workout clothes on while using their smartphones. Also throwing water into the stones has been prohibited in every foreign sauna where I have been, so usually the saunas have not been as warm as I have hoped they would be.
Winter – A very special season with its good and bad effects
Finland is a country of a thousand lakes but also a land of ice and snow. Our winter can last for 6 months and be very dark. I think Finnish people love the fact that we have so many different seasons but the darkness during the winter time is still very hard, especially mentally. Luckily snow brings a lot of light to the darkness and especially in February and March the weather can be so beautiful when the sun shines and it’s all light and white. The hard part is in December and January. I also think that it has something to do with the famous silent and shy Finnish people: if it’s cold and dark outside, people tend to be more tired and stay at home instead of going out. Just like the famous Finnish author Tove Jansson’s Moomin-characters actually sleep all over the winter…
Shy but honest?
The Finnish Nightmares -cartoons are very famous and funny for a reason: they are so true! Finnish people in general want a lot of “own space”. They usually don’t even say “hi” to strangers in the hallway. I think they don’t want to be rude but it’s just a matter of being shy and as long as we don’t have that small-talk culture, we don’t know what to say. It can also be hard with the closest friends or family to tell about our real feelings. Personally I’d love that culture to change a bit in the fact that it would be easier to tell each other about what’s bothering us or how we feel. The famous Finnish “sisu”, which means strength and not giving up, is a great thing so that Finns really want to cope with their lives and make their dreams come true. But I wish that Finnish people could also tell a little earlier, if they need help with something, instead of keeping their problems as secrets inside.
Some foreign friends of mine told me that it’s a little more difficult to get to talk with Finns but once you do, it’s a chance to make up a good, reliable friendship. In general Finland is also told to be a very safe country.
Wow, here comes the sun!
After a long, long winter the summer is like a dream! The sun is up also during the night and people enjoy that in many different ways: there are a lot of festivals and outdoor restaurants. In that picture in the middle, there’s a sauna that is floating on the water like a boat. Sauna is an important thing all over year – it’s a place to relax and actually talk about everything.
Summer, sauna, summer cottage…
Many Finns have a summer cottage somewhere in the middle of the nature with a lake nearby. There they usually also have a sauna, en electric or wooden, so that they can stay in the sauna for hours and swim in-between. Like I mentioned earlier about the own space that Finns want to have, the summer cottage is a place to be away from all the stress and noise and be in touch with the nature. There it’s a good time also to make some barbecue and pick up berries in the forest…
I was born in Finland and I’ve never lived outside Tampere. I grew up in the countryside and learned to love having very few people around me.
The three best things about Finland
1. Beautiful and clean nature
What I love about Finland is the silence in the countryside, and being able to walk outside alone after dark without having to be afraid. The forests and lakes are clean comparing to many other countries. It could be warmer here in the summer, but that would be just perfect, and nothing is perfect, right?
The one thing that bothers me about moving abroad is me being lactose intolerant. I’ve gotten used to finding anything and everything made lactose-free in Finland, but in the country I’m moving to it may not be as simple. I happen to like yoghurt, milk, rice porridge, quark and buttermilk. I also love mustamakkara, mämmi and salmiakki, so I’m surely going to miss those as well.
3. Sauna and Summerhouse
Another thing that could as well be on top of this list, is sauna. Besides a walk in a quiet forest accompanied with birds singing I think the most relaxing thing is sauna. Going to sauna with an ice-cold cider is the most rewarding thing there is. I guess it would be even better if it’s Midsummer night, going to a traditional smoke sauna with family, with the ice-cold cider and the dip in the cold lake. Here’s one of the best and most embarrassing pictures of me and my mother at the summerhouse some 10 years ago.