Monthly Archives: February 2018

Finland: the fastest nation in the world

Finland has a specific kind of reputation in motorsports. We have successful Formula 1 drivers such as Kimi Räikkönen, Mika Salo and Mika Häkkinen. Finland is also a home of great rally drivers like Marcus Grönholm, Tommi Mäkinen and Ari Vatanen.

Kimi Räikkönen
source: https://fi.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kimi_R%C3%A4ikk%C3%B6nen

What makes Finns so good at motorsports? I blame the narrow forest roads, the Finnish sisu and long distances at the countryside. Also challenging road conditions in winter surely play a role in this.

Many Finns get their driver’s license immediately when they turn 18.  In the countryside, it is almost a necessity. You can’t get almost anywhere without a car or a ride from a friend or a family member.  Therefore, besides a necessity, cars are a common hobby in the countryside. Young guys (and girls!) work on their cars in the family barns, tractor halls and so on. Even underage children might have an old car they drive around in the hay field or on the ice of frozen lakes and repair themselves or with help of  parents, friends or older siblings.

Ice road racing. Source: https://www.vrcf.fi/foorumi/index.php?topic=3227.75

In the cities, an own car isn’t such as necessity as it is in the countryside. However, it makes life easier in many ways: moving, shopping trips, road trips, and going all the way to the other side of the city are only a few examples. Many “city kids”, including myself, are also fascinated about the technique of engines and the idea of driving fast. The city just doesn’t offer as many possibilities to work on cars and drive them fast (legally) as the countryside. In the city centre it’s rare to have a garage, and even in the suburban area the garages are usually only big enough to drive the car in and out. Luckily garage space can be rented solely for the purpose of working on cars.

Whether you live in the city or in the countryside, cars and motorsports will always be (At least for some) a part of being a Finn.

Very Finnish sports

When you first start to think Finnishness a lot comes to mind like Finnish forests, lakes, sommercottages, four seasons especially winter, wintersports, means to us etc. I could go on and on about those, but here are already great posts about those subjects.

So I decided to write about some crazy sports we have in Finland

Eukonkanto (wife carrying)

Eukonkanto is a sport, where man needs to race through obstacles while carrying his partner upside down. The winner wins his partner weight in beer.  For this entertaining sport worldchampionship contest is held every year in Sonkajärvi since 1992. There the track includes one meter deep water jump and two fences you need to climb.

(Note: There is no rule that man needs to carry, it can go eitherway. But the one onboard needs to weight over 49kg.)
Source: https://finnicalmatters.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/wife-carrying-championships-eukonkanto/

Suopotkupallo (playing football in a swamp)

Some say the idea came from Finnish skiers strength training did on a swam for this sport.  But no matter where it came from Finns has had their own championship contest since 1998. Since that the contest has grown into the world championship, which is held in Hyrynsalmi.

The rules have a big resemblence to football, but there are quite a few differences. The playing fiel is only 60 meters long and 35 meters wide, so it only makes sense that a goal is also smaller being only 2 meters deep and 5 meters wide. The game includes two rounds each lasts ten minutes. Each team has max. five + one player on the field same time.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suojalkapallo
Photographer: Pekka Honkakoski (http://ukkohalla.fi/suopotkupallo/)


My experiences of Finnishness

As I’m beginning to write this blog entry, I’ve already left Finland for Slovakia. I took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn in the evening of Thursday the 4th of January and from there made a road trip to the Low Tatras and arrived in Liptovský Mikuláš in the morning of Saturday the 6th of January. The first day of studies will be Monday 19th of February, so I have a six-week vacation to dedicate solely on skiing on the mountains, the only sport I’ve ever loved. My plan is to write down thoughts about Finnishness as they cross my mind during this period of time.

I’ve stayed in shared apartment -style houses/cottages and so far I’ve had neighbors and skiing buddies from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Russia and even Australia (a surfer dude on a three-month-trip in Europe, who had five days of previous snowboarding experience from two years ago but was a natural, I had some great powder rides with him). Their usual first questions about Finland concerned not surprisingly temperature, language and the amounts of daylight, depression and alcohol consumption and the cause and effect -relations between them. I will not write about any of that stuff.

My favorite thing in Finnish culture is regularly going to sauna, the most comfortable, relaxing and effective way of getting clean. I know I’ll miss it a lot during this six months of being abroad. Sauna is also a place of honesty and openness; the place where it’s natural for Finns to talk about the joys and sorrows of their lives. A common stereotype is that they are introverted and never talk about their feelings. Maybe this is due to not going to sauna with friends often enough.

While trying not to burden other people with ones problems in everyday situations, the Finns put a lot effort into making some of those situations as effortless as possible for one another. The Finns are, by my experience, the world champions in forming a queue, letting others have their personal space when standing on a bus stop and choosing the seat in the bus, not talking too loud on public transport, not complaining even when there’s a reason to and being generally polite. Disclaimer: I haven’t been to Canada.

One thing I don’t like in the typical Finns mindset is the blind belief in authorities such as the political system and media. Free thinking and bringing out ones opinion are more underrated in Finland than in any other “democratic” western country, USA obviously not included. Just look at the demonstrations and protests; if there are any, attendance is very low and the only exceptions for this are the ones that comply with the agenda pushed by the media. Yes, Finland has been developed into a paradise of a society by the world scale in an unbelievably short time, but no, it will not stay that way by only using the right to vote one of the new or old paid liars called politicians, and making that decision based on their empty promises and the paid lies that are called the news. Finland is such a small player in this game in which the only true rule is that the entity with most power, i.e. money, behind it calls the shots, that it’s unforgivably naïve to believe that the decisions made by our politicians are made for the benefit of the state or us, the people. If the majority of the people realized how much their opinions are affected by things other than their own reason and experience, they would start to think more independently. Unfortunately, it’s easier to make people believe lies than to convince them that they have been lied to.

Needless to say, I’m not very optimistic on the future of the world. However, I will try my best to be a non-typical Finn during my study exchange and openly discuss my views with people from different backgrounds and maybe inspire someone to be a free thinker. I’ve met lots of people that share my world view during my previous, though shorter trips in Europe. Traveling and actually getting to know people and their lives, thoughts and views would make an average Finn to at least consider that maybe the truth about the world is to be found somewhere else than the stories told by media corporations with revenues of billions of euros.

This blog entry might not have turned out to be a convenient list of funny stereotypes or a montage of nice pictures of Finnish nature or something else that was probably expected in the assignment, but it is a short and honest version about my experience of Finnishness.

P.S. I got 38 skiing days in before the first day of studies. Best powder walls I’ve ever skied can be seen in the picture below.

Finnishness

I think that people who come to Finland think first that we Finns are very ”grympy” and sullen. We want to keep our own space and everyone and everything new is some kind of threat for us. We don’t talk unless we have to or if we want to. When we leave at the apartment we don’t want to face neighbours in the stairway, and we get embarrassed if someone strange starts talking in the elevator.

Sounds pretty bad, but that’s who we are. When you get to know us, we turn more approachable, and in the end we are pretty nice people.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomalainen maisema

One thing we can be proud of is our nature here in Finland. We have many lakes and forest at least little bit everywhere. The nature and landscape is really beautiful, and they changes with different time of year. For example at spring there are many different colours, when leafs changes red, yellow and brown. And at summer there are so green and verdant everywhere. Right now in Finland there is a lot of snow and when the sun shines it looks almost like a winter wonderland.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomi talvi

Humble and honest

The icy shores of lake Pyhä

Finnish people are humble and honest, but not very talkative. We don’t make a big deal out of ourselves. Finnish are gentle and thoughtful like the Moomins. Our education and public health care system are high-class and funded by taxes. In Finland we have a very good waste recycling system and we appreciate our nature. The Finnish passports is one of the best in the world: You can get to 175 from 218 countries with the Finnish passport without a visa.

A frosty winter day

The nature has a huge impact in the Finnish mentality. We live in a country of 200 000 lakes and almost every family has a summer cottage (by the lake of course). The best way to spend the summer vacation is to go to your summer cottage, have a sauna, swim and eat barbecue food. The Finnish sauna there is hot (preferably 80 to 100 Celsius) and the best ones are heated with wood rather than electricity.

Pure and bright waters of the lake Saimaa

Finnish people are people of the woods: We pick berries and fungus from the forests during the fall and spend our vacations doing activities in the nature, such as skiing, fishing and hiking. In Finland we have these Everyman’s rights, which allows us to hike, pick berries and camp in the nature, no matter who owns the land, as far as we don’t make a damage or disturb others.

Finnish summer

In Finland we have four seasons, which all come with their unique beauty. In the Finnish Lapland the sun doesn’t set at all during the summer and in the winter the polar night lasts about 50 days during which the sun doesn’t show at all. But you don’t have to go all the way to the Lapland to experience the beauty of Finnish nature: In the winter, if your lucky, you can spot the aurora borealis for example in Tampere also. The Finnish summer is short but lovely: The people come out of their shells, there’s a lot of laughter and joy, and people spend their time outdoors as much as they can.

The springtime in Finland

Finland has it’s own national epic, the Kalevala, compiled in the 19th Century by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish folklore and mythology. The tale begings with the traditional Finnish creation myth and is followed by a lot of magical spell casting and singing. There are stories of lust, romance, betrayal and seduction and the nature is present throughout the story in the scenery and dialogue. J. R. R. Tolkien has told that he has taken inspiration from the Kalevala to create the elf language to his famous fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

A beautiful summer night in Tampere

On a nightout, Finnish people love to drink beer, tell bad jokes and sing karaoke. Finnish is the only language that has a word for getting drunk at home wearing only your underwear, it’s “kalsarikännit”.

 

My Experiences of Finnishness

During my trips around the world I have often heard that we Finns are shy, polite, distant and trustworthy. I agree and I can notice these personality traits in myself also.  There are differences between individuals of course, but comparing to other cultures there is a huge need for personal space and individuality. Finns are not used to small talk and no one considers it as rudeness. And most of us like to be exact, so if you agree to meet a Finn at 2 pm, they will be there at 2 pm.

Finnish nature consists mostly of lakes and forests. We have 40 national parks but usually you don’t have to go that far to enjoy nature, because Finnish cities are pretty small and it doesn’t take a long time to reach forests outside the cities by bus or car.  Most of Finns have a very close connection with nature. That is predictable because as a far-away northern country Finland all the modern influences and Christianity came here late (compared to Central Europe).  Finnish nature is famous for its fresh air and four seasons.

One of the most important things in Finnish culture is sauna. The oldest form of Finnish sauna is called the smoke sauna. It is a special type of sauna without a chimney. When the rocks in the stove are heated, the smoke circles in the room before escaping through a vent in the ceiling or through the door left ajar during the heating. Modern saunas have chimneys but in Finland there are still lots of smoke saunas left. Sauna is a place for both mental and physical relaxation. In more ancient times sauna was a place to give birth,  to cure illnesses and to wash the deceased.

 

Finnishness in a nutshell

When talking about Finland and Finnishness people always bring up the beautiful nature or the dark and cold winter. Another topic of discussion is the nature of Finnish people; unsocial, stubborn and modest. To me, however, Finnishness is a lot more. Finnishness is cottage life, sauna and most importantly, good food.

You can’t talk about Finnish culture without mentioning cuisine. For me the most important things in Finnish cuisine are salty liquorice, coffee and rye bread. Salty liquorice, or salmiakki, is a Finnish treat which is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Many Finnish people say salmiakki is the first thing they miss about Finland when they travel abroad. Finns are the people with the highest consumption of coffee in the world. It is not unusual to start your life as a coffee drinker in your youth. Here in Finland rye bread is the most common type of bread. Traditional rye bread is a dark, sour bread which can also be found dried.
Finnish culture has a lot of traditional foods which can’t stay mentioned; Karelian pie, Karelian hot pot, and traditional Finnish Easter dessert made from rye flour, called mämmi. For me, these traditional foods bring back memories of my childhood. 
Finns don’t always go to the nearest supermarket to get their food, because our beautiful nature provides us with berries and mushrooms, for example. Some Finns even have their own small fields in their backyard, where they grow their own potatoes, carrots, beetroots and other veggies.

 

There is no Finnishness without sauna culture. The first thing us Finns mention to foreigners is how great the Finnish sauna is. Sauna is the place where even the most unsocial Finn may open up, but even then, it’s not certain. Sauna is also the place where you can show your guts, so called “Sisu”, when you compete who can withstand the most heat the longest. When you have burned your skin off in the scorching sauna, it is typical to take a cooling dip in the cold lake or even roll in the snow, when there’s no water nearby.

Who are Finns?

Finland is all about the nature and all the beautiful and unique views and all the aspects that are related to of a Finnish nature. Our habits are based on it what possibilities nature has given to us. Finland is the country of thousands lakes and lakes have made us to swim in every time of the year. Finnish weather is cold, so we have been really into Sauna. And the Finnish crazyness must be one of the cosequenses of the weather and being isolated here in the dark and north. We became survivors and that is seen still in our behavior. We are not so good at accepting help, but we can manage even under the hard pressure.

 

Many could describe Finns very unsocial, but in certain situations we appear to be very social and have a great team spirit. The real Finnishness can be seen in public saunas and in an ice hole in winter and on public ice hockey fields. There people gather and talk to strangers and make friends without inhibition. For example in this photo you can see me playing ice-hockey with a bunch of strangers. It was really fun and we spent several hours there skating and playing. Want to get to know some Finns? Go and get skates and go ice-skating or get your swimsuit and hat and try some ice-swimming. You might be surprised.

Diverse Finland

Finland is known as its thousands lakes and beautiful nature. In lapland we have hills and in west we have flat fields, east we have countless lakes. With all these different kinds of terrains there is also weather seasons which stand out very well.

In spring we see how nature starts to wake up after a long winter. Soon the ground, which look dark and dead, comes alive with little flowers and the trees start to open they leaves. Mostly this season is still pretty cold and it rains a lot.
When we get to the summer we hope to have warm and long summer but most of the time it is short and rainy.  In average we have temperatures between 10-20 degrees celsius. Summer is also odd season because sun does not set at all in lapland and also in south the nights are light. Summer is best time in Finland if the weather is favourable. Most of Finnish people find they ways to summer cottages and closer to the nature. Best nigths are when you have your close ones with you on a cottage and you have just came out of sauna and then jump to the lake. Later you eat some grilled food and enjoy the view.
In Autumn the nature starts to prepare it self to the winter. Everything turns in different shades of orange. Weather is colder and rainy. Sometimes we have little storms when cold and warm air meets.

In Winter it starts freezing and snowing. Now a days we haven not had such good snowy winter than we used to have. Average the temperature is under minus degrees, but we have some balmy periods when temperature can even be plus 5. Coldest that has ever been measured in Finland is -51,5 degrees celsius. In winter we have all kind of activities like skiing, ice-skating, downhill skiing, ice swimming and many more. It is also traditional to warm up in sauna and then run to the snow and roll all over. It keeps you blood circulation busy!

Finland is also known from its education system. Finland have free education for all. Our rates are also high standards. In year of 7 we start our elementary school and then you can continue as you wish to the high school or vocational school and so on.