Monthly Archives: July 2018

The Wedding Season

My sister got married this summer. That inspired me to write about Finnish wedding traditions. It is not unusual to get an invitation to a winter wedding but summer is the real wedding season in Finland. Saturdays are usually saved for weddings.

The ceremony is traditionally held in a church where a priest weds the young (or old!) couple. The father of the bride walks her daughter down the aisle and hands her over to her future husband. The bridesmaids and best man wait at the altar. In my sister’s wedding the priest said the wrong names couple of times but I think it was his way of keeping us entertained. This was the topic people talked about after the ceremony! After the ceremony the newly-wed couple comes out of the church and people can throw rice or blow soap bubbles. After this people move to the wedding reception. The bride and the groom drive away alone. In my case I took them to take some photos. Wedding pictures can be taken inside for example in a studio or beautiful building or outside for example by a lake or in a forest.

When the guests have arrived at the venue (Finns usually play it safe and pick some kind of indoor space when deciding the wedding venue as the Finnish weather cannot be trusted) the bride and the groom arrive. They can have a welcoming toast and some speeches at this point. The Bride and the groom (and sometimes their parents) usually want to welcome everyone separately by shaking their hands before going in. Friends and family from both sides are invited and the total number of guests can be anything between 10-200.

There usually is good Finnish food in the reception; meat, fish, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, salads, the wedding cake and some other dessert. Drinks are also an important part. Games and performances are not uncommon. Some include: throwing the bouquet and the garter and “morsiamen ryöstö” where the friends of the groom kidnap the bride and make the groom do something embarrassing or collect money to get his bride back. The whole thing lasts from some time in the afternoon to the small hours.

 

Finland Finland Finland

If you have ever cruised the online and came across a topic about Finland through an online messageboard or a just news comment section you probably have noticed the “Torille!” chants and memes and crazy language. Probably the news were about Finland being number one at something. Whether it was Ice Hockey, the happiest nation in the world study, or just any random news were Finland is surprisingly number one, we go and celebrate it!

Crazy finns right? Well it gets crazier.

It is hard to be a tiny small nation in a huge land at the edge of the world where the ice age begins and the  winter lasts almost 6 months. There isn’t THAT much stuff to do except the obvious outside trekking stuff. You have to be inventive to pass the time. You go and invent your own sports like the “Eukonkanto” (Wifecarrying run), Throwing a rubber boot, or an old nokia phone, play swamp football, battle for the best air guitarist in the world, and even your own baseball that you adapt to your national sport that no one else plays. Why?

Because it can get boring.

But now that I am leaving my home behind me. It’s all the boredom that I will miss. The silence, the frosty snow on top of the pine trees and the sound your footsteps make when walking at winter. The endless lakes and rivers and forests. The nightless nights or the everlasting darkness.

I bet you that every finn is a 30min away from being completely alone surrounded by nature and companied by peace. I will miss that. The idea that you can just go and be alone whenever you need it.

But yes, it can get boring. That’s why in the rise of internet  people of our nation have been every where in the internet, educating people that we are not baltic, or russian, or swedish, but finns. And we like to embrace our stereotypes. Even though we are nothing at all like those stereotypes.  Those commets are usually just for fun and written in tongue in cheek. It is a way to feel healthy national pride of our small nation that goes unnoticed most of the time. So next time when you see a topic about Finland, you can experience a little bit of Suomi!

Though it’s true that it is hard to make friends in Finland, or that we love our personal space and distance. But not to the extreme. We love to go out whenever we can (which is just summer), smile and be happy with our loved ones. We can be awkward and brutally honest sometimes, but most of finns know the difference between honesty and cruelty. I can trust what a finn says almost always.

And let the words of Michael Palin tell you more honest words about Finland in the spirit of our people.

 

Finland to me

As the hours before my departure to the big wide world are dwindling away, I will quickly highlight some of the things I will miss and probably learn to appreciate even more about Finland.

We are a small, sparsely populated homogeneous country, isolated away from most troubles in our own little northern corner of the world. We keep to ourselves and we downplay our achievements, yet we collectively feel national pride when someone takes an interest in us.

On the surface Finnish people might appear as not the happiest people in the world. We like our personal space, we’re mindful of other people around us and we rarely say anything more than is necessary. We don’t force smiles on our faces when we step out the door and we don’t engage in menial small talk with anyone we don’t know. Some might consider this rude and antisocial, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. For when people finally stop their day to engage with others you can be sure everything about the exchange is going to be genuine. You don’t bother me and I don’t bother you.

Then alcohol is added to the mix and you’d be hard pressed to avoid a friendly face wanting to talk to you.

Having been born to the country of a thousand lakes and endless forests, I believe in the heart of every Finn beats a love for all things green and a yearning to return to nature. Even in the most densely populated cities you are never that far away from a forest and I don’t mean a perfectly landscaped park but real wild forests. We don’t sacrifice our beautiful lands for the sake of industrial development and when summer comes around we flee our urban lives to our summer cottages, carry in water from the well, heat up the sauna with wood and take a dip in the lake.

 

 

What will I miss about Finland?

Getting ready for my exchange in a new country and thinking about all the great new things I will experience there, made me think about the things I will miss about Finland. In addition to my friends and family and some Finnish foods, there are couple of things that came to my mind.

Respecting people’s personal space, safety, and the honesty of people are things that I will miss for sure at some point. Here in Finland, we are so used to not being surrounded by too many people (as the population is quite small) and being able to just mind your own business throughout the day, wherever you are. In public transportation, you can happily sit next to the window alone and have good luck enough to have no one sit next to you during the whole trip. Avoiding eye contact with strangers is something Finns do a lot, as a habit. In many situations, avoiding eye contact gives a very rude impression of a person which is why I think people should try not to do that.

 

Feeling safe in Finland (almost) anywhere I go is something that I personally value a lot. Obviously, bad things can happen to anyone also in Finland but the probability of that is a lot smaller than in many other places.

Honesty of people can be seen many ways in Finland. For example, if you go ask for directions from a random person and they don’t have the answer, they honestly tell you that. Unlike somewhere else, people might just not feel comfortable telling you they don’t know something and just make something up. Another proof of the honesty is that if a person leaves a bag, for example, at the cafeteria table or a bus, there is a great chance of getting it back – with nothing stolen.

Shy, helpful and honest Finn

Shy, helpful and honest are first three words what came to my mind when I started to think Finnish people. That is my stereotype of Finn and of course all of them are not like that. If someone ask be about Finnish people, that is what I tell to them.

I have traveled a lot in my life, so I have seen so many different kind of cultures. Finland is the most north western country which culture only few people know. Free education, Santa Claus and the most snowiest winters are maybe the things where Finland is known. In foreign movies Finns are shown as bluff and crazy rednecks who go first to very hot room(which is also called sauna) and then they run to frozen lake where is only little hole.

I think that Finns are the most shy people in the world. They do not talk each others if they do not have to. At bus stop they have to stand one meter away from the others. They can live ten years in same house without knowing their neighbors names. So if you want to talk with Finns you have to get them drunk, then it is easier to them.

Even if Finns are shy, they are always ready to help even strange people. Last week I was driving in Hervanta and someones car lose its power on the road in front of me. Before I stopped my car to bus stop, there were five men pushing the car. In Finland I have never have to wait help on street when I have needed.

Finns honest, I read someone’s story about his/her laptop and stuff. They were lost and they were found. He/she got them all back and he/she was clearly proud of Finns about that. Anyone did not stole it or anything. Just wanted them back to their owner. We Finns should be very proud of our honest which is not something considered self-evident in every country. Of course, here is thieves and people who take everything what they saw but usually you can trust your fortune are safe wherever you are in Finland.

Finally, I have to say that I am proud of being one of these bluff and crazy rednecks.

Finland – a new chapter in my life

I came to Finland when I was 19 and it was the very first time that I was outside of my “comfort zone” – Vietnam. When I was a teenager, I traveled a lot through out the whole country in Vietnam but Finland was the whole new chapter in my journey of exploring the world. Honestly, I never heard about Finland before in my life probably because Finns are too humble to talk about their country on the media, thus I basically have no idea where I was heading to, I just packed my luggage and ” hit the road Jack”.

If I was to ask to describe Finland in one word, I would say – ” peaceful”.  Finland has taught me to slow down and enjoy every little moments that I have. In Sountheast Asia, we live really hectic life- style  especially in big cities. On the street in Asia, there are always some kind of activities, quite time is only last from 1am – 4am. However, in Finland, for an Asian girl like me, it is always quite. At first, I found it hard to cope with the quiteness here but then my Finnish friends taught me to do things that I have never done before in my life – enjoying the quiteness. They took me for a walk in the beautiful forest here in every seasons and in the winter, they showed me how to ” sauna” in Finnish way 🙂 and taught me some winter sports. I started to love Finland from that time on because Finland gave me time to spend for myself in peace.

Pic 1: Walking on a frozen lake

Pic 2: Forest in winter time

Finland is a wonderland in winter but also, it is absolutely beautiful during the summer time. Even though summer is short in Finland and it often rains, the sunny day in summer are worth waiting for. Spending time in summer cottage and grill ” makara” with my close friends near the lake is always my favourite activity in the summer.

Pic 3: Finnish summer dream

Finnish people are quite calm and shy like in this photo 🙂

It is not easy to get close to Finnish friends at first because they do not show emotion but if you just give them time, they will open up and once you are their friend, you will be forever their friend.

Though I have moved on with my life and exposed to many cultures and lands, Finland will still be at special little corner in my youthful heart.

A pianist on exchange

My exchange year in Denmark is reaching its end. I ended up in Aarhus quite randomly – I knew nothing about the city nor the music academy when applying here. However, after being accepted I was really looking forward to a year abroad and ready for a new adventure. I did not know what was waiting for me, but loved the idea of going.

Moving in was easy, I got a lovely apartment very close to the school and Aarhus seemed really nice. My good feeling didn´t really change after the first impression – everything worked great, the school seemed really good, I met nice people and I was very impressed after the first piano lesson with my new teacher. I felt so lucky, how could everything be so well? Well, it could.

My daily life in Aarhus consist of practising, teaching and common classes like ear training, music history etc. Every week there is a piano lesson with my teacher and addition to playing solo, I have studied accompaniment with singers and chamber music with other instrumentalists. Most of my studying time goes for practising and one of the main reasons why I enjoy studying here is the great facilities for practising and having a lot of time for it.

The school also offers the students a lot of opportunities to perform. The piano class  has student concerts about every three or four weeks. In the beginning of the study year we had an annual piano festival OPUS organised by the piano students. This year the theme was L. van Beethoven´s music and I must say that it was great way to start the semester and get into the piano class.

I spend my free time hanging out with my friends from school or doing sports, either at the gym lifting weights or running in a park nearby. I really love to spend time with the piano class. We are different kind of people from around the Europe sharing the same interest. During the year we have had such a good time together, numerous discussions about music and piano, nerdy jokes, dinners at the school´s rooftop, after-concert beers in the local pub, group lessons on Saturday afternoons and a lot more.

Both The Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus and Tamk in Tampere have their own strengths and weaknesses. The studying follows the same principles in both schools so that in the end there are not any really big differences. The courses are quite similar and my schedule looked about the same in both places. It was mainly the studying environment which made the difference for me. There is something I really like about the music academy here in Aarhus – the physical studying environment, practising facilities, the common atmosphere among the student and the teachers. I can say that the Erasmus year has been the best studying year for me so far. I have learnt so much about piano, music, myself and life overall. But without the great education I got in Finland I would not have ended up here in Aarhus.

How does Finnish Chinese girl think about Finland?

My name is Cuiting Zhang, as you can decide from my name that I am not original Finnish. I have immigrated from China to Finland when I was 10-year-old. I went to Finnish school and I got Finnish friends, so I became a Finnish! I am so glad for being multicultural person and I can learn from both of Chinese and Finnish cultures. For me, Finland means many things. In this part, I just point out some specific of them.

——————————————————————————————————————

First, the nature. Looking at the outside we can decide how much Finnish do care about the nature. While I am living in Finland, I have learned to sort the trash and separate metals from the products and I am really proud of the system of Pantti (which means you can have deposit while you returned the used bottles). So, people are very willing to collect the bottles from the street and this very amazed me.

——————————————————————————————————————

The second one is independence (Okay, I know that belongs to original Finnish that they like to ask the help and want to do all things by themselves). Most of students are moving from home at 18 years old and start to get the first part-time job. So, I did the same. My high school life was very simple: I went to school on the weekday and worked at weekend. It sounds a little bit hard, but believe me, it was so instructive experience.

*I don’t need help to choose the shirt (or maybe I do…)

——————————————————————————————————————

The third thing is personal space. My original country is a very loud place and there is so many people in everywhere. Finland is a opposite from China. While I am taking the bus, nobody is talking loudly and people even don’t choose to sit beside of another if there is a free space around.

——————————————————————————————————————

After these many years, I became a Finnish. I appreciate this place and the culture, but I still want to know more about my original country, China, that I choose to go to exchange. I am looking forward to this trip a lot and the experience I will gain from my mother country.

(Pictures belong to Finnish Nightmare -comics by Karoliina Korhonen)