Notes on being Finnish

Me and Finland have had a rocky road together.

When I was little, I lived and studied in a quite international environment and instead of celebrating my Finnishness, I was whipped away into dreamlands of every other nationality I was surrounded with, their worlds new, exciting and foreign to me. Rarely I focused on my own culture and my own Finnish identity, rather deeming Finland as my boring home compared to the cool stories of life in America or Africa. Everything Finnish was just a habit for me, something that I never quite focused on.

Throughout my teenage years and starting my adulthood, I was hit with a sudden feeling of “I don’t belong here with these people” and struggled years to find my identity as a Finnish person, often cocky about Finnish traits that I found annoying, thinking “I know better”. It is a strange feeling to feel so suddenly and so hard like you don’t belong, the people around feeling alien and uninspiring. I often declared how I shall move abroad to live an exciting life in the United Kingdom or Canada, naïve and proud, making sure everyone knew I did not feel I belonged in Finland with Finnish people. I travelled a lot, lived my adolescence years through British youngsters and worked as an intern in London, from where I returned back humble and shocked that the grass is not greener on the other side. My love for the world and interest in other cultures stayed, but with a new-found interest in my own country. I became softer and more grateful.

These days, me and Finland have a new-found respect for each other. After years of seeing the world, Finland feels safe and familiar. I have noticed things in myself that are very Finnish and have learned to love them. I feel the happiest every summer in our summer cottage where we go to sauna every other day, play cards, get bored, wash potatoes, fight in the toilet with mosquitos and sometimes just sit listening and looking at birds. I wait inside my own apartment until the person waiting for the elevator on the same floor takes it, so I can take the next one alone. I get annoyed, when people are not punctual. I burn easy, I swim in lakes and love mämmi. If I feel stressed, I feel better when I go for a walk in the woods. I know that in the summer one should enjoy strawberries, because they are cheap and sweet and in the autumn months, one should go hunt mushrooms in the forrest, before everyone else finds them.

The older I grow, the more I have learned to appreciate Finland and the respect we have for our own peace, homecooked food and nature. I am happy that I am finally at peace with my own cultural identity and get emotional every 6th of December listening to Finlandia Hymn.

Here is a video of a well-known Finnish man Sulo Karjalainen, who lives with bears.

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