Monthly Archives: January 2019

A few observations of Finnishness

Honesty is the best policy

Finnish people are very honest. Finland may not be the promised land of small talk, actually the majority of Finns are quite taciturn. We enjoy quietness here and even when hanging out with friends it’s not uncommon to have some silent moments. I believe that here it’s actually more appreciated that you speak when you have something even borderline meaningful to say rather than being babbling about virtually nothing for hours.

When Finnish people open their mouths, you will get the truth. If a Finn compliments your outfit, they must really like it. Otherwise they wouldn’t dare to say anything. In general, Finns don’t give compliments for free. So pat yourself on the back – you must have done something really great when you get praised here.

On the other hand, you will definitely know when a Finn is pissed off. You will either read it from their face or hear it from their mouth – and this applies to a number of customer service workers as well. Somehow It feels more acceptable over here than anywhere else in the world…

 

Kalsarikännit” and other peculiar expressions

I wouldn’t say that the Finnish language is very beautiful. However, I quite like it despite the angry sounding R’s and strong double consonants. Finnish also has many funny and weird expressions, such as “kalsarikännit” that some of you might already be familiar with – it basically means getting drunk at home in your underwear with no intention to go out. Even everyday expressions like “myötähäpeä” or “vahingonilo” are interesting and sometimes so difficult to explain to non-Finnish speaking people.

Another great thing about Finnish language is that it you may speak quite freely and carelessly when outside of Finland since the chances that someone understand you are quite slim. Maybe don’t tell all your secrets in public, however..

Check the video below for some more funny Finnish words and expressions!

 

Independence is a norm

Finnish children are brought up to be very independent from a young age. It’s not unusual to see even elementary schoolers walking a long way home from school or taking the bus by themselves. In Finland, children know how to make at least some kind of snack for themselves, women carry heavy items without the need for anyone and young men have at least some basic knowledge on sewing after their middle school studies.

Finns are often reluctant to ask for help, which makes it even more crucial to know how to manage on your own. I think it would be greatly beneficial for children in other countries to also be taught cooking and sewing skills like in Finland. I am still unable to sew myself!

Silence and small talk

People are different when it comes to tolerating silence. Someone thinks it is fine to be quiet when hanging out with friends while someone else has the need to keep the conversation going and to avoid silence. To my mind, Finnish people can cope with silence quite well. Here it is okay to sit on a bus and not to talk to anyone, especially to strangers. People usually queue in silence and don’t start a conversation just because they feel like talking. Sometimes I have had conversations with strangers while waiting for a music concert to begin. In those cases, we shared an interest in something –the band – and there was no need to figure out what to talk about.

(Picture: Finnish Nightmares)

Despite the above-mentioned examples I wouldn’t say Finnish people don’t know the art of small talk. I’ve had chats with strangers in situations I usually wouldn’t talk to anyone, e.g. when waiting for a bus or sitting on a train. Especially at bus stops older people tend to comment on the weather and then continue the conversation. I remember small talk situations well because they do not happen too often. On the other hand, it is nice to mind my own business but then again it’s great to meet new people, even if it was only for a brief chatting.

Another point of silence is the absence of noise. In cities, there are all kinds of noise, e.g. cars, construction sites, announcements… Luckily in Finland it is easy to get away from the noise. One doesn’t need to go far to get to a more silent place. There are forests and hiking trails close to cities or even within them. In today’s world noise may cause problems such as stress or a headache. If noise is work related it is hard to escape from it. That is why I value places where people can go on their free time to enjoy the silence.

Diary entries from Finland

Observations of a girl from the country of many trees, bilberries and lakes. Why are they so important to us anyway? There are some pictures, and real-life stories to prove why. Playing the lead in these tales – exclusively Finland.

Chapter 1 – Hiking in Lapland

What a long day of hiking! We’d been walking through thick forests and over barren fells for a few hours and been fascinated by still ponds, beautifully flowing streams and enchanting silence that can only be experienced in a remote place like this. Along the way there was a wood full of fallen trees. When I went to see those trees a bit closer, I realized that the ground was all blue – of berries! So, there I was, picking up those nutritious delicacies, concentrating on their beauty one at a time, knowing they would serve me as a snack, dessert and breakfast. There is something so liberating to be able to do all this for free, without time limitations or distractions any kind.

You feel such tranquillity and security when surrounded by strong spruce forests and still waters. Just before falling asleep, one might hear the call of an owl or a fish splashing, that’s all.

Chapter 2 – Always changing light

There is only one hour between these two pictures and look how much even short a time affects the scenery. During the darkest time of the year, which is around the last two months, it feels like you are living in a sack. It certainly acts as a nice counterbalance to the summer when the light literally never dies. It gave me such a warm feeling inside to see the sun that day of December – even though it didn’t want to stay for long and was distant and cold as ever. Yet what could be better than getting chilled in frosty weather and going inside after, getting wrapped in a fluffy, colossal blanket and enjoying a couple mugs of hot chocolate and tasty rye sandwiches.

Chapter 3 – Finland objectively

What makes Finland special, I wonder…

It must be our close bond with nature and how we utilize it from day to day. There is also certain beauty in our modest appreciation towards our surroundings. Anyone can go outdoors any time they want, and it is free and completely safe to pick up fresh food from the forest.

Finland is a great place for nature lovers because of its four seasons and diverse, clean environment, which enable a great variety of outdoor activities. A big part of Finnish magic is in the contrasts that can be experienced through four seasons – all having their specific features. Seeing the Northern Lights for the first time, oh that’s something!

Finnish people and their quietness yet strength of character, are like reflections of Finnish nature. The land is frozen eight months of the year, as are our minds prone to melancholy. Like the trees silently carry the heavy weight of snow, we work hard to maintain our privileged position as one of the most equal, educated and safest countries in the world.

<3 Laura

Finnishness

Finnishness as a term is a combination of multiple variables, Finnishness is about being a small united nation in a vast world. Since Finland is rather small in terms of population and most people are of the same ethnicity we are very united regarding our way of thinking and manners. If one was to take two Finns from anywhere in the country and group them together there most probably wouldn’t be any difficulty in finding common ground.  If you take a look at Finland today it’s hard to imagine this nation was in civil war 100 years ago. We are that united nowadays.

Finnishness is not only about being a Finn it’s also a state of mind. Adjectives tied to Finnishness include persistence, sulkiness, progressiveness, modesty and the most important of all: honesty.

Persistence: Finns don’t give up easily and prefer to finish what they have started. Finnish persistence in action (WARNING: video contains explicit language):

 

Sulkiness: Finns may appear sulky because we don’t do small-talk. Small-talk just isn’t a part of Finnish culture. Most of us don’t feel the need to participate in small-talk and we have no problem sitting in silence. People very rarely initiate conversations with strangers on public transports. Even though Finnish people might seem sulky compared to other nationalities that is most certainly not the case. Finns are actually very nice and warm people once you get to know them but compared to people from other cultures Finns are relatively quiet at first. However once one manages to befriend a Finn and gain their trust, they’ve got a loyal friend for life.

 

Progressiveness: Finland is one of the most progressive countries in the world in terms of human rights and technology. In Finland gender equality is the norm and it says in the law that nobody should be treated differently because of their sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or gender. Also going green and recycling is considered to be cool in Finland.

Honesty: Finns are incredibly honest. They will tell you about the best deals instead of trying to get as much money out of you as possible. Finns are taught since childhood to strive to be honest and as a result most are.

 

Modesty (WARNING: explicit language and comedy content, please don’t take too seriously.):

 

Finnish prides:

We are very proud of our education system as well as our thousands of lakes and billions of trees. Other Finnish prides include our national ice hockey team and success in winter sports such as cross-country skiing. However whenever Finland has success in something or somebody says something positive about Finland, the Finnish modesty comes in. We always seem to have excuses for succeeding: “We were lucky.” “The conditions were in our favor.” etc.

Finland’s biggest pride, men’s national ice hockey team, in action:

 

Finnishness

There are many things to be proud of when thinking Finland or Finnishness; school system, health care, safety, equality, honesty … And of course, the nature of Finland and the sauna!

In Finland we are happy to have four different seasons of the year. They all are very special and have their own perks.

Winter
December to February
-30’C – 0’C
White activities; downhill and cross-country skiing, ice-skating, ice-fishing
Christmas and Santa Claus
Northern Lights

Spring
March to May
0’C – +10’C
Birds singing
1 of May – Vappu
Grass growing and the leaves bursting forth
Flowers

Summer
June to August
+15’C – +32’C
Endless summer days when the sun doesn’t set
Midsummer
Festivals
Relaxing summer cottage life

Autumn
September to November
+2’C – +15’C
Colourful leaves, “ruska”
Forests, mushrooms
Cozy evenings, hot drinks, candles, books, movies

 

“Build the sauna, then the house”

The Finnish sauna is a big part of Finnish culture. There are over three million saunas in Finland – so an average of one per household. I have heard that there are more saunas than cars in Finland! Another fun fact – even a Burger King located in Helsinki has the world’s first in-store sauna and spa.

For Finnish people sauna is a place to relax, socialize, have a couple of drinks and enjoy. Many Finns who have the opportunity usually take a sauna at least once a week. There is no matter what season or time it is, you can always go to sauna.

The truth about Finland and Finns

Finnish people are warm, open and honest, even though they might tell you the exact opposite. Us, as Finns, may see ourselves totally differently than other people. There’s a myth Finns are awkward and quiet people but if you’ve ever met a Finn, we are actually talkative and hospitable people.

But not all the things you have heard are a myth: we indeed value our personal space and love to sit naked with other people in a steamy, hot sauna. We are aware of this stereotypical image but we don’t take it too seriously. We actually are good of self-deprecating humor and we can laugh to ourselves. Finns are not big small talkers and quiet moments in conversations are not considered awkward. Silence merely means the person doesn’t have anything important to say. This means we, as Finns, are genuine and honest. There’s no necessity to fill gaps in conversation with chatter. This can be a good or a bad thing. Since we are very punctual, and want everything to make sense, we might come out as boring and serious. Even when World Happiness Repost announced that Finland is the happiest country in the world, we criticized the methodology of the study and questioned its conclusions. I guess we criticize it because we are modest and as a small nation, it is a bit overwhelming when our country is mentioned on the news around the world . We are aware of how powerful other countries are and how small ours is, so it might be hard to believe our country could be the best in something.

What I have always valued about Finland is the feeling of being safe. Finland is ridiculously safe. I’ve walked in the forest in the middle of nowhere at 3 a.m. and never had trouble or any reason to be frightened. You do read or hear about violence in the news, but it’s nowhere near as frequent as in the news in US or rest of Europe. I feel perfectly safe here, I consider myself lucky to live in such a trustworthy country, as I can be pretty naive myself. From my perspective, maybe one of the reason’s I feel so safe here is because of people and the nature.

In Finland, nature is never far away and Finns have a love connection with it. Getting away from civilization time to time is greatly valued, that’s why you can see many Finns walking in the woods, collecting their thoughts or spending time with their friends or family. The spring is an amazing time in Finland. After long and dark winter, it starts to get warmer and sunnier and this springtime is filled with smiling and easy-going people. Spring and summer is the time, when I think, Finns are happiest. The Finnish summer is so short that we want to enjoy it to the fullest. The amount of events from music festivals to local markets, the long summer nights and Midsummer gathering with your closest friends and family, is simply astounding and makes it the best time of the year for Finns. But winter is very much liked as well. There’s nothing better than relaxing at home drinking Glögi after being outside in the cold snow whole day.

As I have been traveling the world I have started to appreciate Finland even more. There’s many things that are good in here: equality, education, cleanliness and silence. As much as I love traveling around the world, it always feels good to come home. Finland is so calm and quiet which you can really appreciate after spending weeks or months in cities, where it is busy day and night, and full of people. Air in Finland is so fresh and you have the freedom to roam around the nature as much as you like. No wonder Finland and Finns are starting to get more popular around the world: we rock!

 

Finnishness

Finnishness

Finnish people tend to be very quiet and shy individuals especially when they are outside their boundaries. Things change quickly once asked about themselves or Finland in general, the conversation starts flowing. Finland is a relatively big country with lots of lakes and nature but has a rather low population, this is why Finns are used to lots of space and quietness, people value it. Finland is also one of the safest country in the world with a minimal risk of natural disasters and corruption.

When I think of Finland three things pop up into my head immediately

Sauna

Finns love sauna it is a tradition that can be combined to so many activities alone or with friends. For example Combining it with swimming indoors/outdoors, socializing with old/new friends and even combining it with sports.

Sports

Finland is known for many sports titles in winter sports such as skiing, ski-jumping and downhill skiing/snowboarding. Nonetheless it is very known and famous for also ice hockey and formula one racing. Almost everyone who follows these sports knows that Finland is good in these sports.

Nature

Finland just might have the most beautiful and calm nature around the year with four different seasons. In summertime the days length is endless, temperatures and rise above 30 degrees and it is so green. In autumn days get shorter and at the same times the forests become yellow and orange. In winter it gets really dark but lots of snow and the possibility of seeing northern lights makes is exciting. In spring days start to get longer by the day with more sunlight and brightness. Also the animals wake up from there winter sleep!

 

 

Finnishness – four words

When I started thinking what Finnishness means to me, these four words popped into my head; nature, modesty, equality and security.

Nature is something that I have learned to appreciate ever since I was little. I think it is one of the most important things to me when thinking about Finnishness. Although Finland might not have the most exotic landscapes with mountain ranges and big waterfalls, our nature is beautiful because of its simplicity and because we get to experience all four seasons. We get to have snow in the winter and in the summer, we can just sit at our summer cottages dock and watch the sun set behind a calm lake. We have a lot of forests and lakes so even if you live in the city, you never have to go too far to be able to take a walk surrounded by a quiet environment.

By modesty I mean that I see us Finns as people who are not generally that out there with bragging if one succeeds in something. At least in our everyday lives. We usually do not want to make a fuss about ourselves. Too much modesty can sometimes also be a bad thing, but generally I think it helps us stay the right amount of humble and realistic.

In our society equality is relatively high. It is so important that we are a welfare state where health care and education are provided for everyone. This narrows the gap between social classes. We strive to better the positions for minority groups and the equality between man and woman is mostly good.

Finland is one of the safest countries in the world.  In general, our crime rates are relatively low when comparing to many other countries. Of course, you should always be careful especially in bigger cities since there might be bag snatching for example but risks for facing a bigger crime is low.

Appreciating our home country is important. Traveling and seeing the world is something a lot of us want to do but coming back to Finland is always one of the best feelings there is.

Finnishness

Safety, nature and shy people are the first three things that come to my mind when I think about Finland and Finnishness. Finland has been listed several times to the top of the safest countries. The terrorism rate is low compared to many other European countries, and you can trust the police since it’s not corrupted. I have always felt really safe in Finland, even when I’m walking alone in the night-time.

Finnish nature is something I really appreciate. I love how we have four different seasons and they all can be really beautiful. Finnish summer is my favourite season even though it’s usually short. You can do a lot of different things during the warm summer, for example, we can enjoy the summer holidays at cottages, swim in pure lakes and can go berry-picking wherever we want to. Some people like to spend their time on terraces and drink beverages and some people like to drive around and explore our beautiful home country. Genuinely the people just seem happier in the summers.

                                  

The winter in usually also amazing. I love walking in snowy forests and ice skating on frozen lakes. I think it’s calming to wander in quiet forests and I love the sound when you are walking on the snow. Going to a hot sauna feels lovely after being outside in the cold for the whole day.

Stereotypical Finns can be described as very shy and calm people. We are usually work orientated and honest. Punctuality is also common along Finns and this is also appreciated abroad. Because we don’t like having small talk we can seem a bit anti-social. Finns want to have their own personal space and I personally dislike when people I don’t know come too close to me. For example when I was studying in France I never got used to the cheek kisses: I always felt awkward and didn’t know how to react. Finns are also known to be quiet and a bit shy.

I have never felt more Finnish than when I was living in Sweden a few years back. Even though the Swedish and Finnish cultures don’t differ that much from each other I was really aware of my Finnish background. Sometimes it can be hard to be the awkward and quiet Finn, but I’m always proud to say my home country is Finland.

National identity

Finnish people get really excited if a foreigner knows some facts about Finland. We always get excited about success of a Finn abroad. Finland is a fairly small country and therefore all success brings a sense of great pride to a Finn. We have a tradition of going to the central market (“Torille”) if we have success in an international sport.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle torille

Personal space

Finns respect their personal space. The picture below is an illustration of Finns waiting for a bus….

Aiheeseen liittyvä kuva

Other things that make Finns Finnish

Sauna, coffee, swimming in frozen lakes, being on time, mökki (vacation home. Every fourth Finn has one), punctuality, summer festivals etc…