Monthly Archives: May 2019

Finnishness in a foreign explorer’s eyes.

It’s kind of funny to be an international student studying abroad and go on exchange because I have to write the blog as if Finland is my home country, or I don’t.

After living in the 3rd country including my home country Vietnam, I have explored so many things about the world and people and myself. Even this year’s experience changed me so much that this blog would have been so different if I would have written it at the beginning of my exchange, but as usually procrastination won and things got in the way and now I’m spending my free days at the end of it writing EVERYTHING.

To the point, what is Finnishness for me?

Kindness and genuineness

Of course, there are different people everywhere but I believe in general the majority of Finnish people will return a wallet to the owner if they can. Or else how can this country be so peaceful? I forgot my wallet at the printer at TAMK overnight twice and always got it back at the info desk. Finland gained my trust in people but also spoiled me as it made me less cautious of the “dangerous world” out there.

Incredibly freezing winter

Experiencing half a year of snow then was so extreme that I don’t think I will ever forget the filling cycling across the city when it covered in snow or how my hand freeze after few second without a glove on. Being away for a year after 2 years spending winter in Finland, I did miss it quite a bit.

SAUNA

This is the thing I miss the most when I’m away. When I was in Vietnam, it was already so hot that I’m afraid of sauna but in Finland, it was so cold that it makes me freaking love sauna. I think, sitting in a sauna is meditation, I’m not patient enough to meditate myself but when you sit in a sauna, it’s so hot that you just want to sit there and breath. I also love the feeling when you go out to the freezing temperature and your body is still hot like a piece of coal from the sauna.

Summer sunset

I’m from the capital city in Vietnam where it’s packed with houses and building. The only place we can see the most of the sunset is near the biggest lake in Hanoi, West Lake, which is not even as big as Säijänselkä lake. I enjoyed every single time watching the sunset from Rauhaniemi where I used to live. When the sky is clear, the water is still, reflecting the orange ball slowly slides under the skyline. But the sun is too strong it can’t hide in the summer as you still see the light move under the skyline.

 <3Chi

Finnish pastries

A topic that isn’t much talked about is Finnish pastries. Finland has got some really unique sweet recipes that you can’t find almost anywhere else in the world. In this blog post I’ll introduce you to a few of them.

Tippaleipä
Tippaleipä is a pretty odd looking pastry that you traditionally eat on May Day (1st of May). Tippaleipä is a funnel cake and the name means “drip bread” which refers to how it is made. You make them by dripping cake batter into hot oil and serve them covered with powdered sugar and sima, which is a lemon-flavored mead. Tippaleipä can be very messy to eat so be careful while snacking on it! 🙂

Lusikkaleipä
Literally translated as spoon cookie, lusikkaleipä is a fine textured buttery cookie that is filled with jam or marmalade and covered in sugar. The name of the cookie comes from how it is shaped; you press the batter into a deep oval teaspoon and form the who halves of the cookie.

Lätty and pannukakku
Lätty (also known as lettu or ohukainen in Finnish)  is something you can find in almost every country but every part of the world makes them differently. Lätty is a thin pancake that is very popular in Finland. You could translate it as a crepe, but classic crepes are much thinner and made of a less buttery batter than hot the Finnish version is made. Pannukakku translates directly as pancake, but the way Finnish people make pannukakku differs from many countries; in Finland you fill the whole oven tray in batter and cook it in the oven.

Runebergintorttu
The Runeberg torte is a Finnish pastry that is flavored with almonds and topped with raspberry jam and icing. The pastry is named after the Finnish poet Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804-1877) and are sold in Finnish grocery stores from the beginning of January to Runeberg’s birthday on February 5th when they’re traditionally also served in schools across the country. It is said that it was Runeberg’s wife Fredrika who created this desert and the very first version of it was made out of scraps she could find in her kitchen.

Korvapuusti
Korvapuusti is Finland’s version of cinnamon rolls and the shape of this pastry is unique to our country. Where some countries like to drizzle icing on top of their cinnamon buns, here we like to top them with pearl sugar. Fun fact: the 4th of October is the national korvapuusti day in Finland.

Joulutorttu
Joulutorttu, meaning Christmas tart, is a traditional Christmas food in Finland. The jam in the middle of the pastry is usually plum jam. The traditional shape resembles a star or a windmill but you can get really creative when making them.

There are many other varieties of traditional Finnish pastries (hint: google pulla and mokkapala for example,  and don’t blame me if you start drooling). Why aren’t these sweets known around the world? I feel like Finnish people don’t really like to brag and and since we live so secluded from the rest of the world these pastries haven’t really been recognized in many countries. Promoting Finnish pastries is something we should definitely try to do more, go and tell the world about the greatness of pulla and korvapuusti!

I hope this post inspired you to do some more research about Finnish food or maybe try baking something yourself! All images have been found from Google’s image search. Didn’t bake any of them myself, sorry. 🙁

The culture and the feel of Finland. My experience of Finnishness through them

When I talk to foreigners about Finland and Finnishness and they don’t know much about it, I usually explain that Finland is kind of like a cross between Russian and European influences with its own flare. It probably gives them a pretty good image of what we are working with, but I believe it is much more than just that.

When I think what Finnishness means to me, many things come to mind.  For me Finnishness stems from family, friends, the language, the culture, the nature and the very land itself. It comes from the songs my mother and grandmother sang to me and the stories my father told me when I was little. One example of a song that my grandmother used to sing to me when I couldn’t sleep below.

Traditionally there are a lot of songs in Finnish and they have a strong influence in the culture and folksongs show how people used to see the world around them. Many of them are melancholic, which in it self is a stereotype of Finnishness, but it does have a little truth in it, though there are a lot of happy folksongs too. These songs have a strong impact on my image of Finnishness.

A lot about Finnishness comes from geography both physical and political. And from history. Without history there would not be now. What sets us apart from our neighbors is in the end our language. The sayings, poems and such reflect the Finnish personality, and there is no shortage of sayings, there are lists online that have literally thousands of them. Next couple of sayings freely translated by me.

 

-Kell’ onni on, se onnen kätkeköön. (Eino Leino)

The ones who have happiness, shall it hide.

-Minkä taakseen jättää, sen edestään löytää.

What you leave behind you, you will find in front of you later

 

A lot of Finnishness comes from our geography as I said earlier. For example, the stable of Finnish culture, sauna, wouldn’t really be the same if we lived somewhere, or especially going for a swim in a lake after it. Sometimes it is easy to forget how many we actually have compared to most places.

A lot of Finnishness, or what I experience as Finland, comes from the general feeling of the country. For example, the nature or the architecture. It is just the familiarity, that makes me feel that way. When going somewhere farther than Sweden the difference in overall feeling often becomes pretty clear. This, of course, comes from the people too since we are after all pretty reserved around strangers.

I do find other cultures very interesting and really like learning new things about them, which is why I’m going to go and see the world. I believe that it will make me appreciate my own culture more and in a new light.

What’s it like being a Finn – the most distinctive features which explain “Finnishness”

When someone comes up to me and asks me where I’m from, I automatically answer “I am from Finland. You know, the country up in the north. Near Sweden and Russia.” After hearing that, people often look at me slightly confused. I don’t look at all like a typical Finn. I am dark eyed, have dark brown hair and my skin is a warm caramel tone. I am half Finnish and half Sri Lankan. However, I have lived most of my life in Finland. I own a Finnish passport and I consider myself very much a Finn.

I consider myself a Finn, because I consider Finland as my home country. I have grown up with Finnish culture and I can find some very distinctive features and characteristics in me, that all Finn have. Those features are what makes Finns special.

   

Very often Finns are described as introvert and shy. However, I find this to be just a wrong interpretation of character. To me, Finns are original. We are genuine. As people, Finns are very modest and feel more comfortable not being the centre of attention. I can relate to that. I see quiet, modest Finns as people who respect others and who are truthful and honest about how they feel. I truly admire this trait about Finns and feel sad that we are often wrongly understood.

Another thing about Finns, that is very distinctive, is our sincere love for nature. In Finland we are surrounded by outstandingly beautiful forests and lakes. We all love going to the countryside and having our own private moments away from the cities and having to be with other people. Finns enjoy simplicity and also need private space, which is very often something I can understand myself, since I feel the need for it too. Finns find beauty in the smallest of things and respect nature. That is something very true to “Finnishness”.

Finnishness is appreciation of clear water and clean air. Loving the summery field landscapes while on a road trip. Longing for quiet moments in the woods. Missing the seasons change. Finnishness is longing for the warm rays of summer sunshine, as well as the refreshing feeling after a summer storm. Finnishness is loving the new snow that twinkles and blue moments during winter. Sitting by a warm fire, huggled up in a knit and a pair of wool socks. Enjoying the soft warmth of the sauna. Finnishness is loving warm rye bread, milk coffee and Fazer chocolate.

With all of the things listed above, I think one of the most important aspects of being a Finn is how well educated we all are. Also, Finnishness is knowing how to live in a country with a culture where everyone has equal rights and people are treated fairly.