Monthly Archives: September 2019

Country of thousands of lakes

Finns are humble. They don’t boast about what they have done. Actually they rather underestimate their skills. Example, almost everyone knows Angry birds, but only few know they are made in Finland. Because Finns keep it low. Finns are also a bit quiet and thinks carefully what they want to say. Most of us are better listener than speaker. So don’t think we are rude if we aren’t much about small talk.

Nature
Finnish nature is so beautiful with thousands of lakes, large archipelago and lovely coniferous forests. We love to spend time in nature and have some activities over a year. At winter we like to go play ice hockey, snowboarding, skiing or just playing in the snow. At summer when the sun begins to set later and later, Finns spend a lot of time in their summer cottages with their family or friends. Summer is also time for outdoor activities like boating, swimming, fishing, playing football, golf and almost everything you like to do. There is so many possibilities for different kind of activities in Finland.

Food
Finnish food is one of the most safeties and healthiest culinarians in the world. But Finnish traditional foods taste don’t tickle foreigners taste buds…

Here is one one example, when Gordon Ramsay is testing traditional Finnish food:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S-8gF9GFJo

 

Finnishness

What is” Finnishness”?

When someone asks me how Finland is, my answer usually consists of Finnish nature, sauna, and its people’s unique character.

The nature in Finland is very different from other countries. Basically, everywhere you go in Finland you are going to be surrounded by forest. The forests in Finland are a nice place to take a walk, relax and you can even pick up berries and mushrooms! Apart from forests, Finland has over 187 thousand lakes. In the lakes Finnish people like to swim, especially after a hot sauna! If you want to have an authentic Finnish experience you must combine sauna, swimming in the lake and perhaps some alcohol with it. Finnish people are fun to hang out with, although they might give the wrong impression before getting to know them because they can be shy in the beginning.

Light show in forest

My finnish experience

I see Finland from the eyes of a foreigner since I moved from Italy to Finland to study in university.

The things that most represent my finnish experience are: sauna, nature and snow!

When I talk about sauna I can’t not think about the incredible experience I had in Rahuaniemi! It was such an unique moment, especially considered that in my culture there is nothing even close to “avanto”.

 

 

Second thing that represents Finland to me is SNOW! I never saw so much snow in my life! When I think about finnish winter I just picture in my head the color white.

 

And last but no least, nature!

If winter is white, summer is green.I love constantly be surrounded by nature and have the possibility to just walk in the forest.

 

There is nothing as green as Finland.

A few things about Finnishness

What is Finnishness? In my opinion Finnishness can be summarised with three things: sauna, nature and a lack of small talk. Here’s how those things represent finnishness.

Sauna

Sauna is perhaps the most known part of the Finnish culture around the world. Sitting naked with strangers in a hot room may sound bizarre for non-Finnish people, but for Finns sauna is sometimes a place to relax and shake of the stress after a hard week of work, sometimes it’s a place to socialise and have a few (or more) drinks with your friends. It’s pretty much the only place where talking to stangers is considered normal. For Finns, having a sauna in your home is something considered almost self-evident. It is estimated that there are two million saunas in Finland, which is a lot for a population of 5.3 million. The best way to experience sauna is at a summer cottage by a lake, with a possibility to take a dive in the cool lake water.


A sunset over a lake in Northern Finland

Nature

The Finns live close to nature. Approximately 75% of Finland’s area is covered in forests. Finland is often called “a land of thousand lakes”, which is actually an understatement (which is usual for Finns), considering there’s  over 187 000 lakes in Finland. Where ever you go, nature is close, whether as a small lake or as a piece of forest. The temperatures and climate between different seasons varies a lot. In summer the temperature can climb up to 30 degrees celcius and accordingly during winter it sometimes gets down to -30 degrees. The changes between the seasons require a skill to adapt to different situations, something the Finns have mastered.

No empty words

In most Western cultures people use small talk to avoid awkward moments of silence during a discussion, but not Finns. Moments of silence during a discussion aren’t really considered awkward, and they are certainly considered better than saying something you don’t necessarily mean. For an example, when asked a simple “how are you”, we have a tendency to answer literally.

Cartoon by Karoliina Korhonen

The lack of empty words means that when Finns say something, they almost always actually mean it. Finns are really honest people, and when they say they’re going to do something, they will do it. One of the most important traits for Finns is something called “sisu”, which is a concept of extreme determination and perseveranse.

Nature and good manners

When I think of Finland and what Finnishness means to me the first things that come to my mind are  nature and polite people .

Finland’s nature is one of a kind. Finland is known for its lakes, clean water, clean air and beautiful landscape. What makes Finland’s nature even more beautiful is the 4 seasons. During every season the nature changes and new colors come.

 

Finns are also very polite and have good manners, they don’t yell their orders in cafeterias or push to be the first one to get into the bus. They line up and wait for their turn. Finns are also very trustworthy people, if they promise something you can count on it.

Sports and saunas

Ice hockey, sauna, beer and beautiful landscapes of Finland are the first things to come to my mind when thinking of the word finnishness.

Ice hockey

You would be surprised that the Finnish baseball is actually the national sport. But instead of that almost everyone in Finland breaths the sport called ice hockey. Every year huge part of our population gathers around the pubs, bars and TV’s when Finland is taking part of the International ice hockey world championships. In those two weeks all the media is focused on our national team called “Leijonat”. In that period of time everyone turns into professional analyzers of this great sport. In social media people share photos, memes and highlights of the tournament. Except the matter we have never won the Olympics Finns are pretty good playing this sport. Finland has won three times total the International ice hockey championships, 1995, 2011 and 2019, which was this year!

Finns celebrating at the market square.

Sauna

Sauna might be the most Finnish thing to do and experience, especially in the winter time with the hole in the ice called “avanto”. Nothing beats the feeling going to frozen water after warm sauna. You feel like a newborn after that. Some also says that there is three or even four saunas per capita in Finland. And when you think about all the private and public saunas, cottages and apartment buildings that has a sauna you are not so surprised about the quantity of them anymore.

The quantity of public saunas in Finland.
Sauna and Avanto.

Beer

Alcohol is also combined a lot to these two subjects above. Watching ice hockey with your friends at home or in a public place you could feel an urge to have a beer in your hand. When in sauna you might also need a one good cold beer to accompany you with. If you think closely there is always a good time for one good beer to have with your friends or by yourself. Also “Kalsarikännit” as a word itself is actually invented in Finland which came a viral hit in the world few years back. Yeah, nothing more Finnish than drinking yourself wasted home alone. Beautiful.

Nature

Finnish nature is actually mostly forests and lakes. You actually might have heard about the country of a thousand lakes. That’s Finland. They say Finland has also the one of the world’s cleanest waters. Can’t argue with that. Also almost everywhere you go you always have a forest not far away. There is also a plenty of places to go hiking in Finland. Especially the northern part is full of national parks, paths, forests and mountains to experience.  When arriving to Lapland you cannot miss the reindeer’s hoarding around. Just be cautious when driving a car.

The northern lights in Lapland.

Honest and curious Finns

Moi!

We wanted to open up a Finnish mindset and common behavior. We believe, it is very important to know certain things from Finns before you spent time with them, because we can sometimes be understood wrongly.

A Finnish person may seem like quiet and shy at first, but it is just our way of staying in our comfort zone for a bit longer than in many other cultures. We are listening rather than speaking at first. We don’t want to be in the spotlight or get too much attention, we like to listen other people and think our sentences before we say them. We also need a bit time to figure out what kind of a things we can say in different situations and with different people.

 

 

Finnish people may not speak much, but when they speak, they have something to say. We are not very good at small talk. It is strange to Finns that you ask “how are you” and actually not getting a real answer. We like to go straight to the point and usually if we say something, we mean it. We are very honest and straight with our words, so for some cultures it can be taken as rudeness even though we would not mean to say anything bad.

It might take a while to get to know our spirit, but when you get to know us, you’ll see that our mindset is something everyone can benefit in their lives :).

 

Best regards,

Iida Masonen and Anni Jalli

Sauna and the midnight sun

When I think about Finland and Finnishness the first thing that comes to my mind is sauna.  I don’t think there is a single Finn who has never been to a sauna in their life. It is a place to get  together and relax. In a sauna, you might even hear a Finn talking to a person they don’t know!  For me, sauna has always been an important part of my life. When I was a kid, my family went to the sauna twice a week,  always on the same days, Wednesday and Sunday.

Nothing still beats the good old sauna at a summer cottage. After a nice and relaxing time in the heat of the sauna, it is nice to cool down by jumping into a lake. Sauna and lake are indeed an amazing combination and luckily lakes aren’t hard to find in Finland. We love the combination so much that at wintertime we drill a hole in the ice and jump into the freezing water.  It is also good to bear in mind that in Finland you go to sauna naked. We Finns are very comfortable with nakedness and it is not uncommon to have both men and women together in the sauna naked.

Another thing that came to mind when I thought of Finnishness was summer and in particular the midnight sun. It is amazing how at the summertime everything in Finland comes so alive, even the people! In the south the sun still sets for a short moment, but in the north the sun will not go down at all during midsummer. Sleeping might come a bit harder during summer when your body doesn’t know if it is  day or night, but I absolutely love the amount of light we have during the summer. It is something a Finn must enjoy as much as they can, as the winter that follows won’t have much light to offer.

Family, Nature and Sauna

For me Finland and ”Finnishness” can be summarized in three words: Family, Nature and Sauna. I love traveling, but these three things make Finland my home. They are the things that I miss and the things I return back for (plus to stack up on some salmiakki of course).

Most of my family lives in Finland. We have long history here all the way from up north to down south. Especially my grandparents remind me of why Finland, the country their parents fought for, is important. They also help me to see the things we have only in here like quietness of lakeside and forest full of berries and such. Finnish language, and my family’s way of speaking it, has words I would never manage to translate in English and subjects that others would not understand. This makes my time with my family speaking Finnish special.

Nature is very big part of my life both in Finland and everywhere I go. Whether it be hiking, wandering, berry or mushroom picking or just hanging out by the lake or barbequing sausages in forest, it’s where I want to be – and luckily in Finland it’s possible. Everyman’s rights provide us with all the forest has to offer.

One just simply can’t talk about “Finnishness” without mentioning sauna. It’s such an important part of Finns that it has created its own culture; Using “vihta” aka birch whisk, pouring beer to sauna stove (please if you are in the Finland for the first time don’t do this without sauna owner’s permission, not appreciated everywhere), sauna elves, telling your deepest secrets or staying quiet and simply enjoying.  What better to do than constant swimming and sauna in summer and ice swimming and sauna in winter? Sauna has also made nakedness sort of normal for Finns, which makes it no special to go skinny dipping as it’s normal on cottages.

Finnishness to us

Finnish nature is one of the most important thing to us about Finnishness. There is four so different seasons as you can see from these pictures.

Finland is known about its breath taking nature. Finland can be divided into three different areas: archipelagoes and coastal lowlands, a slightly higher central lake plateau and uplands to north and northeast.

One picture is worth a thousand words:

Lapland, Autti

Lapland, Pyhä

Lapland, Rovaniemi

Lapland, Vikajärvi

West coast of Finland, Yyteri

West coast of Finland, Merikarvia

West coast of Finland, Kallo

 

Southest point of Finland, Hanko

Central Finland, Leivonmäki

(kuva Marko Kauko, Savon sanomat)

Central Finland, Himos

Also summer cottages, saunas and long drinks remind us about Finnishness.

 

Mira Siljavaara & Aino Sävelä