As I started to think about Finnishness, I noticed how hard it actually is to describe that definition shortly because there are so many things that I could write about. I am sure that every Finn who has traveled or met people from other cultures have come across with some of those somewhat hilarious prejudices about Finnish people. All those talks about our poor small talk -skills, us standing in lines with good distance to others, standing in the bus rather than sitting next to somebody, being asked about igloos and polar bears, being stalked by elves and telling our kids about this chunky man living with reindeer. Spending our free time drinking (a lot) and eating our at least interesting-looking traditional foods and not to mention our sauna-culture. Prejudices can be hilarious but there is so much more behind.
Despite all those strange things and habits, we are known or believed to have, there are deeper roots behind certain acts or things we do. The integrity and the meaning we put on the words are admirable. Finns are not comfortable with saying something that’s not true. Finnish comprehension of time makes things happen and systems effective. If you have set up a meeting at eight o´clock it really means that you will find Finn usually couple minutes early in the agreed place and well prepared. Schedules are accurate and promises are meant to be kept. Besides Finns respect honesty, effectiveness and time, they respect others, and have curiosity towards other people, globe and environment. The Finnish ”sisu” that’s this dedicated, persistent mindset which has its roots in our country’s history, thrives people toward results and boosts desire to be successful also in global scale.
Finnishness means safety and freedom. Freedom to wonder in the forest, fishing, picking berries, swimming in the lakes (and there are a lot of them here), breathing fresh air. Having free education and care from the very beginning regardless of one’s background, having support system as life mistreats you or gives you gifts like offspring. Having local libraries, health care, maternity packages and functional travelling systems. Having a courage to pursue goals owing to the support systems we have here.
Finnishness is also a great (and maybe a little bit weird-ish) mix of contrasts. We are highly educated country keeping up with the global issues and bringing knowledge, innovations and ideas in to global markets. Then again, we love to escape for the countryside to our cottages with no electricity, running water or inside bathrooms. We are small country in the north but still in the top in various global competitions, indicators, statistics and lines of business. We are one of the happiest countries in the world but still complaining about some silly little things that appears to annoy us. We are known as introvert people with poor small talk skills but still if you ask a Finn for a help you will in all likelihood get it no less in understandable English. (And not forgetting to mention yet being able to go to public saunas half-naked with unknown people. As it is said, “the Finnish personal space does not apply in sauna.“) Also Finns are ambitious and hardworking but still humble and not bragging about the achievements or property. Finns are usually full of ideas and opinions but still calmly waiting for their turn to open their mouth in conversations.
Finnishness is richness. Richness to enjoy all the four unique seasons – seeing the beauty of nature’s variation and the possibilities that every season brings with it. Winter, spring, summer and autumn create opportunities for multiple hobbies, sports as well as vibes, mindsets and ideas. Every beginning of the new season gives you a chance to start as if from the start with good energy and motivation.
It is richness to have a chance to observe and explore the world, its diversity and people living on this same planet with dissimilar values, behavior, and circumstances , through our school systems, local libraries and by travelling.
I found myself struggling whether I am able to define this expression clearly enough but then let myself be satisfied with by scratching the surface of the Finnishness and Finnish culture because that’s what culture is – having something collective and unique that cannot be fully told to others. We have wide spectrum of people, skills, values, cities, landscape, forest, opinions, goals, opportunities, traditions and lifestyles. I think all the contrasts and dimensions of our culture and the warmth of Finns (despite the personal space and the lack of smooth small talk skills) makes it easy for foreign to get along with Finnish people and visit here.
Finnishness is richness in so many levels.