Monthly Archives: January 2020

My Finnishness – nature and behavior

If you want to get the best expierence of Finnishness, you should visit for example the nature of Finland in Lapland. I find the nature of Lapland very beautiful during winter but also during summer. You have to go skiing and downhill skiing if you are visiting Lapland.

         

 

You can get very beautiful pictures of the nature of Finland, but the nature can be pretty harsh sometimes. Especially in Lapland winter can be long, cold and dark. Everyone may be exhausted during winter beacause you don’t get to see and feel the sun often enough. As a result, the arrival of spring and summer always feels so comforting and pleasant. In summer, the Finns truly come out of their caves after the long and cold winter. Many Finns always have big plans for the summer because many Finns have their longest vacation during summer. Majority of Finns for example visit music festivals, attend different open air dancing events and go to their own summer cottage to rest. In addition, we celebrate Midsummer Day, which takes place in the middle of the summer. Traditionally we spend the day with out friends and family at a cottage and enjoy the nature of Finland in the middle of trees and lakes.

 

 

Nevertheless, it is also true that the Finns like to have their own personal space. We need to have our own space and our surroundings under control. You can witness this while waiting the bus or being in crowded place in public. If you sit next to someone you don’t know and there are free seats available on the bus, Some Finns may find that distressing or strange. Also, you are supposed to stand approximately one meter away from that person you don’t know, for example while waiting the bus. The Finns may seem angry and severe at first, but we are just shy at first. When you get to know someone, for example in school or work, we Finns are whole different persons after a couple of conversations. After breaking that shy ice, we Finns are social, kind and friendly.

All in all, Finland is very safe and wonderful place to live even though the darkness during winter may feel depressing sometimes, but you can always warm yourself in a sauna. The Finnish people may behave their own way at first, but just be patient and give it time. Over time the Finns are really talkative and energetic. You just have to get to know them at first.

 

 

 

Peculiarities of Finns

Grasping the meaning of the word “Finnishness” seems very easy, but also remarkably hard to point out. First things that come to mind are saunas, northern lights, cold people, ice hockey, snow, and an incredibly complicated language. But Finnishness is way more than that.

Sure thing, Finns do love their sauna, and for the longest time I didn’t like the experience. Growing up in a country where most of the year is over +30 degrees, I never really saw the point in sitting in a wooden room in high temperatures. Recently though, it’s been growing on me.

Finnishness also has a lot to do with nature. There’s nature literally everywhere in this country, and I love being surrounded by the peaceful wilderness that is so easily accessible, which makes it such a crucial part of Finnish culture. Berry and mushroom picking, hiking, orientation inside forests, summers spent swimming and fishing in lakes. Even during the cold months, Finns find a way to still be close to nature by practicing a lot of outdoor sports.

You can’t talk about Finnish culture without mentioning the unique way Finns mind their own business. It took me some time to notice how this mindset applies to almost everything, but Finnish people tend to go out of their way to not bother others. This applies to almost everything: quiet restaurants, personal space, filling up all the window seats on the bus and avoiding any seat beside someone else, and queueing for everything, amongst many other daily situations. And I’ve really come to appreciate this particular part of Finnishness.

I first moved to Finland back in 2012 for a 9th grade one year long exchange, and thought I was ready for Finnish culture, given that my grandmother who was 100% Finnish had a huge part in raising me. But it turns out I wasn’t quite ready for what was to come, and being a foreigner with Finnish roots didn’t prepare me from the differences between Latin America and Northern European cultures.

Finnishness

My first experience with the Finnish culture was in 2011 when I did one year exchange in Finland, during high school. After some years back in Brazil, I decided to go back to Finland to do my bachelor’s degree. And the reason for that was my love for Finland.

For me, Finnishness means nature and quality of life. I love being around nature and in Finland you can get it anywhere you want, it doesn’t matter if you live in the city. I like to walk around the trees, hiking or having a picnic with my friends.

 

Another thing I like in the Finnish nature is the white winter. I love snow. I saw it for the first time in Finland and only there in the proper way, the real beautiful snow. I love how the city gets brighter (since there isn’t a proper sun) and I love to play with the snow, I feel just like a kid.

 

Of course I couldn’t forget one of the most Finnishness thing, sauna. Finnish sauna is the best one. And even better than being in the sauna, is how you feel after it. Going to sauna and bathing in a lake, specially if it is a frozen one, it’s an experience everyone should have in their lives.

To conclude, I would like to say that Finland is one of the best places in the world. I’ve never felt as safe in a country as I have in Finland. I love how everything works, how it has the best education, and how Finns enjoy their nature.

My Finland

find the nature of Finland indescribably beautiful and diverse. Probably the best part is that it is always easily accessibleeven if you live in a city.  

However, in Finland nature is not only as pretty as a picturebut it can also be quite harsh. Winter is long, cold and dark – it is truly the season when everyone feels exhausted.    But maybe just because of that the arrival of spring and summer always feels so pleasant. In summer, the Finns truly snap out of the lethargy, as major music festivals lure people out to have fun and enjoy life. We also celebrate Midsummer Day, which takes place in the middle of summer as its name suggestsTraditionally we spend the day with our friends at a cottageamidst nature and stay up until the following morning.

 

Nevertheless, it is also true that we Finns like our solitude. We need our own spaceYou can witness this while waiting the bus and even on it. On the bus you are not supposed to sit next to someone you don’t knowif there are other free places availableWhile waiting the busyou are supposed to stand approximately one meter away from the other person. Behavior other than above is perceived as strange and maybe even distressing.

All in all, Finland is a safe and wonderful place to live, even though the darkness during winter may feel live, insufferable at first and people behave in a peculiar way at the bus stop.

Finnishness

It is hard to think about the interpretation of Finnishness since the word covers thousands of topics itself. What would it be? Human? Nature? Food? Stories? Or a particular characteristic like the genetic awkwardness that everyone said about Finns?

There are a lot of concepts considered as Finnish trademarks and some are widely and proudly accepted by Finns themselves. Snow, sauna, Santa, lakes, reindeers, ice hockey, shyness, etc,. As someone who has been in this country for one and a half year, I realized that it is easy to fall for those conceptions because they somehow are all based on facts, but moreover, Finnishness exists in combinations of intriguing contradictions that it takes a little bit more sensation to convey and appreciate.

As someone coming from a tropical country, the first thing that comes to my mind about Finland is undoubtedly its severe winter. Going out to a minus somewhat celsius degree at 4pm when it’s already as dark as night may not be a pleasing experience. There are no ways to avoid it but to make it more enjoyable like watching the city lighten up by thousands of light bulbs and art projections on walls. It is also the only chance to observe northern lights flowing in the air making its magic brushes in black canvas. The colder it gets, the better it is to spend time with family and friends through cozy nights of Christmas sipping hot Glögi with Joulutorttu. Yet Finnish winter is tough, but it is also worthy for those who survived it.

All Finnish people I know agree that they are some of the most socially awkward nations on earth. This is not necessarily equal to shyness but rather an aspect of personal respect that is born and raised by Finns. They encourage silence and introvert way of living. They only speak and act when they feel the need to, without breaking others’ personal space.  In fact, some of the boldest people I know are my Finnish friends who have a kind of “you do you” attitude that allows them to be and to live fully as themselves no matter how others may think. I mean who can be the boldest and most daring people but the ones who feel comfortable naked in a sauna with total strangers then go out for a dip in an icy lake? Nonetheless, like two faces of a coin, this lifestyle stimulates comfort bubbles that isolate people and weaken connections which explains why depression and other mental health problems are so common in this country.

I usually receive “terve” from people on the streets or small acts of kindness from strange people on the bus. Once my friend lost her purse and without any hope, it did come back safe and sound to her doorstep with all her belongings inside thanks to some random stranger who sent it back by the id info inside. The same thing happened when I forgot my camera bag on the train from Tampere to Helsinki. So to me personally, Finnishness also means kindness, friendliness and honesty.

It really takes time and patience to understand Finneshness, just like being friend with a Finns. It may be challenging at first, but once you get used to it, it’s really hard to take it out of you.

Finnishness

When I think what “finnishness” is and what it means to me, the first things that come to my mind are nature, weather, ice hockey and the level of education. When I have been travelling abroad this subject come up every time I tell people that I am from Finland.

Nature and weather 

Finnish nature itself is unique. When you show pictures of Helsinki in the summer and then you show pictures of Lapland in the winter people get confused. People from other countries can’t believe that that is same country. Four different seasons also bring their own variation. In the winter the record can be -37 degrees and in the summer it can be +35 degrees. Fluctuations above 60 degrees are not possible in many other countries. Also the amount of snow amazes many people “how can there be that much?”. In Finland we have large areas made up of only forest. Forest and conservation are important topics for finnish people. In Finland you find very little bit garbage on the streets if you compare to many other countries.

 

Finnish education

Finnish education and the discussion around it surface often, when I mention I am from Finland. Often the first note or comment is that “in Finland you have good education!”. According to research and also my own experience Finland really has good and versatile education. In Finland everyone has an equal opportunity and obligation to go to school. Primary schools are totally free for students and that is uncommon around the globe. Schools take longer time but in return they offer a too level of education opportunity. Finnish education makes it easy to get job around the world. Employers appreciate finnish education. Finnish people are often considered highly educated and people want to exploit finnish people’s skills.

                                                                     

Ice hockey

Ice hockey is one of the pride topics in Finland. Many countries have their passion for football but instead this in Finland we have a hockey. Ice hockey is big part of finnish culture. Many people connect hockey and snow to Finland. Ice hockey is interesting topic and great experience for people who come from elsewhere. Big part of finnish hockey culture is also the fans. Hockey is big part of fans daily lives. When finnish teams win something big all people live “the dream” together. When Finland won the world championship in 2019 everyone went out to celebrate it. It was big and desired achievement. Foreigners coming to Finland often have hockey game one of their bucket list ideas.

                                                                     

 

The quiet appreciation of Finnishness

Despite our tendency towards loving to complain, us Finns have a lot of truly great values.

Finnishness is having the utmost respect towards space. We enjoy the possibilities our nature is given us, and as many know, we’re pretty keen on our own personal space socially. To some cultures this may seem odd, but to me personally it just shows how we quietly give each other respect.

As a country we have it all set. This goes for education, healthcare and many others. Despite the fact that we got it good here, we often find ourselves complaining about all sorts of minor stuff. Maybe it’s the lack of energy having barely any sunlight, maybe it’s just the fact that we got it all maybe even a bit too well here and take it for granted.

Even though we may be complaining about stuff as a regular basis and are a somewhat ”few-worded” and quiet people socially, we truly share a lot of honor in our homeland. A lot of this comes from our success during cold war, as well as just being a small people with a very unique language. If you ever stumble upon any foreign internet-post mentioning Finland even in the slightest, chances are you’ll find people commenting ”torille” or something along those lines just to cherish the fact that we have been noticed. That’s the appreciation of Finnishness.

Finnishness

Finnish are often described quiet and grumpy. It’s probably just because we behave a bit differently in social situations. We don’t have a small talk culture. If you ask a Finnish person how they are doing they will explain you what is actually going on in their life at the moment. In my experience Finnish are very friendly and respectful to others, they just need some time to warm up.

 

Sauna

Finnish love their sauna. It’s also a good way to explain the two sides of being a Finnish person. Sometimes you go there to have some peace and quiet and relax and other times you go in with a group of friends or strangers and socialize with people. It’s a part of your day to day life but it’s also an important part of any celebration like Christmas or Midsummer fest. One thing that seems to be a shock to people from other countries is that we go in naked, but to Finnish it’s completely normal. Usually Finnish respect others personal space and don’t go too near to others. However when you go to sauna suddenly everything changes and you find yourself sitting next to a stranger chatting about life.

 

Endless winter and summer that is too short

I love Finnish summers and I love our white winters (when they are in fact white). But I hate the darkness. It changes everything. During the winters you’re more tired and getting things done is way harder. You could sleep for the hole day. Winter however is really beautiful and when there is snow it isn’t as dark. The best thing to do during winter is going ice skating on a frozen lake or on an ice rink or skiing and then go to a hot sauna after. 

During the summers when the light never goes away you feel super energetic and feel like you can do anything. People are happier during the summer. It’s easier to get to know new persons during the summer. But of course part of it is explained by the fact that you are just able to see more people outside because everyone is not inside hiding from the cold. One thing especially that I love about the summers are the endless amounts of festivals going on everywhere in Finland. I feel like my city alone has some festival going on every week of the summer. One festival especially is interesting. The midnight sun film festival that happens in the north of Finland is something quite unique. It’s in the middle of nowhere in a small village. The films are going on 24 hours a day and the sun doesn’t go down for the hole festival. Nothing else happens in the village during the hole year but for one week of June it’s filled with life. 

This picture is from Midnight sun film festival and it’s taken at 3 am.

 

Finnishness from a Non-Finn

As I am not Finnish, nor am I particularly adept at making friends locally, my idea of Finnishness is mainly based on observations, small everyday life interactions and being absorbed in a Finnish environment within the past few years. Based on that, the following are the 2 things that come to mind the most when I think about what it means to be Finnish.

  1. Social Awkwarness

Having lived in different countries and met different people from many different places in the world (yes, the word “different” comes up a lot), I would say that very few cultures and people would compete with Finland when it comes to social awkwardness. This is a country where sitting on the bus next to someone is its own relam of taboo, and where emotional expression is largely under the jurisdiction of alcohol consumption. Finland strike me as a place where social interaction flows like a river of bricks, and people are as comfortable about it as it sounds. I may make it sound like a bad thing, but as a socially-awkward person there is something rather relaxing about being surrounded by other socially-awkward people in public spaces. There is less of a covert expectations of being outgoing and expressive, which is a problem I had in other countries. In Finland, people are too awkward to not leave you alone to be whatever it is you are, and that is kind of great.

  1. Quiet

Finland is a quiet place. Sometimes it is silent. It is a place where people do not speak loudly or plays obnoxious music on the bus. It is a place where old people don’t tell you their life story if you so much as briefly look at them. It is a place where you can go outside and enjoy the sounds of wind and water, or stay inside and not hear your neighbours complain about who left an empty cardboard of milk in the fridge for the 74th time. In fact, writing this very sentence I am unbothered by the unwanted noise of other people. I am sure that some may find this boring, or in some cases depressing. The darkness of winter and freezing temperatures (though not in this so called “winter” of 2019-2020) are extreme enough for many that the frequent silence becomes unbearable. Personally, I love it, and I wish more people around the world would feel more comfortable to shut up more often.

You may notice that these 2 themes of Finnishness are related. Social-awkwardness is a good facilitator of quiet environements. Quiet environments may attract socially-awakward people. It is my opinion that culture is a lot like a spider web, in the sense that every phenomenon is somehow closely related and connected to another. Finland is no exception.

Finnishness

First things that came to my mind were our ‘national sport’ ice hockey and our different traditional food.

Ice Hockey

Finns are one of the craziest ice hockey nation in the world. In every May, when the World Championship starts, Finns gather together and watch ice hockey. It’s time when the beer flows and everybody is having a good time, at least if Finland is winning matches. One funny phenomenon is that Finns become some kind of ice hockey experts. Suddenly they “know” everything about it. This expertise last about month until Finland drops out from the tournament. The best way to get Finns crazy is winning the whole tournament. After winning the final game thousands of people goes to the market square in Helsinki and celebrate pretty heavily there through the night.

Finnish cuisine

 Finnish has many odd traditional dishes which foreign people can find disgusting. Finns use lots of potatoes, different meats and fishes, milk and wholemeal products such as rye, oats and barley. Traditional dishes are often eaten only in a specific holiday, for example mämmi in Easter.

I gathered a list about typical Finnish dishes and products so you can get familiar with Finnish cuisine.

Sauteed reindeer (poronkäristys) with mashed potatoes and lingonberries

Salmon soup (lohikeitto) with potaoes and vagetables

Fish pasty loaf (kalakukko)

Bread cheese (leipäjuusto) with cloudberry jam

Mämmi Easter dessert pudding (usually served with milk and sugar)

Karelian pasties (Karjalan piirakka)

Salty black liquorice candy (salmiakki) and salmiakki vodka (32% vol)