I have been envied for being a Finn. I was told by a British friend of mine that I should be proud of having a nice culture, beautiful nature and Santa Claus. I have travelled in many countries and I must admit that I DO feel proud every time I tell people that I am from Finland.
In the following chapters I will tell you about things that came to my mind when thinking about ”finnishness”.
Many of my foreign friends know what the word Sisu means – it summarises the Finnish spirit into one word. Sisu is determination and inner strenght. Sisu is when you start something and you don’t quit no matter what happens. Times can get tough but you stay focused and keep trying until you have achieved whatever it is that you wanted to achieve. As the Japanese proverb goes ”if you fall seven times you stand up eight”.
A funny fact is that we have sweets in Finland which are called ”Sisu”. They are very popular amongst the Finns as the name and flavour of the sweets match the Finnish taste. 12 million cartons of Sisu sweets are sold every year! Pretty impressive for a country with 5,5 million inhabitants.
Winters in Finland are usually long, cold and dark. I find winters very beautiful (when we have snow) and the fresh and crisp air makes you feel refreshed. There can be periods when it is very cold outside and you really need to find some Sisu (and many layers of warm clothes) in order to go outside.
The climate in Finland is pretty unique combined with the beautiful nature. As the winters can be very long it is important that people don’t just sit indoors but also go outside and make the most of it! There are lots of different sport activities that can be carried out in winter. Ice skating, skiing and snow shoeing are probably the most common sports.
I had an Australian friend visiting me one winter and she really wanted to go to sauna and ice swimming. She said that her Aussie friends would laugh at her if she didn’t go into an icy lake and sauna while she was in Finland. This was a very exciting and unique experience for her as she could not experience the same anywhere in her home country.
Minding one’s own business
My Australian friend soon noticed in the big public sauna that we visited that people like minding their own business in Finland. This is definitely not the country for so called small talk. People only talk when they have something genuine to say – they usually don’t speak just to fill in the quiet gaps. This doesn’t mean that all Finns are quiet and shy; it’s just that we don’t think that silence is always awkward – it can be quite enjoyable too.