All posts by Kalle Lahtinen

Of saunas, buckets and modesty: A brief look at Finnishness

Alright. Define ”finnishness” my guy. Simple, right?

Well yes, but actually no.

Finnishness is an odd phenomenon. It’s being super proud of our country whenever it gets mentioned anywhere in any context, but at the same time shying away from any praise, being all modestly self-deprecating. It’s a weird thing, and I’ll try my best with these four points to show you how:

1) The F is up with saunas?

Did you really think we were going to go through this without mentioning saunas? Ohohoho, no sir-ee!  It’s right into the stereotypical deep-end with this one!

First off, for the record, I love me my saunas. I love the fact that they exist. They are a massive point of collective cultural pride deep within our DNA. It’s the place where throughout the times people have been born and died in, it’s where some of our most important and famed political discussions have been held, and most commonly it’s the place where you go wash away the worries of your everyday life and relax – if even for the most fleeting of moments.

So why is it so natural for us?

I mean really, you go to a bus stop and people are standing meters apart from each other. At a public urinal you only ”go domino” (the act of using the urinal in between two vacant urinals) if you absolutely have to – and even then it’s up for discussion.

I don’t like you too near me, and you don’t like me too near you, got it?

Unless it’s in a steaming-hot room and we’re naked. Then it’s fine. Then it’s super ok. Then it’s actually super okay to the point of it being weird IF you have, say, a towel on to hide your body parts you were just so conscious of at the urinal. I mean bruh.

And riddle me this: If I gather around a bunch of friends, we undress, grab a couple of beers and sit around at very close proximity of each other in a room, it’s considered weird, right?

What if we start to slowly raise the temperature? When does it become socially acceptable?

Or is the idea of a sauna more in the wooden planks you rest those gorgeous cheeks of yours on? Where does it begin and end? (I’m serious, this shit has kept me up during nights)

So saunas are a thing – for whatever the reason. I guess that is something you would call ”finnishness” on some level.

2) Fokken buckets

I love this one man. Just the fact that we queue (hate that word, btw: is it just a Q followed by four silent letters?) for ages for a free bucket. I don’t know why, but I love it. Aren’t we cool!? Yeah we are! Not much else here to stay – I’m a Finn, born and raised, and I don’t understand it. But then again I kinda do. You go get yourself a bucket Marjut! Yeah! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

In the picture, you’ll find the author. And a free bucket he raffled. They are a thing!

3) The aforementioned pride of being Finnish.

Okay my guys, we are a humble bunch. You know it, I know it, your granny knows it, hell, your neighbours are probably aware of it as well. If you are a non-finn reading this, you’ve probably noticed this as well and if you haven’t, try it out: Go give a compliment to a Finn and watch them squirm.. We don’t like to take credit too much, and often brush praise off the shoulders with a ”Ahhhhh, it’s really nothing, it’s just yada yada yada..”

But man oh man if we don’t go nuts whenever Finland gets mentioned anywhere. Our schooling system and the results of those are on the top? YES! Bernie Sanders lists off the Nordic countries as an example of a working socialist democracy and says Finland? ALRIGHT! One Finnish person or a company is succesful abroad at basically anything? THAT IS OUR BOI! Right?

RIGHT!?

And don’t get me started on sports: Ice hockey, Teemu Pukki, or Lauri Markkanen? God damn! Even a person who has never done sports in their lives can’t help but feel some sort of weird, indescribable pride when you see a ”-nen” suffixed surname anywhere in the news from a foreign news outlet. We love it. And we should too! We are a small country with a population of an M&M’s bag, we have never in history been a superpower like our neighbouring countries, so when we ever get any appreciation or acknowledgement from anything, we take the praise with a smile. Maybe because it is not directly linked to us as individuals, thus effectively not making us squirm? Who knows, could be.

I mean, there’s that joke of a conspiracy theory going around the internet that Finland is not even a real country but a paper country, so it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside when we are acknowleged.

Suomi mainittu – torilla tavataan!”

It’s brilliant.

And then the most important point, which in my opinion really reflects the Finnishness of the Finns:

Erhm, ladies and gentlemen,

4) Trustworthiness.

Look, we don’t talk too much. We look weirdly at people who are too open too quick, and roll our eyes if somebody just wont stop talking. We say what we have to say and then not too much else.

But!

You can always trust a Finn to give their honest opinion when asked (emphasis on when asked – other than that, we probably won’t even voice our opinion). It’s going to be rough around the edges, but man if it isn’t going to be honest.

A Finn sees a person drop a 50€ note on the ground and they pick it up and give it to the person who dropped it, probably with as few words as possible, maybe even with a tap on the shoulder accompanied with a nod. We would have the opportunities to go ”well, tough shit” and pocket it for ourselves, but we hardly ever  do. This has actually been proven as well in a research where 12 wallets were ”dropped” on the ground in different major cities across the globe with return details to see where the most honest people are? Guess what? In Helsinki, 11 out of 12 were returned! With money inside! Imagine that! (Read more here.

We don’t beat around the bush in the good nor the bad, and I think this is something we should truly embrace. It’s so engraved in us that most people aren’t probably aware of it. Be it from nature or nurture – who cares? We don’t even run a red light even if there is nobody else on the road. We are an honest and humble people. Let’s hope we dont’t lose that.

And with that note, I will down my way-too-expensive beer in HEL, and move on to my gate. I’m gonna make a quick stop in Arlanda and then move on to Amsterdam from where I’ll grab a train towards Rotterdam and probably (hopefully) the best six months I’ll see in a long time. Wish me luck!

Stay humble my peeps. Stay honest. And take a compliment next time one is given to you! Oh, and just as a parting gift, here’s a picture of President Niinistö firing an SMG whilst riding a velociraptor. You’re very welcome.

Cheers!

Kalle Lahtinen
https://www.linkedin.com/in/kalle-lahtinen/