All posts by Emmi Haapasalo

Remove your shoes when entering a house, please.

Even in a Finnish monoculture, there is a lot of variance that makes Finns more culturally diverse than one might think, at least in our own quiet way that is. However, even if we do have our own regional differences, there are still things that are shared and appreciated country-wide. I will share some of my thoughts that I believe are appreciated all around Finland.

For example, taking off your shoes, when enter someone’s house. It’s little to no appreciated thing, but it creates a feeling of certainty and respect. You know that even when entering a house that you have never been to before, you take off your shoes. You still know how to act and that, at least to me, creates a feeling of certainty. Yes, other countries have it too, but a lot of times it’s also okay to stomp around the house with shoes on too, which is usually not okay in Finland. We even have a dedicated place for taking off your shoes, like for a ritual. A ritual of taking off your shoes, that sounds nice.

As I read through the blog posts that have been written in here, there was a repetitive theme of silence, which was mentioned several times. No, Finnish people are not mute, nor people of few words. I know many Finnish people who could talk everyone unconscious if given a chance. I have come to a conclusion, that our silence is silently agreed silence. We are not awkward (all the time), we just don’t feel the need to fill the silence with chit chat.

A thing that I didn’t really want to mention is our sauna culture, but I felt like I had to. Sauna is a place where people were born back in the days (like my grandpa!) and where they were cleaned for the last time before burial after passing away. Even to brides-to-be usually  there is usually held a bridal sauna with ancient magic and sang poetry. There is a certain spirituality that is linked with sauna. Not only sauna-gnomes that live behind the sauna stove, but more abstract spirituality, that comes alive when the temperatures rise in that little steam filled room. It is a place where people from different generations and genders sit together, as naked as the day they were born. Everyone is as they are. No judgmental looks, no makeup or fancy hairdos, only mindfulness being.

This summer, I had two days in row off from work.  What did I do?  Escaped to my in-laws’ cabin in northern Savonia away from civilization. Some might think I’m crazy for wanting something like that, but it’s a perfect way to wire-out so to say. I do hate the outhouse, but clean and untouched nature weighs more in my scale. I can enjoy the silence of the lake at the end of a day, while sitting in an outdoor barrel hot tub, that my kind of perfect Finnish-holiday.

All in all, these are the things that I will fondly remember while travelling abroad (and maybe missing home and silence a bit).