All posts by Minja Lahti

The Art of Finnishness

Finns are known to be one of the strangest people on the planet. Us, as Finns, may consider ourselves totally normal. In my experiences, however, that is not the case at all. In this blog text, I intend telling you precious readers a few examples of this.

During my several years of belonging to an international group inside and outside of education, I have found an ever-increasing amount of peculiar Finnish things in myself and other Finns:

 

  1. Punctuality

Finns are greatly appreciated abroad for their punctuality. When a meeting is set to start at 10:00, it indeed starts at 10:00. For us Finns this is a given. Outside of Finland it really is not, though. Finns show up to work well ahead of time to ensure that they will not be late. Abroad I believe that work and lectures do start on time, mostly. When it comes to meetings however, it will be a pain for a Finn outside of Finland. The concept of time elsewhere is rather flexible, in some cultures more than others. It is more often than not when people are some ten minutes late, when a Finn has been going out of their ways to make it to the designated location exactly on time. This is one of our greatest attributes but will regardless cause us a little discomfort.

  1. Personal space

In many cultures it is considered totally normal to be up-close and personal, touchy and feely. Cheek kisses as a greeting may be the most common of a habit that Finns are absolutely strangers to. Finns do get a tad uncomfortable if a small talk conversation is held too close to their faces, or if a stranger attempts to reach for a hug and kiss. A great illustration of this very feature is a picture of a bunch of Finns at a bus stop.

As shown in this rather hilarious picture above, Finns like to enjoy a respecting amount of space between each other. This is valid in every situation, except for Sauna, which is a loophole. I will tell more about this a little later.

 

  1. Awkwardness

A sub-topic of what was discussed in the previous statement is awkwardness. Finns feel socially awkward and uncomfortable in a small-talk situation. One just simply does not sit next to one on the bus and start talking.

 

  1. Honesty

Finns are also known to be one of the most honest people in the world. This is in better and in worse. If you cannot handle the bad, you don’t deserve the good. When a Finn goes abroad, we might find that it is sometimes difficult to express ourselves due to the misinterpretation of our honesty. We say it how it is, even when it’s not good. It does not mean we are rude, we simply speak our minds. This is my personal favorite thing about Finns. You pretty much know what you’ll get with us. There’s no unnecessary time wasted on sugar coating things.

  1. Sauna

Now this is the interesting part: Finnish people love to enjoy their little steamy room with wet rocks on a stove. They sit up high in a tiny room, butt to butt, sweaty and yes, NAKED. This is where mysteriously the need for personal space just disappears. Then water is thrown on the hot rocks to create heat and moisture.

While sitting in a tiny space almost on each others’ laps, they like to spank themselves and each other with a bunch of birch branches (with leaves). This is supposed to improve circulation while creating a nice smell in the room.

In a package with this comes cooking sausages on the hot rocks, inside a tin foil wrap. One might want to enjoy an occasional frosty beer or two. If an extremist, one might want to run and roll in snow, or dip in ice cold water from Sauna.

  1. Pride in paying

The last but not least very Finnish thing is that we LOVE to pay for our own stuff. In most cultures it is normal that for example in a restaurant one pays for everything, and it is then settled later, usually in the next restaurant gathering. It is not so strict that every single dime is settled evenly. Finns may feel guilty if someone pays for them, and they often insist paying back every cent. Abroad this may be a surprise for people, and they may even feel a little insulted if a Finn refuses to be paid for since in many cultures it is a matter of honor, especially for men.

 

 

These and many other things make us Finns a very intriguing group of people. Get to know us and understand us, and you will have loyal friends for life.