All posts by Elmer Halonen

Finnishness – suomalaisuus



Finnishness, how I experience it…

I shall turn on Finlandia by Jean Sibelius and wait for the midnight sun to get into that inspirational mood.


Having a sauna, throwing away your winter fur (to swim outside for the first time after winter), swimming in an ice hole, speaking Finnish, having a free education from preschool to university, environmentally friendly consumption, Summer hymn at the end of the school years, forests and drinking pure water straight from the tap. All these have a special meaning for me, which might be confusing for someone who has not experienced them in their childhood. I find it rather difficult to give concrete examples that would explain the impression of Finnishness in a way that people all over the world would understand. I will try to do it by going through a short history lecture. 


We are old and odd as a nationFinnish genetics go back thousands of years. Although the difference between Eastern and Western Finnish genome is greater than difference between German and English genome, researchers have noticed that Finnish genome diverse from both European and Russian genome significantly. Nevertheless the seed for independent country was planted only 150 years ago when Finland was a part of Russian Empire. Before that we were used to be part of Sweden or Russia or both, depending of the last peace treaty.

“Swedes we are not / no-longer, Russians we do not want to become, let us therefore be Finns.”

-Adolf Ivar Arwidsson

When Russian Revolution in 1917 took the power from Tsar, Finnish government declared independence.  After few wars and crisis hundred years have passed.


Finland is the most stable country in the world.

Finland is the safest country in the world.

Finland has the least organised crime in the world.

Finland has the third least corruption in the world.

Finland has the fifth lowest income differences in OECD countries.

Finland is the second most gender equal country in the world.

Finland has the most forests in Europe.

Finland’s primary education is the best in the world.

Mothers’ and children’s well-being in Finland is the second best in the world.

Food in Finland is the cleanest in Europe.



I could continue this list for ages. During the hundred years of independence Finland has grown from a poor rural country to one of the best countries in the world. But I would like to add one empirical study that I have been doing for few years with sad results.

Finnish people are the number one of the whole world when it comes to not understanding the value of being Finnish.

It feels like many people in Finland has no idea how great things are in our country. I do not say that everything is perfect, and we can stop developing. I mean that sometimes you will hear unnecessary whining about good things that are rare in most parts of the world, like the amount of the student allowance. Every Finnish person has heard that it is a lottery win to be born in Finland and yet too many Finnish people want to win in a another lottery. We don’t know what will happen in the next hundred years, but for sure we should be happy and proud of where we are and what we have achieved as a nation. I guess the odd mixture of ambition, perfectionism and humbleness is a big part of Finnishness.


In the end I want to add one study that Finns really can relate to. 

Finns drink most coffee per person in the world.