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Finnishness

Finnish people have their very unique way of showing their pride of being Finnish. Unlike other countries we don’t wear Finland flags colors in our clothes etc. We have a more settle way of showing our pride. Here are few things that we are proud of and are happy to show others when talking about Finland.

  1. Sauna 

Oh how much we love the sauna. It’s a place were one can relax on your own or with family and friends and place to catch up on things with them. It is also a place were you are completely naked and present yourself the way you are.

2. Fazer

 

Fazer is a brand Finnish people seem to be proud of even though we don’t talk about it. Frazer is not originally from Finland but it has made it’s way to our hearts. Salmiakki is also popular on top of chocolates and other sweets. We are brought up to like this candy and it’s always fun to see foreigners trying it.

3. Nature

We might not have sun all the time but our nature finds a way to keep our spirit up even though its dark most of the year.  Most of Finland is covered with forest and lakes. Population is also spread quite a bit so there is always quiet place when one can relax.

4. Others

-School system

-Healt care

-Lack of small talk (good in a way that when you meet Finnish people they show their politeness by giving you space and getting to know you in time.)

 

 

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. That is how Andy Williams describes Christmas in his song released in 1963.

Finland is located in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter is the longest season in Lapland. It begins in the end of october and ends in May. In southern Finland winter lasts for about four months. After a long, cold and dark fall first snow turns Finland into winter wonderland. Well, sometimes into a wet and slushy wonderland too. Days are very short and in Lapland sun doesn’t rise in three months. Temperatures varies from +5 celsius to -35 celsius. Winter is also the best season to see Northern Lights.

Finland’s Independence Day and Christmas holidays will give a break from work and studies. It’s a good time to celebrate, enjoy of the beautiful nature and eat well. Additionally students have a winter holiday in February so they can enjoy winter weather and winter sports. In winter you can enjoy activities like ice-skating, cross country skiing and downhill skiing. Thousands of lakes in Finland will be frozen in winter. You can go walking, skiing, ice-skating, ice fishing or even drive a car on ice. The bravest will go swimming in an ice hole. Ice will be melting in midsummer in the Northern part of Finland. Or you can be at home in front of a fireplace enjoying a hot drink wearing the coziest clothes and woolen stocks.

Finland’s Independence Day is a national public holiday held on 6th of December. Many festivities are being kept all around Finland. In the evening the Presidential Independence Day reception is being broadcasted from the Presidential Palace. Independence day is all about respecting veterans and being grateful for our beautiful country.

As we all know Santa Claus lives in Korvatunturi, Finland. Christmas Eve is being celebrated on 24th of December. It includes eating lots of traditional Christmas foods and sparing time with family. Santa Claus delivers gifts in Christmas Eve. Many Finnish people goes to church and visits graveyards.

When I think of Finland I can see a beautiful landscape of snowy nature. To me, winter is the best season to enjoy Finnish nature and culture.

 

Finnish summer and sailing

What I love most in Finland is sailing in Saaristomeri and Åland archipelago. I usually spend most of my holidays during summertime in sailing boat with our dear friends. We sail and wonder the rough nature of outer sea islands.

One of my favorite islands is Utö, that is located at southern part of Saaristomeri archipelago. The island has a living history of hundreds of years related to seamanship, wrecks, lighthouse and wars.

The lighthouse in Utö is the oldest one in Finland and the island even has the smallest school of whole country. Utö is habited throughout year – there are under 50 people living there. In the history there was no cemetery in Utö, the current one was build in sixties with sand imported from mainland by ships. Before that the locals had to bury loved ones to near by island Jurmo.

The nature of Utö is wonderful – it is one of the best places in Finland to spot birds. Being occupied by Finnish Army until 2005 the nature has been saved from mass of “tourists” spoiling the peace of nature. The pure roughness of the island makes me wonder how the local people survive trough harsh autumn and winter.

During summer time the harshness seems to be gone. There are lots of sailing and motorboats visiting the Utö harbor or anchored in bay between Utö and neighbor island Ornskär.  Harbor has a restaurant and a small shop where you can buy basic food. Trekking in both of the islands reveals the beautiful nature and also the lighthouse and old coastal artillery base still standing there.

Finland story

Getting ready for my exchange actually went in Munich, while doing my internship.

Englischer garten in Munich. Absolutely love it because it reminds me of Finland and is in the middle of the city.

Things that I will definitely miss from Finland are of course the simple things like big selection in the supermarkets, clean tap water and people`s honestly. It goes without saying that every place has their pros and cons, but as a Finnish person these things are self-evident. Thing that I`m going to miss is safety – In Finland you can basically go to have a walk at 1am and you will still be safe.

Like said I have been preparing to my exchange abroad, in different country than the one where I will go to do my Erasmus and it has still given me a lot of thought which things are better in Finland and which abroad. While my stay in Munich I absolutely loved the working Metro system (incl. S-bahn, U-banh, Tram and the busses), in Finland busses work okay, but when you have more options it becomes like a luxury thing compared to Finland. From personal experience, I know that in Italy where I`m going, public transport does not work that well, but it is also a matter that you`ll get used to.

Something that also is kind of a shock every time you go to abroad and deal with people from different countries is how to salute them. In Finland, you know that you either shake hands in more official occasions and with your friends you hug them. Outside Finland, there are 20 different ways to salute and especially when you give cheek kisses the question is that how many and which side to start from. Luckily there are easy rules which make you learn fast, but as a Finnish person you would obviously go for the handshake if you don`t know the person and not for cheek kisses.

I am super excited to go to abroad to do my Eramus and will take all the “essentials” like Fazer chocolate and ryebread with me.

We are not that bad

Finnish people can be very closed, unfriendly and cold when meeting with someone…. when described by Finnish people. However, when you ask a foreigner after their stay how did they like Finland, almost every time people will say they loved Finland and Finnish people. Often you hear words like warm, helpful and friendly when someone describes their interactions with a Finn.

This might or might not be because one would say that Finnish people are humble about themselves. Which is somewhat true, we may not like to brag about things: we are just glad everything goes smoothly. Until we win something, be it ice hockey tournament or one football match, then we go crazy and are super proud about ourselves. Also, when we get a little bit tipsy (possibly after some win), we will be the friendliest creature you will ever meet. But in everyday life, we just like to mind our own stuff and not to interrupt what others are doing.

And this is the beauty of the Nordic, majestic and humble tribe called Finns; we won’t mind your business and we will give you your personal space in public, but if you try to achieve a closer relationship, next thing you know is you are sitting naked in a room around 90 degrees Celsius drinking vodka with people you have known for only days, possibly less.

The Finnish summer paradise

As I feel that it is quite easy for us Finns to focus on the “not so good” aspects of Finland (don’t get me wrong – I’m one of this type of people too), this time I wanted to focus on some of the things I love about Finland and the reasons why I appreciate being a Finn.

The summer 2018 has been so amazing here in Finland that it has almost made me forget about the cold, ruthless winter behind. The summer has been exceptionally warm and beautiful, and I have been truly enjoying every second of it. This lead me to think about the things I appreciate in Finland.

So what is one of the best things about Finland to me? Summer cottage. I think that it can be difficult for foreigners to understand how magnificent the summer cottage culture is here in Finland and furthermore to know how it feels to experience the authentic, Finnish summer cottage life.

At least my summer wouldn’t be summer if it didn’t include going to our summer cottage. The place has been close to my heart all my life and I’ve been crawling in its nearby woods and swimming in its waters since I was a small girl. Nowadays the cottage is close to a holy place to me, and the only place that makes me feel 100% relaxed.

Sitting in the sauna, watching a breathtaking view over the lake is something you cannot describe with words. Swimming in the lake after sauna and watching the sunset with its fairy-tale-like colors makes one wonder if it’s heaven or earth where that moment is taking place.

As a place, I believe that summer cottage brings Finns together and makes them closer. Many of the summer cottages in Finland don’t include the luxury of, for example, electricity or water toilets. That’s why people light up candles, read, paint, go fishing or just talk about life. Living without some of the everyday conveniences gives space to so many other activities, which creates a powerful sense of freedom. Visiting a summer cottage is for sure a relaxing, therapeutic experience which would be in place for so many people.

You can probably tell by now that summer is my number 1 favorite time of the year in Finland. That is why I will be quite happy to leave for my exchange in the autumn, and thus escape the dark, cold winter in Finland. I made a promise to myself that one day when I move out of Finland for good, I will visit during the summer time and hopefully will have a summer cottage of my own – that is something I do not want to give up.

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).

The Wedding Season

My sister got married this summer. That inspired me to write about Finnish wedding traditions. It is not unusual to get an invitation to a winter wedding but summer is the real wedding season in Finland. Saturdays are usually saved for weddings.

The ceremony is traditionally held in a church where a priest weds the young (or old!) couple. The father of the bride walks her daughter down the aisle and hands her over to her future husband. The bridesmaids and best man wait at the altar. In my sister’s wedding the priest said the wrong names couple of times but I think it was his way of keeping us entertained. This was the topic people talked about after the ceremony! After the ceremony the newly-wed couple comes out of the church and people can throw rice or blow soap bubbles. After this people move to the wedding reception. The bride and the groom drive away alone. In my case I took them to take some photos. Wedding pictures can be taken inside for example in a studio or beautiful building or outside for example by a lake or in a forest.

When the guests have arrived at the venue (Finns usually play it safe and pick some kind of indoor space when deciding the wedding venue as the Finnish weather cannot be trusted) the bride and the groom arrive. They can have a welcoming toast and some speeches at this point. The Bride and the groom (and sometimes their parents) usually want to welcome everyone separately by shaking their hands before going in. Friends and family from both sides are invited and the total number of guests can be anything between 10-200.

There usually is good Finnish food in the reception; meat, fish, chicken, vegetables, potatoes, salads, the wedding cake and some other dessert. Drinks are also an important part. Games and performances are not uncommon. Some include: throwing the bouquet and the garter and “morsiamen ryöstö” where the friends of the groom kidnap the bride and make the groom do something embarrassing or collect money to get his bride back. The whole thing lasts from some time in the afternoon to the small hours.

 

Finland Finland Finland

If you have ever cruised the online and came across a topic about Finland through an online messageboard or a just news comment section you probably have noticed the “Torille!” chants and memes and crazy language. Probably the news were about Finland being number one at something. Whether it was Ice Hockey, the happiest nation in the world study, or just any random news were Finland is surprisingly number one, we go and celebrate it!

Crazy finns right? Well it gets crazier.

It is hard to be a tiny small nation in a huge land at the edge of the world where the ice age begins and the  winter lasts almost 6 months. There isn’t THAT much stuff to do except the obvious outside trekking stuff. You have to be inventive to pass the time. You go and invent your own sports like the “Eukonkanto” (Wifecarrying run), Throwing a rubber boot, or an old nokia phone, play swamp football, battle for the best air guitarist in the world, and even your own baseball that you adapt to your national sport that no one else plays. Why?

Because it can get boring.

But now that I am leaving my home behind me. It’s all the boredom that I will miss. The silence, the frosty snow on top of the pine trees and the sound your footsteps make when walking at winter. The endless lakes and rivers and forests. The nightless nights or the everlasting darkness.

I bet you that every finn is a 30min away from being completely alone surrounded by nature and companied by peace. I will miss that. The idea that you can just go and be alone whenever you need it.

But yes, it can get boring. That’s why in the rise of internet  people of our nation have been every where in the internet, educating people that we are not baltic, or russian, or swedish, but finns. And we like to embrace our stereotypes. Even though we are nothing at all like those stereotypes.  Those commets are usually just for fun and written in tongue in cheek. It is a way to feel healthy national pride of our small nation that goes unnoticed most of the time. So next time when you see a topic about Finland, you can experience a little bit of Suomi!

Though it’s true that it is hard to make friends in Finland, or that we love our personal space and distance. But not to the extreme. We love to go out whenever we can (which is just summer), smile and be happy with our loved ones. We can be awkward and brutally honest sometimes, but most of finns know the difference between honesty and cruelty. I can trust what a finn says almost always.

And let the words of Michael Palin tell you more honest words about Finland in the spirit of our people.

 

Finland to me

As the hours before my departure to the big wide world are dwindling away, I will quickly highlight some of the things I will miss and probably learn to appreciate even more about Finland.

We are a small, sparsely populated homogeneous country, isolated away from most troubles in our own little northern corner of the world. We keep to ourselves and we downplay our achievements, yet we collectively feel national pride when someone takes an interest in us.

On the surface Finnish people might appear as not the happiest people in the world. We like our personal space, we’re mindful of other people around us and we rarely say anything more than is necessary. We don’t force smiles on our faces when we step out the door and we don’t engage in menial small talk with anyone we don’t know. Some might consider this rude and antisocial, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. For when people finally stop their day to engage with others you can be sure everything about the exchange is going to be genuine. You don’t bother me and I don’t bother you.

Then alcohol is added to the mix and you’d be hard pressed to avoid a friendly face wanting to talk to you.

Having been born to the country of a thousand lakes and endless forests, I believe in the heart of every Finn beats a love for all things green and a yearning to return to nature. Even in the most densely populated cities you are never that far away from a forest and I don’t mean a perfectly landscaped park but real wild forests. We don’t sacrifice our beautiful lands for the sake of industrial development and when summer comes around we flee our urban lives to our summer cottages, carry in water from the well, heat up the sauna with wood and take a dip in the lake.