Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Experiences of Finnishness

I have lived my whole life in Finland. And even though I like to travel a lot, it’s always great to come back home to Finland. I think that Finland is a great country to live in because we have such great health-care systems and high-quality education. Also, we have a possibility to get financial support from the government which makes living easier. Of course, there are always budget cuts and people complain about them a lot, but things could be worse and basically, we are really lucky to be living in Finland.  

I have been told a lot that I am “a typical Finn”. That’s mostly because I have blond hair and blue eyes and I am quite tall. I am also very shy at first, like most Finns, and honesty is really important to me. And I love sauna. I think living here in Finland has made me who I am and Finnishness will always be an important part of me. I am really proud to be a Finn and I think that most people see that in me. Still there are parts of me that I would like to change and which came with my Finnish heritage. For example, I don’t like that I am so shy. But luckily that’s a thing I can change about myself and I have been trying to do that. I think this time abroad will increase my social skills even more and I am really excited to become a more open and courageous person. However, I am glad that I have been so shy because it has taught me to be cautious and really listen to others which have helped me to get this far.

I think it’s funny how Finnish people avoid strangers in public. Everyone wants to mind their own business and don’t want to interact with others. For example, in bus stops people who are waiting for the bus always keep their distance (usually at least two meters) and never even smile at each other. I have noticed that people will think that your weird if you just smile to strangers (this is extremely annoying because I like to smile a lot). And when people finally get to the bus, they don’t want to sit next to anyone. If you have to sit next to someone you might get a very angry look and a deep sigh from the other passenger. I think this is because personal space is very important to Finnish people. But even though we value privacy and personal space a lot, we tend to value friendship even more. I think that friendships mean a lot to Finnish people and we appreciate our friends. Because when we bother to open up to someone and let them close, the friendship lasts for life.

In my opinion the best thing about Finland is nature.  I love the fact that we have all four seasons here: winter, spring, summer and autumn (you can see all of them in the pictures). Winters are the most beautiful on sunny days when there is a lot of snow. And you might also see Northern lights, which is an amazing phenomenon, especially in Lapland. In the winter, it’s also really cold here, sometimes even over -20 degrees, but I think it’s worth it.  In the autumn you can see the forests change color and that’s also really beautiful. Summers here are not quite hot, but they are warm enough. I don’t know a better feeling than hanging out with my friends on a beautiful summer day in a park and eating ice-cream.

Learning new everyday

I’ve learnt a lot about the Finnish culture and Finnishness from the exchange students from all over the world that are currently studying in Tampere. Basically, we all know these “Finnish people don’t speak or sit next to stranger in a bus”, “They need their own space in the bus stop and they stand there quietly” and “Finnish people don’t know how to do small talk.” However, some of the exchange students have started to “mix” it a bit and they’ve started to do random conversations with stranger wherever but mostly in the bus. When I travel with the exchange students I’ve noticed that we get a lot of looks from people and I’ve also recognized that some of the people for example in the bus doesn’t even answer if you try to speak with them. And actually, that’s what I find weird about Finnish people.

I really like to hang around with international people because they really open my eyes. I see Finland whole different now and I see different countries and cities differently nowadays. There are a lot of things that seems normal about your own culture before you experience some other cultures. You don’t even think about the fact that somewhere else it’s different and some things are not as good as in Finland and you start to appreciate it in a new level. And I think that’s the most important thing, that you appreciate your privileges.

Another thing that exchange students told me is weird in Finnish people is that we mostly don’t look in the eyes when we shake hands or cheers. Now that I’ve paid attention to it I’ve noticed that it’s actually very weird.

The thing that I’m most grateful from is that I started to appreciate Finnish nature in a whole new level. I mean I’ve always enjoyed watching the sky full of stars and loved the different seasons we have here in Finland. But after having the exchange students in here I started to enjoy the snowing and the great winter we had here this year. The coldest days of the winter were the best. I realized that it’s not “a basic thing” that you can walk or ice skate on a frozen lake.

 

All together I really appreciate the fact that I got to know a lot of awesome people and now I have a home in almost every country in Europe and even outside. I cheer everybody to get to know some other cultures and see the different side of the world. And I believe I’ll learn a lot of new things about Finnish culture and Finland once I leave Finland and will be living in Malta for four months.

My Experiences of Finnishness

Finns have their own quirks like every nationality. For me, this blog post was hard to write because there were so many topics already covered in previous posts. However, I found some topics to write about.

Need for private space is very obvious. Finns don’t want to get close to strangers so if there is space, it gets evenly filled. In a student restaurant, for example, we don’t go to sit opposite to a stranger. An unwritten rule is that we always leave at least one or two empty chairs in between whenever possible! In case of a smaller table with only four chairs we maximize the distance by leaving the nearest opposite chair to the stranger empty. This way we avoid looking the other person straight in the eyes which would be uncomfortable. The attached simple illustration tries to show this need for private space.

Circles are chairs. Black circles represent occupied chairs.

Modesty shows in many ways in Finns behaviour. There is always someone better than us for doing a task. For example, when inviting guests to your place and serving food for them, it’s common to say that “I hope this is eatable” etc. It means that the guests could probably cook better than us. Another example is when you’re going for a date with a Finn. Please start discussing about your mutual interests instead of stressing to what you can do the best even when you’re very good at it. As a professional ice hockey player you should try to downplay your abilities, at least a bit.

One common hobby that many Finnish people have is to collect stuff. Whether it is something small or big or something in between, you can always find someone who collects the same items like you. For example, in Finnish Huuto.net auction website there is over 250000 collectibles now being sold. Some collectables I’m aware of are:

  • Bread ties
  • Bottle caps
  • Moomin cups
  • Newspaper articles which have spelling errors
  • Postage stamps
  • Ice hockey cards
  • Money
  • Cartoon figures
  • Glossy, often embossed, image (kiiltokuva)
  • Old guns

 

Bread tie plant

Of course, I’m now generalising all this. Not all Finns are what I just wrote but sometimes you have to do stereotypes.

Finland – the only place I call home

Hello everybody! My name is Miia and I am doing an internship at Hokkaido University for three months.

Finnishness. What does it really mean? Some people might think that Finnish people are shy and don’t talk a lot. Some think that we drink a lot. Well, all those things are partly true. Even the Finnish people think that. But why it is only partly true is because there is so much more in Finnishness. The concrete things that you might think about Finland are sauna, nature, alcohol and the crazy people.

But what is Finnishness really? For me, one example is when you have the long silence with your friend. You can be with someone without talking for a long time and still feel comfortable. I love it. There is no need to fill the silence. It doesn’t mean that we are shy if don’t talk a lot, sometimes the words are not needed just the company of a friend.

Another example is the punctuality of Finnish people. Most of the time Finnish people are on time or even early. Also if you are making plans with a Finnish person the plans are not vague. There are not maybe plans with my friend circle. If something is agreed it is actually going to happen. I don’t like to inquire about the plans. I want to know and with Finnish people you know exactly where and when and usually what is the plan for the meeting.

One thing that I love very much is the Finnish nature. I love the four seasons. The nature is so special for me. I love to see when everything comes to life in the spring and summer. I also love the winter when it is so cold that it literally takes the breath away. I love being in the forests. The plants and the animals and the water make me calm and relieve the stress. The best part is that you don’t have to go far from your home to find nature, wherever in Finland you live.

I guess the most popular thing in Finland that Finns are very proud of is the sauna. People used to give birth there. It is a place to wash away the dirt and the worries. It is a place to relax. It is a place where all the best ideas come to mind. It is a place where you can spend time with your family and friends. For me, it is more

like an event than just a place to go get cleaned. In summertime at my family’s summer cottage, I like to have sauna marathon. I like to go to sauna and then to swim in the lake and then have something to drink and then repeat that for several hours. The summer holiday at the cottage includes great food and great memories.

I guess I am very proud to be from Finland. I think that Finland is the greatest place to live in. I love traveling and seeing foreign places but I also love to return home. That is why Finland is the only place I call home.

 

 

 

 

 

“Yksi, kaksi, kolme”, “Vittu Saatana” and “Kippis”

This blog post comes a bit late. I should have written it before my exchange but I had some problems with the website.

I am doing a exchange training at Holbæk hospital, Denmark. The exchange takes in total 2 months which I am going to spend in Holbæk. My goal is to learn to speak Danish and brush up my Swedish and English skills.

The topic for today is Finnishness. To be honest I am not that thrilled to write about this because it feels like I should bring up awkward stereotypes like example Finns being shy heavy metal-lovers that only come talk to you when being drunk etc. Who the hell are these people? Not me nor my Finnish friends at least.

Now when I am already in Denmark I think it is more interesting to talk about differences and similarities I have come across these past days. Danish culture is pretty much based on hyggeism and design. One cannot simple find a ugly coffeeshop around here. “Hygge” is danish way of thinking, living and especially coping  during the winter. Roughly it translates to cozyness. They say that Danes are the most happiest people on the planet. The gallops also show that the Danes use more alcohol compared to other Scandinavian countries.

Danish people usually mention metal music, freezing cold weather, ice hockey (and they usually remember to mention Finland’s shameful  scoring in football) and saunas. Some locals can count to tree with a cute danish accent, they never forget to mention some Finnish swore words and usually end the whole sentence cheering “Kippis”, the Finnish cheering when drinking.

Finns are seen as a modern day vikings who can deal the cold weather sweating and bleeding on a ice hockey rink when heavy metal echos in a background. I think that both of the cultures have their own way to prepare themselves when the winter hits hard on the face. Danes temp to “hygge” inside their minimalist design houses taking pictures of their cocoa cups behind their snugly blankets. Finns, on the other hand, have a total different point of view: “kalsarikänni”. Helsingin sanomat, Finnish newspaper wrote an article about the topic: Forget hygge! Here comes kalsarikänni! It is a Finnish way of living, where netflix and kalsarikänni = drinking beer with your underwear at your home with no intention to going out. The word is not translated in any other language, only Finns have invented a meaning for it. These days kalsarikänni is going viral in social media.

Maybe there is a small piece of cultural truth behind kalsarikänni. It is a honest way of living when one does not have a interest of being a snob. In a weird way there is still a hint of “sisu” behind it, another Finnish word that has no perfect translation. “Sisu” is determination regardless of the cost and persistence that is still living strong in Finnish culture heritage. Probably it was part of a Finnish war propaganda at first. These days “sisu” is still known globally.

In the end does it really matter do you hygge or kalsarikänni? The main key is to embrace differences equally.

 

Resource: https://www.hs.fi/nyt/art-2000005092923.html

The happiest country in the world

Hello there, dear reader!

As you may have heard, Finland was recently chosen as the happiest country in the world. According to the UN report, the other Nordic countries didn’t perform bad either. For instance, Norway placed second after a tight competition. In addition to happiness, the study took a gaze to aspects such as migration. You can read the whole study here.

The Finnish people embraced the results with great joy and proud. After all, we are quite competitive as a nation (mention sports like ice hockey and cross-country skiing at a get-together and you can be sure to find an unofficial expert to tell you all about our success in such sports for the last decade.)

As a native Finn, I feel like we often forget to appreciate the things that we already have. The things that we take for granted. You know, as the saying goes, the grass is greener on the other side. Elements like free educational, free healthcare, a democratic political system and equal right to vote, social support, fresh air, clean water and overall safety we’re not built on a day. I sure have my moments of ungratefulness, too. You soon forget about all the nice things when the temperature drops below zero and sunlight feels like a distant memory.

I am positive, that it’s the coldness and darkness of our winters, that has evolved our sense of humor dark and sarcastic. It requires a certain state of mind to understand the cheekiness behind comments like “Why would you want to live in Finland, we are depresses as heck!” that were posted on the articles celebrating Finland’s new position as the happiest country. To us, happiness doesn’t stand for overflowing joy and non-stop smiling. To us, happiness is more about the warmth of a home, the fact that you don’t have to hate your job but the nation actually supports your never ending thirst of knowledge and different aspirations. Happiness is about cracking up a cold one with the boys after sauna and avanto (a hole in ice where you go did yourself. Sounds crazy, yes.)

When you live in a country, where it seems to be cold and dark for 10 months out of 12, you tend to dream about “something better.” As if you need a reminder from time to time so that you can once again remember the best qualities of your home country. I sure do.

Because all in all, happiness is about knowing that after every dark and freezing winter, there will be spring.

My second home

Don’t be so surprised if I told you in my 20, Finland is the very first time ever I had been abroad. It had been a whole new world and the biggest change to me back then.

Throwing back to the first snow, It’s more than words could describe. Not only because It was the first time I was really exposed to snow. It marked the biggest move in my life so far. I was no more living in a tropical country.

Beautiful but a bit sad it is I have to say.

The first winter came so fast and lasted so long. However, Finland has its own ways to cheer up its people. Sauna has become a part of the culture. Nothing is better a hot sauna in freezing weather. Together with it, walking on the frozen lake, trying ice fishing are also an interesting way to entertain during the coldest time of the year. Skating and skiing are also winter’s favorite treats.

 

 

And Finnish summer comes charmingly and splendidly which absolutely worths the wait. I enjoyed watching the transformation of the ground after months of snow and ice. In contrast with winter, summer is full of colors from a variety of flowers, lively green of forests and glimmering lakes.  The things that I like the most in summer are eating ice cream in the sun, riding a bicycle and jogging through the forest and last but not least, swimming in natural lakes.

Finnish people are quite closed and shy. However, they are very nice neighbors and decent company when you get to know them more.  Life in Finland is simple and peaceful, freedom yet private.  I have gone through many places in Europe and Asia, however, Finland is always my best shelter after all.

Technology- pros and cons

There are many things I am satisfied with Finland but one very noticeable in everyday life is its advanced technology.  That is also the feedback I get also from foreigners.  Everything is nowadays possible to complete by online, with computer, automatic systems, phones, phone applications, credit cards – the list is endless. It has eased our everyday life and we can rely on those machines because they are much more stabile and clever than human minds.  I am of course very thankful for all the technical  development in medicine which allows us to live longer and healthier. The list of  benefits that the improving technology offers us becomes longer every day.

However, we should always think carefully what should we change and how much and what should be preserved in the way the nature intended it to be.  Of course it depends a lot on what kind of field do you work or study. Since I study and work on a field of arts I will always appreciate the natural handprint, sound and movement . That is the area that technology has taken it too far from natural.  When I first saw this task to write a blog I got really frustrated. I get awful headaches from writing on a computer, my wrist,  shoulders  and low back are hurting after ten minutes. So I have to make breaks often and at that time my thoughts get disturbed. So what should I do? Wear wrist warmers, sit on a special chair, take 600 mg of ibuprofen? I admit, in a way it is faster and easier to write a long text on the computer but a blog like this should be suggested to made  in a way that is suitable and improves each student in his/hers own study field. Of course computer skills are extreme crucial in Finland because many duties are easier to do online.  Anyway,  there should be also an other chance to complete some tasks.

I would benefit and enjoy more this blog if I could speak or perform it. And honestly, I would enjoy also others blogs more if they were performed in other ways, even handwritten.

While traveling abroad I have remarked that the children in Finland are extremely advanced in using newest technology and smartphones.  That is of course a positive thing in many ways but alarming is how the technology has taken too big part of the learning methods at school.  I can’t understand why children have to study for example mathematics or languages by using tablets?! They have their whole hands and fingers that they should use and not only the tip of the finger. Handwriting activates much more your brains  than staring at the screen. Or students could go outside to study mathematics  by for example counting trees or stones.  We could stay more healthy without doing some ergonomic exercises and instead doing everyday task with more old fashion way.

I am very thankful for the opportunity of studying abroad, learn about new cultures and spread information about Finland but at the same time I want  seriously to concentrate on and put all my energy and time into my studies and learn the language. At this point I would prefer to do these writings in other ways – the ways that would be worth for my artistic development. In the Finnish education I have unfortunately faced too many pointless and just for my profession unnecessary tasks that take precious time from the tasks that are worth for my profession. If I have special interest or need a skill to write a blog in my profession I would benefit from writing this blog.  Hopefully someday I can see some advances of completing these tasks.

My bubble is bigger than yours!

Hi everyone!

This will be my fourth exchange, if you count them all. New cultures and people are kind of my thing. To be honest, through my times of travelling and being on exchanges, I have learned to see so many good things about Finland and Finnishness, but I’ve absorbed even more from other countries. When I left Finland the first time I had blue glasses on, now I’ve put so many colorful glasses on top, I don’t even recognize the color now. There are many things that I love about Finland: lakes, cottages, seasons, snow!, nature. But my tags for this task are bread, bubble and people!

I’ve learned to love food in a very traditional way, eating everything I see! I love the spices, smells, colors and tastes. One dish can bring so much pleasure and teach you a ton about cooking. I’m still not a good cook but practice makes perfect, right? However, there is something magical about this Finnish bread that seems to boggle everyone outside of Scandinavia. It’s the black bread we call rye bread, the love of my life ruisleipä.  If you talk with a nutritionist, too much bread is never good for you. Nevertheless, with rye bread I think it’s as close as you can get to healthy over-eating.

Rye bread is almost like a national food to Finns. If they don’t eat it, they know the bread for sure! If you move outside of Scandinavia, rye bread is a new acquaintance. “Bread can’t be that dark!”, they say. “How can you digest that?!”, they say. Especially here in the south  Europe where I’m on my exchange, white bread is more than common. Multi grain or whole wheat is the closest you can get to rye bread here, and I tell you, it still has not given me any consolation. I miss rye bread so much that I can almost taste it in my mouth…two more months to go…

“My personal bubble is bigger than yours”

Another Finnish thing is this unspoken rule in public places. Everyone knows it! Finns are big on personal space, at least 1 meter in every direction. It has become an international joke how much space we need around us to feel comfortable. A few  examples:

  1. A public bus, people sit on the widow seat usually and if the window seats are taken    –> you stand. You want to avoid sitting next to a stranger, and God forbid if they talk to you!
  2. Bus stop. If there is no room for you and your personal bubble under the roof of the stop, you would rather get wet in the rain than squeeze next to strangers.
  3. Standing in line at a super market. Someone right in front of us and right behind.
  4. Going to a new place. We will not ask for directions to avoid contact with strangers.

The personal bubble is something that I don’t quite understand. I believe that all my travelling has made my bubble smaller. However, after leaving Finland it surprised me a little bit once again, how different cultures are. Here in Malta, there is no personal bubble, and mine isn’t totally gone.

“The grumps vs. bubbly people”

Finns are most very shy and don’t like to make a fuss about themselves. We don’t like to cause hassle, and if we are unhappy about our food or service, we keep it to ourselves.  One of the jokes about Finns is, that we get upset about everything but never say anything! Compared to people abroad, they are loud and express their feelings loud and clear. Everyone is ready help you but everyone is up to everyone’s business as well 😀

 

I’m sorry I don’t have any pictures for you!

 

With the kindest regards,

Joanna

 

My home country, Finland

I think Finland is a very good place to live. Maybe it is because I am used to live there, but I also think it is great how everything works here. For example we have a high quality of education.

Even though the world is getting crazier every day, I feel Finland is quite safety and peaceful place to live. We don’t have massive earthquakes or some other natural catastrophes here.

We have a beautiful nature there, which is one of the most important things for me here. Finland is a land of thousand lakes and forests. I live now almost in the middle of the city, but I can still see trees and plants on my window.

Climate here is a very  variable. In winter we usually have snow on the ground and almost minus twenty degrees. In spring, summer and autumn it might be hot weather, or rain or snowing or anything at all.

Last but not least, I would like to also say few things about people who live there. Finnish people are often called shy and quiet. We don’t talk with strangers on the bus stop or sit next to someone you don’t know in the bus, if there are any free places left.  I am Finnish so I do those things for myself too, because it is maybe part of our culture and behavior. Silence doesn’t mean that someone is rude, of course we speak if someone ask something. In my opinion, that is not a bad thing, because we have some other important features like honesty and punctilious.

-Maria