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What being a Finn means to me

Culture is, in many ways, subjective. People view and experience it differently and there are as many aspects to a culture as there are people in it. There is no right answers or definite truths, and even the most common traits in a culture don’t apply to everyone. The following things, however, are my thoughts and feelings about “Finnishness”.

Safety

This is one of the things that keeps surprising me over and over again. Most Finns take being able to walk around big cities at night for granted and they don’t think anything of it when the bag they left to their seat in a restaurant is still there when they come back from a bathroom break.

We trust that we can live our every-day lives without having to fear for our safety or the safety of our belongings. This, however, is not the case in many countries. The more I’ve travelled the more I’ve realised how good things are in Finland. I have witnessed street fights, heard countless stories of harassment and even know a person that has been robbed at gunpoint.

In Brazil, I couldn’t hold my wallet or phone in my hand while travelling by car, because that would’ve made us a likely target for robbery. This would’ve never crossed my mind in Finland because things like that rarely happen here.

So yes, safety is an important part of the Finnish culture and I am very thankful of it.

No empty words

When somebody makes you a promise in Finland, it usually means you can at least trust that they are going to try their best to fulfil that promise.

In many cultures, a negative answer in customer service is unacceptable. This means that even if they know they cannot help you, they will still tell you otherwise.

As a Finn, I find this silly. I’m used to getting a straight answer and I much prefer to be told so if something isn’t possible, instead of waiting around for something that is never going to happen anyway.

Small talk is also not popular in Finland. You speak when you have something to say, but there is no need to fill every silence with meaningless chitchat. Not to say that small talk isn’t a good skill to have in some situations, but sometimes it’s good to be able to enjoy the peace and quiet.

Equality

This is one of the biggest and most important things about our culture, people are equal. Sure, there are still many things we can and should improve in order to be truly equal, but compared to most countries, Finland is a truly great place to live – no matter your gender, age, race or sexuality. As a woman, I’m truly thankful to have been born in Finland.

Every culture has its pros and cons, and there are things in my culture that I’m not so fond of. However, I love my culture and I’m thankful for all the chances it has given me!

Krista Tolonen

My Experiences of Finnishness

Beautiful nature, light summers, dark winters and sauna. That`s my Finland.

Finland is known as the Land of the Thousand Lakes and it is actually true. The whole Finland is covered with lakes and forests. Nature is also very pure, so here you can drink clean tap water and breath fresh air.

In Finland we have four seasons. Winter is long and dark, but all snow and ice makes it lighter. Spring is the time when everything wakes up and nature is beautifull light green. Summer is not that long, but it is warm and full of light. Actually in mid-summer sun doesn´t set at all for couple of days. Autumn is dark and rainy, but nature is also beautifully colorful, because all the leafs are changing the colour.

Last but not least my favorite thing in Finland: Sauna! Sitting naked in a small, hot room might sound weird for foreigner. But for us it is a place to relax and warm up.

What is Finnishness to me?

Sauna. Lakes. Seasons. Nature. Safety. Those are the 5 words that first came in to my mind when thinking about Finland and Finnishness. Summer evening by the lake at a terrace of your summer cottage. Running naked into snow from Sauna when it’s -30C outside. What is more Finnish than that?

Nature

The nature of Finland is one of a kind. For me it’s a thing that I’ve started to appreciate more when getting older. We have a huge amount of forests, lakes, parks, rivers and so on. That’s something that not every country has. The nature changes when the season changes, in summer you can swim in warm water in a lake, and after 6 months you can walk and skate on the same lake. To me the Finnish summer is a best thing in the world. And the possibility of easily going out to forests for a walk and enjoy the clean nature despite of the city where you live, is amazing. It’s Finnishness at its best.

 

Safety

Finland is a country where you can feel safe. It’s a country that has been in the top places in surveys of safety. But addition to that, when you walk in the streets in Finland, and no matter what time it is, you can feel safe. You can trust the police. You can get help quickly when you need it. In Finland children go outside and play without parents, they go to shops, they bike to school. In this country you can let your children out and feel safe about it.

Simplicity & Honesty

Finnish people are kind. We are honest, we can tell what we think, and we accept that people have opinions, even different ones, and it’s okay. We don’t start talking to strangers on the streets, but if someone starts, we speak back. We get a little awkward when someone gives a compliment. We tell things the way they are, and not too much more to that. We might be people who don’t smile or speak all the time, but we have a simple and honest atmosphere. And we go naked to Sauna even with strangers.

That is Finnishness and I love it.

Proud to be Finn.

What Finnishness means to me. I’ll divide it into three major and important issues. These three issues are: security, well-being and ease in everything.

First of all, security in Finland is one of the best in the world. Not only by records, also the feeling that you don’t have to be scared when you walk down the streets in the middle of the night. Security in cases when you lost something, or something didn’t go like you planed for example, you miss a train because the other was late and that point your right is to get ride to your destination somehow. Everything can be sorted out although it doesn’t necessarily feel like it at first place.

Secondly, I chose well-being. In Finland I never needed to think that can I go to hospital for some reason. It’s not particularly expensive and the service is great. Although it is said that the Finns are pretty speechless (and that is so true) doesn’t mean that the Finns don’t help when the situation arises. Love of the neighbor is present in everything.

Third, why I chose ease. It can be combined with the previous two things too. Mostly, I meant the ease with which Finns are, how they behave in general compared to others. We talk and show body language as little as possible. We say things straight to one to another without wandering. We are enjoying and appreciating of small things. Even though Finland is a small country, people are determined. Finnishness summarized: the backbone is strong and straight.

  Simple is beautiful. Like nature in Lapland.

How I became more Fin

In my four year that I have lived in Finland, I reached to a point where I can recognise how much my behaviour have changed to become more Fin one way or another. I find it fascinating how most persons behaviour and attitudes can change once he or she move to another country and try to blend with its people.

Finns do really appreciate and mostly strive for personal favour. A first time visitor may interpret those behaviours as shy, quiet and in some cases even rude. But it is actually the contrary, it is that they do not want to bother people. This why they come across as not really chatty. For example it is unlikely to find to strangers sitting next to each other in the bus unless there is no other available spot. It is a behaviour that I have picked almost instantly, while it made me realise how much respecting others personal space is important in this culture as well as it became part of me.

Another famous aspect of a Finn´s personality is their love of coffee. It is some thing that is absolutely. Whenever I came to Finland I did not like coffee at all but at the moment I can´t imagine my day going without at least one cup of coffee. It goes as far as that at my parents house when everybody is at home we finish one bag of coffee daily. Yes it is that good.

Finns in general tend to follow rules and regulations. That being school or even road regulations. One example which I thought was pretty cute. Is the picture on the right. Which was taken in Tampere where the triangle sign was placed in the side walk for pedestrians and pikers. The area is actually not that busy, but I do really appreciate the attention to details.

These were some examples of how some of my behaviours have changed to become more Finn, just by living here and spending time with locals.

How I became more Fin

In my four year that I have lived in Finland, I reached to a point where I can recognise how much my behaviour have changed to become more Fin one way or another. I find it fascinating how most persons behaviour and attitudes can change once he or she move to another country and try to blend with its people.

Finns do really appreciate and mostly strive for personal space. A first time visitor may interpret those behaviors as shy, quiet and in some cases even rude. But it is actually the contrary, it is that they do not want to bother people. This why they come across as not really chatty. For example it is unlikely to find to strangers sitting next to each other in the bus unless there is no other available spot. It is a behavior that I have picked almost instantly, while it made me realize how much respecting others personal space is important in this culture as well as it became part of me.

Another famous aspect of a Finn´s personality is their love of coffee. It is some thing that is absolutely. Whenever I came to Finland I did not like coffee at all but at the moment I can´t imagine my day going without at least one cup of coffee. It goes as far as that at my parents house when everybody is at home we finish one bag of coffee daily. Yes it is that good.

Finns in general tend to follow rules and regulations. That being school or even road regulations. One example which I thought was pretty cute. Is the picture on the right. Which was taken in Tampere where the triangle sign was placed in the side walk for pedestrians and pikers. The area is actually not that busy, but I do really appreciate the attention to details.

These were some examples of how some of my behaviors have changed to become more Finn, just by living here and spending time with locals.

Finnishness is…

The first 25 years of my life I pretty much spent my time only with Finns. Wherever I went, I had a Finn next to me. Even when abroad, it was either my family or my friends that were there. The Finnish culture was the only culture I knew and everything else seemed rather odd. I was surrounded by Finnishness, until I finally made it out of the bubble.

Past three years I have been co-working with people from all over the globe. It has opened my mind for other approaches on life than my own. It has improved my manners. It has had me wondering why I haven’t figured this out before. Therefore it is crucial for me to discuss Finnishness as a phenomenon for me currently instead of how I have experienced it in the past.

I am definitely not proud of every aspect of Finnishness, even though I feel extremely proud when I say I’m a Finn. Things like looking at our feet all the time, mainly talking about bad things (the weather posts on Facebook……) and stereotyping masses of people simply disgust me. But when a Finn says that something will be done, it actually will be done – in a timely manner! We also value the nature and environment and don’t litter (at this point some may say ‘what is this guy talking about??’ trust me, it gets a lot worse) AND we recycle.

Three years ago this blog post would have been super easy to write. Everything is well and things work out eventually. Lately though my self-image has alternated to a more open person and the exact characteristics of Finnishness are now hard to describe. That sentence pretty much covers my views on Finnishness – it seems rather blurry now that I am not a 100% Finn anymore.

The makings of a Finn

What is Finnishness to a Finn? If you ask me, or pretty much any Finn around, there are certain things that will always show up: sauna, sisu, salmiakki. The “Three S’ of Finnish Survival”, if you will. But those three words are already quite well known and connected to Finnishness, so why wouldn’t I look into some other concepts that define a Finn?

Space

Finns are all about that space, whether it’s personal space or space for living. Personal space is well defined and wide-ranged, and entering it without permission is a cardinal mistake. It isn’t to say that Finns are rude – that is, most of the time – but we just simply enjoy our solitude when we are not actively engaging in a conversation with someone. Naturally, this wide personal space of Finns is also a source of many jokes as the one below (which, by the way, is painfully accurate):

Finnish Nightmares: Sharing a bus stop

Aside from valuing our personal space we also value the space around us. Finland is the eighth largest country by area in Europe yet our population is way smaller than any of the countries of the same scale – and even out of that the majority is concentrated in the southern coastline, leaving the northern half mostly natural and sparsely populated. Even in cities you can usually reach a forest quite easily, without the need to travel for hours on end. It isn’t unusual for us Finns to spend our holidays in the nature, away from the constant rush and stress, possibly relaxing at a desolate mökki cottage where the nearest neighbour can be kilometers away. After all, being constantly near other people can be very draining for a Finn!

Pride

Finnish pride is a concept that manifests in several ways. First of all, Finns are awfully proud to keep their face and will not ask others for help. In any situation. Ever.

If you see a Finn fall during winter they won’t wait for you to help – no, they glance around to see if anyone noticed, then scramble on their feet and pretend it didn’t hurt a single bit.

Finnish Nightmares: Being offered help

Finns are also very proud as a nation, which shows especially well whenever our weird little nation gets recognized in the world news, referenced in a work of art, or – and this is the real deal – whenever Finland beats Sweden in any sport ever, but especially in ice hockey. A common phrase for these occurrences is “Torilla tavataan” – “We will meet at the market square”, which means a great celebration is in order.

Coffee

Let’s face it, we just love our coffee. And not just any coffee, but the kind that doesn’t taste quite as rich as southern European dark roast, that makes your hands shake after a couple of cups, and that can be consumed without milk or sugar but only by those who have a stomach of steel. Perhaps it comes as a surprise, but Finland is on the top of the list of biggest coffee consumers in the world! Nowadays several different blends and special espresso-based coffees have taken their place in the café blackboards, but when it boils down to it, it’s the good old, slightly bitter cup with milk and/or sugar that really defines the Finnish coffee scene.

Finnish Nightmares: No coffee

 

(All images are from “Finnish Nightmares” by Karoliina Korhonen!)

“Kursailu” Finnish formal socially-established behavior

Imagine this. You are at a party and there’s food. A lot of food. Over 15 different type of sweet and salty. You are looking at the table filled with your favorites. You are having these huge cravings and you are eagerly waiting for your turn. But wait! No one is taking the food even though it was announced five minutes ago to help yourselves. What’s wrong?

Well nothing! Obviously, you are at a party, filled with Finnish people, and they do it every time. It’s called “kursailu” in Finnish. There isn’t a translation for it. Closest definition might be ceremony as a formal socially-established behavior. Behavior itself differs from other cultures. As far as I know.

Basically “Kursailu” is a strange way of behavior. The food is served, and it has been announced that quests can help themselves. No- one wants to be the first one to make a move. Some odd way it is considered being rude. If you are the first, you might seem greedy and bad mannered.

Since, nobody wants to be impolite and be the first, we have unwritten rules for that. Usually elderly people are the first ones. If there is someone, who is being celebrated, he or she is the first one. In christening and confirmation godparents are priority. Big parties, where there is over 30 persons, they go table by table in order. Usually the host is the last one to take, unless she or he is being celebrated for. If you are at a Finnish party and don’t know what to do, just follow the lead. Don’t be the first one!

There’s a tiny pit of Finnishness now shared with you dear readers! Hope you have great fall 2018!

What is Finnishness for me

Finland for me is the best place an earth. We have everything one could possibly need to live a healthy and wealthy life. There is free education and healthcare. We have great welfare and clean nature. Anybody can choose anything they want to do with their life and you really can have it all. Of course we have pretty high taxes and a lot of rules but when compared to almost any other country in the world, we have it good in Finland.

When I think of finland, three things come to my mind straight away.

  1. Sauna

Sauna is the absolute number one thing that comes to my mind when I think of Finland. I have been going to sauna ever since I was a baby and it is just relaxing. There is no other place in the world where you can get the same feeling than what you get from a sauna. I don’t think of it as a relic or the eighth wonder of the world. It is just a sauna but important for me and I like to relax in one.

  1. Winter sports

The second thing to come in my mind is winter sports. Whether it is ice hockey, skiing, ski jumping, I like to watch them all. Of course I have done sports my whole life and had these winter sports as hobbies but I think also a lot of other Finns like to watch them cause it is something we are good at (or at least used to be).

  1. Nature

Nature is so pure and clean in Finland and it is different compared to the places I have been. There are a lot of lakes, thick forest and a little lighter forest. It is a place where you can go relax and get away from the city. Also, nature is close everywhere you are, even if you are in the city it is a maximum of 1 hour drive away and you’re so deep in the forest you might get lost!

Overall Finland has it good and I hope it stays that way. Even though I might move abroad someday again, Finland will always be a home for me.