Finnish mental landscapes

It is widely known that Finland is land of a thousand lakes. Over 187,000 lakes can be found in Finland which is a lot for such a tiny country. Forests cover 75 percent of Finland’s land area which makes it Europe’s most heavily-forested country. This can be one reason why Finns have been described as a forest nation. Every time when I´m on plane and returning to Helsinki-Vantaa airport I feel like landing right in the middle of a forest. So, it is not that difficult to guess which kind of mental landscape people might have here in the northern hemisphere.

Finnish people´s mental landscape lies mostly on the countryside by the lake although most of the people are packed to the cities. It might be in our DNA to feel relaxed surrounded by the nature. This comes out on summers when punch of Finns wanders to their summer retreat places. The cottage is an institution in Finland. And cottage life can be described as a part of the Finnish identity. It is called mökki or kesämökki in Finnish. These simple wooden cottages or log cabins are usually situated close to water. Nowadays some cottages can be like people´s second homes with all the necessities. Cottage slow life offers chance to recharge your batteries. Most of the Finns would mention it to be the most ideal way to spend summer holidays with 24 hours of sunlight. I really agree this. The following picture is taken from my father´s summer cottage house which is located in Hirvensalmi. There are more cottages than residents in this tiny town.

It is remarkable that almost all cottages have a sauna. Finnish people are crazy for saunas. There´s over three million saunas in Finland which tells that it is significant part of Finnish culture. Mostly if you visit someone’s cottage you may be end up to sauna. Sauna has long history in Finland. It used to be cleanest place in households so many babies were born in the sauna back in the days. It is still considered almost as a holy place. Nowadays it is a place to relax alone or with friends and family. In public saunas, this experience can be shared with punch of other sweating people. Documentary movie called Steam of life (Miesten vuoro) was filmed in different saunas. Sounds exotic filming location, eh? The movie is recommendable if anyone feels curiosity towards the mindset of a Finnish man. Finally, in summary the Finnish mental landscapes lie alongside the lake and middle of woods where the birds are humming, and water is licking. Such landscapes lead to Finnish zen where the words are not needed.




Some things about Finns and Finland

After traveling to some countries and coming back to home, first thing to be thankful is recycling. For me that is important matter. When you are at home, you might get too used to recycling your things because in Finland it is made so easy. Recycling reflects to tidiness in living environments and nature.

Finnish people are tight-lipped and silent human beings. Yes, we are politely shaking hands and murmuring hello, but that’s all you can get. No smile, no hugging, no kissing and especially no chit chat.

In Finland, we have four seasons. That should be amazing gift from the nature and it provides so many opportunities for many things. But once again, no. We like to complain about it. The weather is never good enough.


Being a Finn


Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish sauna meme

When thinking of Finnishness, the first thing that pops into my mind is sauna. It is the place where one can fully relax and shake off stress. I find the most common time to sauna is during the weekend, usually on Friday, to conclude work week.


Finns are quite silent, and we embrace it. We minimize all excess communication. No chit-chatting with your neighbours, a simple greeting is fine. No talking to strangers in the bus, we are invading their personal space (and you also want to have your own space).



Finns are work oriented and everything – your work day, family gatherings, free time – is usually planned systematically. Funny enough, in other hand we are also quite inconsistent. Public transport is expected to be either late or early, whichever works against your schedule.


Four seasons

Kuvahaun tulos haulle four seasons

In Finland you can experience the full season experience. The whole package.  I personally enjoy all of them. Having four different seasons makes me appreciate each a lot more.

In winter you enjoy having a lot of snow and warming up once you have spent your time outside. The cold makes you long for the warmth of summer.

In spring nature raises once more, bringing life and colours. The summer is almost here.

In summer it’s sunny and warm. On the hottest days you could almost wait for the temperature to drop.

In autumn nature starts its glorious wither before summer. It gets darker and rainy. You prepare for winter.


Finns are a lot of other things too, of course, but I feel these points cover up a good part of it.

Notes on being Finnish

Me and Finland have had a rocky road together.

When I was little, I lived and studied in a quite international environment and instead of celebrating my Finnishness, I was whipped away into dreamlands of every other nationality I was surrounded with, their worlds new, exciting and foreign to me. Rarely I focused on my own culture and my own Finnish identity, rather deeming Finland as my boring home compared to the cool stories of life in America or Africa. Everything Finnish was just a habit for me, something that I never quite focused on.

Throughout my teenage years and starting my adulthood, I was hit with a sudden feeling of “I don’t belong here with these people” and struggled years to find my identity as a Finnish person, often cocky about Finnish traits that I found annoying, thinking “I know better”. It is a strange feeling to feel so suddenly and so hard like you don’t belong, the people around feeling alien and uninspiring. I often declared how I shall move abroad to live an exciting life in the United Kingdom or Canada, naïve and proud, making sure everyone knew I did not feel I belonged in Finland with Finnish people. I travelled a lot, lived my adolescence years through British youngsters and worked as an intern in London, from where I returned back humble and shocked that the grass is not greener on the other side. My love for the world and interest in other cultures stayed, but with a new-found interest in my own country. I became softer and more grateful.

These days, me and Finland have a new-found respect for each other. After years of seeing the world, Finland feels safe and familiar. I have noticed things in myself that are very Finnish and have learned to love them. I feel the happiest every summer in our summer cottage where we go to sauna every other day, play cards, get bored, wash potatoes, fight in the toilet with mosquitos and sometimes just sit listening and looking at birds. I wait inside my own apartment until the person waiting for the elevator on the same floor takes it, so I can take the next one alone. I get annoyed, when people are not punctual. I burn easy, I swim in lakes and love mämmi. If I feel stressed, I feel better when I go for a walk in the woods. I know that in the summer one should enjoy strawberries, because they are cheap and sweet and in the autumn months, one should go hunt mushrooms in the forrest, before everyone else finds them.

The older I grow, the more I have learned to appreciate Finland and the respect we have for our own peace, homecooked food and nature. I am happy that I am finally at peace with my own cultural identity and get emotional every 6th of December listening to Finlandia Hymn.

Here is a video of a well-known Finnish man Sulo Karjalainen, who lives with bears.

“My Experiences of Finnishness”

MÄMMI ”Mämmi” is the finnish easter dessert which is made of water, rye flour, powdered rye, seasoned salt and dried powdered seville orange chest. It looks like a dark brown goo and it doesn’t really smell anything at all. It does not sound delicious, but many many finnish people eats it a LOT on easter. Usually people either LOVE it or HATE it, it’s not common to like it a little. This is why I chose to write about mämmi, mämmi gives finnish people opinions. It is very typical that finnish people don’t have so many strong opinions. Usually answer is to everything; ”whatever”, ”it’s Ok”, ”as you wish”, and others answers as boring as that. When you say ”mämmi” out loud on the conversation i bet you gonna hear immediately either ”Yum! Love it, wish i had mämmi now.” or ”Yak! I hate that mush.”

ICE HOCKEY Ice hockey is a national sport in finland. I think it is the most watched sport in finland and finnish ice hockey team is really good and known worldwide. Winning a ice hockey game is important to finnish people but even more important is to NOT loose to sweden. It has always been the main rule ”We can not loose to sweden”. I think it is more like a joke.

SAUNA Almost every finnish people house have a sauna. Sauna is the place to relax, drink beer or ”hangout” with friends. In generally people think that finnish people are not that social and that they are shy folk. For example finnish people never sit next to someone on the bus if there is a empty line on seats available. But the only place where this not apply is sauna. In sauna you sit butnaked on line and it is okay but when you have to wait a bus or something like that you always have to have your own personal space.

Communication with Finns

How & Why Finns gather together

Finns are work orientated people. If there is no task to do or reason for a meeting you will likely not see any Finns. If a Finn goes out on a weekend he or she needs a reason to go out, for example to go to see live music or have a meeting with classmates. Just hanging out without a specific reason and having a small talk is difficult and unusual for most Finns. For discussions with other people a Finn needs some topic to start from, otherwise the Finn might stay silent.

Communication and making Finnish friends

When meeting Finnish people for the first time they tend to be calm and collected. They say hi and shake your hand and then a Finn could ask: Where are you from? And after that they usually ask: What you do for living? And the conversation might end there if you don´t find anything else to talk about.

After this Finnish small talking you need to gain the Finn’s trust. To build the trust you can find something to do together,   some work  or share a hobby for example go to a lake sauna. Gaining a Finns trust is not easy but worth it because it builds a lasting bond.

#gatherings #communication #work #culture #sauna #socialskills #smalltalk


An examples of how to connect with Finns in Finnish nature:












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.

What is it like to be a Finn?

Finland is a small country with big opportunities. We have four beautiful seasons, outstanding pure nature and a society that takes care of its members. Like all countries, Finland has its issues, but I highly believe that they are been seeing smaller when putting in to perspective. This is one reason why people should explore the world and its differences; it makes you see your home country in a whole new light. In this case –  very positively.

Finland has some things that no other country can offer to a Finn, such as sauna and the outstanding nature that gives us energy and pure oxygen to breathe. We have climate that provides us with four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Every Finn waits for the Finnish summer through all of the other seasons and just wishes it is a warm one. I guess that’s the beauty of it – you never know how it’s going to be, but you know it’s coming.

Personally I love all the four seasons and each one has its own good sides. Spring is the time when everything comes back to life and the nature starts to really show its beauty. Finnish summer is amazing with all its pure lakes to swim in, grilled food and cottage life. It is a time when you can explore different cities in Finland and feel like a tourist. Fall is stunning with all its colors and fallen leaves. The weather is crispy and this is a time of the year when usually something new starts. Finnish winter is like no other – endless possibilities for activities, breathtaking views and a perfect season for the Finnish privilige – the sauna. Nothing beats the combination of cross-country skiing followed by sauna on a crispy winter day.


Finland is a great place to live in. When travelling, you will see that not many countries take care of their members the way Finland does. Our country offers same options for everyone, regardless of the background. We have a free education which is utopia for most of the people. So let’s appreciate our beautiful home country and all the things it offers to us.

Finnishness – Four Seasons

Even though, I’ve always wanted to travel as much as possible and maybe even move abroad at some point, Finland will always be THE home for me, a safe haven. Finland might seem a bit boring with a quick overview, but in my experience it’s everything except plain and boring compared to other countries. We might not have exotic jungles, huge mountains and beaches with turquoise water, but we have four totally different seasons, which makes every place four times more interesting.

We can enjoy the summer nigths by the lake, and we can use the same exact spot to go ice swimming in the winter. We can take a boat ride around one of the thousands lakes we have in the summer, and use the same lake for skating or cross-country skiing while it’s frozen in the winter. The diversity of the Finnish nature makes it unique in so many different ways.

Although everything stated above is amazing, in my opinion autumn might still be the winner out of the four seasons. The melancholic people we are, we enjoy to wrap ourselves in the blankets and stay in to watch the raindrops falling into the window surface. The transition from summer to winter is a short period of time, but it can be insanely beatiful, naturewise. When the leaves change their color before they finally fall, and the cold breeze finally wakes you up when you decide to leave your house.

The fact that we can enjoy the beatiful nature of Finland in four totally different ways is something you just can’t ignore.

Finnishness – The ultimate comfort zone

I have always been a shy kid; although I am comfortable with talking one-one with another person, it just seems more and more difficult to communicate when there is a bigger group around me. And when I come to Finland, this seems to be my ultimate comfort zone. Privacy is something very valuable to Finns. No small talks with strangers, everyone is wrapped up in their own little world. That’s why I feel so relatable when reading “Finnish Nightmare” by Matti. Actually, nowadays I see young Finns are very active, and they acknowledge that being in this comfort zone is not a good way to make friends.

Trong hình ảnh có thể có: tranh vui và văn bản

But besides this matter, I think there are a tons of Finnishness that I appreciate living here as an international students. The way people always say thanks, no matter if they are giving or receiving stuffs. This makes me feel very appreciated, for every single thing I do for anyone. Saying thanks is not something we say commonly in my home country, Vietnam. Often we just walk into the shop, buy something and leave. But after I return to Vietnam in my summer break, I said thank you a lot. And I think that would make someone’s day a bit brighter than usual. Finns are also very kind when it comes to helping others, even when they are someone you do not know. They always try their best to help you if they could, and doesn’t mind anything. When I was at the gym, trying to bench press and couldn’t lift it up, a very kind guy quickly came to help me spot the weight.

All of these Finnishness is why I feel like Finland is my ultimate comfort zone. But yet, I still chose to go exchange abroad and not staying here for whole 4 years. Because I think if I go and explore different cultures, I will appreciate the Finnishness even more. Or maybe, I will find another comfort zone, since my destination country will be Japan whose characteristic is very similar to Finns. But there is still a whole journey ahead, let’s see how it’ll go!