There is A Kenyan in Town!

So, my name is Sylvia Barasa, a Kenyan. My Kenyan culture, from food to the way of living is very different from the Finnish culture. When I fast moved here, I ate fast foods almost everyday. The food culture here was so different. Kenyan food from coat to the west is full of flavor and taste, this here was very different.

                

The way we interact with each other is so different as well, we talk to each other we say hello to everybody, we quickly bond and share what we have. It was so different here as in Finland there is a huge culture of ME, and that was a bit disturbing.

Kenyans drink alcohol, Fins do maybe just a bit more than us, but the difference is this, if I invite my friend out for a drink, the bill is on me!, if a Fin invites you out on a date , or for a drink, in most cases, bring your ,money with you!

              

According to my culture, as from the age of 8 or even 6, kids are already aware of their bodies and already cant just be naked before anybody. Even after bathing, a 7 year old will easily ask for privacy to put on clothes.

This is what I have grown up with for the last more than 20 years.

As a woman, I cant basically be seen naked by anybody unless we are intimate with that person, leave alone my parents! in fact that’s a taboo especially for fathers. So this is me in Finland, on my second day, my Host Family, very excited and eager to show me the culture,

They organized a surprise welcome party for me,  A sauna with some With my Host Family, they ask me to join them in Sauna, that was ok, until I was informed that we all have to be very Naked.

This was my experience of Finnishness at least to the extreme.

 

Crazy ice hockey country and beautiful summer nights

First things that came to my mind was ice hockey and summer nights. This summer I got the chance to spend more time outside in the evenings and I learned to appreciate beautiful sunsets that Finland has to offer.

Ice hockey

When it’s spring time and time for Ice Hockey World Championship, Finnish people tend to go a little bit crazy. There’s of course other competitions such as olympics, World Cup, Junior World Championship of Hockey etc. Olympics being the most important of all. Still, last spring when we won the World Championship, as much as 3,14 million people were watching the broadcast and that is quite a lot for country that has a population of 5,5 million people overall. I can’t imagine how hardly we would celebrate if we would win the Olympics some day..  But the great thing about Finnish people being so passionate about ice hockey, is that it really brings people together. That is actually quite interesting and funny, considering that we are usually little bit reserved when meeting new people.

Beautiful summer nights

This summer I got the chance to spend more time with my friends during the evening time compared to last years and I truly realised how beautiful our sunsets and summer evenings overall are. I kind of feel bad that I haven’t been enjoying sunsets as much as I could’ve before and that I’ve been told plenty of times to enjoy the nature more. The nature around us makes sunsets more appealing but I did really enjoy the warm feeling that summer nights gave me. It’s not all about the sunsets though, I think the feeling that warm sunset and beautiful view gives (and the company, of course) is unbeatable. Calm beautiful summer nights are like Finnish people, warm and beautiful when you get to know them.

My few thoughts about Finland.

Juuso Johansson

Finnishness: A 2 years experience

Finnishness to me as a foreigner is:

 

Snow

Every winter, for around half a year, this land of Finland will be covered in white sheets of snow that gets annoying after a few months, yet it is beautiful and soothing to see.

 

Nature

It’s something that surrounds me every day, I live right next to a forest and a lake when this is the so called second biggest city in Finland. I am sure that this is not only me and if that is the case then nature is literally a representation of Finnishness. It soothing and nice, both in winter and summer and it just around the corner.

Proudness

I find Finnish people very proud of their race to a point that they become offensive sometimes. In a foreigner’s perspective I think this is such a great thing to be so proud of your race and live happily amongst it. Yet as a foreigner that got offended, I think there are other ways to be proud of your race offending a group of foreign students.

Sauna

It is the most Finnish thing to do and almost every family or apartment building has one. It’s a luxury in other countries yet it’s the simplest form of entertainment and relaxation of the country. It’s honestly better in winter.

Getting drunk

A Finnish person before and after getting drunk is two people, they are so quiet and shy before getting drunk and after that they become the nicest and funniest people in the world. There are always exceptions which are alcoholics but generally the same person can change so much after a drink.

Personal Space

I am definitely enjoying a    nd accepting this as a foreigner, everyone respects each other personal space and to be honest it’s very quiet on the streets or anywhere. It feels nice to walk around with your own personal space considering growing up in a metropolitan where personal space doesn’t exist. Then again, too much personal space leads to being distant which also is a very Finnish problem.

 

Finnishness

What Finnishness is to me?

Nature

Finnish people are really proud of our nature, and I think it is really great because we should be proud of it.  We spend a lot of time in the nature. Going to the nature and the importance of it has been taught us since we were kids. Example by going to the forest for camping and hiking in a school. Nature is something that we respect and cherish.

Icehockey

We are ice hockey country definitely, when the world championship starts we go crazy. It has never been a question that are we football or icehockey country. Every year when the ice hockey world championship starts, people get together and watch the games together. Ice hockey is something that brings people together in Finland.

Sauna

This is one of my favorite things about Finland. Everybody knows that Finland is very known from the sauna, but nobody knows how important it really is to very many finn. Including me. It is place where to enjoy company of friends or family, and it is also a place where you can be all by yourself.

Nature: a part of Finnish identity

There are a lot of things that people relate to Finnishness, the image of introverted people who like their personal space and sauna after a long day of work. I wanted to focus on Finns and our relationship to nature, as well as my own relationship towards it.

Historically Finnish people have always had a strong relationship with nature. Before the spread of Christianity, Finns practiced polytheism, meaning they believed in many different gods, most of them somehow related to nature. There were many gods, creatures and spirits that ancient people believed in. The most important one is probably Ukko, who was the supreme god, in control of the weather, crops and thunder. Tapio was the god of forests from whom hunters asked for good luck in their hunt. Ahti was the god of the sea and people prayed to him for good luck in fishing. (Kalevalanassikat 2014)

There is a deep respect towards nature and the animals that live in the forest. A great example of one of those creatures is Finland’s national animal, the bear, which is featured in the folklore epic called Kalevala. (Weaver 2014) Bears are seen as the most powerful, mythical creatures that live in Finland. A long time ago when a bear was killed, there would be a special celebration called “karhunpeijaiset”. During the celebration there is a deep respect for the killed animal and almost nothing goes to waste, because that would be very disrespectful to the spirit of the bear. Finns have come up with many other names for bears partly for respect, and partly for the fear that the king of the forest will hear its name being spoken and bring bad luck to whoever spoke its name. Even the typical word for bear in Finnish, “karhu”, is not the original word for a bear. (Taivaannaula 2014) Of course, today these traditions have changed but from my own knowledge if an animal is killed not much will go to waste because hunters still respect the animals they kill.

I believe that due to urbanisation and the growth of cities, the relationship between people, especially young people, and nature is weakening. However, interacting with nature is still a huge part of peoples’ past time. From early on children get to develop a bond with nature, some of this comes through physical education in schools where kids are, among other things, taught to ski on an open field and orientate in the forest with a map and a compass. Both of which I was taught in elementary school and I learned skills from both activities that have helped me later on in life as well, whether I was skiing with friends during the winter holidays or trekking in Lapland with a compass in my hand. The photograph below is from one of my trekking trips in Lapland.

Another way that we Finns nourish our relationship to the environment is by exercising our every man’s rights, (in Finnish “jokamiehenoikeudet”) which allows you to enjoy many aspects of the outdoors. This includes the freedom to roam the countryside, go berry picking, foraging, and fishing with a line and rod. Of course, you must be respectful to the environment (no littering, picking protected plants or disturb nesting birds) and stay out from peoples’ yards. Many people go pick their favourite berries, such as bilberries and cowberries among others, as well as foraging for mushrooms this time of year. It is a great past time that many families and friends do every fall, and even if you don’t find the berries or mushrooms you were looking for, it is a great way to hang out, get some exercise and enjoy fresh air. If you wish to learn more about Finland’s every man’s rights, there is a link at the end of this blog post.

Not only is nature great place for doing all sorts of physical exercise, it also increases our mental well-being. Research shows that being in nature lowers blood pressure, decreases stress, and increases happiness. (mielenterveystalo n.d.) For my own part I can say that when I have gone trekking, the everyday worries vanish almost completely, and my mind feels light and my thoughts clear from stress. Whenever I feel stressed about something my immediate reaction is always to go outside, get fresh air and walk or cycle in the forest, perhaps along the shoreline.

Finland’s nature is a source of pride for Finns and based on a study conducted by the Association of Finnish Work, the majority (51% of Finns) feel that nature is the biggest source of pride for us. According to the study almost half of Finns’ ideal mental landscape is a forest, the second most common mental landscape is that of the sea. (Viher-ympäristöliitto 2017) My ideal mental landscape has always been of the sea or a lake, probably because I grew up next to the sea and there is something about living next to it, this great openness and freshness that comes from it that I really appreciate. Another reason for my mental landscape being that of the seashore might be because my family’s summer cottage is right next to the sea. In Finland it is very common that families own their own summer cottage which is a place for relaxation during the holidays and to go swimming and to the sauna, of course.

I believe nature is a core part of Finnish peoples’ identity. It is reflected in the ancient peoples’ beliefs of gods, creatures and spirits that were believed to roam the forests and it is reflected even today when people spend time outdoors, perhaps picking mushrooms with their friends or family. It is reflected in my eyes as I walk through the forest and smile when I hear a bird singing.

More information on every man’s rights:

Everyman’s rights

References:

Kalevalanassikat. Suomen muinaiset jumalat. 2014. Published 31.10.2014. Read on 30.9.2019. https://kalevalanassikat.wordpress.com/2014/10/31/suomen-muinaiset-jumalat/
Mielenterveystalo. n.d. Luonnon vaikutus hyvinvointiin. Read on 10.9.2019. https://www.mielenterveystalo.fi/aikuiset/itsehoito-ja-oppaat/oppaat/tietoa_luonnon_hyvinvointivaikutuksista/Pages/luonnon_vaikutus_hyvinvointiin.aspx#sosiaalinen_hyvinvointi
Taivaannaula. 2014. Karhunpaijaiset. Published 31.1.2014. Read on 10.9.2019. http://www.taivaannaula.org/2014/01/31/karhunpeijaiset/
Viher-ympäristöliitto. 2017. Luonto on suomalaisille ylpeyden aihe. Published 30.5.2017. Read on 6.9.2019. https://www.vyl.fi/uutiset/luonto-on-suomalaisille-ylpeyden-aihe/
Weaver, F. 2014. Iconic Finnish Nature Symbols Stand Out. Published August 2014. Read on 13.9.2019. https://finland.fi/life-society/iconic-finnish-nature-symbols-stand-out/

Finnishness

When I am asked of typical aspects of Finland and Finnishness, the first things that come to my mind are sauna and nature.

Sauna

Sauna is likely the best known part of Finnish culture around the world. There is no better place to relax after a strenuous day or to warm up on a cold winter day than a 100° hot sauna. Whereas a sauna is considered as a luxury in most countries, it is completely normal in Finland, which is proven by the fact that there are about 2 million saunas in Finland, even though Finland only has a population of 5.3 million. Most houses/apartments are equipped with a sauna which is pretty unique when comparing that to other European countries. In my opinion the best sauna experience is staying in a summer cottage by a lake, when you can mix sauna sessions with an occasional round of swimming in the lake.

Nature

Finnish nature is unique and known for its forests and lakes. Around 78% of the land is covered by forest and around 10% by lakes and other waters. So regardless of where in Finland you live, the distance to lakes and especially to a forest is usually very short. Also, the mix of forests and lakes makes the Finnish landscape a beautiful one. It’s amazing! Especially when you’re standing by a lake (e.g. Saimaa), you will usually have a great view over the lake and the adjacent forests.

Jonathan Hucke

Country of thousands of lakes

Finns are humble. They don’t boast about what they have done. Actually they rather underestimate their skills. Example, almost everyone knows Angry birds, but only few know they are made in Finland. Because Finns keep it low. Finns are also a bit quiet and thinks carefully what they want to say. Most of us are better listener than speaker. So don’t think we are rude if we aren’t much about small talk.

Nature
Finnish nature is so beautiful with thousands of lakes, large archipelago and lovely coniferous forests. We love to spend time in nature and have some activities over a year. At winter we like to go play ice hockey, snowboarding, skiing or just playing in the snow. At summer when the sun begins to set later and later, Finns spend a lot of time in their summer cottages with their family or friends. Summer is also time for outdoor activities like boating, swimming, fishing, playing football, golf and almost everything you like to do. There is so many possibilities for different kind of activities in Finland.

Food
Finnish food is one of the most safeties and healthiest culinarians in the world. But Finnish traditional foods taste don’t tickle foreigners taste buds…

Here is one one example, when Gordon Ramsay is testing traditional Finnish food:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4S-8gF9GFJo

 

Finnishness

What is” Finnishness”?

When someone asks me how Finland is, my answer usually consists of Finnish nature, sauna, and its people’s unique character.

The nature in Finland is very different from other countries. Basically, everywhere you go in Finland you are going to be surrounded by forest. The forests in Finland are a nice place to take a walk, relax and you can even pick up berries and mushrooms! Apart from forests, Finland has over 187 thousand lakes. In the lakes Finnish people like to swim, especially after a hot sauna! If you want to have an authentic Finnish experience you must combine sauna, swimming in the lake and perhaps some alcohol with it. Finnish people are fun to hang out with, although they might give the wrong impression before getting to know them because they can be shy in the beginning.

Light show in forest

My finnish experience

I see Finland from the eyes of a foreigner since I moved from Italy to Finland to study in university.

The things that most represent my finnish experience are: sauna, nature and snow!

When I talk about sauna I can’t not think about the incredible experience I had in Rahuaniemi! It was such an unique moment, especially considered that in my culture there is nothing even close to “avanto”.

 

 

Second thing that represents Finland to me is SNOW! I never saw so much snow in my life! When I think about finnish winter I just picture in my head the color white.

 

And last but no least, nature!

If winter is white, summer is green.I love constantly be surrounded by nature and have the possibility to just walk in the forest.

 

There is nothing as green as Finland.

A few things about Finnishness

What is Finnishness? In my opinion Finnishness can be summarised with three things: sauna, nature and a lack of small talk. Here’s how those things represent finnishness.

Sauna

Sauna is perhaps the most known part of the Finnish culture around the world. Sitting naked with strangers in a hot room may sound bizarre for non-Finnish people, but for Finns sauna is sometimes a place to relax and shake of the stress after a hard week of work, sometimes it’s a place to socialise and have a few (or more) drinks with your friends. It’s pretty much the only place where talking to stangers is considered normal. For Finns, having a sauna in your home is something considered almost self-evident. It is estimated that there are two million saunas in Finland, which is a lot for a population of 5.3 million. The best way to experience sauna is at a summer cottage by a lake, with a possibility to take a dive in the cool lake water.


A sunset over a lake in Northern Finland

Nature

The Finns live close to nature. Approximately 75% of Finland’s area is covered in forests. Finland is often called “a land of thousand lakes”, which is actually an understatement (which is usual for Finns), considering there’s  over 187 000 lakes in Finland. Where ever you go, nature is close, whether as a small lake or as a piece of forest. The temperatures and climate between different seasons varies a lot. In summer the temperature can climb up to 30 degrees celcius and accordingly during winter it sometimes gets down to -30 degrees. The changes between the seasons require a skill to adapt to different situations, something the Finns have mastered.

No empty words

In most Western cultures people use small talk to avoid awkward moments of silence during a discussion, but not Finns. Moments of silence during a discussion aren’t really considered awkward, and they are certainly considered better than saying something you don’t necessarily mean. For an example, when asked a simple “how are you”, we have a tendency to answer literally.

Cartoon by Karoliina Korhonen

The lack of empty words means that when Finns say something, they almost always actually mean it. Finns are really honest people, and when they say they’re going to do something, they will do it. One of the most important traits for Finns is something called “sisu”, which is a concept of extreme determination and perseveranse.