I mean I have lived here basically my whole life, but I still wouldnt call my self a Finn. My roots are from Bosnia originally. I’ll base this blogpost off of my own experiences and my own everyday life.
The first thing that comes up to my mind when talking about Finnish people or culture and I’m not even joking but alcohol.
Atleast among students alcohol is seen as a kind of stress reliever. When you’ve got 2 essays and a few difficult tests on the same week it can get pretty stressful, so a student party and a get together with your friends can occasionally help I guess. Also when you’ve worked the traditional 9-5 job the whole week you often find yourself drinking over the weekend with your friends. I’ve been in a couple of situations when deciding not to drink the people around me ask is something wrong, its actually kind of funny.
Some of the many boozes in Finland.
The second thing is sports. Whenever theres news that some Finn or Finns are doing good in some sport in a major tournament it gathers a lot of viewers. I’d say a good example is when a e-sports team called Ence was competing in a CS:GO tournament called Katowice Major. Myself and my friends have not watched any e-sports, but when we heard of this, of course we intented to watch it. The tournament gathered a lot of views from Finland and it was actually exciting to watch. They ended up in 2nd place and they really made a name for themselves. My point with this is that no matter the sport Finnss always gather up and root for their own to win, even though they have not watched the sport, like ever.
The last things come actually as a package almost. Im talking about cottage, sauna and nature. You cant have one without the other. Finlands nature during the summer is just beautiful to look at. Especially in your own cottage when you’ve got your own peace you can just relax and take it easy. Cottages usually at best reside by the seaside but most of them reside on the shore of a lake away from the busy city life.
When telling people that you are from Finland, many don’t even know where Finland is. If they do the most common stereotypes about our culture and country are snow, Lapland, Darkness, Nature, Northern lights, sauna, quietness, and sometimes our great education. Yes we are part of the Nordic countries and there are similarities, but Finnish culture is unique in its own ways.
For me Finnish culture has many layers and constructs from different aspects. Some pillars for me would be nature, traditions, peacefulness (unless we win the hockey championships) and personal space.
As Finland has so much nature that is free for everyone to explore and enjoy, it has become a vital part of our culture and so called “Finnishness”. There are lakes, forests, sea, fields and so many other scenery all around Finland that everyone can find their own form of nature that they like. And due to Every man’s rights (jokamiehenoikeudet) we can all enjoy the nature freely, given that we respect and treat it as a living organism that needs to be looked after. We go to the nature to find peace from the busyness of the cities and to get some exercise. Nature is integrated into our everyday lives, Finland is not called ‘the land of thousand lakes’ for nothing.
Finns are really traditional and it can be seen in our culture. Of course culture changes as time passes but ancient traditions can be still seen in our culture even today. Sauna culture is one of these old traditions that doesn’t seem like ever going away. Sauna is part of our big holidays like Christmas and Midsummer as well as everyday routines. Other traditions like traditional dances (seen in the picture) are still danced in these events called ‘lavatanssit’. One can see that this tradition will go on because there are people from different generations attending the dances.
Peacefullness and Personal space:
Like earlier mentioned, Finns like to go out to nature to get some peacefulness in their life. I think that is one of the reasons we were voted the Happiest country in the world last year. Finns are hard working but we know how to find the balance between free-time and work and we know how to relax. People go to a summer cottage for some peace and relaxation. With this comes the personal spaces. Finns like their own time and spending time with their selves whether it’s at home, at the cottage or in nature. We function best if we find a good balance of own time, socializing, working and free time. Personal space appreciation can also be seen in buses: If there is a empty space somewhere in the bus, Finn will not sit next to another person but rather choose a seat all by them selves.
These are few points that I think means to be Finnish and tells what Finnishness is. I enjoy and respect our culture and think I will miss some of the aspects while I am doing my exchange. Let’s see shall we!
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.
What do you think of when someone mentions Finland? Santa claus, polar bears, free education, and ice hockey are some things you might hear from other people. Everyone has their own perspective of Finland, and no perspective is wrong in my opinion. I feel that way, because your life experience in Finland is very subjective. Finland can offer you very down to earth experience in quiet and unsocial environment. Finland can also be experienced in very outgoing and social environment. That’s what I like about Finland – you are not to be judged if you are introverted, and you are not to be judged if you are extroverted.
I think most people abroad see Finnish people as introverted, and I agree to that to some degree. However, even though Finn’s are not really raised to keep noise of themselves, Finn’s can be quite talkative after they have initiated in a conversation. I think we were raised to be well behaving and not to talk to strangers. I think I see a change in this attitude in the streets, with people being more open to strangers.
There’s just thing one thing I am afraid that will be issue in the future. Unlimited internet access for 1 month is cheaper than a restaurant meal in Finland. This is really something if you compare it to other countries. For example in Australia mobile phone data plan can be up to 50 euros, and that doesn’t even include unlimited data! Internet accessibility in Finland is really unique, and we should be proud of that.
When you’re walking down the streets however, you can really see the effect of this accessibility. People are staring down their phones, while ignoring everything else. Lots of people are even using their phones while driving! More and more people are getting smartphone addictions from young age. That is the one thing that should be watched amongst youngsters. With proper usage our internet availability is a huge asset for us, and it should be viewed as a tool, not as a lifestyle.
So what does a typical Finn do in his free time? There’s one activity that applies from babies to elders. And that is going to the cottage. Cottage is a place where you can just lay back, and enjoy being together with your friends, relatives, or just enjoying your own company. It’s quite typical for young adults to go to cottage and enjoy different kind of games and beverages. This can especially be seen in times around midsummer. It’s such a tradition that even though you do not have your own cottage, people will still rent a cottage for fairly high price. It’s also important to have a sauna in your cottage.
For people who do not enjoy going to cottages, there are festivals around the country during midsummer. They are especially popular in teens, but pretty much people from all ages go there.
So how is Finland going to be for you? It’s all up to you. You define how you want to experience Finland, let it be partying or enjoying the nature. Or in the best case, both. 🙂
For Finns it’s normal that almost every family owns a cottage on a lake. The cabin can be ether modern with all the luxuries or extremely primitive with no electricity or running water. Or something between those. What combines all these cottages is that they are all places for relaxation and peace of mind.
The relaxation can mean many things. In summer it is things like swimming, playing games, walking in forest, rowing, barbecue or fishing but also yard working such as chopping wood, raking leaves, cleaning, doing maintenance work. In winter the favorites are skiing, skating, toboccan sliding, snowscootering, but also plowing snow. Everyone from children to old people spend time outside regardless of the temperature that can sometimes be as low as -25 °C and even lower in northern Finland.
Oh, and it’s not a cabin at all if there is no sauna. Period. Sauna is often used every evening while staying at the cottage. Finns usually go to sauna naked with close friends or family, although in most cases grown-ups take turns by gender. It is usually a sign of true friendship that you share a sauna together, where you can’t have anything to hide or any things with you that would make you somehow unequal with the other person that shares the space. Especially in summer if the löyly* is starting to feel too hot, we run and jump naked to the lake. Some people like to swim at winter too and a hole is drilled to the ice for it.
* Löyly does not only mean the water that is yet to be thrown to the sauna stove, but also the air temperature, moisture, intensity, spirit and even the whole character of the sauna experience. When a sauna is excellent, you can say something like “you get a good löyly there”.
Before you start to read this post, please play the following song from Youtube while reading. By doing this, you will share the same song and ambient I had while writing. The song is a Samish yoik, which reminds me of my home in Northern Finland.
The older I get, the more I romanticize the quietness the Finnish forests, lakes and rivers so kindly share us. No matter how big the city you are living here in Finland, you don’t have to travel far to find a cabin or cottage next to a quiet lake more or less isolated from neighbors. The further north you go, the less you find other people or distractions created by the modern mankind.
If you count the words “quiet” and “quietness” I used in the latter chapter, you might understand where I’m heading at. It does not seem to be just a stereotype that Finnish people love to embrace the moment of being alone or surrounded by people they feel comfortable with. Try to have a chat with a shy Finnish person – you won’t find yourself having a word rich dialogue.
BUT, try to get yourself with a group of Finnish strangers into one of those cabins mentioned before for an extended weekend – man, you might surprise yourself! It could contain a few (read many) brewskies, definitely many sauna rounds, while between skinny dipping yourself into the lake (or ice hole, carved open with a motor saw during the winter) and I almost bet my bottom that the Finns have opened themselves to you. They might talk with you over the nights, laugh and cry and sometimes both at the same time. But once again, this means having them Finns in a comfortable place. It’s not easy to tame a typical Finn, haha.
I have not traveled around the world ten times, but I have traveled and experienced different cultures. What I’ve seen is that we Finns tend to really follow the rules excluding IKEA manuals. You can see that buildings are built exactly as the regulations say. The law is the law. From my point of view I can say that it feels more safe and equal when you know that everybody has the same laws and articles to obey, and everybody’s following them.
Sure we can also find tragiomic examples of obeying rules too tight. You can be sure there are no bars serving even a single drop of alcohol after 3.30 am. In the motorway, don’t you dare driving too fast or not use the blinker when switching lanes – straight middle finger or a honk is pointed at you my friend. Sitting in a train in a two pair seat, on the wrong side of these two equally same spots, I can assure you that a typical Finn will for sure wake you up 2.38 in the morning to say: “Could you move, you’re on my spot” (happened to my friend, haha). Now I am actually currently in a train on my way to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and some a-hole is talking too loudly on his phone (for other people normal voice level). Typical Finnish reaction to unnecessary attention, haha.
When interviewing a Finn after a won game in sports, I promise you that he won’t say anything of their team of being just simply the best, unbeatable and how they’ve been winning every game during the season and will continue their path of victories. The Finnish player would probably say something, that today was a better day for their team, but there’s still a lot to do to make the team play more efficient and basically better. Finns are modest. Everything that’s done better than average is considered as bragging. Try to speak about your achievements. Haha, the boaster stamp achieved. We let the achievements to speak for themselves. It’s a vice and a virtue to be this modest.
At the end of the day we can find ourselves being quiet, modest and rule-followers. It is really what you can expect from a country where there’s less than 5.5 million people spread all over the 338,424 square kilometer area causing the density being only 16 persons per square kilometer. Just to compare with Macao, the number one in density of population, it’s 21,352 per square kilometer (Wikipedia). So no wonder we tend to keep by ourselves. But believe me, give a Finn some time and you might make a loyal friend for the rest of your life.