Tag Archives: equality

Bus stops, personal space and Santa Claus

Every time someone talks about Finns, it’s always ice hockey, sauna, midsummer’s eve, long winters, Lapland…

But when you think about Finnishness – what makes a Finn – you might have to go out on the street and look at the “agreeable gaps” between people on the bus stops:

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish people on a bus stop

One thing that sets us apart and builds on what can be considered “Finnishness”, is our unannounced respect for other people. Of course there are always outliers, every society has its share of people who lack mutual respect, but there still lies an almost subconscious habit of keeping and giving personal space to one another. A feeling that makes us try and not to be a bother to others, even up to the point of sometimes being afraid of it. We don’t greet with cheek-kisses, we don’t sit next to people on the bus if there’s an empty row available and we most definitely don’t strike conversation with strangers – not that we don’t like them, but because we feel like they might be bothered or thinking about something really, really important.

Not every Finn likes ice hockey or sauna either. And being Finnish doesn’t mean you have to live up to the exaggerated reputation of being introverted and afraid of change. That’s why I think Finnishness stems more from what kind of people we are rather than what we do, our values, and our ability to take the best out of the worst situations.  On the contrary to what others commonly say, I do not think that Finns are slow to open up or skeptical towards other cultures. We just happen to have this stubborn, serene piece of home inside all of us that we won’t trade away so easily, a piece which keeps us level-headed and appreciative of the simple comforts of living. Nothing like sitting indoors on a dark, wet November afternoon and realizing you’re happy just because you’re at home.

Also, we have Santa Claus and a dark sense of humor. Maybe an unfair advantage?

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

In Finland we are all in the same class

I want to tell you about this topic that I have been thinking lately. What separates Finland from many other countries? In Finland we all are in the same class. What I mean with that? Well I tell you.

In Finland we all are equal. The same is in many other countries too but in Finland we take it little bit more far. Like in the school classroom there is students and teacher but here we all work as a team for the goal. The teacher teaches and students learn but if maybe teacher says something that is wrong or there is many possible answers, students can say like: “Hey teacher, I think it should be this way” or something like that and the teacher is okay with that. And so it should go. Nobody is perfect here because we are all humans. But still this does not mean that students don’t  honor the teacher. Yes we do.

Other example of how we are in the same class is our president Sauli Niinistö. He reflects the entire Finnish people by his actions. Like in not so many countries the president calls to the popular radio program like any other ordinary citizen to ask about flowers and doesn’t even tell who he is. Or in not so many countries the president travels in low cost airlines tourist class when he has meeting with other countries leaders. etc. This shows really how we Finns are in our best. We have our own places and jobs and that’s it. Why the president should have his own over expensive jumbojet if there is scheduled flights to the same countries.

 

Finland was divided country for not so long time ago and there still lives people who has seen what it can cause at it’s worst if the people of nation turn against each other. I almost can say that it is good that we have gone throught that time because now we know that we don’t want it to happen again. We all need to remain as equal as possible.

 

Everyman’s Finland

The freedom to roam Everyman’s right

Finnish people live in the middle of forests, lakes and peatlands. Everyman’s right is an important part of Finnish lifestyle. Everyman’s right means that all people in Finland can freely walk in forests, pick mushrooms and berries, boat, camp temporarily and so forth. People don’t need a permission from the land owner and neither do people have to pay for anyone to do things that are everyman’s rights.

IMG_5137
Salamajärvi National Park 2016. Amazing three day hike in the wilderness.

Of course, when you have rights you also have responsibilities. It is not allowed to harm nature, make fire without permission, litter, disturb animals or hunt without appropriate permissions, etc. I think that everyman’s rights are a very significant for Finns. These rights give us a feeling of freedom. Many people go to nature to relax. Also, many nature related sports are quite popular such as skiing, orienteering, hiking, mountain biking, canoeing and many other. Everyman’s right makes Finns more equal because everyone has the same opportunity to enjoy our beautiful country.

Finland has 39 national parks. National parks encourage Finns and tourists to go to nature and enjoy the beautiful wilderness. Finns appreciate their own space and that is one of the reasons why we want to enjoy the nature in our own peace.

IMG_5298

Summer Festivals

Festivals are a big phenomenon in Finland in summertime. In winter Finns like to keep to themselves, but when the summer finally arrives Finns gather together for all kinds of festivals. Many successful heavy metal bands come from Finland like Nightwish for example.

IMG-20160827-WA0007
Nightwish at Himos Park 2016.

Iskelmä music is very popular, too. Mainly a bit older audience likes iskelmä hits and likes to dance tango, but also some young people like it. Finnish summer is filled with all kinds of music festivals and also several other festivals.

 “If tar, liquor and sauna will not help the disease is fatal”.

Sauna is always mentioned when told about Finnish culture. Winters in Finland are rather cold and dark and saunas have provided us a hot place to warm up, have a bath, give birth and nurse sick people. There is this old Finnish saying about sauna’s healing powers: “If tar, liquor and sauna will not help the disease is fatal”. In some parts of Finland people have smoked meat in the sauna. Finns have even used sauna to get rid of evil spirits. Most Finns have their own sauna but public saunas are popular, too. Nowadays sauna is used mainly for bathing and relaxing, but still many people have a little sauna elf protecting their sauna.

(The pictures are taken by me.)

My experience of Finnishness

As a Finn there are three things that always come to my mind when I think about Finnishness: honesty, equality and sauna.

Honesty

We Finns value honesty very much. We say what we think about something and we mean it. This is both a good and a bad thing. For example in business it’s very good that you can count on what has been agreed upon. Then again when having a conversation our honesty may be interpreted as being rude to someone.

download1

Equality

Equality is so deeply rooted to our society, that we don’t always even notice it ourselves. One of my personal favorites is the absent of gender specific pronoun. Equality is also tied with our education system, which provides free education to each and everyone. If that isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is!

download

Sauna

Sauna is what symbolizes my finnishness the most. It combines the above-mentioned honesty and equality together. Nowhere can you find a more honest Finn, then being in sauna with them. Also in sauna there are no titles, all people are equal in sauna.

 

Lastly some humor 🙂

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finland ball