Tag Archives: Finland

How I see Finland

In my opinion, Finland is one of the best places to stay, when it comes to conditions, the standard and the quality of life. Especially elderly people and children are treated really well in this country. In general people are extremely honest and encourage other people to have the same courtesy. The stereotype about Finnish honesty is purposeful and truthful, and Finns like to highlight it. For example if you lose your wallet here, you have way better chances at getting it back, than in many other countries. I personally have had an experience of forgetting my bank card in the ATM machine and then getting a call from a stranger that found it to come and collect it. You can’t not respect that. As it was said in another blog post, I agree that ”honesty is the foundation of a safe and functional society.” (Sahamies, J. 2019 blogi)

(https://adage.com/creativity/work//38028)

In addition to all the good benefits and support you can get from the government, Finland also provides exceptional educational opportunities. Here you can basically educate yourself to become whatever you want as long as you have the motivation and the dedication to do it, the doors are open. People from all over the world come here for the education opportunities and in some cases may even get a job and stay here. Most of the exchange students I have spoken to, have said that they love it here. The only negative aspects were the weather conditions and sometimes the food.

(https://www.tuni.fi)

Why the food? Well, Finland isn’t really known as the most food oriented country even though there are some amazing Finnish dishes, which will make your mouth water. Still, because Finnish people tend to settle for less, they don’t make a big deal out of a meal. Salt & pepper is all you need for seasoning.

Mostly the food is considered to be healthy and versatile. To people like myself who are picky with the food, it may seem a bit boring at times. People from countries where food is held in a high standard, would probably also want to spice it up a bit, since they are more used to the strong rich flavors.

(https://finnishcrashcourse.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/food-culture-in-finland-tradition-habits-and-particular-dishes-part-1/) Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Finnishness

Finnishness to me is about the bigger picture. It includes the humble Finnish people, monotonous language, the culture and the pride of being a Finn. A typical Finn is usually pretty introvert person until you get to know him/her. Once you got to know a Finn personally they are really open, warm and talkative.

 

I believe that one cause to the “shyness” comes from the language. Finnish language is monotonous and it makes other language’s words harder to pronounce unless you’ve used to be in interaction with them. If typical Finn from street starts to speak English it’s normally basic “rally” English. If you’re wondering what that sounds here’s a sample from rally driver Gronholm himself:

 

 

The culture is hard to describe. It’s something that you really need become part of. Finns might not be the most outgoing sort but they always have something weird to do or in this case eat. Finns have few really delicacies; mämmi (rye pudding), mustamakkara (black sausage), salmiakki (salty liquorice), ruisleipä (rye bread) and karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pasty). These are a-must-have treats to taste if you’re planning on visiting Finland.

 

Finns take pride being true to themselves. They think they can do everything by themselves and will not ask for help unless it’s necessary. If you see a Finn fall down or working on a hard project – I ensure you that the Finn will work it’s tail off pretending that everything is going well and stuff seems under control even thought they might be in deep trouble trying to keep face. Asking for help is big step for a Finn.

Finland is country of thousand lakes with lots of forests and great nature. Finns have great opportunity to escape to the nature and possibly go relax to cottages with their closest ones which is great feature in this time of technology. In the summer Finns like to spend time on the waters or beaches and eat great barbeque food. This is Finns best time to recharge batteries and collect thoughts.

 

What Finnishness means to me

Before reading this, I would like to say to you (whoever is crazy enough to read texts longer than a tweet nowadays), that the following text might be a bit boring to read (here you have a perfect example of the Finnish modesty) but I am not a writer like Eino Leino or Minna Canth, I don’t enjoy writing as much as they did. But I still managed to write down this lovely list of things that the word Finnishness means to me.

What Finnishness means to me. Well, it means a lot of different things. Firstly, it means the ability to enjoy all the four seasons with all their positive and negative qualities. It means long cold winter, beautiful and lively spring, green and warm summer and rainy but colorful autumn. It means the ability to breathe in the fresh air and walk around beautiful, clean and peaceful nature.

Lakes are a huge part of the Finnish nature.

 

It means the ability to be whatever I want to be and the ability to study for free. It means feeling safe. It means that everyone has equal opportunities to succeed and everyone is treated with respect. It means that you get a mum package from KELA when you have a baby.

It means a lot of coffee, beer, and sausages. And weirdly a lot of potatoes in different forms. It means eating weird foods like mämmi and liver casserole and pretending to enjoy it (some people actually enjoy these things).

.Mämmi – a Finnish Easter dessert. Picture source: K-ruoka.fi

It is feeling uncomfortable when someone sits next to me on a half-empty bus or a train. It means the weird look on my face if a stranger begins to have a conversation with me. But then again it means being completely fine with going to a public sauna and sitting there half-naked with people you don’t know. It is the feeling of community when people go crazy over something successful that a Finnish sports team does and the feeling of pride when Finland related stuff appears international movies or TV series. It means the pride and respect I feel when I hear the national anthem of Finland and think about how Finns fought for the independence of our country.

Picture source: finnishnightmares.blogspot.com

It means going to the cottage when it is Midsummer and eating rice porridge when it is Christmas morning. It means watching the independence they celebrations and listening to Finlandia together with family. It means celebrating vappu with friends and eating a lot of munkki with sima.

Picture source: Finnish Travel Blog

Finnishness means that it is ok to complain about being chosen the country with the happiest people in the world.  Lastly and maybe most importantly it means queuing up to get a free bucket and hoping to win the lottery. Overall, it is an honor to be able to call this country my home and to live in the same country with Santa Claus, of course.

Picture source: ifunny.com

There is so much more to it as well, I am sure, but here are the first things that came into my mind when I started to think about the meaning of Finnishness.

 

 

 

 

Finnishness

Ranking among the very best in air quality, not too many people, one of the highest concentrations of forest per km2 make it one of the best places in the world to breathe. More and more of the population live in the cities nowadays, but the forest is always near and easily reached.

Log Cabin, Cottage, House, Home, Finland, Landscape

The vast majority of Finns highly value nature and enjoy the outdoors. Having all four seasons gives a lot of variety to our lives. Some people may complain about the cold winters, but I believe they secretly still love it. This also brings different pastimes depending on the season. We are mostly familiar with snow and winter sports though, many of these can be impossible to do in many other countries. It would be very hard to imagine life never having seen snow.

 

Lake, View, Pine, Water, Blue, Nature, Landscape, Trees

 

One of the year-round pastimes is obviously Sauna. I’m happy to live in the current “Sauna capital” that is Tampere. The pleasurable feeling of heating yourself all red and jumping on snow is one of the best ways to relax the body and mind.

 

Snowy Road, Winter, Forest Road, Cold, Arctic, Frost

 

Next month I’ll begin my exchange studies abroad. Having lived all 23 years of my life in Finland, I know there will be a myriad of things I’ll miss about this country. But I’m sure I’ll be even more appreciative of them when I return. 

 

 

Finland: A Place You Belong

Since I was a kid I’ve always been sort of a little forest fairy or nymph. I spent the first few years of my life in Finland, the second half of my childhood in Sweden, and now that I’ve gotten to do a bit of traveling, I couldn’t be happier to have got to grow up in the north.

Tampere in summer, picture taken from  cliffs in Pyynikki. Photo by Emilia Brändh.
Keskustori at night. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

So many moments lost and found in the woods, magic discovered in hidden ponds and adventures made in wet swamps, on steep cliffs and misty fields.

My nationality is something I’ve always kinda thought about a lot, and never really been able to pinpoint what I am. What I should answer when someone asks me where I’m from. Here and there? Is that good enough of an answer? Being a bilingual dual citizen and culturally confused kid, I’ve spent a lot of my life wondering who I really am, and what country I really belong to. Because even though technically it’s just a word on a passport or ID, it still matters and means a lot to us.

Lush green pine forest in Ylöjärvi. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

If you’re a bit of a “citizen of the world” instead of belonging one country in specific, nationality can be tricky.

But when I swim in Finnish lakes in the golden evenings, run through Finnish woods in the foggy mornings, light candles on Finnish cemeteries around the cold, harsh Christmas times… I feel like yeah, this is who I am.  I am really Finnish, and I feel like I am home.

It’s like a tangible magical dust floating in the air.

Keijärvi in summer. Finland is THE PLACE to have deep thoughts in nature. Full solitude. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

Finnishness is something I can feel on my skin.

It’s the light on summer nights when the sun doesn’t set. It’s the raindrops on your face when you leave your umbrella at home because there’s no way it will suddenly start raining when the sky looks so clear (but this is Finland we’re talking about, so you should know better and always be prepared!). It’s the chilly breeze in the autumn. It’s the frost biting your cheeks, and it’s the wet pine branches slapping against your body when you take a brisk morning walk in the forest.

Finnish people value honesty, silence, responsibility, cleanness, calm, loyalty, security and determination.

I love how our nature and the beautiful, peaceful landscapes around us are a constant reminder and expression of all those values.

That’s the kind of Finnishness I want to be a part of.

Frosty trees and frozen Iidesjärvi lake seen from Kalevankankaan hautausmaa. Photo by Emilia Brändh.
Golden strolls in the evening sun. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

Pakistani way of enjoying Finnishness

When talking about Finland often you will see people talking about how they are introverts and how boring it can get in Finland, if you do not know how to have fun that might be true.

Being a person who was born and raised in the hot region of Saudi Arabia while being from Pakistan, I already had a pretty high tolerance for weather and different kinds of people. Coming to Finland was more of an adventurous experience for me, with a mindset of achieving what I had in mind and making loads of connections which was a must given the studies at TAMK.

There are a lot habits I may have picked up on to better understand Finland and enjoy its all year round winter and most importantly keeping yourself warm and motivated in such weather. Although, coming from a hot place such as Saudi, my cold tolerance should have been little to none but even my Finnish friends are surprised as to how much I can take tolerate. On the other hand, I just believe Finnish people have low tolerance for cold at least the Finns in my circle.

MUNKKI

Image result for munkki

This treat that is much more than just a sugar coated doughnut is the perfect combination with your morning coffee. Although I have not seen a lot of Finns do that but I guess I can get a bit creative when it comes to mixing up cultures and creating new combinations in general. Of course one is not enough and if you eat too much then you would be ruining your summer body, luckily for you there is a lot of time until summer, here in Finland. A fun challenge could be, as the famous saying goes you are a legend if you can eat munkki without licking your lips (as in cleaning the sugar that gets stuck to your lips and mouth), Try it the next time you have one or the first time you have one!

 

AVANTO

What I am about to tell you is going to blow your mind and you might think that is crazy talk but here in Finland we actually can prove that nothing is crazy talk we do crazy on daily basis. One of the best activities and a great way to bond with your friends or friends you just made is to go to Avanto. Although I am not quite sure what the activity is called but my friends and I have been calling it Avanto and that’s what we would like to call it for forever more. This is also a very interesting activity as you may learn a lot about your new friend circle or just a great way to better understand your friends and their personalities.

So imagine having -15 degrees which is not a lot in Finnish scale and image there is a hole in the lake within the ice/snow and you have a sauna that is almost always 95 degrees hot, now imagine combining these into a crazy adventurous activity cycle that lasts for usually an hour. Apart from the health benefits you can gain from such an exercise, you need to have certain amounts of guts and daredevil attitude to do something crazy like this. You start off by taking a shower and then relaxing in the sauna when you feel your body is  getting to hot or you feel as in you have enjoyed enough then you go to the hole or body of water in ice which is actually warmer than the temperature outside (usually 1-3 degrees) and you take a dip. I have not dip my head in the water all these years but I have been told you feel like you might pass out so remember, other than your head you can go crazy and dip in for as long as you want and then you come out (not to forget all of this happens outside so the -15 is not a foreign factor playing a part but your best pal in a way). After the dipping and if everything including your hair hasn’t already frozen and is about to fall you go back into the sauna and basically “melt off” and relax.

Although you can repeat the cycle as much as you want but do remember to take some sausages with you to fully enjoy the experience and needless to say all this hot and cold mess is going to make you very hungry. Image result for avanto

SOLU

I still remember having a group with my friends called SoluBois, but this if you know TAMK you would know where to get your free coffee from and if you did not know, well now you know. Not only is it a place to just get free coffee but the Student Lounge is so relaxing and calming that it does give you a bit of extra motivation during your lecture breaks. I have been in various parts of the world in very interesting situations but Solu is by far the best place to meet new and interesting people, where you do have the sign of “No discrimination” but you still do discuss heavy politics and in general heavy topics with a person you JUST met. Of course all of that while respecting the other person and keeping it a healthy debate, however, time spent in Solu has definitely made it worth the while and almost certainly guarantees a smile on your face even if you have 10 minutes to spare.

My advice would be, before listening to people’s opinion about how boring it can get and how there is almost nothing to do in Finland try the activities locals do, the culture is filled with different sorts of vibrant and colourful stuff even if the weather is not so colorful. Definitely, trying avanto will grant you a lifetime experience and will certainly introduce something about your personality that you were not aware of.

Also don’t forget to eat a lot of munkkis and drink a lot of coffee so that you are hydrated and warm within your winter jacket.

Finnishness from the viewpoint of a German

I still remember how people looked at me when I told them that I am going to live in Finland. And even after three years I still hear myself explaining why I didn’t choose a warm country with sunny beaches. The questions are always the same: Isn’t it very cold and dark there? Is the language really so hard to learn? Are the Finns really so quiet and restrained?

To be honest, the long darkness is a serious struggle for me and the Finnish language often drives me close to insanity.

However, this does not define Finnishness for me.

For me, Finnishness means:

Nature: Wherever you go in Finland, the next lake or forest is always close by. In Germany, if you are living in a bigger city, you often need to drive somewhere to be in nature and the few lakes we have are usually overrun with people.

 

 

Sauna: When I was a child I sometimes went to public saunas in Germany, but I never really enjoyed them. First of all, people must be naked (also in mixed saunas) and secondly, others will look sharply at you if you make a single sound. In Finland going to the sauna is more like an event where people are not only relaxing, but also socializing. Since I am living in Finland, I became a true sauna fan – especially during the cold winters.

 

 

 

 

Hospitality: Finns often seem very quiet, but their hospitality overrides this restraint. Before my studies I worked as au pair in a Finnish host family and from the first moment I felt welcomed there. During this year I received several visits from friends and family and my host family was always very happy to meet my guests and usually invited them to their summer cabin.

 

 

FINNISH CUISINE

Finnish food respects traditions. There are few traditional dish and they are rarely eaten on a daily basis. These are often regional, associated with older generations or confined to a specific holiday. Example: Mämmi (It’s traditional sweet dish, which especially eaten at Easter. Its mainly made from water, rye malt and rye flour.)

Most popular meats in Finland are pork, beef, chicken and duck. In Lapland, the greatest delicacy is the sautéed reindeer.

Arctic wild berries are distinctively featured in Finnish cuisine with their strong and unique flavor and high nutrient content. In summer you can eat fresh berries and dried or froze at other times of year. Its very common to go picking berries straight from the forests. You can use berries in pies, smoothies or eat as such. Also various species of mushrooms grow in abundance in Finnish forests. Chanterelles and ceps pop up after Midsummer and are popular in the whole country. Mushrooms are used in sauces, soups, stews, pie fillings or simply fried in a pan. In winter they are preserved by pickling or drying.

Finnish bread is mostly dark and fiber-rich rye bread. Breads are made from grains like barley, oat, rye and wheat or by mixing different grits and flours. One popular and oldest traditional pasties is Karelian pasties. Most familiar and common version is has a thin rye crust with a filling of rice porridge. Karelian pasties are served with spread made of butter and hard boiled eggs. Here’s a video where they show, how to make Karelian pasties.

Traditional Finnish breakfast includes porridge. Rolled oats, rye or multi-grain porridge are most common to see in Finnish breakfast table. Water and coffee are the most common drinks in Finland, but during meals milk and sour milk are also popular. Finnish people drink coffee often several times a day and served everywhere and tea is available in most homes.

 

Esa Pulliainen and his “Finnish” guitar sound

I’ve been playing guitar my whole life and our home was full of great music. I recall the time when I heard Topi Sorsakoski & Agent’s song “Kaksi Kitaraa” coming from our stereo system and it hit me like ten thousand volts. I thought to myself: “What’s this? What’s that guitar sound? Why does it sound so beautiful? Why it sounds so melancholy and sad?” That was time before internet so I looked the CD cover and saw that it was and old folk song but Agent’s guitarist Esa Pullianen had re-arranged it. I wrote this blog about Esa Pullainen’s guitar sound because in my opinion it defines what’s “Finnishness”. And of course the band “Agents” is topical subject today and they released magnificent record with Ville Valo two weeks ago.

So, why Esa Pulliainen’s guitar sound defines what “Finnishness” is to me? Firstly, his guitar (Fender Stratocaster) is blue and it has Finland’s flag-sticker on it. Secondly, you just have to listen how his guitar weeps, moans and groans so insolently. Mr. Pulliainen uses his Fender Stratocaster as a brush and paints beautiful landscapes with his signature sound. And while he lets his guitar sing, you can imagine all the beautiful things about Finland: forests, lakes, fields, mountains, winter, summer, spring, autumn, etc. But it also sounds sad and melancholy at the same time. And that’s why when I think about “Finnishness” I think about Esa Pulliainen and his guitar sound. It’s simultaneously so beautiful and so melancholy. Just like Finns.

Funny fact: I have many friends who aren’t Finnish and when they ask me how to describe Finland to them, I play some songs by Topi Sorsakoski & Agents to them. Every time I get the same response: “What’s this? This sounds so beautiful and so melancholy at the same time. Wow!”

Esa Pulliainen and his famous Fender Stratocaster

Finnish people are growing

First thing that comes to peoples minds about Finnish people is shyness and that they don’t come near you if they don’t have to. I guess that’s true in some situations. My experience is that, Finnish people just don’t say anything if they don’t have anything to say and they keep distance of people just because they don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable. (and they love own personal space) I have noticed, that Finnish people are getting better in small talk, usually its about a bad weather but still!

Because of internet and social media, Finnish people are also getting more sparkly with their looks and personalities. When you walk at the center of Tampere or Helsinki, you can see more colors and patterns in peoples clothes. Not only on youngsters but also on elders! It is great that Finnish people are also expressing them selfs with clothes, not only in facebook groups.

I have also noticed that Finnish peoples helpfulness and symphaty for other people is increased in past few years. Especially in facebook you can see this more and more companies and individual persons offering help for another. Everyday I notice someone needing for help and random people are offering their help without any counter-service! For example, group “Hätäkahvit” is one of Facebook groups where random people offers help for another.

Like everyone know, Finnish peoples love nature. It’s amazing how Finnish people are thinking global warming seriously and doing something about it. More Finnish companies are doing their part and people are recycling more and thinking about they behavior. We are proud of our nature and we are ready do to work to keep it healthy and beautiful.

Summa summarum:

Finnish people are shy, grumpy and need there personal space, but they are also getting little bit more helpful and curious about other peoples business.