Tag Archives: Finland

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?

About Finland…

After years of travelling around the globe and exploring different cultures few thoughts have come to my mind. There are many things that I would like to change about Finnish culture, but also many that I am truly grateful and proud of.

I love our nature. Me and my friends have often joked about how most of Finland is only forest, but I grew up in a small town and my house was in the middle of forest and I have to say that some of my best memories growing up was playing with my friends in the forest making tree houses. We have many beautiful lakes, and during summer the colors are amazing. There is nothing better to do during summer than to go to a cabin in the lakeside and just relax and enjoy the calm environment. The Finnish nature is also one of the most recognizable and curious part of Finland for foreigners. Whenever I am abroad and tell someone that I am from Finland, they point out the beautiful nature.

I also appreciate our healthcare. As someone with a disease that will last a lifetime, I am truly grateful of the medical care and reduced medicine costs I can get here. I often wonder how I would survive living abroad where the medical costs can be very high. Here in Finland we get good care, and everyone has access to it.

Today’s world is full of conflicts and war, so I would also have to point out how great it is that it is so safe here in Finland. We don’t have any big natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, and crime rate is relatively low, and you can usually trust people. For example, in many other European countries, you couldn’t leave your bag unattended without someone stealing something. Security is very important to people’s wellbeing, and you can really feel that in Finland.

Something more carefree I also love about Finland is ice hockey. It is the only sport I understand and love to watch, maybe that is because it is one of the few sports that Finland is actually good at. When Finland is playing, almost the whole country goes insane with nothing but hockey in mind.

Part of Finnish culture that I don’t like is our eating and drinking culture. In Finland we eat dinner rather early in the day, around four or five, and we eat pretty quickly and then carry out with our day. In many other European cultures they eat dinner late, with whole family or with friends and spend time together. It would be nice to apply this more in Finland as well. I think Finnish drinking culture is a bit too much, as here many people drink just with the purpose of getting drunk, which is very unhealthy and bad habit.

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

Finland, what a great place

As some foreigners have told, Finns can be quite introverted sometimes. On the other hand, I think this proves to be the case especially when a Finn must talk another language than his or hers mother tongue. It might be also because Finland isn’t really that large of a country compared to some other, and because of that, we might not encounter that many people a day. If the population of Finland would be let’s say four times bigger, I think we might have gotten use to chatting with strangers, and moreover, expressing our feelings. But then again, would the Finnish culture be like what it is today if the population was significantly higher?

When many exchange students at TAMK have told that many Finns “keep stuff to themselves” and don’t really talk that much, we´ve told them that you just might want to wait and see what happens at the first student parties that you attend to. It is weird how a few magical portions of a substance called alcohol can change a fairly shy human being into the most talkative person you´ve ever met. I must say, it is sometimes quite embarrassing that the few things exchange students get to know about Finland is the craziness of student parties and the awesomeness of saunas. The latter one, is in my mind, the best Finland has to offer. To top it off, a sauna next to a lake, and a traditional summer cottage – say no more.

I am looking forward to my first student parties at my exchange destination. More than that, I am looking forward to getting to know the German culture, the city of Frankfurt and to meet new people.

What Finnishness means to me

I believe that national identity is a discoruse that binds us to a fictional heritage and a narrative that is constructed as a mental barrier between ”us” and ”them”. As individuals we can never escape this discourse but have a certain degree of freedom inside it to carve out our own national identity. As a Finn I have a certain margin of freedom to constitute my own Finnishness, and here I attempt to do just that.

Finnishness means Welfare

As a nation we have gone through both the greatest famine and the bloodiest civil war in European history. In spite of this, we are looked upon today as a model nation that strives towards the equal well being of its citizens. I truly feel privileged to have been part of this period in our history. But I also claim that the progress that has been achieved in just a few generations can be undone even faster. This is an era where the painful awareness of what has been the cost of building this ivory tower of mass-consumption is echoed in every level of our society. The idea that we are on the verge of an ecological catastrophe is both unattainable and unavoidably clear at the same time.

The fact that welfare is something that I have always taken for granted has been reflected in my goals in life. My  pursuit is not the pursuit of happiness but that of meaning and self-expression. Financial or physical security and issues regarding my health rarely cross my mind and seldom affect my prioritization in life.

Finnishness means Freedom

With a Finnish passport I can travel to almost everywhere with relative ease. A Finnish nationality means that I am free from many prejudices and cultural stigmas that restrict the lives of so many others. As a traveller this means also that sometimes I can feel more protected than the locals. If something were to happen to me, I would be sent back to Finland almost immediately.

A Finnish identity also comes with responsibilities that have an ideological basis I don´t always agree with. It is hard not to get a feeling of being siphoned through my education as quickly as possible so that I can get to work – and more importantly – consuming. What my government pays for me now it expects to get back with interest, and as soon as possible. This is made clear by both the media and my educators, who press that steady employment is to be valued above everything else when considering our futures.

Finnishness means language

Language is often mistaken as almost as some technical invention used to communicate the world to others. We forget that our world is the language and that we are not the users of language but instead our language is using us.

The Finnish language has manifested itself through me in various interesting forms through the years and for me maybe the biggest part of my Finnish identity is continuously functioning as its vessel. I have always been fascinated by the intricacies of our language, its accents, anecdotes and unique peculiarities. My search for words (or better still, the words´ search for me) has led me to this path that I have chosen and the field that I am currently studying. As a screenwriter I can work towards formulating ideas that haven´t been expressed before. And the ultimate paradox of this profession is that the resulting film can never be reduced back to it´s origins on the page. So at the end, my search for words is a search for something that cannot be said.

 

A Love Confession for Finland

In this post I’d like to raise some topics about Finland from the immigrant’s point of view. I moved to Finland about four years ago and I think that was absolutely right decision. It’s a long story, but when I decided to move, I had no idea about the Finnish culture, local language and so on. So, here are a few aspects about Finland, some things that are close to me:

The language
As I mentioned above, I did not know a thing about the Finnish language and when I first came here and heard the speech around – the first thougths were that Finnish sounds just like some Asian language – Japanese or something. All these Ä and Ö on the signboards were amusing and unusual to me. It actually felt like a language of the aliens from outer space.
Indeed, Finnish is like no other! It has almost nothing in common with the most languages. But I gotta say – it was surprisignly easy to learn. Most people claim that Finnish is extremely difficult, but my opinion is – yes, the words are unusual, but it the grammar is very logical and it doesn’t have genders, yay! All in all, the Finnish language is unique and beautiful, it’s soft and pleasant to the ear.

Of course it has its challenges, but I’m used to it and I like Finnish very much. I use it everyday at school and work and I’m happy to know such a rare language. In the picture on the left you can see one of my everyday struggles.

 

 

 

 


Quality of life and the opportunities

The locals may not always notice this, but Finland is one of the best places to live in the world. It also gives incredible opportunities for people living here of any age and occupation. I was surprised, and I still am, how this country is able to use and allocate the resources making it possible to help students, unemployed people, people with disabilities and so on, just as an example. It is felt that the environment for life is made for people considering their needs.
A culture of caring is felt in different spheres of life, in big things and the details.

This topic can be discussed endlessly, so let’s move on.

The people
They say Finns are shy and prefer not to talk –
I don’t agree at all! I believe that this is just a stereotype that the most people just keep repeating.
99% of Finns are friendly and talkative enough. I really like Finns – mostly they are positive, responsible, rational and punctual. I like their love of hockey and coffee. Since I moved, I started to watch the games and drinking coffee everyday – true story! The culture had a sighnificant influence on me and I don’t mind.

Conclusion
Everything is relative and gets to know by comparison. All these things I took from my experience, but I’m sure you’re going to agree with some of the points.

P.S.: Thank you for everything, Finland.

Picture sources:
https://fi.pinterest.com/pin/463941199090502106/?lp=true
https://www.meme-arsenal.com/create/meme/326086
http://finnishnightmares.blogspot.com

Things that I love about Finland

People often say, you have to go far to appreciate what you have near you. That is the thing with Finland for me, at least. When I’m at home, I often forget how well everything works in Finland. We have clean nature, fresh air, clean drinking water, good healthcare and our schoolsystem works really well. In other countries, many of these things are missing.  Things that we finnish people take for granted.

I have travelled a lot in my life, and I can honestly say that there is no place like home. Wheter I have been to Vietnam, San Francisco or Havana, nothing feels better than to come back to Finland, breath the fresh air and drink the clean water. That is a feeling that I love. But don’t get me wrong, I love travelling and exploring new places. It’s amazing to see new countries and learn about new cultures. But the feeling when I get home, oh, it’s amazing. Being in a place where everything works, people show up for appointments, people keep their word and usually everything is as it seems, sometimes even better.

I love Finnish food. It might be weird to say that when you could say Italian, Mexican or Chinese or any other delicious food, but for me Finnish homecooked food tastes amazing.  For example my grandmother’s meatballs and mashed potatoes, my favourite food, tastes absolutely amazing and it is a food that I miss everytime I’m travelling.  It also makes me appreciate my family when I’m far away from home.

The world is filled with amazing places but nothing beats Finland, at least in my heart.

Finnish cultural life

When searching for something else than being alone in silence in the middle of a forest, Finland can offer you a really vast and varying cultural environment. At least in the bigger towns there is always something happening. It can be a film festival or a film competition like Uneton48 or techno music event in the center or a few kilometres away in a huge empty factory, like in Kuivaamo (in Tampere, Lielahti).

In the summer there are smaller music festivals in the middle of a beautiful countryside, like Kosmos Festival and loads of bigger ones like Flow in Helsinki. You can find places to listen to jazz and blues during the week or go to play board games with your friends or even strangers. In the end of the summer there’s Taiteiden yö (“The Night of the Arts”) where you can find art shows and good food and events like walking your dog with hundred other people or go to spot bats with others.

All these events are a good way to socialize and see how people here are actually quite friendly and social. To me, Finland isn’t only the peaceful nature, but a colourful small country with its quirky cultural life where everybody can find something in their liking.

Crazy country in the north

Many people have written in this blog about us Finns being reserved, quiet and not so easy to approach. We don’t care much for small talk and blabbering, and we tend to be honest and straightforward. The image of Finns living in a cottage in the middle of a forest, fishing and enjoying the silence of nature is still living strong in people’s minds.

I would like to point out that this is not the only truth about us Finns. Thoug we from time to time need our own space, Finland is also the land of peculiar, extraordinary and unique events and gatherings.

First comes the sport. We are quite competitive in Finland, and we can make a sports competition of about anything. One of my favorites is the swamp soccer championships, that take place every summer. Basically this is about playing soccer in the swamp, there are over two thousand players and two hundred teams involved. At the same time is also held the swamp rock festival, and the spirit of the event is unbelievable.

And have you ever heard about the wife carrying championships? It’s a race where the male competitors carry the female competitors on their shoulder trough a track filled with obstacles. It has it’s roots in the 1800’s when it was apparently common practice to steal women from the neighbouring willages. There are over 80 teams attending this event, many of these foreign also.

Last but not least is of course the beer floating! It is an event where thousands of people float down the Vantaa river in all kinds of self-built or bought rafts and enjoy a beer or two. This event is the perfect example of the crazy and spontanious side of Finns. You come up with an idea, gather some friends and make it happen – in a few years it might have become a tradition for hundreds or even thousands of people!

You can find me on the lower right corner 😉

 

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”

“It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”. That is how Andy Williams describes Christmas in his song released in 1963.

Finland is located in the Northern Hemisphere. Winter is the longest season in Lapland. It begins in the end of october and ends in May. In southern Finland winter lasts for about four months. After a long, cold and dark fall first snow turns Finland into winter wonderland. Well, sometimes into a wet and slushy wonderland too. Days are very short and in Lapland sun doesn’t rise in three months. Temperatures varies from +5 celsius to -35 celsius. Winter is also the best season to see Northern Lights.

Finland’s Independence Day and Christmas holidays will give a break from work and studies. It’s a good time to celebrate, enjoy of the beautiful nature and eat well. Additionally students have a winter holiday in February so they can enjoy winter weather and winter sports. In winter you can enjoy activities like ice-skating, cross country skiing and downhill skiing. Thousands of lakes in Finland will be frozen in winter. You can go walking, skiing, ice-skating, ice fishing or even drive a car on ice. The bravest will go swimming in an ice hole. Ice will be melting in midsummer in the Northern part of Finland. Or you can be at home in front of a fireplace enjoying a hot drink wearing the coziest clothes and woolen stocks.

Finland’s Independence Day is a national public holiday held on 6th of December. Many festivities are being kept all around Finland. In the evening the Presidential Independence Day reception is being broadcasted from the Presidential Palace. Independence day is all about respecting veterans and being grateful for our beautiful country.

As we all know Santa Claus lives in Korvatunturi, Finland. Christmas Eve is being celebrated on 24th of December. It includes eating lots of traditional Christmas foods and sparing time with family. Santa Claus delivers gifts in Christmas Eve. Many Finnish people goes to church and visits graveyards.

When I think of Finland I can see a beautiful landscape of snowy nature. To me, winter is the best season to enjoy Finnish nature and culture.