Tag Archives: Finnish charcter

Pure facts or crude stereotypes?

Finnish people?

Weird people somewhere North, living in one of the safest countries in the world, speaking on the the most difficult languages in the world? Yes. 

Finland is a country of thousands lakes and endless forests. Our nature is clean, our air is clean, even our water is so clean that you could drink it from the toilet seat. We have those famous incredible Aurora Borealis, wild nature, animals like bears, reindeers, reindeers, bears.. And.. there is always cold in Finland? Usyally, yes. All lovely four seasons. Spring, summer, autumn, winter. Wintertime is long and dark, and this time we call KAAMOS. It is totally basic to get desperate because of it. Nowadays there might be even less light because of climate changing and having less snow in winter time. Every spring we get shocked when we see the sun again and it takes time to get used to it again. But you should be better to get used to it, because in summer the sun is shining all day and all night. Its better to have a evening-job or blackout curtain if you want get sleep in summertime.

We are silent and shy. We really enjoy the silence and loneliness and we say something only when we have to – or when we have something important to say. To us is quite familiar to feel uncomfortable in social situations and we do not know the word ”small-talk”. And it is totally okay to have long silent gaps in a conversation. Our most popular topic is weather and we never get tired of talking about it.
We do not spent our days daydreaming – we think it is good to have feet on the ground. We have the Finnish thing called SISU. The thing that help us go trough nearly everything that we decide to. We are honest hard-workers and have relentless work ethic.
Finnish people always follow rules. If the road is empty and you can not see a soul anywhere, but the traffic light is red, you don’t cross the street. We are precise and usually always on time – but our trains are always late.

When we are kids (or just sick at home) we watch Moomins. We love to ski and play ice hockey and when our parents where kids they all went to school by cross-country skiing. And some of us are still doing it. Quite many, actually. We eat weird things like salmiakki, mämmi, rye bred, Karelia pie and potatoes. Okay potatoes are not weird but we eat them all the time. We love to sauna. For us it is totally normal to be naked in front of a stranger and for example go to swim in a lake – even in a wintertime and even if the lake is frozen. (But you should have a hole in it, of course.) Our humor is black and we are sarcastic people.  We do not like to be touched by strangers and there is also people who don’t hug even their best friends. Our own space is important to us and the space is also something we really have here. When the fall comes, we go to the forest to pick berries and mushrooms and then freeze them and eat them all year. In summer the best thing for us is to go out of city in to the forest to spend time in summer cottage. That is the place where is no electricity or other luxuries – and there we can enjoy nature, go sauna and swim in a lake. And.. Yes. We might drink often and when we drink we drink way too much. But it is also the time when you can talk with us, because when we are drunk we finally talk (- before we are too drunk to talk anymore). And whatever other people will say – we know the real Santa Claus is living in Finland.

Okay okay. Maybe these things are just crude, irritating stereotypes and of course Finland is so much more. The question about being finnish is actually not so easy today, because the country, its culture and population is developing and changing all the time. But anyway , I guess there is always a kind of truth hidden in a joke.

Finnish Mentality

All nations have characteristics, which have been influenced by geopolitical situation, climate, the historical development of the nation, immigration etc. Personally I don’t like any national stereotypes, which easily cause prejudice and may cause trouble in intercultural relationships. However, even if you don’t consider yourself as a typical representative of your culture, I have noticed the background tends to lurk all the time in the background and spending longer time periods abroad have also revealed my own Finnishness…

Below is a view from our country’s tallest building over our second largest city. In Finland scale this is a big city, but still you can mostly see lakes and forests. So inevitably our country being quite sparcely populated has had its effect on our mentality and molded it towards being somewhat hermit-like.

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Finns tend to keep quiet and try to “hide” and blend in with the wall paper, so that they don’t draw attention to themselves. There are regional differences, but at least in the western Finland such behaviours as rapid and loud speech, using lots of arm and hand gestures, walking fast etc. are things that we try to avoid and also look down on. We appreciate listening quietly when other people speak, giving lots of personal space during interaction. Others view us as being shy and timid, when we are just trying to be polite and avoid irritating others.

An old joke about us Finns I find very descriptive of our character: There was an elephant which was observed for the first time by a Frenchman, a German and a Finn. The Frenchman immediately thought what sort of food could I cook of this animal. The German started pondering ways to make money with the elephant. The Finn immediately thought: “I wonder what this animal thinks of me.” Also whenever a Finn succeeds abroad, even the fact that some foreign media did a story about some Finnish phenomenon  makes it to the headlines of tabloid news in our country.

So, for foreigners Finland is in that sense a very easy place to be, because we are much more worried about what others think of us than actually thinking about what we think of them. This characteristic and our shyness makes us perhaps a little bit difficult to get to know, but once you break the surface ice and gain our confidence, you also get a friend for life. 🙂