Tag Archives: Finnish identity

Finnish mental landscapes

It is widely known that Finland is land of a thousand lakes. Over 187,000 lakes can be found in Finland which is a lot for such a tiny country. Forests cover 75 percent of Finland’s land area which makes it Europe’s most heavily-forested country. This can be one reason why Finns have been described as a forest nation. Every time when I´m on plane and returning to Helsinki-Vantaa airport I feel like landing right in the middle of a forest. So, it is not that difficult to guess which kind of mental landscape people might have here in the northern hemisphere.

Finnish people´s mental landscape lies mostly on the countryside by the lake although most of the people are packed to the cities. It might be in our DNA to feel relaxed surrounded by the nature. This comes out on summers when punch of Finns wanders to their summer retreat places. The cottage is an institution in Finland. And cottage life can be described as a part of the Finnish identity. It is called mökki or kesämökki in Finnish. These simple wooden cottages or log cabins are usually situated close to water. Nowadays some cottages can be like people´s second homes with all the necessities. Cottage slow life offers chance to recharge your batteries. Most of the Finns would mention it to be the most ideal way to spend summer holidays with 24 hours of sunlight. I really agree this. The following picture is taken from my father´s summer cottage house which is located in Hirvensalmi. There are more cottages than residents in this tiny town.

It is remarkable that almost all cottages have a sauna. Finnish people are crazy for saunas. There´s over three million saunas in Finland which tells that it is significant part of Finnish culture. Mostly if you visit someone’s cottage you may be end up to sauna. Sauna has long history in Finland. It used to be cleanest place in households so many babies were born in the sauna back in the days. It is still considered almost as a holy place. Nowadays it is a place to relax alone or with friends and family. In public saunas, this experience can be shared with punch of other sweating people. Documentary movie called Steam of life (Miesten vuoro) was filmed in different saunas. Sounds exotic filming location, eh? The movie is recommendable if anyone feels curiosity towards the mindset of a Finnish man. Finally, in summary the Finnish mental landscapes lie alongside the lake and middle of woods where the birds are humming, and water is licking. Such landscapes lead to Finnish zen where the words are not needed.