Tag Archives: finnish mentality

Life as a Finn

Finnish people are pretty individual. We might have a close relationship with our family and friends, but otherwise we might be circumspect and distant. We like to keep our own space and not to come too close to other people.

Finns are really exact. If we agree to do something on a certain date, we will do that. And we like to be on time, rather 5 or 10 minutes early, and we don’t like if someone else is late from an agreed time.

 

We are effective and we don’t like to keep our customers waiting. That’s why you can assume fast service almost everywhere you go.

Finns do not like to talk about money or politics.

There’s no small talk, and it doesn’t represent rudeness or a lack of interest.

There are no hierarchies. Everyone is equal and deserves the same amount of respect.

 You can buy wine only from Alko, which is a State Alcohol Company. We don’t tend to drink wine often, for example with a dinner. Alcohol itself is served more like on special occasions.

In Finland there’s no big income or social differences. A plumber and a lawyer can be great friends and no one thinks it’s shameful or weird.

 

Fun fact: In Finland there’s a verb called ”kursailla” and it means that when a host asks you to sit on to the table to drink coffee and eat, no one will do that. Usually the atmosphere is also really tense. I think it’s because everyone wants to show as much hospitality as possible, and we think it’s rude to be the first one drinking and eating.

Pictures attached are taken from Finland, Tampere and Nokia. They represent very well Finland’s different seasons.

Forest and metal

Finland is the home to many lakes, forests, and most metal bands in the world per capita. It is fair to assume that these are connected as folk melodies and instruments are a very common asset and nature an equally common source of inspiration and lyrical theme in Finnish metal music. I think the phenomenon has its roots in Finns being a very down-to-earth people with a close connection to nature, as only some decades ago most of the population lived in the countryside.

It is a common misconception that Finns are a very depressed people. Statistically they’re not. I think Finns just appreciate their personal space and only speak when they actually have something to say, and this might give the impression of a very reserved people.

When talking about Finnish music, most of it, maybe excluding hip hop which I know nothing about, does sound more depressive than the international hits. That’s why I think metal suits Finland very well. Finland’s black metal scene is also very interesting and deeper underground than that of the more  commercially successful Norwegian cousins.

Moonsorrow playing in Tampere

Nature sets the mindset

Finland – the land of thousand lakes, lush green nature and shy people who are hard to get to know and go to sauna a lot. As a Finn, I’ve heard this a gazillion times and as all of those notions are true, there is more to us Finns than meets the eye.

As there are so many forests and lakes, it is natural (pun intended) that our culture has become so closely entwined with it – in the past as provider of food and shelter and today as a sanctuary where people can rest and forget the hectic outside world. The feeling you get from watching the sun set behind a lake, seeing the Northern Lights dance upon a frosty winter sky or just gazing at the stars in dark autumn night is just indescribable and it has had a profound effect in us.

There are even studies about how walking in a forest will lower your blood pressure in 20 minutes and I believe that we Finns have known this all along, nature gives us peace of mind and we just want to enjoy it. That background added with the traditional Finnish logic of if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, it is better to be quiet and say nothing at all. That can easily show differently on the outside and is at least partly the reason why Finns are so unfamiliar with small talk.

I remember reading an article about which European citizens travel the most and was really surprised to find Finns in the top 3. The article explained that Finns don’t travel abroad that much but the reason that put them in top places of list was, of course, summer cottages. And there was a staggering number of 502 900 of them in 2016. So that’s where we are, not talking and going to saunas most of the time.

My theory is that the nature has shaped us into who we are and how we see the world and personally, I couldn’t be happier.

 

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.

Northern Beauty

This text is aimed at people living anywhere but Finland but it might also give some new perspectives for a Finn too.

If you have ever visited or even lived in Finland you probably have some kind of image in your mind about how that country differs from your homeland and what did you liked and disliked there. Depending on where you are used to live and where in Finland you have visited these opinions vary of course. As a native, 25-year-old Finn I share my own limited view of our nation with its people, culture and environment.

First of all, Finland is relatively sparsely populated country with only few bigger cities and many smaller village settlements around the countryside. Citizens of bigger cities live more or less like in any other country, working, studying or being jobless and relying on social security. Being jobless here usually doesn’t threat ones well-being, since the financial supports are relatively big. Apart from making living folks in cities hang  out with their friends doing various activities or -unfortunately- just drinking at somebodys home or at bar. Not an issue of bragging but alcohol consumption of average Finn is quite high in global standard. Whereas in many countrys of southern Europe they have a custom to drink a little bit of wine with lunch, Finns are more often determined to get drunk when they open the bottle.

Something to be proud of Finland is that the most of our landscape is covered by forests and lakes. That has had a significant part of developing of Finlands society, culture, economy and our national mentality.  Whether a Finn lives in city or countryside, forests are never far away and it offers countless of possibilities to recreation and bussiness.

How does an average Finn relate to nature? Very common activities are -even for town citizens- to go for a walk or jog at some forest path. Also many people make use of berries, fungi, game and fish that our nature bountifully provides. It is also possible to own a summercottage in FInland if you are wealthy enough. For many, it is even vital to their mental health to be able to escape their normal busy life into woods and then cottages are such a luxury.

You may have heard a common stereotype of Finnish people being very shy or introverts. Perhaps you even made that conclusion yourself while visiting Finland. Of course there are many people to confirm that belief but having lived here for my entire life I would’t make that simple. In my quite a little own experience of foreigners I would say it is more about interest. If a Finn likes you and wants to be your friend then he/she will probably chatter with you openly. I don’t know how it is in another countries but I have heard that for example Americans can’t stand silence whereas Finns even prefer it. That is really ok in many situations but sometimes we consider it awkward too, at least on a date.

 

 

Finland in quotes

“Our country may seem like a big magical forest when you approach by plane, but on the ground it’s a big circus of highways, suburban living rooms and bourgeois first world problems.”

It’s true we have beautiful forests and lakes, but do we, the city folks, really enjoy them as well as we could? I used to live in a suburb which was very close to nature, I could even see a small beach and a lake right in front of my apartment window and I would often visit it. But most of the time I was the only one there, and the reason behind it couldn’t have been the lack of people because there sure was several block of flats around there.

“Winter is coming. And it doesn’t bring out the best in people.”

I love finnish summer, people are smiling and the sun doesn’t go down. We spend time outdoors enjoying the warmth and company of our friends with no hurry. Unfortunately this only lasts for a couple months, the rest of the year is quite the opposite.

“It takes over half a century to really open up about war trauma.”

This might seem a bit deep, but I feel like this has something to do with the so called “finnishness” and how we as finns are today. Especially when it comes to strangers, we don’t like to open up about our problems and will rather keep them to ourselves. Perhaps this comes from the era of wars, where we focused on surviving and not complaining about it. Though maybe there is a change already in progress, I would like to see a day where everyone would be more open and nice to each other.

“You’ll feel more at home if you learn to appreciate the empty space between conversations.”

Quotes by Thomas Nybergh

Ariel
Note: slight exaggeration may be visible

We are all humans

What is Finnishness?

In my opinion there is not one correct answer to that question.  Basically, you can’t just say that someone is Finnish because she/he acts in a certain way. It is quite random in which culture you were born and nationality is just a tiny part of your personality, it doesn’t specify what kind of person you are. But people seem to love categorizing and that is the reason why we have all these stereotypes.

yö2

Now it is time to figure out how Finnish you are. The test is based on common stereotypes of what Finnishness is. You get one point for every claim that fits in you.

 

  1. Your best and only coping mechanism is drinking. No matter how small or big your problem is, the best solution is to drink yourself into oblivion. Next day you may have a major headache but the problem is forgotten!

 

  1. You hate Swedes and Russians. You don’t really know why, but does it even matter?

 

  1. You don’t want to meet new people (unless you are drunk). It is awful. Especially you don’t want to get to know people from different cultures. People are dreadful anyway, so why even bother…

 

  1. You are shy, socially awkward and you hate being centre of attention (unless you are drunk). So it is better just to sit still and quiet somewhere in shady corner and try not to breathe so loud.

 

  1. You have sisu (sisu can be translated as gut or persistence). At least you think you have. Sometimes the line between stubbornness/foolishness and sisu can be a little flickering. Some may say that doing same thing in same way over and over again without succeeding in it, is ludicrous, but you say it is sisu.

 

  1. You love sauna. There is nothing as awesome in entire world as sitting naked in the small, hot room and drinking ice cold beer (or Koskenkorva, or Jaloviina). The best thing ever!

 

  1. All the Finns are rude, unpolite and cranky. Someone you don’t know asks if you know where is the library, you rapidly turn around and walk away. Old lady asks you to help her cross the road, you won’t. There is a fight in the street, someone should call 112, you don’t have time for that. People really should just mind their own businesses!

 

  1. You don’t laugh much. Why should you? There is no valid reason to laugh (unless you are drunk) and furthermore it gives you wrinkles.

 

  1. You have quite special sense of humor. You think you are funny while others think that you are just weird.

 

  1. You can’t talk about feelings. You don’t want to talk about your own feelings and you definitely don’t want to hear someone else’s feelings. It is better to never ever open up (unless you are really, really, really drunk).

 

yö

Well, I got one point (claim nro 9) although I was born in Finland and I have lived here my whole life. In my experience Finnishness can be whatever you want it to be. It can be openness, solitude, happiness, melancholy, shyness, bravery etc. There is no certain personality or specific behavior that determines Finnishness.  After all, we are all humans, so should we rather ask what is humanity?

 

Ps. How many points did you get? 😉

 


 

A nation hung over from international admiration – delusions of superiority

Preface
I wish i could give you a praising essay about the intriguing and marvelous characteristics of Finns,  our nature, education or culture. When it comes to giving sales speeches, I feel completely inept since i value truthful representations about any given subject and hence feel obliged to bring contradicting points of view in the middle of a monotonous hype.

 

Obsessed about the past
As Finns we’ve gotten accustomed to being internationally recognized as “the place to be”. This seems to be due to our seemingly well arranged social services and good results from international educational reports as well as being obscurely but adorably quirky as a nation. Let’s not forget that precious nature, though; Finland has acquired a well established high ground when it comes to nature.

It’s very important for us to be recognized abroad. Finns like to hold on to previously gained feats, no matter how old or how valid nowadays. We do like to take credit of being pioneers in IT technology, for example. I agree this might have been true agonisingly many years ago. In recent years we’ve not really provided the IT industry any significant innovations apart from some individual fads in the gaming industry. The illusion lives on through things like Nokia or Linux, which are nowhere near substantially successful in the modern world. It feels like we kind of fell out of the IT bandwagon because we were too busy patting ourselves in the back. We still are.

It doesn’t really matter to us that ever since 2009 we’ve been seeing a decreasing trend in Finnish results in the oh-so-notorious PISA assessment results. Of course this is noted on papers, but looks like no one’s showing real interest towards interfering with the drop since apparently we’re still on top and the PISA stamp on our foreheads from roughly ten years ago still hasn’t faded nor washed away.

We’re the land of a thousand lakes, right? I personally don’t feel like taking pride in something that just happened to take form about ten thousand years ago. I don’t know about you but i wasn’t there to take part in it. There are also things called coldness and the northern lights. You must have heard of them. I’m sorry to break it out to you like this but it’s not exclusively a Finland thing even if we tell  you so. In fact these very exotic phenomenons happen all over the top part of northern hemisphere. I, personally, have never seen proper northern lights here where i live, so don’t get your hopes up just yet. Also the tales of absolutely freezing temperates are not exclusively a Finnish thing either. Besides, last time i checked out the window we didn’t even have snow and it’s late December. If the temperature happens to drop drastically, we do complain about it even though we like to present ourselves as completely ice resistant heroes of the North.

alaska-northern-4
.

I’ve never felt too close with nature anyway. I enjoy urban environment and man-made infrastructure and I definitely don’t find myself overly euphoric or relaxed in the middle of nature. I admit that my personal preferences might have something to do with not understanding the hype around our nature, but what can you do. If you happen to think alike, well, I still have to disappoint you: our urban architecture and infrastructure isn’t that cool either. The northern lights in the picture above are actually shot in Alaska. Sorry.

 

Unable to change
Who doesn’t like change? Definitely not the Finns! It’s granted that you’ll be able to mourn about the airheads of the Finnish parliament year after year, but god forbid if you actually took any kind of iniative to try and change it! If you just shove the same people in year after year, surely something will magically change at some point. At least we hope so. Better luck after the next four years!
electionresults

Inability to change reflects to everyday life and opinions, too. In order to majorly change in the way we as a nation think requires a change of generation, a completely new set of people. We have a bad habit of grasping tightly on to our beliefs that have been taught to us and we don’t want to change them, even if someone has valid arguments against your own mindset. Essentially not being able to change your opinions is probably just a matter of pride since we just love being right about everything. If you find yourself cornering a Finn by reasoning against their opinions or beliefs, please be prepared for some childish argumentation on our behalf. This is only a sign that you’ve actually made us aware of the surrounding world and we feel uncomfortable with it and can’t show it to you. Yes, we can be just that stubborn.

It’s also worth mentioning that we do not laugh at ourselves. Ever!
Please handle with care.

Time to break the stereotype

I am going to give you a task: Think about the stereotypical Finnish person. How would you describe his/her appereance and personality? Maybe you would say Finns are silent, kind of cold attitude towards everything or anyone new (or even towards mutuals…) and when they speak, they use as few words as possible. Their posture is a bit bad and they are hiding in the shadows trying to avoid being in the centre of attention. The stereotypical Finn would not like to make any fuss about him-/herself – whether it be about their clothing style or opinions about current happenings. But is this stereotype of a Finn really the truth nowadays or is it an old belief from the past?

FinnishNIghtmares4

Finland has risen from a poor country with uneducated majority of inhabitants to a solid welfare state with promising professionals in many academic fields and also in entertainment industry – not to mention fashion and design. Social media’s breakthrough has made it easy to be aware of global issues and to follow international trends and Finns have made themselves familiar with this phenomenom. Especially the young adults and teenagers of Finland seem to have nothing in common with the old stereotype – quite on the contrary.

Blog_Scandinavia_and_the_World_comics_national_stereotype-5-332x205
“Typical” Finn in the right.

The trendy Finn of today is a real social butterfly who takes interest in and has opinions of global and political issues. He/she is always wearing the latest brands or supporting Finnish designers and their quirky style and likes to visit new restaurants and coolest places to be. Their use of social media is on point and they take their education seriously. They even aren’t that scared of the limelight anymore – there are many promising Finnish talents who are trying to get to the top of their own field. So maybe it is time to break the old stereotype of a sullen, silent Finn?

My experience of Finnishness

As being a Finn, it is somehow hard to find a specific characteristic from Finnishness but at the same time it is hard to choose only couple of them. Finnishness is this entity, built with sisu, honesty, neighbor jealousy and modesty.

Education is also one part of Finnishness. No one is left outside in the field of education. Finland offers free education to all of its citizens so that everyone has equal chance to become something big, or small, if that is what they want!

education

Finnish mentality is something that I often laugh at, even if I am a Finn myself. Finns do not want to brag about themselves (even though they secretly like if they are admired) but at the same time they want to be the best, or at least better than their neighbors.

Let’s have an example. My neighbor has bought a new car. First thought: ‘’why he needs to show off? Such a dork…´´ and the next thing is to by myself a new car. After someone compliments my new shiny car, the immediate answer: ´´ It’s an old and dirty junk. It was kind of a cheap too…´´.

This is why I love Finnishness. Try to be better than everyone else but don’t show off.

 

The most common things about Finnishness is shyness, quietness and big personal space. In some way these all are so true and I can relate into them a bit too well. But hey! Every other nationalities and nations have their own characteristics too. For example, being loud and super outgoing. This is why Finns are needed! If majority of nationalities tend to speak a lot and they love being around each other, Finns are the ones who will listen and populate the rural areas in the hope of some personal space and quietness.