When I think of Finland and what Finnishness means to me the first things that come to my mind are nature and polite people .
Finland’s nature is one of a kind. Finland is known for its lakes, clean water, clean air and beautiful landscape. What makes Finland’s nature even more beautiful is the 4 seasons. During every season the nature changes and new colors come.
Finns are also very polite and have good manners, they don’t yell their orders in cafeterias or push to be the first one to get into the bus. They line up and wait for their turn. Finns are also very trustworthy people, if they promise something you can count on it.
Writing about Finnishness is actually pretty hard. I wouldn’t say that I am the most Finnish person that there is or that I am super hyped about Finland as a country but it is definitely a great thing to be a Finn. Here’s some reasons:
I am not a huge nature loving person myself even though Finland gives one of the best opportunities for enjoying it in the world. You can freely walk wherever you want to, go camping or swimming and collect berries and mushrooms pretty much anywhere for free. Still, I often find myself being amazed of the beautiful surroundings.
Finnish people are often being told to be shy and quiet. I think that is both a good and a bad thing. I personally love that you don’t have to make small talk with everyone in Finland if you are having a bad day because no one is expecting you to. It is also great that Finnish people usually have a big need of personal space and it is ok not to be the most social person ever.
Then again, it can be a bit weird for foreigners when trying to get to know a Finn. We might easily seem mean or not interested, but that usually is not the case. I have being told so many times by my foreign and also some Finnish friends that ‘you seem so shy and focused on your own stuff but when you start to talk you just wont stop’, and I think that applies to quite many Finns. We just need a little time to get comfortable.
It’s safe in here
Finland is a safe country to live in. You can walk alone in in the middle of the night even in the big cities and you don’t have to be afraid. Finnish people are also usually very helpful, if something happens, someone will help you – though you might have to ask for the help yourself, Finns might not offer it to you without asking. It’s also safe in the way that you can trust the police and health care to take care of you. We are also offered a lot of support by the government in form of free education, maternity leaves, unemployment support and other great things which you might not get elsewhere.
The Finnish nature is something that Finnish people are really proud of. It’s an important part of the Finnish culture, national identity and everyday life. In Finland the nature is all around you no matter where you are. Even in the cities you can find forests and lakes and experience the Finnish nature. After all, 78% Finland’s total area is covered by forests and 9,4% by lakes.
Enjoying the nature often means clearing your mind, having alone time and relaxing but to different people it can mean different things. One of the best parts about Finland’s nature is that you can experience and enjoy it in so many different ways: you can go biking, hiking, picking berries or mushrooms, swimming, canoeing, camping, skiing – you name it. The Finnish nature has a lot to offer and so it has something for everyone.
Finnish people have a kind of built-in need to be in touch with nature. The Finnish nature represents peace, safety, silence and purity, which are essential values to Finns. I think, the Finnish nature answers to the need of silence and peace that Finns have. In my opinion, the Finnish nature reflects the Finnish identity and mentality. Finns are often described to be silent, persistent and though, which, I imagine, comes from having roots in the majestic Nordic nature.
I was born in a small town called Vaasa. When I was a child, we used to spend summers with my family at our cottage by the lake Lappajärvi 120 km from Vaasa. It was the place I learned to swim. I think I was spending most of my time in the lake. It was so much fun to play in the water. My mom has told that I was very interested in nature. I was always searching the ground. In school years I was a scout girl and enjoyed to spent time hiking in the forest.
My definition of Finnishness is Finnish nature. If I stay for a long time abroad nature is that thing what I miss from Finland. I have visited 48 countries around the world. For foreigners who like to experience the Finnish nature, I recommend a hike in Lapland or a cottage vacation by the lake.
I have been hiking in Lapland several times. There is something magical in nature, in the sound of silence and the freshwater what you can drink straight from the stream. Landscapes are amazing with mountains, streams, and reindeer. I recommend a hike in the middle of August when there are fewer mosquitos, but still quite warm. You can sleep in a tent or book a cottage. There is also an opportunity to sleep in cottages which are free for anyone to spend night example in Urho Kekkonen National Park.
Currently, we have a new cottage located in the countryside middle of the fields, by the lake Lappajärvi. It’s my place to relax and get new energy. It’s the place where I forget daily life’s stressful challenges. There I just am. There I used to meet my family, fish, paint, cook or read a book. Fields are long, the ground is quite flat, there are not many hills and no high buildings, you can see the whole sky above you. You can see nature speaks to you.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
When someone comes up to me and asks me where I’m from, I automatically answer “I am from Finland. You know, the country up in the north. Near Sweden and Russia.” After hearing that, people often look at me slightly confused. I don’t look at all like a typical Finn. I am dark eyed, have dark brown hair and my skin is a warm caramel tone. I am half Finnish and half Sri Lankan. However, I have lived most of my life in Finland. I own a Finnish passport and I consider myself very much a Finn.
I consider myself a Finn, because I consider Finland as my home country. I have grown up with Finnish culture and I can find some very distinctive features and characteristics in me, that all Finn have. Those features are what makes Finns special.
Very often Finns are described as introvert and shy. However, I find this to be just a wrong interpretation of character. To me, Finns are original. We are genuine. As people, Finns are very modest and feel more comfortable not being the centre of attention. I can relate to that. I see quiet, modest Finns as people who respect others and who are truthful and honest about how they feel. I truly admire this trait about Finns and feel sad that we are often wrongly understood.
Another thing about Finns, that is very distinctive, is our sincere love for nature. In Finland we are surrounded by outstandingly beautiful forests and lakes. We all love going to the countryside and having our own private moments away from the cities and having to be with other people. Finns enjoy simplicity and also need private space, which is very often something I can understand myself, since I feel the need for it too. Finns find beauty in the smallest of things and respect nature. That is something very true to “Finnishness”.
Finnishness is appreciation of clear water and clean air. Loving the summery field landscapes while on a road trip. Longing for quiet moments in the woods. Missing the seasons change. Finnishness is longing for the warm rays of summer sunshine, as well as the refreshing feeling after a summer storm. Finnishness is loving the new snow that twinkles and blue moments during winter. Sitting by a warm fire, huggled up in a knit and a pair of wool socks. Enjoying the soft warmth of the sauna. Finnishness is loving warm rye bread, milk coffee and Fazer chocolate.
With all of the things listed above, I think one of the most important aspects of being a Finn is how well educated we all are. Also, Finnishness is knowing how to live in a country with a culture where everyone has equal rights and people are treated fairly.
If someone asked me, what is the best about Finland or Finnish my first thought would be nature. Nature is important to Finn. There are so many forests and lakes in Finland. We have got used to, that there is only short walk to nearest forest in Finland. It is privilege that we have so many forest, because short walk to forest may be rarely in some other countries. It is also great that many of these forests and lakes are public, so everyone has possibility to go to walk in forest, pick berries or swim on the lakes.
I think that our love to nature tells us that we appreciate clean air and environment. It tells us also, that sometimes we need stillness and time for ourselves. The forest is place to calm down, forget the rush and turn off the phones.
I think Finnish nature is very beautiful in every season although we have long and dark fall and winter.
Finnish food isn´t the most popular or tastiest compared to other countries food, for example there are many jokes about mämmi, the traditional Finnish Easter food. Spices don’t belong to traditional Finnish kitchen. Traditional Finnish Food is simple and flavoured only with salt and pepper.
(mämmi; traditional Finnish Easter food)
I think that long family dinners aren`t so popular on weekdays in Finland. Finnish people eat often only with family members and don`t invite friends and neighbours to dinner. I think that home is place to be oneself for Finns and that`s why dinners with neighbours aren`t so popular.
Home has also to be clean and perfect, if someone is invited to visit. I guess that is very Finnish thought. But if a Finn invite you to dinner or cup of café, there are so many foods and pastries and almost everything has to be eaten.
Safety, nature and shy people are the first three things that come to my mind when I think about Finland and Finnishness. Finland has been listed several times to the top of the safest countries. The terrorism rate is low compared to many other European countries, and you can trust the police since it’s not corrupted. I have always felt really safe in Finland, even when I’m walking alone in the night-time.
Finnish nature is something I really appreciate. I love how we have four different seasons and they all can be really beautiful. Finnish summer is my favourite season even though it’s usually short. You can do a lot of different things during the warm summer, for example, we can enjoy the summer holidays at cottages, swim in pure lakes and can go berry-picking wherever we want to. Some people like to spend their time on terraces and drink beverages and some people like to drive around and explore our beautiful home country. Genuinely the people just seem happier in the summers.
The winter in usually also amazing. I love walking in snowy forests and ice skating on frozen lakes. I think it’s calming to wander in quiet forests and I love the sound when you are walking on the snow. Going to a hot sauna feels lovely after being outside in the cold for the whole day.
Stereotypical Finns can be described as very shy and calm people. We are usually work orientated and honest. Punctuality is also common along Finns and this is also appreciated abroad. Because we don’t like having small talk we can seem a bit anti-social. Finns want to have their own personal space and I personally dislike when people I don’t know come too close to me. For example when I was studying in France I never got used to the cheek kisses: I always felt awkward and didn’t know how to react. Finns are also known to be quiet and a bit shy.
I have never felt more Finnish than when I was living in Sweden a few years back. Even though the Swedish and Finnish cultures don’t differ that much from each other I was really aware of my Finnish background. Sometimes it can be hard to be the awkward and quiet Finn, but I’m always proud to say my home country is Finland.