Tag Archives: finnishness

My thoughts about Finnishness

Finnish nightmares

For me Finnishness is a lot about personality. Finnish people need their own personal space and peace, even in public. If you go in to an elevator with other people in Finland, you don`t get much eye contact, because all the other people are staring at their feet, ground, walls or the roof of the elevator.  If you accidentally put out words like: “good morning” to a stranger in an elevator with you, you might just get odd looks like you would have escaped from a mental hospital or something. You can also see the need of a personal space in public transport like buses or trams. You can never sit beside a stranger, if there is even one empty pair of seats anywhere on the vehicle, because if you do,  you probably get the same kind of look than in the elevator when you open your mouth.

Sauna, beer and sausage

Three words that fits in to any Finns mouth. No matter if its spring, summer, autumn or winter, this holy triangle is close to every Finns heart. Especially in summer, the beer and sausage part takes a big part of a native Finns life, because grilling is the thing you just have to do at summer, no matter if it rains or shines. More than just a few times i`ve grilled under umbrella, but it is worth it, because the sausage tastes even better when you have needed a bit of sisu while cooking it. Being a fanatic fan of ice hockey is also big part of Finnishess. That is why the holy triangle will be emphasized during ice hockey world championship games, and once in a blue moon when Finland makes it in to the finals or even wins the cup, the importance of these things go off the charts. These things walk hand in hand.

 

That is what being a true Finn is.

Finnish responsibility

I’m originally from Estonia so finnish culture was something new for me. Estonian culture is mostly borrowed from Russia etc. Finland, on the other handhas culture mostly of it’s ownWhen I tell foreigners about Finland I  begin with our education system and our healthcareThose are the things I’m most  proud of as a finn because our healthcare and education system are better than in most countries. 

As others have writtennature is important to us. We are proud of our forests and lakesThe best way to enjoy our nature is to spend time at the cottage in the woodsnear to a lakeThat’s where townspeople and hard workers relaxAlso we have many nature parks  near to big cities and the cities itself have lots of vegetation. Our nature changes with the  seasons and every season has it’s beauty. Finlands speciality is Laplandwhere the winter  is longest and snowiestSummers in Lapland are magicalThere you can experience the  green mountainsthe quiet deserts and the nightless nightsThe northern lights are a  must see!

 

Because nature and climate are so important to us, we carry a huge responsibility for themSometimes it can be overwhelming when we  make not-so-good environmental decisions. Like when we buy plane tickets to somewhere warm and sunny in the middle of depressing winter or when we choose spanish cucumber instead of finnish because the taste is betterBut we compensate our bad choices with many good choicesFor exampleour recycling  system is very advanced and most finns utilize it. Our grocery store are full of greener and organic alternatives and finns prefer domestic products. Also the popularity of finnish  recycled crafts and design is on the riseNot forgetting our comprehensive and functional public transportationwhich  reduces private car useFinnishness is love and great responsibility towards our nature. 

Peculiarities of Finns

Grasping the meaning of the word “Finnishness” seems very easy, but also remarkably hard to point out. First things that come to mind are saunas, northern lights, cold people, ice hockey, snow, and an incredibly complicated language. But Finnishness is way more than that.

Sure thing, Finns do love their sauna, and for the longest time I didn’t like the experience. Growing up in a country where most of the year is over +30 degrees, I never really saw the point in sitting in a wooden room in high temperatures. Recently though, it’s been growing on me.

Finnishness also has a lot to do with nature. There’s nature literally everywhere in this country, and I love being surrounded by the peaceful wilderness that is so easily accessible, which makes it such a crucial part of Finnish culture. Berry and mushroom picking, hiking, orientation inside forests, summers spent swimming and fishing in lakes. Even during the cold months, Finns find a way to still be close to nature by practicing a lot of outdoor sports.

You can’t talk about Finnish culture without mentioning the unique way Finns mind their own business. It took me some time to notice how this mindset applies to almost everything, but Finnish people tend to go out of their way to not bother others. This applies to almost everything: quiet restaurants, personal space, filling up all the window seats on the bus and avoiding any seat beside someone else, and queueing for everything, amongst many other daily situations. And I’ve really come to appreciate this particular part of Finnishness.

I first moved to Finland back in 2012 for a 9th grade one year long exchange, and thought I was ready for Finnish culture, given that my grandmother who was 100% Finnish had a huge part in raising me. But it turns out I wasn’t quite ready for what was to come, and being a foreigner with Finnish roots didn’t prepare me from the differences between Latin America and Northern European cultures.

Finland, The Land of Darkness and Light

Personally, when I think of Finland and the culture I was born and raised in, I think of the straight-forward attitude of people and the untouched nature, but also the crippling sense of loneliness. I’ve had many conversations with people both Finnish and foreign, about how Finnish people are raised to not make noise of ourselves. You have to always go with the safest option, to not take too big of a risk, to stick to what you’re used to. Finnish people are encouraged to be introverted, calm, quiet. A loud person is commonly frowned upon. This kind of mentality creates a lot of shy people, and with a lot of shy people, no one makes connections and people become lonely. When we don’t encourage expressive communication, we stop expressing our emotions. And then it turns into loneliness that can lead to depression that can lead to substance-abuse, something Finnish folk are notorious for. It is the dark side of this dark country.
I realize this is a very heavy image to portray of my culture, but it’s something I think about often and I believe it’s not talked about enough.

On the brighter side, this kind of sullen way of our people can also create unexpected connections. Finnish folk like to make fun of the depressive state of our personal nature, and humour is what truly brings our people together. It can be seen even on this blog: many of the posts feature “Finnish Nightmares”, the humorous comic about Finns struggling to be social. The humour is often tied to the straight-forward honesty that Finnish people value. It’s like in our very nature to tell the truth, no matter how it looks like. And that is something I cherish in Finnishness.

Here’s an uncannily Finnish picture of my brothers from this past Yule. I think it fits into this theme wonderfully.

“Finland, that’s one of the Nordic countries, right?”

When telling people that you are from Finland, many don’t even know where Finland is.  If they do the most common stereotypes about our culture and country are snow, Lapland, Darkness, Nature, Northern lights, sauna, quietness, and sometimes our great education. Yes we are part of the Nordic countries and there are similarities, but Finnish culture is unique in its own ways.

For me Finnish culture has many layers and constructs from different aspects.  Some pillars for me would be nature, traditions, peacefulness (unless we win the hockey championships) and personal space.

Nature:

As Finland has so much nature that is free for everyone to explore and enjoy, it has become a vital part of our culture and so called “Finnishness”.  There are lakes, forests, sea, fields and so many other scenery all around Finland that everyone can find their own form of nature that they like. And due to Every man’s rights (jokamiehenoikeudet) we can all enjoy the nature freely, given that we respect and treat it as a living organism that needs to be looked after. We go to the nature to find peace from the busyness of the cities and to get some exercise. Nature is integrated into our everyday lives, Finland is not called ‘the land of thousand lakes’ for nothing.

Traditions:

 

Finns are really traditional and it can be seen in our culture.  Of course culture changes as time passes but ancient traditions can be still seen in our culture even today. Sauna culture is one of these old traditions that doesn’t seem like ever going away. Sauna is part of our big holidays like Christmas and Midsummer as well as everyday routines. Other traditions like traditional dances (seen in the picture) are still danced in these events called ‘lavatanssit’. One can see that this tradition will go on because there are people from different generations attending the dances.

 

Peacefullness and Personal space:

 

Like earlier mentioned, Finns like to go out to nature to get some peacefulness in their life. I think that is one of the reasons we were voted the Happiest country in the world last year. Finns are hard working but we know how to find the balance between free-time and work and we know how to relax. People go to a summer cottage for some peace and relaxation.  With this comes the personal spaces. Finns like their own time and spending time with their selves whether it’s at home, at the cottage or in nature. We function best if we find a good balance of own time, socializing, working and free time.  Personal space appreciation can also be seen in buses: If there is a empty space somewhere in the bus, Finn will not sit next to another person but rather choose a seat all by them selves.

 

These are few points that I think means to be Finnish and tells what Finnishness is. I enjoy and respect our culture and think I will miss some of the aspects while I am doing my exchange. Let’s see shall we!

 

-Niina

Finnishness

What is finnishness (to me)?

When I think about finnish people and Finland, two things pop into my head: our beautiful nature and our pure desire not to communicate with each other. Here’s what I mean.

Folk of few words

If you encounter a finnish person, you might notice that, generally speaking, we are not a very chatty people. We usually don’t like to chit-chat and so we try our best to avoid any situations where we might have to do that. For example in the bus, we would much prefer to sit alone than next to someone and this is why we will try to sit on an empty row if we possibly can. Of course when we do talk we are very polite and kind, we just might sound a little rude with our short answers and overall awkwardness in that situation.

All of four (but mostly one)

Seasons. We get them all (even if we don’t really want to). We get the snow when it’s winter so we can play some winter sports, we get the heat in the summer so we can go to the beach and get a tan (or seriously sun-burned). We get the color shifting trees, shining on us all the colors of Fall, and we get the long lost bird singing and sun after a gruesomely long and dark winter. We finnish people tend to say that we have winter most of the year and that our summers last for about a month. Of course that is not the case, we just feel like it. All in all, we get to witness all the seasons of the year and to me that is a blessing.

 

Two things about Finnishness

When I think about Finnishness, two things comes to my mind: summer and sports.

When talking about summer, the whole country comes to alive. Nature wakes up after  a long and dark winter and people are getting out of their homes. In the summer you can see happy and smiling people all around the cities. Having a picnic in the park, swimming and sunbathing at the beach, having a beer or two at terrace.

One of the most Finnish things about summer in my opinion is music festivals. You can find some kind of music festival somewhere in Finland from the beginning of June all the way to the end of August. Maybe the most popular festival is Ruisrock. It’s held annually on the island called Ruissalo, located in Turku. In the last 3 years there has been annually 105 000 visitors over 3 days of the festival.

And then the sports. In Finland people love any kind of sports. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most popular sport ice hockey or Finnish national sport “pesäpallo” there is always people watching. The finns also has weird habit of having national championships in all kind of sports. You can compete in wife carrying or in swamp football or maybe boot throwing is the right sport for you. So it’s not big surprise people usually refers Finland to “Sports nut Finland”.

Very Finnish opinions

Finnishness at it’s core is fighting over whether or not pineapple should be considered as a fine pizza topping or not. It’s questioning if throwing away your “talviturkki” (your first swim of the year) in May would be a good idea. It’s shaming your siblings over their dislike for salty liquorish while calling them a traitor to the country, yet preferring Oreo cookies over the Finnish equivalent Domino’s yourself. It’s about making sure there is rosolli salad and lutefisk at the Christmas table just for the sake of tradition, although none of your family members even really care for the said delicacies. Finnishness is  weird language related things like calling a clothespin a laundry boy or calling your loved ones “it” and your precious pet cat a “she”.

Finnishness is also having a sceptical face on while reading the news about us being the happiest country in the world, and not even realizing what a privilege it is to live in a country like this.  Equality, free education, fresh air, general safety…oh and rye bread!

As for a few of my very Finnish and not so Finnish opinions, I’d like to share some right here: 

Putting pineapple on your pizza is icky. I’d personally recommend trying some nice grilled strawberry on that slice, so I’d say I still qualify as a Finn with my weird tastes in pizza. 

I really enjoy summer the best when the weather is hot and humid. The more humid the better. 

I find Finnish to be a very expressive language and I enjoy the freedom it gives to the speaker to play around with different ways of saying the same things. 

I appreciate people being mindful of ones personal space and understanding that shared silence doesn’t have to awkward.

And last but certainly not least,  you eat your porridge without any protests!

– Se puuro syödään vikisemättä!

 

 

How I see Finland

In my opinion, Finland is one of the best places to stay, when it comes to conditions, the standard and the quality of life. Especially elderly people and children are treated really well in this country. In general people are extremely honest and encourage other people to have the same courtesy. The stereotype about Finnish honesty is purposeful and truthful, and Finns like to highlight it. For example if you lose your wallet here, you have way better chances at getting it back, than in many other countries. I personally have had an experience of forgetting my bank card in the ATM machine and then getting a call from a stranger that found it to come and collect it. You can’t not respect that. As it was said in another blog post, I agree that ”honesty is the foundation of a safe and functional society.” (Sahamies, J. 2019 blogi)

(https://adage.com/creativity/work//38028)

In addition to all the good benefits and support you can get from the government, Finland also provides exceptional educational opportunities. Here you can basically educate yourself to become whatever you want as long as you have the motivation and the dedication to do it, the doors are open. People from all over the world come here for the education opportunities and in some cases may even get a job and stay here. Most of the exchange students I have spoken to, have said that they love it here. The only negative aspects were the weather conditions and sometimes the food.

(https://www.tuni.fi)

Why the food? Well, Finland isn’t really known as the most food oriented country even though there are some amazing Finnish dishes, which will make your mouth water. Still, because Finnish people tend to settle for less, they don’t make a big deal out of a meal. Salt & pepper is all you need for seasoning.

Mostly the food is considered to be healthy and versatile. To people like myself who are picky with the food, it may seem a bit boring at times. People from countries where food is held in a high standard, would probably also want to spice it up a bit, since they are more used to the strong rich flavors.

(https://finnishcrashcourse.wordpress.com/2016/02/03/food-culture-in-finland-tradition-habits-and-particular-dishes-part-1/) Meatballs with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Finnishness

Finnishness to me is about the bigger picture. It includes the humble Finnish people, monotonous language, the culture and the pride of being a Finn. A typical Finn is usually pretty introvert person until you get to know him/her. Once you got to know a Finn personally they are really open, warm and talkative.

 

I believe that one cause to the “shyness” comes from the language. Finnish language is monotonous and it makes other language’s words harder to pronounce unless you’ve used to be in interaction with them. If typical Finn from street starts to speak English it’s normally basic “rally” English. If you’re wondering what that sounds here’s a sample from rally driver Gronholm himself:

 

 

The culture is hard to describe. It’s something that you really need become part of. Finns might not be the most outgoing sort but they always have something weird to do or in this case eat. Finns have few really delicacies; mämmi (rye pudding), mustamakkara (black sausage), salmiakki (salty liquorice), ruisleipä (rye bread) and karjalanpiirakka (Karelian pasty). These are a-must-have treats to taste if you’re planning on visiting Finland.

 

Finns take pride being true to themselves. They think they can do everything by themselves and will not ask for help unless it’s necessary. If you see a Finn fall down or working on a hard project – I ensure you that the Finn will work it’s tail off pretending that everything is going well and stuff seems under control even thought they might be in deep trouble trying to keep face. Asking for help is big step for a Finn.

Finland is country of thousand lakes with lots of forests and great nature. Finns have great opportunity to escape to the nature and possibly go relax to cottages with their closest ones which is great feature in this time of technology. In the summer Finns like to spend time on the waters or beaches and eat great barbeque food. This is Finns best time to recharge batteries and collect thoughts.