When I think about Finland and Finnishness following words come to my mind; honesty, trustworthy and safe.
Finns are almost always described being honest. Honesty is greatly valued in Finland and it is expected from everyone. Finns are taught since childhood that lying is bad and being honest in any situation is the best way to go. Honesty is highly valued in any relationships, whether it is between friends or business partners. This makes Finns ideal to work with.
Being honest, makes Finns also trustworthy. If a Finn promises something, they will keep their promise. For example, if something needs to be delivered within two days, Finn will deliver it within two days. Finns expect that they can trust a person the same way the person can trust them. Trusting people is so common in Finland that we sometimes forget how lucky we are that we can trust other people’s promises.
Safety is a word that is associated a lot with Finland. Finland is known for being safe country to live in and Finns are proud of that. For example, in smaller towns people leave their front doors unlocked and trust that nobody tries to come inside. There are barely any situations where I did not feel safe in Finland. The importance of safety can also be seen in things like safety during plane or train rides, in amusement parks and during festivals or concerts. It might seem that Finland has strict regulations and rules but they are there to make sure that Finland stays safe.
Yeah, judging by the title alone, this text is going include starker stereotyping and more heavy-handed symbolism than a Finnish joke book containing nothing other than jests about swedes.
See? Got there already.
For a good while of my younger, adolescent life I didn’t pay that much attention to how my mind came to be the restless, nihilistic beehive that doesn’t give me a moment’s peace, yet as I came to know people outside of my national consciousness of rye bread and wife carrying, they offered me insight on how peculiar and occasionally simplistically insightful our small little nation beneath the northern star can actually be, even if our tongue sounds a mix somewhere between Sindarin and R’lyehian.
And yes, that wonderfully nerdy comparison is an actual sentence from my foreign friend’s mouth.
Stuff like phone throwing competitions, air guitar championships, cultural significance of “kalsarikännit”, aforementioned wife carrying and downright abysmally confusing amount of flag days are minor local oddities that always catch an eye of those who are not that accustomed to these latitudes, but they still often remain as ephemeral oddball attractions. Those are merely the results of the “Finnishness”. I try keep the actual quotations in appropriate minimum, but what I have come to gather from the feedback of my friends outside of Finland, our charm lies in emotional honesty. We are stoic, serious people in work or whenever it is required and are willing to express our utmost jubilancy on the moment of simple, individual elation or when our small country raises to the world stage for that beautiful 15 minutes of stardom as our team wearing the lion sigil on their chests have managed to put a rubber puck into a net in an ice rink. We drink, rejoice, regret going to work next morning, we start planning for our summer holiday, continue working, rinse and repeat. Yet low and behold: We are content.
We are a small nation. A freaking miniscule entity in a stage where United Nations cover 193 countries under its banner. By some miracle this little slice of the north has gained a reasonably respectable authority among other countries and much of it is thanks to that straightforward cultural identity and sauna diplomacy that has to be the one word that defines Finnish political program during the Cold War. God, you just got to love history. Others compare doomsday weapons and space programs, we Finns pool in our resources and have structured our diplomatic channels to go through a sweat box that forces even the toughest men to open up their souls.
If my that last sentence would be taken out of context, some might consider us Finns as sort of deranged. Well, yeah. We are actually proud of that. Midnight sun and dark, lightless abyss of winter months would drive anyone insane, we just have a couple thousand year head start and we have found a way to capitalize it. Slight insanities keep life fresh and straightens the perspective on what actually matter. We are a small, stubborn, to many seemingly hostile collective of mämmi-eaters, reindeer breeders and people from Rauma among others, but besides that we appreciate honesty, hard work, unity and that spark to jump right into that madness that makes life worth living.
I have lived my whole life in Finland. And even though I like to travel a lot, it’s always great to come back home to Finland. I think that Finland is a great country to live in because we have such great health-care systems and high-quality education. Also, we have a possibility to get financial support from the government which makes living easier. Of course, there are always budget cuts and people complain about them a lot, but things could be worse and basically, we are really lucky to be living in Finland.
I have been told a lot that I am “a typical Finn”. That’s mostly because I have blond hair and blue eyes and I am quite tall. I am also very shy at first, like most Finns, and honesty is really important to me. And I love sauna. I think living here in Finland has made me who I am and Finnishness will always be an important part of me. I am really proud to be a Finn and I think that most people see that in me. Still there are parts of me that I would like to change and which came with my Finnish heritage. For example, I don’t like that I am so shy. But luckily that’s a thing I can change about myself and I have been trying to do that. I think this time abroad will increase my social skills even more and I am really excited to become a more open and courageous person. However, I am glad that I have been so shy because it has taught me to be cautious and really listen to others which have helped me to get this far.
I think it’s funny how Finnish people avoid strangers in public. Everyone wants to mind their own business and don’t want to interact with others. For example, in bus stops people who are waiting for the bus always keep their distance (usually at least two meters) and never even smile at each other. I have noticed that people will think that your weird if you just smile to strangers (this is extremely annoying because I like to smile a lot). And when people finally get to the bus, they don’t want to sit next to anyone. If you have to sit next to someone you might get a very angry look and a deep sigh from the other passenger. I think this is because personal space is very important to Finnish people. But even though we value privacy and personal space a lot, we tend to value friendship even more. I think that friendships mean a lot to Finnish people and we appreciate our friends. Because when we bother to open up to someone and let them close, the friendship lasts for life.
In my opinion the best thing about Finland is nature. I love the fact that we have all four seasons here: winter, spring, summer and autumn (you can see all of them in the pictures). Winters are the most beautiful on sunny days when there is a lot of snow. And you might also see Northern lights, which is an amazing phenomenon, especially in Lapland. In the winter, it’s also really cold here, sometimes even over -20 degrees, but I think it’s worth it. In the autumn you can see the forests change color and that’s also really beautiful. Summers here are not quite hot, but they are warm enough. I don’t know a better feeling than hanging out with my friends on a beautiful summer day in a park and eating ice-cream.
I think Finland is a very good place to live. Maybe it is because I am used to live there, but I also think it is great how everything works here. For example we have a high quality of education.
Even though the world is getting crazier every day, I feel Finland is quite safety and peaceful place to live. We don’t have massive earthquakes or some other natural catastrophes here.
We have a beautiful nature there, which is one of the most important things for me here. Finland is a land of thousand lakes and forests. I live now almost in the middle of the city, but I can still see trees and plants on my window.
Climate here is a very variable. In winter we usually have snow on the ground and almost minus twenty degrees. In spring, summer and autumn it might be hot weather, or rain or snowing or anything at all.
Last but not least, I would like to also say few things about people who live there. Finnish people are often called shy and quiet. We don’t talk with strangers on the bus stop or sit next to someone you don’t know in the bus, if there are any free places left. I am Finnish so I do those things for myself too, because it is maybe part of our culture and behavior. Silence doesn’t mean that someone is rude, of course we speak if someone ask something. In my opinion, that is not a bad thing, because we have some other important features like honesty and punctilious.
Finland and Finnishness are so many things that it’s hard to put them in to one blog text, but I’ll write about the things that matter the most for me personally. And that is our nature. Almost everyone else has also brought this up but it’s simply because it’s our greatest and purest thing. For now, at least. The most important things about our nature are big forest and field areas, and of course our lakes. I’m originally from the countryside and I believe that it has a big influence in my love for nature. Even if I live in the city of Tampere right now, I must walk less than a kilometer to get in the forest. And I just love that.
This foto is from Tampere near my home.
Like I mentioned, with that great nature comes water and that water we have plenty. And it is clean. When you have travelled a lot of different places, you notice that not in very many countries can you drink the water that comes in to our homes and houses. Of course, that is because our water cleaning system is ahead of some others. Main point is still a water you can drink without dying, and after that, the fact that our country is advanced for example in things like water cleaning.
This foto is from our summercottage in the island of Attu.
Many people bring up how Finnish people are shy and kinda awkward, at least at first you try to get to know them, but I don’t like bringing that up so much. I think that our “silence” culture is getting little bit old and we are going towards more social and talking kind of culture. I’m afraid that many foreigners don’t have the courage to approach us because they might believe that we are not interested or something like that. But it’s not true. We are kind and trustworthy people and you should definitely get to know us 😊
I think that also our school system, healthcare and social services deserve own little chapter. Of course, there is always something to do better and could be cheaper and stuff like that. But fact is still that you cannot get these kinds of services almost anywhere in the rest of the world in this way that we have them. There is little something I hope that will change. Peoples appreciation towards our services.
Like I said at the beginning, there is so much to write about but now I’m gonna end it here. I hope that my writing is readable, thank you for reading and all the pictures are taken by me.
This is also from our summer cottage in the island of Attu. There is suppose to be couple of deer but I think that they melt in that picture. Or can you see them? 😉
Things I got first in mind when talking about Finland:
Usually midsummer is rainy. No matter what. Even when the forecast tells you to get your bikinis, tan lotion and cold beverages ready – it is definitely going to rain. There is always a possibility to have a rainy midsummer.
For finns, the summer is warm when temperature raises above 20 degrees. I´m from west coast of Finland and it is always windy. The lack of mountains or even hills further enhances the effect of wind. But when the sun shines, it really shines. Still, the temperature rarely goes above 27 degrees.
Finland is a long land and when theres sunny in the north, there could be a blizzard in the east and on west there might be raining. You can never trust the forecast if you are travelling along Finland. There´s always a chance to get disapointed.Finnish nature is breathtaking. Nature is like big beatuful painting which is changing in every day and in every season. The colours are so bright, the lakes, rivers or the sea are very blue when the sun shines. In wintertime the outdoor living maybe is not so desirable, but the feeling after you were out and did some exercis
ing or just were walking around in the nature and then get inside to warm up or even in sauna it is definetly something that should be seen or tried when there are visitors from other countries in Finland.
What being a finn actually means to me is that there is always available good, healhty and fresh food, e.g. I love Carelian pies, Mämmi (porridge based on rye that is both bitter and sweet), different kind of porriges like oatmeal for breakfast. I usually bake during weekends when I have time to put my heart into it. I like to bake sweet buns with eyes of butter and sugar in the middle of them.
In the Autumns I usually go with my parents to the woods to harvest berries. We harvest mostly blueberries and cowberries. We also keep our eyes peeled for mushrooms, especially for chanterelles. It´s normal to have a large freezer which is full of garden berries and harvested berries from forests. Jams made of fruits like apple, strawberries and pears or plums are also very popular cause it includes the taste of summer even in the middle of snowy and cold winter. Nothing beats hot oatmeal with fresh berries sprinkled on top of it. It really makes the day.
When you first start to think Finnishness a lot comes to mind like Finnish forests, lakes, sommercottages, four seasons especially winter, wintersports, means to us etc. I could go on and on about those, but here are already great posts about those subjects.
So I decided to write about some crazy sports we have in Finland
Eukonkanto (wife carrying)
Eukonkanto is a sport, where man needs to race through obstacles while carrying his partner upside down. The winner wins his partner weight in beer. For this entertaining sport worldchampionship contest is held every year in Sonkajärvi since 1992. There the track includes one meter deep water jump and two fences you need to climb.
(Note: There is no rule that man needs to carry, it can go eitherway. But the one onboard needs to weight over 49kg.)
Suopotkupallo(playing football in a swamp)
Some say the idea came from Finnish skiers strength training did on a swam for this sport. But no matter where it came from Finns has had their own championship contest since 1998. Since that the contest has grown into the world championship, which is held in Hyrynsalmi.
The rules have a big resemblence to football, but there are quite a few differences. The playing fiel is only 60 meters long and 35 meters wide, so it only makes sense that a goal is also smaller being only 2 meters deep and 5 meters wide. The game includes two rounds each lasts ten minutes. Each team has max. five + one player on the field same time.
Photographer: Pekka Honkakoski (http://ukkohalla.fi/suopotkupallo/)
I think that people who come to Finland think first that we Finns are very ”grympy” and sullen. We want to keep our own space and everyone and everything new is some kind of threat for us. We don’t talk unless we have to or if we want to. When we leave at the apartment we don’t want to face neighbours in the stairway, and we get embarrassed if someone strange starts talking in the elevator.
Sounds pretty bad, but that’s who we are. When you get to know us, we turn more approachable, and in the end we are pretty nice people.
One thing we can be proud of is our nature here in Finland. We have many lakes and forest at least little bit everywhere. The nature and landscape is really beautiful, and they changes with different time of year. For example at spring there are many different colours, when leafs changes red, yellow and brown. And at summer there are so green and verdant everywhere. Right now in Finland there is a lot of snow and when the sun shines it looks almost like a winter wonderland.
When talking about Finland and Finnishness people always bring up the beautiful nature or the dark and cold winter. Another topic of discussion is the nature of Finnish people; unsocial, stubborn and modest. To me, however, Finnishness is a lot more. Finnishness is cottage life, sauna and most importantly, good food.
You can’t talk about Finnish culture without mentioning cuisine. For me the most important things in Finnish cuisine are salty liquorice, coffee and rye bread. Salty liquorice, or salmiakki, is a Finnish treat which is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Many Finnish people say salmiakki is the first thing they miss about Finland when they travel abroad. Finns are the people with the highest consumption of coffee in the world. It is not unusual to start your life as a coffee drinker in your youth. Here in Finland rye bread is the most common type of bread. Traditional rye bread is a dark, sour bread which can also be found dried.
Finnish culture has a lot of traditional foods which can’t stay mentioned; Karelian pie, Karelian hot pot, and traditional Finnish Easter dessert made from rye flour, called mämmi. For me, these traditional foods bring back memories of my childhood.
Finns don’t always go to the nearest supermarket to get their food, because our beautiful nature provides us with berries and mushrooms, for example. Some Finns even have their own small fields in their backyard, where they grow their own potatoes, carrots, beetroots and other veggies.
There is no Finnishness without sauna culture. The first thing us Finns mention to foreigners is how great the Finnish sauna is. Sauna is the place where even the most unsocial Finn may open up, but even then, it’s not certain. Sauna is also the place where you can show your guts, so called “Sisu”, when you compete who can withstand the most heat the longest. When you have burned your skin off in the scorching sauna, it is typical to take a cooling dip in the cold lake or even roll in the snow, when there’s no water nearby.
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.