Tag Archives: finnishness

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.

Finnish holidays

Each country has its own holidays, as well as Finland. Around the year Finns spend a variety of celebrations, some are known around the world, but some are Finns own story. Like everyone probably knows, Finland is located in north where the sun does not rise at all during the winter. Umh, and the winter lasts almost nine months in Finland… or at least the dark and cold time.

Fortunately, Finns have these holidays that cheer up in the middle of darkness and coldness. Okay, luckily we have also a three-month summer when the sun does not drop even at the night.

New Year’s Day

The very first holiday at the year is New Year’s Day. (First of January) The day, when everyone is tired of yesterdays celebrating and fireworks shooting. It’s also a day, when New Year’s promises keeping starts. Someones promises to save money, someones promises to start a diet. And very traditional Finn New Year’s promise is ”tipaton tammikuu”, it means that no alcohol in January. Good start for a good year!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle new year promise

Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day celebrating hasn’t been very common in Finland expect for the last few years. But Valentine’s Day has become more commercial day, because Valentine’s Day gifts are bought every year more and more. In Finland, a day is usually celebrated with our friends or partner at the movies or eating. Sending Valentine’s Day cards is also common.

 

 

Kuvahaun tulos haulle valentine's day

 

 

EasterKuvahaun tulos haulle virpojatEaster is a quite big holiday in Finland in spring. Finns are not very religious nation, so celebrating is more for children. Traditional Finn Easter manner is wish another person health and happiness on Palm Sunday by tapping them lightly with a willow twig and chanting a rhyme. It’s usually done by children in quest for candy. A willow twig is decorated with colorful feathers and children are also dressed like witches or Easter bunnies. Traditional Easter food is lamb and Finnish Easter pudding, which is made of rye.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle pääsiäisruoka

 

First of MayKuvahaun tulos haulle vappuFirst of May is common westerner holiday and in Finland carnerval for a workpeople and students. Usually celebrating happens in the cities downtown and everyone is wearing their graduation caps. Traditional drinks are mead, sparkling wines and shampagne. Funnel cake is also very own Finnish thing. Families with children are usually celebrating a day in carnivals and circus where balloons is a big thing.Kuvahaun tulos haulle vappu toriKuvahaun tulos haulle tippaleipä

Midsummer

Midsummer means fest of light and midsummer. Then sun doesn’t drop at all in Northern Finland. Midsummer sauna with bath whisk made of birch, bonfire and midsummer dances are very traditional manner in Finland. Almost everybody is celebrating it at their own summerhouse with family or friends. Unfortunately, drinking alcohol is always been part of Finns celebrating. Midsummer fest have also very old magic tricks and belifies. If you roll on grainfield at the morning dew, you can see in your dreams your future husband. It is also believed that drinking alcohol drives out evil spirits, and the harvest will be the better the more you drink.Kuvahaun tulos haulle juhannusHalloween

Celebrating Halloween hasn’t been very common in Finland, expect the last few years. It’s been more like remembering departed people. The most important symbol is grinning pumpkin. Departed people, ghosts, vampires, witches and black cats are also favourite symbols. Children usually wear ghost or other costumes and go door to door asking trick or treat.Kuvahaun tulos haulle karkki vai kepponenIndependent Day

Finland’s Independence Day is very important and big day for all Finns. Finland celebrates it’s 100th anniversary on 2017. Independence is still important to the Finns and touches us because we lost more than 60 000 soldiers, most of them was young men aged 20.Kuvahaun tulos haulle itsenäisyyspäiväTraditional Independence Day program include watching movie ”Tuntematon Sotilas” (”The Unknown Soldier”), that tells of the Finnish war against the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1945.

In the evening, the Presidential Independence Day reception is shown on the TV. There is invited almost 2000 guest in every year. Usually people admire the guests gowns and always vote for the ”Castle Balls” queen and king.Kuvahaun tulos haulle linnan juhlat

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve and Day and Boxing Day

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomalainen joulu

Christmas is the most biggest holiday in Finland. There is so much tradition manners and foods. On Christmas Eve usually families gather together and eat Christmas food. Christmas table’s king is absolutely ham! Also rosolli salad, rutabaga casserole, potato casserole, carrot casserole and salmon is very common. In the evening Santa Claus from Korvatunturi will visit and share gifts for children. Christmas carols, cards, costumes, get together and visiting in cemetery are traditional manners in Finland.Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomalainen joulupöytä

 

 

New Years Eve

Kuvahaun tulos haulle fireworks helsinki

New Year’s Eve is a last day in a whole year. A day when Finns celebrate spended year. Shooting fireworks and pouring of tin in to water is traditional manner in Finland. Melted tin sets fast and the shape of tin tells you a lot of what is coming on next year. Maybe it’s a coin which means a lot of money or maybe it’s a heart and you will find a love. No one knows…

Kuvahaun tulos haulle tinan valaminen

 

I wish it was Finnish summer already!

It might often seem to foreign people that Finns are a bit cold and quiet people. I am not at all surprised, since we hardly ever speak to people we don’t know, especially to foreigners. It is very common to us to travel in public transportations and not say a word to one another but that is just the way we are; we like our own space. I don’t think it is because we are cold, it is just that we are a bit shy and might often have preconceptions, especially for people from other countries.

I think it would be very helpful for us Finns to get out of this country to travel. Once we open our eyes to other cultures, we can learn and enrich our way of seeing things. Then we might understand why we can seem a bit odd folk to some foreigners.

In my opinion we are ultimately a friendly and kind nation, if you only give us time to get to know us.

Nevertheless, I love my home country. It is in my mind a safe haven. In Finland we recently celebrated our 100th anniversary of Independence. I am thankful and proud to say that I am a Finn. We have a beautiful nature with all four different seasons. My favourite season is the Finnish summer, which is always too short in my opinion. People are the most energetic and generally just happy in the summer time. Summer is the time when people spend the most time outside, enjoying the long days with lots light and warm weather. There are a lot of things to do for people in the summer. You can enjoy different events through the summer all over the country, for example different music festivals.

 

Summer and Sauna

In the summer we Finns spend a lot of time at Summer cottages. We spend all day outside enjoying the sunlight; go to the lake fishing, do gardening, grill food, warm up the sauna and sometimes also “palju” if you happen to have one in your summer cottage. The Finnish sauna has a sauna stove that warms up with wood and fire. “Palju” in other hand usually looks like a big barrel that is filled with water that you also warm up with fire and wood. It is really kind of like a hot tub but outside, which is really nice since you get to enjoy the beautiful summer nights sitting in the tub.

Picture 1. Midsummer Eve’s night.

 

Midsummer

Every summer we Finns celebrate Midsummer at the end of June. Midsummer is one of the main national holidays in Finland. In midsummer Eve we celebrate the “nightless night” that basically means that the sun is up almost through the whole day and night. In the northern Finland the sun doesn’t go down at all. Midsummer is typically spent with family and friends at a summer cottage away from the cities. Midsummer traditions consist of lighting bonfires by the lake, going to sauna, barbecuing and playing different games outside. If you happen to stay in the city in Midsummer, it might feel as if the cities have been abandoned since almost everybody leaves their homes to go to the cottages.

Midsummer is usually seen as the beginning of warm summer weather and many Finns start their summer holidays on Midsummer Eve.

Picture 2. Midsummer Eve’s bonfire

Finnishness to me means mostly peace and the feeling of being safe. The Finnish nature is unbelievably beautiful and unique. It keeps on surprising you every time.

I wish it was summer already!

 

Finnish nature

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Finland is the beautiful nature we have. In Finland we have all four seasons summer, autumn, winter and spring. Summers aren’t that warm here in Finland. During the summer Finns visit their summer cottages, barbeques and enjoy life. In Finland we have so called “yötön yö” which means that sun doesn’t set at all.

Autumn is very beautiful in Finland. Trees turn to red and yellow. It is time to go mushrooming and picking up apples. Autumn is also perfect time to go hikinng.

In Finland we get lots of snow during the winter (at least in the north). Winter is cold and dark. In wintertime we have so called “kaamos” which means that sun doesn’t rise at all. It is the opposite to the “yötön yö” that we have in the summer. We have a lot of winter activities such as skiing, ice-hockey, snowboarding and etc. One very Finnish thing to do in the winter is to go swimming into the frozen lake/river. Finns drill hole into the ice and dips in. It is common to go to sauna to warm up afterwards.

When the spring comes people are very happy, because cold and dark winter is behind us and the summer is coming!

My Experiences of Finnishness

For me, being Finnish means berry-picking trips in the middle of North-Karelian mosquito-filled woods in my grandmother’s century-old jacket, and afterwards, the scent of a freshly baked blueberry pie. Being Finnish is filling a crossword puzzle in the morning at our summer cottage’s patio with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. It is celebrating the mid summer and watching a flaming bonfire. Being Finnish is  sensing the crisp, cold Nordic air in the wintertime (meaning freezing your butt off), waiting for a bus, which is always late from schedule due to heavy snow.

When I think about the Finnish way of life, I just imagine an all-round basic and simple everyday life. For me, being Finnish is not about being beautiful and polished, it is being pure, bare and honest, which I love. We as whole don’t crave for spectacles, we strive from tradition and harmonic life of honest labor and steady, safe family lives. The stereotypical Finn works a 9 to 5 job for the  most of the year, escapes to his summer cottage for the summer, and returns to the workplace with a messy hair and an uneven summer tan. Steady, safe and familiar, routine-filled life is what I grew up with, and what I respect.

One of my favorite things about Finland is the nature. We have such a beautiful nature surrounding us, which we often seem to take for granted. Although the summer may be wet and cloudy some times, the beautiful view of a lake landscape or the green forests is without a doubt humbling. When other countries may suffer from drought or overpopulation, our small country is full of nature, space, and places to explore. The wintertime is so beautiful, when every place is packed with fresh, white, untouched snow.

Only recently have I woken up to the fact that I love being a normal Finn. I’m glad we have free education, good healthcare and a broad knowledge of different things. Whether I’m staying at home or exploring the town, I feel safe and not afraid. I grew up knowing that I can trust others, and do what I wish. We have freedom of speech and equality.

Being Finnish is knowing the lyrics or the evergreen iskelmä-songs. Being Finnish is stuffing ketchup in every single meal, no matter if the flavor serves any meaning to the food itself.  Being Finnish is dark humor, sarcasm and bad puns. Being Finnish is coffee, Fazer-chocolate, rye bread and sausage. Being Finnish is being Me! 🙂

Shy, afraid or is it just a part of our culture?

When I think about Finnishness the first thing that comes to my mind is

why are we so shy?

Shy to touch, to talk, to be near.

The “Finnish nightmares” cartoon series created by Karoliina Korhonen are the best example of what we are really thinking during real life situations. Sharing an elevator with a stranger can be a bit awkward to us. When a stranger looks you in the eye and smiles…. that’s even more awkward! “Is this person invading my personal space?”

Is it because we are too shy to have direct contact? Are we afraid? Or is it a part of our culture ?

It might have roots in our history. We have been living in isolation for quite some time. It might be because we are attached to our personal place, because we have so much space here!

There was a brilliant article from Yle Turku, written by Michael berry who says:

“Finnish silence is a method of preserving harmony with nature, oneself and others. It’s natural for Finns to move between fluent active listening and speaking while respecting others. A Finn thinks profoundly before expressing himself on a subject of importance,” (M. Berry 2013)

Maybe being silent is not that bad at all. Maybe we should learn to accept it, and just be proud of it. What others see as shy, is just our way of being polite. Our way of respecting others. We are not better, or worse, just a different kind of people.

 

Feelings of a Finn

Finland is a beautiful northern country full of nature and free space for everyone. During everyday life in Finland, there are some feelings that aren’t so easy to understand, until you feel them by yourself. Those feelings may be weird, surprising or just funny, but you can experience them just because you’re living in Finland. Here are few examples of them:

– When you go outside of the town and feel the complete quietness

Sometimes it’s amusing to go to outside of a big city and realize that you are completely alone in there. There may be just tens of kilometers of road surrounded by forests until the next city.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle forest road finland

– When you feel it’s too cold outside

Sometimes during the coldest days of winter, you go outside from the door to the freezing air and get the instant feeling that you just want to turn around and go back inside.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle blizzard finland

– When you haven’t seen sunlight in a whole day

Sunlight in winter is not so easy to get if you’re not outside for a whole day. At the northern parts of Finland, the sun doesn’t even rise at all for few weeks in winter.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle sunset finland lapland

– When you go swimming in cold water after Sauna

When you go straight from 80 degree sauna to swim in a frozen lake and get that feeling when your heart pumps faster than ever before.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle ice swimming cottage finland

– When you like to eat something that doesn’t look so good outside

You may like to eat a black sausage made from pork and pig blood, which looks more like an ordinary sausage that has just been in a grill for a little too long. Or at Easter, you may get some ‘Mämmi’ as a dessert, which doesn’t look so tempting dish.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle black sausageKuvahaun tulos haulle mämmi

/Pauli Suurpää

Top 3 things to do when trying to be Finnish!

For reasons unknown to me, there seems to be a growing need for people to find fact based and proven methods to achieve a certain state of “Finnishness!”. To meet this need head-on I have compiled a list of undisputable facts about what you need to be doing in order to achieve this elusive goal.

  1. Become one with the Rye Bread

Like with many other cultures, the way to start on the path that is knowing real Finnishness is to fall in love with its cuisine.  Often times the food stuffs consumed inside certain cultures are a great way to get glimpse inside the mind-set of a nationality.

In Finland’s case, that glimpse requires the consumption of some stone-hard, teeth-breaking, soul-draining and man-kneeling Rye Bread. This thing is hard as life. There is no place for egos here and humility is paramount when partaking in chewing of this life altering substance. It has kept the bowels of many generations of Finns clean as a whistle through centuries.

It truly is the perfect metaphor for the Finnish understanding of itself and its position in the world, which is to be humble and hardworking over everything else.

If you are successfully able to chew through a packet of “Jälkiuunileipä” you truly are one great step closer towards finding real Finnishness!

 

  1. Practice the art of intense listening

Second skill to acquire when aiming for that sweet, sweet title of a “Finn” is quietness. Silence. The art of no-talk-and-have-the-expression-of-deep-thought.

This skill involves the usage of many facial muscles: Squinting of your eyes to add some gravitas and give the impression of focus, tightening of lips to make sure you don’t give out your position on the matter that’s been discussed too early, slowly nodding maybe for approval or maybe because he arrived to a conclusion of some sort, who knows?

The point is, just be quiet and keep your distance. It will make you seem a lot smarter than you probably are and it will cut down the time required to spend on these annoying social-interaction situations (which, by the way are hated by all Finns).

 

  1. Sauna: institutionalized nudism

Last thing you got to learn, in order to receive your congratulatory, Finnish government mandated Waist Pack, is to embrace yourself, without any clothes, in a hot and steamy room with complete strangers, while whipping everyone inside that steamy and hot room with tree branches.

While doing this holy ritual, it will dawn upon you that everything you read on this list of must-dos is a fallacy. While inside that hallowed space of a sauna, sitting butt-cheek against a butt-cheek with strangers, all the things you got told about Finns wash away. Suddenly closeness isn’t a problem and a non-stop conversation, with some dry jokes, becomes the standard. Life doesn’t appear as hard anymore and inside that dark, steamy room you can finally see that those weird Finns with their weird tribal customs aren’t really that weird or different after all.

Sami Juntunen

General opinion of Finnish people?

I’m trying to wrap my head around the general opinion of Finnish people. If I think about it from an “outsiders” point of view, I see a nation that is doing quite well, people who might be a little bit reserved but who are still very helpful, kind and are open minded.

When talking to people who are not from Finland and asking, “What is your opinion of a Finnish person?” sometimes the answer is that we are shy and quiet and sometimes that we are loud and talkative (this one usually happens if you drink alcohol).

Some have a language barrier with foreign people, maybe their English is not so good, so they seem shy and quiet, even though maybe they would like to get to know the person.

Something that I’ve been wondering a lot is why do the Finns need so much space, where does it come from? Even when we talk to each other we keep our distance. For me, it’s funny, it’s just how we are. A funny example of the need for personal space you can see in this picture where Finnish people are waiting for the bus.

 

I also recommend visiting a blog called Finnish Nightmares. It is one of the funniest pages ever! There is so much truth in the posts, but it really is just funny!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares

I will end my post with telling you my favorite thing about Finland.

So for me it really is the summer, going to the cottage with my family, going to sauna and going for a swim in the lake. I can’t experience this often since I usually have been away the summers, so when I get to go, it makes me so happy. The forrest surrounds me and it really feels like you can just forget about all your problems, they seem so far when you are so relaxed.

/Katariina

Finnish unwritten rules

 

We finns like to think we are a very unique nation. There are some unwritten rules that we follow on daily bases that might seem weird to someone from another culture.

  1. Keeping our distance.

It is true that we like to keep our distance (preferably as wide as possible) to strangers and even with our friends and family. Personally i get a little anxious when strangers get closer then 1 meter from me. I don’t think I’m the only finn feeling this way. Every finnish person know the rules how to respect each others personal space. You can see it in many various situations, such as:

  • Meeting someone new: it’s always an polite and firm hand shake. Never ever
    expect us to hug you or give you cheek
  • kisses. That is just weird and awkward for us.
  • Whe in elevators we like to stand close to the walls and preferaply corners. We avoid eye contact and keep quiet during the ride.
  • We won’t sit right next to one another. Only if there is absolutelly no choice we do that but otherwise it’s just not going to happen. Always leave at least one seat in between.
  • When we are leaving from our apartments we won’t open the door right away, if we hear someone walking in the hallway. No, we wait until the person has gone. No need for any unexpected and awkward human contact.
  1. No interruptions

For us it is simply rude to interrupt someone when their speaking. It makes both parties feel uncomfortable so we just avoid that. We speak our minds, when the person talking is done.

  1. Punctuality

We are a very punctional nation. We are always rather 10 minutes early then even 1 minute late. It is simply not accepted. We also expect everyone else to be on time, no excuses.

  1. Reliability

That is something that we are very proud of. There is nothing in the world you could trust more then a finnish promise. We will do what ever it takes to keep our promise. And what we can’t do, that we won’t promise.

  1. Modesty

Nothing makes you better than modesty. It makes it hard for us to accept compliments and credits. To be credited for your work, or even worse, to be credited for your work infront of your co-workers is just awful for us. I get chills even thinking about it.

  1. Whining

That is the national sport of Finland, whining. Nothing is ever good enough and nothing is ever perfect. Especially whe it is about the weather. It is always too hot, too dark, too rainy, too windy too what ever. We also compit with our friends about our miseries. Who has slept the least or the worse, who has the least money, who has the most homework, the least free time. You simply can not win a finn in a competition of whining.

  1. Sauna and alcohol

Those two are the main things in our culture. Propably because they keep us both sane and warm. There is absolutelly nothing you can not talk about in sauna, especially if you are drunk. Its the place of bonding, relaxing and sharing.