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 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.
Finnishness and being a Finn is something that I don’t think a lot, it doesn’t mean that much to me. I dislike nationalism and the idea that you should be proud of your country. That doesn’t mean I don’t like Finland – vice versa actually, during my time abroad I have found out I’m kind a fond of Finland.
Honesty and comfortable silence
Finnish people tend to be quite honest, not to embellish things. When a finn says something very often she/he means it. If you agree to something usually it holds, this is a thing I like. I’ve spent time in southern european countries and it’s common here that people make a lots of promises about various things, but those things never tend to happen. Being okay and comfortable in silence is also a thing I like. But rudeness is something I don’t like and it shouldn’t be just explained by “our nature”. If you accidentally push someone you’re ought to apologise. If you’re in a bus sitting next to window and someone sits next to you and you want to leave, you say something, not just fiddle your gloves.
I’m a city girl but during my time abroad I’ve started to appreciate Finnish nature much more. It’s clean, pure and always “out there”, easy to reach I mean. When I’m abroad I hike, visit cool nature spots etc. Now I’ve started to wonder why I never to this stuff in Finland, you can find awesome nature parks and hiking trails there also.
As a Finn there are three things that always come to my mind when I think about Finnishness: honesty, equality and sauna.
We Finns value honesty very much. We say what we think about something and we mean it. This is both a good and a bad thing. For example in business it’s very good that you can count on what has been agreed upon. Then again when having a conversation our honesty may be interpreted as being rude to someone.
Equality is so deeply rooted to our society, that we don’t always even notice it ourselves. One of my personal favorites is the absent of gender specific pronoun. Equality is also tied with our education system, which provides free education to each and everyone. If that isn’t amazing, I don’t know what is!
Sauna is what symbolizes my finnishness the most. It combines the above-mentioned honesty and equality together. Nowhere can you find a more honest Finn, then being in sauna with them. Also in sauna there are no titles, all people are equal in sauna.
One of the biggest cultural differences that I have noticed between Finns and rest of the world is that we can be perfectly at ease with silence even though we are in company. I noticed this especially when I lived for a week with a French family in Belfort, when the mother thought something was wrong if we Finns were quiet during the car ride. We had thought it a bit odd instead, that the mother had tried so hard to keep up small-talk — we were perfectly happy with just appreciating the passing scenery. When we explained this to the French family, they told us that they felt really weird if things were silent, especially if you didn’t know the people very well. Silence for them, was a mark that something was wrong.
In addition to Finns being a silent bunch, we normally are not that well versed in the art of small-talk. I had a course in the University of Eastern Finland, where our American professor tried to hammer us some basic dos and dont’s in especially the Anglo culture. First of all, the professor told us, Finns are too honest and straightforward. If someone asks us how we are, we genuinely answer how our day has been; usually the ‘how do you do’ is however, just a polite expression.
There is also something else that stayed in my mind from the course: in the Anglo culture there is a habit of saying the person’s name a lot when you are talking with them. I had never noticed before, but we Finns don’t generally do that. For that reason, our professor emphasized to us, that we should really pay attention to people’s names when they are introduced, as it is expected to use them later in the conversation as a sign of respect.
Apart from being quiet and having to work on our conversation skills, we Finns sure do love our summer cottages. Maybe it’s because we want to escape to spend our sparse summer months somewhere with even less people, maybe it’s because usually the sauna in the cottage is superior to the one at home. When I was younger, most of our summers were spend in the cottage, and though I go there myself much rarely now, my parents still flee there right when the first a bit warmer weekend comes in the spring.
When I think of the word ”Finnishness”, I think of forests, lakes, sauna, shyness, being honest and being persistent. Being a Finn is something you don’t really think about when living in Finland, because you are surrounded by other Finns. Now that I’m about to go abroad, it’s a good time to stop for a minute and think what being a Finn means to me.
Finns are known to be quiet and shy. Even the comic ‘Finnish Nightmares’, which has almost 150 000 likes in Facebook, is based on this thought. The hero of the comic is a typical Finnish man named Matti, who does daily things from standing all quiet in an elevator with their neighbors to talking to foreigners and feeling shy throughout the conversation. Many Finns have commented in this Facebook page how they identify themselves in these comic, and many foreigners have commented how these comics remind them of their Finnish friends. If you ever want to know what being a Finn means to us Finns, please go checkout ‘Finnish Nightmares’ comic: https://www.facebook.com/finnishnightmares/?fref=ts
To me, the most important thing in Finland is the atmosphere we have here. Although things aren’t always as good as they seem to be, in my opinion you can be who you want to be here without being judged too hard or someone telling you to stop doing your thing. Finns can be prejudiced and brutally honest, but in the end everyone gets an opportunity here. I also think that most of the Finns appreciate the nature here. Going for a walk in a quiet forest or for a swim in a lake is a normal thing to do here. Maybe that’s why most of the Finns are so used to being quiet and minding their own business. It is not that we don’t care about others, we just appreciate our own space and thoughts a lot.
If I were forced to best describe “Finnishness” with three words, it would be the following: humble, honest, and proud. I have lived abroad for nearly half of my young life, therefore although I am Finnish myself, I have gained valuable perspective in comparison to various other cultures.
The way humility comes out in Finns is often interpreted in different ways. For instance, to a foreigner, the fact that strangers do not engage in conversation on public transport may seem somewhat antisocial. Simultaneously, the thought process of a Finn may be that they simply respect the privacy of his/her fellow citizens, and therefore abstain from engaging in small-talk.
The second characteristic of your typical Finn is honesty. Finnish honesty can often also come in many different forms. It can be evident in the form of a blunt, yet honest response; something that foreigners may consider to be downright rude. Then again, a Finn will also give his/her peers heartfelt praise when necessary. Honesty is a value that is taught by one’s parents from an early age as something that is (merely) above all else in the hierarchy of values.
Last but not least, Finns are extremely proud of where they come from. I noticed this in myself especially, whilst living overseas as an adolescent. Any chance I got, I would speak proudly of my homeland and its beauty. This is something that gradually faded away (once we moved back), this unconditional pride in being a Finn. I think it is certainly something us Finns take for granted, all the wonderful little aspects about being a Finn. You know what they say, “you don’t realize what you had until it’s gone”. There is an exception to every rule, and the one time that Finns can collectively boast about their homeland is following sporting success (more that likely to come from ice hockey). At these times, national pride is through the roof and unruly amounts of alcohol are consumed, one aspect that is deeply engraved in Finnish party traditions.
Unfortunately these words are common in the stereotype of finnish culture. There’s no smoke without a fire but I’m glad to admit that although many of those words do describe Finland, there’s more to finnishness than one would except.
Here’s some other words that describe us aswell:
Light, honesty, sisu, friendliness, sauna.
We have nightless night, our nation is one of the most honest in the world, we have guts to not give up and keep pushing on, or as we say it “sisu”, people are not that eager to start making small talk, but when doing so, we are friendly and are said to be quite laid back personalities and above all: we have a lot of saunas.
Winter is very dark and we tend to be kind of melancholic at that time of the year. Fortunately it’s possible to see the wonder of northern lights. Christmas is celebrated with family in most cases followed by New years eve, which is also celebrated with family or friends. So not that bad time of the year after all.
Summertime is the exact opposite of winter. Sun shines more or less around the clock and people are more lively with all the events, warmer weather and festivals not to mention the summer holidays and possibility to enjoy our thousands of lakes and summer cottages.
All in all finnishness includes enjoying extremely happy/lively seasons and darker seasons when it’s time to calm down a bit. It includes quiet but friendly and honest nation that knows how to relax in a hot room all year around.
What I feel about Finnishness is that we are very honest and because of that in Finland you can expect things to go smoothly. We are also very calm and maybe a little more quiet than people from other countries and we like our personal space. We enjoy spending time in groups but also alone. Personally I think that we like to separate our time at home and time out too much. For example the nearest café-house or bar doesn’t feel like a living room to us.
One recognizable thing in us Finns is that we don’t like to speak formally. And the use of those many formal polite words doesn’t come naturally to us. Words like “Mister” or “Sir” are not in a great use and we do not have a word for “please”. I think that we might seem rude to foreigners from time to time but the thing is, we don’t mean to. When we face each other we are polite by our appearance and we understand each other’s behavior based on speaking tone. So when we interact we have this common understanding of what is good behavior. Some might even say that we have great non-verbal communication skills.
We are also very humble. In some ways that is a very good feature. For example we don’t like to interrupt others speech, that makes us good listeners and polite in a way. But also our humbleness has its negative sides. When a Finnish person takes pride and glory in something it’s not in-common that others see it as a bad thing. I think we should be more proud of our achievements and ourselves.