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!
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.
My exchange has already started when I am writing this so my perspective to Finnishness has already changed little bit. I want to write you about things what I seem to be missing from Finland.
Lakes and midsummer
Finland is known from its lakes “Land of a Thousand lakes”. Before my exchange I had no idea that I could be missing lakes, but seems that I am really used to swimming. Lakes also seems to be meeting place with friends, a place to gather around and relax.
This was my first summer away from Finland and I missed Finnish mid-summer party, which usually includes lake, swimming, tasty food and bonfire. I was seriously considering flying back to Finland just for midsummer, but finally I did not. I guess next year I must celebrate twice as much.
In Finland I was used to eating rye bread and porridge, but they seem to be really hard to find here or they are really expensive. Of course idea is to experience local culture and food, but my eating habits seems to be hard to change.
Before my exchange I did realise that these are things which I would miss from finland, but that seems to be the case here. I guess these things are “Finnishness” to me.
Here is picture of finnish midsummer bonfire called “kokko”
Things that pop into my head when thinking about Finnishness and being Finnish are nature, Finnish food and personal space. Of course, there are a lot of more things that I could mention but these are the few that I want to focus on.
The country of thousands of lakes
First of all, the Finnish nature. I don’t know a better way to describe it than saying it´s really beautiful. One of the reasons why a love Finland is because of its forests and lakes. I have heard foreigners speaking about Finland that how fascinating it is when you go to Finland and there are lakes everywhere and that is true. There are around 187 888 lakes in Finland and that’s a lot! It´s nice that in the summer you don’t usually have to go far to find a lake. Of course, it depends where in Finland you live but I would say mostly you can find lakes close to your home.
Then there is also forests which I love. From where I’m from there has been forest less then 1km away from my house and for me it has always been a place where I can go for a walk just to relax. I also like the fact that you can go pick up berries and mushrooms from there and its completely free! Every summer and fall I go to my hometown just so I can fill up my freezer back in Tampere with blueberries and mushrooms. I think that we should appreciate the nature more. 🙂
Salmiakki and Finnish rye bread
When I think about Finnish food nothing special dishes comes to my mind but we do have some extremely good candy, salmiakki. It´s a salty liquorice which most of the Finnish people love and foreigners hate 😀 It´s one of my favorite candies and every time I get an opportunity to offer it to someone who has not tasted it I do it. People’s reactions when they taste the candy are funny to watch. Usually they can’t eat it.
Another thing which I love about Finland is rye bread. It´s not only good tasting but it’s also healthy. I think that is one of the things I´m the proudest as a Finnish person. Sounds a bit silly but in abroad it can be hard to find good healthy bread and not just toast. But it´s just something that I´m used to. If I would have been born somewhere else, I might not like it.
As a Finnish person, I can say that we want to have our personal space. For example, in a bus, we don’t sit next to someone if there is a chance to sit alone. Also, what we don’t do is that when we are in queue we don’t get close to the person in front of us. Someone has said that the personal space between strangers is around 1,5 meters in Finland. I don’t know if that’s true but if someone would get close to me in a queue I would feel uncomfortable and think that they want to cut in front of me. Even though we have our weird habits I love being Finn 😀
What does Finland and being a Finn mean to me? The answer is – if I dare say – something that a lot of Finns could very well relate to: sauna, sisu, lakes and rivers, lots of trees, silence, and space. A Finns favourite scenery often has water in it, be it a lake, a river or the sea and perhaps some trees or some other kind of vegetation. This isn’t surprising since Finland is often called The Land of a Thousand lakes. It does describe Finland well because if you’ve ever driven through Finland during summer, all you can see is blue lakes, rivers and green forests and fields passing by.
As lakes are everywhere, so are the summer cottages too. To me and a lot of Finns, retreating to the cottage during summer is a very important thing. The peace and quiet and the simple joys that the of the cottage offers is what makes them so attractive to Finns. Relaxing at the lakeside boating, fishing, barbecuing and most importantly going to the sauna and swimming are a must.
Sauna has been an important part of the Finnish culture for hundreds of years. It has been a place for bathing and curing different illnesses, but also a place where children were born and where the corpses of the deceased were taken before the funeral. Nowadays practically all houses and many flats have a sauna of their own and it is common practice to use it at least once a week.
I’m originally from Rovaniemi, and after moving to Tampere I have come to really appreciate the two extremes that especially Lapland can offer. Snowy, cold and dark winters and the warm, green summers with the sun shining the whole night through. The difference in the light in the summer is very noticeably compared to Tampere even though Rovaniemi is in the southern part or Lapland.
In this blog a lot of people have talked about the Finnish people and our nature which is often silent, sometimes even a bit awkward, shy and always very straight to the point. Maybe because of the harshness of the the environment we have had to live in we have had to develop a strong mentality of perseverance, sisu. It is an attribute that has helped us survive in the sometimes tough but beautiful nature surrounding us, but also other kinds of difficult situations in the past and the present. It is an positive attitude I can relate to and hold very dear, and I do think it somehow sums up what Finland and its people are all about.