Tag Archives: Language

Finnishness

Finnishness means actions and thoughts what Finnish people have daily. We all are individuals who have their own experiences about Finnishness but still together we create a nation which has common features. Everyone shapes and maintains Finnishness by their own personal way.

Finnish language

One unique characteristic of Finnishness is a Finnish language, which is divided in various regional dialects. Finnish is spoken by about 4.9 million people, most of whom reside in Finland. Most of the population of Finland speak Finnish as their first language. Finnish people are always so proud of their own language and how it have kept the position through the history.

Finnish language has a very rich nature related vocabulary and for example it has dozens of different words for snow. Finnish language does not make difference between genders. The most noticeable is the gender-neutral hän which means both ‘he’ and ‘she’.

Finnish uses compound words, meaning words which are combined into one rather than written out individually. This has given birth to one of the longest words in the world at 61 letters, lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas, which means ‘airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student’. The word is used basically never.

 

Finnish music

Finnish music can be roughly divided into the categories of folk music, classical music and popular music. Every Finland’s Independence Day I listen to Finlandia composition by Jean Sibelius who is the most famous composer from Finland. The compositions of Sibelius describe Finnish mentality and psyche so well.

The folk music of Finland is typically influenced by Karelian traditional tunes. Also, many Finnish traditional stories are from that area and they have been passed on through several generations by singing the stories. The music has always brought the people together, maybe that is the reason why we like to sing karaoke so much!

Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto’s Finnish folk song encore in London:

 

Four seasons

Although I do not like hot weather in summer and the darkness drives me crazy in every winter, but at the same time I value the variety of Finnish nature and its annual cycle. Every season has its own specialities and possibilities. The annual cycle has also shaped people. Winter is a time for calm down and rest up before a new starting year. There is nothing better than put on woollen socks and sweater, light the candles and enjoy the calmness. In summer the life is totally opposite. People are full of energy, because nights are bright and there is plenty of light.

 

My home in Finland – where my story began

For me being a Finn is a weird concept. I can’t seem to relate to most of the stereotypes of Finnish people on a personal level. I am social and outgoing, I don’t mind people entering my personal space (if I know them), I am very affectionate and I am loud and giggly and I actually don’t like sauna that much. The stereotype of grumpy Finns who prefer to grunt in response and avoid interaction with other people whenever possible doesn’t seem to suit me. But I am still a Finn and it means other things to me as it is different for everyone. I guess belonging somewhere comes from yourself and what you believe it means and requires. In a way I am a Finn because I was born in Finland and lived here most of my life. But my times abroad and meeting international people have changed me as well as a person. So it’s not just about where you come from, it’s about who you are and want to be.

But enough of that philosophical blabbering, let’s get down to the things that I think make me a Finn.

Nature

Whether it is camping outside and gazing at the stars while roasting marshmallows or sausages on a campfire or skinny dipping in a lake and running back into a sauna on a clear summer night, nature has always been close to me. I grew up in the country side so I got to experience it on a whole new level. There’s nothing more calming to going into the forest on a clear snow day and just listening to the sound of nature while admiring the view that unfolds before you. Snowy landscape is one of my favorite sights to see and it holds the candle to the other wonders of the world. This part of Finnishness also holds the sports we get to do during winter time. Ice skating, skiing, sliding down the hill on a sleigh, all of these and many more would not be possible in many other places.

Food and drinks

There are quite many foods that you wouldn’t come across elsewhere or there might be something similar. I know these names won’t mean much to you but for example karjalanpiirakka, piparkakku, karjalanpaisti, mämmi (which is disgusting by the way) or salted liquorices. We Finns do love our salted liquorice, we put it into almost anything; ice cream, chocolate, alcohol etc. Salmari, the alcoholic drink, is good by the way. Which brings us to the drinking culture in Finland. In a lot of countries drinking is a social thing where as in Finland we can also just do “kalsarikännit” which basically means getting drunk in our underwear alone at home. That’s another thing we do, we get drunk. Sometimes might enjoy a glass or two when having food or going to sauna but if we go out we go all out. During the weekend around 4 am you can find Finns queuing up to a pizzeria or some snack kiosk with greasy food to get something to fill their alcohol infused bellies. And that’s when we actually talk to strangers even if they wouldn’t want you to.

 

Language

I can’t even count how many times I’ve enjoyed listening to foreigners trying to speak Finnish. I really appreciate the effort though and I congratulate you for trying since it’s definitely not the easiest language. Even Finns have trouble understanding each other depending which part of the country they come from. To many Finnish just sounds like a really long word since we do not tend to breathe in between while talking. We take a deep breath and let it all out in one go. No wonder we don’t talk much. If we don’t have anything to say why say anything at all. Words hold quite a lot of power and verbal agreements can be almost as binding as written ones. If you make a promise you are excepted to hold true to your words. But Finnish language can be quite funny once you learn it (if you learn it).

So I would proudly say, yes I am a Finn. But I am also me and that is so much more.

Things that make Finland special

Nature

Nature is rooted in every Finn. I love just how easy it is to go out to the nature and take a breath of fresh air. How you can escape the stress of everyday life to peace and quiet. How the forests and lakes shape the landscape and change with every season.  I do think, that many Finns take their surroundings for granted. Still, one of the first things a Finn brags about their home country for any foreigners is definitely the beautiful nature.

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Sauna

Finns truly love to take a steam, which explains why there are over 3 million saunas in Finland. In the summer, we tent to go to sauna in our summer cottages and take a plunge in cold water afterwards. In the winter we go to sauna to warm ourselves after being outside in the cold. Some do warm their saunas every single day, some not so often. Sauna is a place for relaxation.

Menesjärvi 8-12.8.08.

Language

Finnish is often described as one of the hardest languages to learn. The fact, that there is no other nation, that speak Finnish as their mother tongue makes Finland pretty special. Whenever abroad, hearing Finnish will make you feel instantly confused, amused and weirdly safe all at the same time. Teaching basic Finnish words to your foreign friends makes you feel very proud of this special language.

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Safety

Finland is one of the safest places in the world. Finns feel safe to walk alone outside or using public transport despite the hour. You can be pretty sure, that if you walk with your bag open, no one will try to steal your wallet or belongings and you can safely leave your laptop on the table in a cafe and leave to get a refill. Finns generally trust each other and know that the police is a municipality that can be trusted if something happens.

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To understand a Finn

A couple of years ago I spent a lot of my time travelling alone. I love meeting people from different cultures, since all cultures have their own way of thinking. Of course, Finns understand each other the best through the history, language and culture. Especially culture, like the Finnish sense of humour, can easily go over foreigner’s head. During my travels in Iceland I met another Finn. Our Icelandic friend invited us to her house, and together with some Spanish and Japanese travellers we one night sat down to watch a classic Icelandic movie (can’t remember the name). It was exactly like the Uuno Turhapuro movies we have here in Finland and the absurdity of the movie was funny. The Spanish and Japanese travellers didn’t quite understand it, so I think it tells something about the mentality us Northern Europeans have.

nobody in their right mind

The Finnish sense of humour is dark, dry, subtle and often sarcastic. Even though we won’tmaybe admit it, we enjoy the horrible weather our country has. It gives us something worth complaining every day! It even gives us a reason to talk to each other. Oh, the numerous times I’ve stood in a bus stop and an elderly people has started a small talk about how beautiful/horrible the weather is. Same goes with public saunas. I’ve never sat in a public sauna where everyone has been quiet. I wonder if that’s a situation only a Finn can experience and properly appreciate, since the Sauna Chat ™ is usually in Finnish.

The Finns are often described to be serious and cold, but when you live in a country where most of the year it’s raining either water, snow or wet snow, it should be understandable. I wonder why Mediterranean people are usually described to be lively and friendly? 😉

Finnish language is notoriously difficult for foreigners since it’s in a small Finno-Ugric language family, which also includes Estonian. Many Finnish jokes are wordplay or puns. Many Finnish words have multiple meanings, depending on the context. One of the best examples is the word “kuusi”, which can mean either a pine tree, a number or “your moon”. It can be a cause of headache for foreigners who want to learn Finnish. However, learning Finnish lets you in on a wonderfully weird sense of humour.

So, in conclusion, to me Finnishness is a way of thinking. Our country is beautiful and people seem to be born with an appreciation of the nature, but in the end it’s more what’s inside our heads that make us Finnish.

My favorite things about Finland.

Even tough I’m not Finnish, I lived here for most of my life, since childhood. And first thing that comes to my mind when I think about Finland is education.

Education

Finland provide high quality of education, which is also encourage kids to be independent individuals. Teacher viewed as almost a friend and called by a first name, which is often surprising for foreigners. Kids really are important for Finish society and they are surrounded by love and care from the government and people around from the early days.

The newly built Saunalahti School.
The newly built Saunalahti School.

Shyness

Despite that, Finns often grow up to be shy. Most of the Finnish people would shy away from conversations and “small talk”. It’s probably a rumored national mentality, and even I somehow assimilated it, living in Finland from childhood. My speculation about the reason might be that Finns don’t like empty talks. Talking should be useful: helping with some problem, for example. I always got help and friendly guidance from random people when I needed it.

I should mention one category of people, eager to start a conversation in buses and trains: elderly people :D. Sweet grandmothers just love to have a nice chatter, and I have no idea how it fits into the idea of an overall shy mentality :).

Nature

My most favorite part about Finland is it’s nature. For people who like warm summer days I have a joke: “Finnish summer is great, last time it was on Thursday”.

Of course Finnish summer is a bit longer than that – 3 months a year, and Finland being a land of a thousand lakes and islands offer lots of ways to enjoy hot and sunny days. But if you don’t like heat and love winters white from snow, that’s your country :). Finland in winter remind you of a childhood fairy tales. No wonder they say rumored Santa Claus lives here, in Lapland!

Finland have 4 seasons in total, and every single one of them have amazing coloring of sky and trees. You have especially good view on surrounding lakes, fields and sky since many Finns would prefer solitude houses away from the noisy neighbors, so Finland don’t have that many big cities to loom in the background (hint: it’s hard to live in Finland without a driver license, unless you live in big city).

Finns preserve their trees and animals. Along the roads you’ll see lots of trees and nets: to prevent animals from straying on the roads and to keep them in their natural habitat.

Language

In the end I want to add only one thing about Finnish Language:

We <3 Finland.

“All photos are clickable to the source.”