Finnish are often described quiet and grumpy. It’s probably just because we behave a bit differently in social situations. We don’t have a small talk culture. If you ask a Finnish person how they are doing they will explain you what is actually going on in their life at the moment. In my experience Finnish are very friendly and respectful to others, they just need some time to warm up.
Finnish love their sauna. It’s also a good way to explain the two sides of being a Finnish person. Sometimes you go there to have some peace and quiet and relax and other times you go in with a group of friends or strangers and socialize with people. It’s a part of your day to day life but it’s also an important part of any celebration like Christmas or Midsummer fest. One thing that seems to be a shock to people from other countries is that we go in naked, but to Finnish it’s completely normal. Usually Finnish respect others personal space and don’t go too near to others. However when you go to sauna suddenly everything changes and you find yourself sitting next to a stranger chatting about life.
Endless winter and summer that is too short
I love Finnish summers and I love our white winters (when they are in fact white). But I hate the darkness. It changes everything. During the winters you’re more tired and getting things done is way harder. You could sleep for the hole day. Winter however is really beautiful and when there is snow it isn’t as dark. The best thing to do during winter is going ice skating on a frozen lake or on an ice rink or skiing and then go to a hot sauna after.
During the summers when the light never goes away you feel super energetic and feel like you can do anything. People are happier during the summer. It’s easier to get to know new persons during the summer. But of course part of it is explained by the fact that you are just able to see more people outside because everyone is not inside hiding from the cold. One thing especially that I love about the summers are the endless amounts of festivals going on everywhere in Finland. I feel like my city alone has some festival going on every week of the summer. One festival especially is interesting. The midnight sun film festival that happens in the north of Finland is something quite unique. It’s in the middle of nowhere in a small village. The films are going on 24 hours a day and the sun doesn’t go down for the hole festival. Nothing else happens in the village during the hole year but for one week of June it’s filled with life.
When I think about Finland and Finnishness the first thing that comes to my mind is sauna. I don’t think there is a single Finn who has never been to a sauna in their life. It is a place to get together and relax. In a sauna, you might even hear a Finn talking to a person they don’t know! For me, sauna has always been an important part of my life. When I was a kid, my family went to the sauna twice a week, always on the same days, Wednesday and Sunday.
Nothing still beats the good old sauna at a summer cottage. After a nice and relaxing time in the heat of the sauna, it is nice to cool down by jumping into a lake. Sauna and lake are indeed an amazing combination and luckily lakes aren’t hard to find in Finland. We love the combination so much that at wintertime we drill a hole in the ice and jump into the freezing water. It is also good to bear in mind that in Finland you go to sauna naked. We Finns are very comfortable with nakedness and it is not uncommon to have both men and women together in the sauna naked.
Another thing that came to mind when I thought of Finnishness was summer and in particular the midnight sun. It is amazing how at the summertime everything in Finland comes so alive, even the people! In the south the sun still sets for a short moment, but in the north the sun will not go down at all during midsummer. Sleeping might come a bit harder during summer when your body doesn’t know if it is day or night, but I absolutely love the amount of light we have during the summer. It is something a Finn must enjoy as much as they can, as the winter that follows won’t have much light to offer.
In Finland we are so lucky to have four seasons. To me winter and summer are especially the ones that comes to mind when thinking Finnishness. These are the opposite of one another and we as Finns are very different in these two seasons. I am going to focus on these two seasons in my post.
Midnight sun – “Yötön yö”
During summertime in Finland we can enjoy light around the clock and that is what midnight sun describes. In Lapland there are times when sun does not go down at all. In the Southern of Finland, we are not that lucky, and the sun does go down, but the sun will rise again quite quickly. In my opinion Finnishness is very different in every Finn during summer compared to what Finnishness is in the winter. Finns are more open, more smiling and talks to one another.
As summer is the season when Finns likes to spend more time with each other – we have a summer celebration called “juhannus” which is Midsummer in English. This celebration is spent in the middle of the summer. Most Finns have their own traditions in Midsummer. The most traditional things that belong to Midsummer are Midsummer bonfire, sauna (of course) and a birch whisk used in sauna. I think that Midsummer is the most Finnishness celebration we have in Finland.
Polar night – “Kaamos”
Polar night is the opposite of Midnight sun. Polar night is experienced during the winter and actually it can only be experienced in Lapland. Although this phenomenon is only in Lapland, in Southern of Finland there is also very dark in the winter months. Kaamos begins in the end of November – in the beginning of December and ends in the end of December – in the middle of January – depending on which part of Lapland you are staying. In 2017 Polar night in Nuorgam started on 24th November and it ended on 17th January. Although it sounds bad and maybe even a bit depressing that the sun will not rise once – there is a time during the daytime when it is not that dark. On top of that, snow lightens the view. During Polar night you can enjoy the Finnish nature by skiing, skating or watching the northern lights. Despite of the lack of sunshine this time of the year can be beautiful as you can see from the picture below.