Finland is the home to many lakes, forests, and most metal bands in the world per capita. It is fair to assume that these are connected as folk melodies and instruments are a very common asset and nature an equally common source of inspiration and lyrical theme in Finnish metal music. I think the phenomenon has its roots in Finns being a very down-to-earth people with a close connection to nature, as only some decades ago most of the population lived in the countryside.
It is a common misconception that Finns are a very depressed people. Statistically they’re not. I think Finns just appreciate their personal space and only speak when they actually have something to say, and this might give the impression of a very reserved people.
When talking about Finnish music, most of it, maybe excluding hip hop which I know nothing about, does sound more depressive than the international hits. That’s why I think metal suits Finland very well. Finland’s black metal scene is also very interesting and deeper underground than that of the more commercially successful Norwegian cousins.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Finland is a country where the most beautiful people live. It is also a country of high education and equality. Finns are known of their honesty, loyalty and shyness. They say that if you make friends with a Finn, it lasts for a lifetime. These are well known facts, but what else is Finland?
Finland is also a lot more. Finland is an amazing Wonderland. People living and visiting in this Wonderland can enjoy the pureness of the nature and the characters found only there.
Amazing characters of the Wonderland
Joulupukki, Santa Clause
Up north in Korvatunturi, Rovaniemi, you can meet the one and only Santa Claus all year round. Santa Claus lives there and you can meet him personally. Children and why not adults, can visit Santa Claus and give their wish list for Christmas. It is a magical place where all the childhood dreams can come true!
But wait, what are those white little creatures? They must be the Moomins. You can’t miss Moomins if you visit Finland. They are all around. These loved characters you can meet for real in Naantali, where is the Moomin World. There is also a museum in Tampere for Moomins.
Have you ever met an Angry Bird? Finns have created this worldwide known game for everyone to enjoy. We also have theme parks to get the real experience. You can imagine yourself inside of the game and survive from one obstacle to another. The best part is that there are many theme parks around Finland. You can just choose easily where to step into that Angry Bird adventure.
Breathtaking nature of the Wonderland
Okay we have the amazing characters all around Finland. But that alone doesn’t make Finland a real Wonderland yet. Finnish nature is something amazing. Just a right place to live if you are a magical character like the ones above. Finland’s four seasons takes breath away. Spring is the time when the nature starts to gloom after long winter. Summer will please you with flowers, endless amount of lakes, berries and animals. Autumn will amaze you with a great wide of colors. Winter has a secret source of light, and it is the Northern Lights. Finns secret weapon against dark winter. Northern Lights are mysterious, because they appear many times during winter, but you might miss them if you want to see them too much.
Being a Finn
Being a Finn, I am proud and thankful of this Wonderland. There is nothing better than to visit Santa Claus during Christmas time and see the magical Northern Lights at the same trip. Or enjoy summertime with a book of Moomins adventures while birds are singing and blueberries waiting for me to eat them.
Finland – the land of thousand lakes, lush green nature and shy people who are hard to get to know and go to sauna a lot. As a Finn, I’ve heard this a gazillion times and as all of those notions are true, there is more to us Finns than meets the eye.
As there are so many forests and lakes, it is natural (pun intended) that our culture has become so closely entwined with it – in the past as provider of food and shelter and today as a sanctuary where people can rest and forget the hectic outside world. The feeling you get from watching the sun set behind a lake, seeing the Northern Lights dance upon a frosty winter sky or just gazing at the stars in dark autumn night is just indescribable and it has had a profound effect in us.
There are even studies about how walking in a forest will lower your blood pressure in 20 minutes and I believe that we Finns have known this all along, nature gives us peace of mind and we just want to enjoy it. That background added with the traditional Finnish logic of if you don’t have anything meaningful to say, it is better to be quiet and say nothing at all. That can easily show differently on the outside and is at least partly the reason why Finns are so unfamiliar with small talk.
I remember reading an article about which European citizens travel the most and was really surprised to find Finns in the top 3. The article explained that Finns don’t travel abroad that much but the reason that put them in top places of list was, of course, summer cottages. And there was a staggering number of 502 900 of them in 2016. So that’s where we are, not talking and going to saunas most of the time.
My theory is that the nature has shaped us into who we are and how we see the world and personally, I couldn’t be happier.
I started this assignment by thinking what I understand by the term “Finnishness”. To me, it’s all the things that make me feel like myself the most. Places where I can be me, food I love to eat and hobbies I absolutely love to fill my spare time with. Things that give me a deep sense of satisfaction and peace of mind.
Nature in general is still very near to Finnish people, even in the cities. Lakes, forests, fells in Lapland… They are all places people seem to gravitate to. I grew up in the eastern part of Finland where there is an abundance of woods. Even today forests are places where I go to relax and quieten, to ground myself in a sense. I especially like to hike in the woods with my dogs.
Nothing says Finnish food to me more than Karjalanpaisti (Karelian stew or hot pot in English). The stew has its roots in Karelia, the eastern region of Finland. It contains meat, usually pork, beef or lamb. I personally love the combination of lamb and beef. Root vegetables such as carrots and onions are added to the meat. The stew is seasoned with whole black peppercorns, allspice berries or bay leaf.
The meat is first seared and then placed in a big pot with the other ingredients. The pot is then filled with water and placed in an oven to braise. The cooking takes several hours in a low heat. The best oven for cooking is the traditional masonry oven, but not many have those these days.
I absolutely love this stew, it’s so yummy and perfect in its simplicity. I don’t have an image to add to this post, since the stew is always eaten before I manage to take pictures of it. It’s that good.
Finland has quite long traditions in crafts. Even though I haven’t had the opportunity to learn the really old traditions, I still love different kinds of crafts. Especially knitting and crocheting are some of my favorite ways to relax and concentrate. My mother and both my grandmothers all knit and crochet, so it makes me feel close to them as well.
At the moment I am participating in an event called Kalevala CAL. CAL is an abbreviation of the words “Crochet Along”. Basically a CAL is a project where a lot of people are taking part and crocheting the same pattern. This particular CAL is a lovely tribute to Finnish culture and traditions, because it draws inspiration from the Finnish national epic Kalevala. The end product will be a large blanket where each square is inspired by different stories and characters from Kalevala. I couldn’t imagine a better way to celebrate Finnishness than this crafts project.
If you’re interested in the Kalevala CAL project, you can find more information here: http://www.arteeni.fi/kalevalacal-en
All in all, Finnishness to me is not one or two separate things. Rather it’s a variety of things which define me as a Finnish individual. In addition to these three subjects, there are a bunch more I find dear to me.
Finnish mentality has been molded by the harsh nature, scarce population and the wars where we have been in the middle. Finnish people are in general more silent and extreverted compared to our southern neighbors. We have strong sense of whats right and whats wrong, we are honest but very considerate, which can lead to some problems with foreign people.
Nature has always been a major part in the Finnish lifestyle. Not many generations ago most people lived outside of cities. I feel as though the lives have changed in these few generations, we are still very close to the nature in general compared to larger countries.
One of the cornerstones of Finland is safety. The phenomenon where parents can’t let their kids play outside after dark because of fear is not a thing in Finland. Although we do have rather high homicide rates compared to other Nordic countries, the chances of random acts of violence are very low. This safety is rare in todays world, and we should cherish it.
Living my childhood ”in the middle of the woods” has taught me to appreciate the clean nature and the peace and sounds it has to offer us. I believe that I’m not the only Finn, who’s favorite thing during the summer is just to sit outside, listen the wind rustling the leaves, birds and crickets chirping and the sound of a bee flying somewhere nearby and the scent of flowers… I love the fact that I can go and swim in a lake almost everywhere, because the nature is so clean in Finland. Somehow nature is the only thing that really soothes me, no matter what is going on in my mind.
I can’t really picture myself living in a city far from the true nature for the rest of my life. I believe that this is something almost every Finn has, some more than others. Of course everyone doesn’t need the feel of nature around them in their everyday life. Some never, but for many of us it is enough to have a summer cottage, mökki, where to spend the summer and enjoy the nature. In fact nature has always played a major part in our lives and that can be seen strongly in old Finnish mythologies. If you’re interested, here’s one site you may want to visit: http://www.finnishmyth.org/FINNISHMYTH.ORG/Welcome.html
Sometimes we Finns may seem rude, because we often lack the skill of small talk from the foreigners point of view. Our answers tend to be straight and short, which may give an impression, that we don’t really want to chat with you. I think that easier way to get to know a Finn is to have an conversation during an activity: doesn’t really matter if it is just walking or playing games, but doing something during the chatting makes the situation way more relaxed.
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.
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.
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.
One of my favorite things about finland is safety. Sure, there can be danger anywhere but generally speaking Finland is a very safe place to live in. For example, children can walk or take the bus to school on their own without parents having to worry. You also don’t have to worry about getting pickpocketed. Most likely if you lose your wallet or phone, you’ll get it back. Finnish people are generally speaking very honest and I think that has a lot to do with the safety of this country.
Compared to a lot of countries, Finland is amazingly clean. Not only the streets or public facilities, but the air in general. Even in the city the air feels so much cleaner than in many other cities. Of course there is nothing like the air in the countryside, which luckily we have a lot of. Finnish people are very proud of all the nature we have here, and for good reason. Finland is also known to be very eco-friendly and sets a great example to the rest of the world.
Mökki (summer cottage)
I’m not sure how common this is elsewhere in the world but it sure is very finnish. In addition to their own home, lots of people in Finland have a summer cottage. If not, they most likely have been to a friend’s cottage or rented one. Typically at Juhannus, people want to go get away from the city and go spend some time at their cottage. This will include grilling, going to the sauna and lighting up the midsummer bonfire.