Tag Archives: nature

Nature sets the mindset

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.

 

My kind of Finnishness

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.

Forests

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.

Scenery from a forest, flavored with my doggie. (Image copyright is to me, do not copy.)

Karjalanpaisti

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.

Crafts

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

Some of my crocheting from Kalevala CAL.
(Image copyright is to me, do not copy.)

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.

 

Finnishness for me

Finnish mentality

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

https://www.pandotrip.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Oulanka2-740x518.jpg

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.

Safety

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.

Nature loving people

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.

Pictures: @SaraHenriikka, http://sarahenriikka.blogspot.fi/

 

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.

3 things about finnishness

Safety

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.

 

Clean

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.

 

Finnish Mentality

All nations have characteristics, which have been influenced by geopolitical situation, climate, the historical development of the nation, immigration etc. Personally I don’t like any national stereotypes, which easily cause prejudice and may cause trouble in intercultural relationships. However, even if you don’t consider yourself as a typical representative of your culture, I have noticed the background tends to lurk all the time in the background and spending longer time periods abroad have also revealed my own Finnishness…

Below is a view from our country’s tallest building over our second largest city. In Finland scale this is a big city, but still you can mostly see lakes and forests. So inevitably our country being quite sparcely populated has had its effect on our mentality and molded it towards being somewhat hermit-like.

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Finns tend to keep quiet and try to “hide” and blend in with the wall paper, so that they don’t draw attention to themselves. There are regional differences, but at least in the western Finland such behaviours as rapid and loud speech, using lots of arm and hand gestures, walking fast etc. are things that we try to avoid and also look down on. We appreciate listening quietly when other people speak, giving lots of personal space during interaction. Others view us as being shy and timid, when we are just trying to be polite and avoid irritating others.

An old joke about us Finns I find very descriptive of our character: There was an elephant which was observed for the first time by a Frenchman, a German and a Finn. The Frenchman immediately thought what sort of food could I cook of this animal. The German started pondering ways to make money with the elephant. The Finn immediately thought: “I wonder what this animal thinks of me.” Also whenever a Finn succeeds abroad, even the fact that some foreign media did a story about some Finnish phenomenon  makes it to the headlines of tabloid news in our country.

So, for foreigners Finland is in that sense a very easy place to be, because we are much more worried about what others think of us than actually thinking about what we think of them. This characteristic and our shyness makes us perhaps a little bit difficult to get to know, but once you break the surface ice and gain our confidence, you also get a friend for life. 🙂

 

 

 

My Finland is something more!

I love today’s Finland.

ART

Finns truly appreciate arts and it shows up more and more every day! So that is making me really happy! We want to be something more than stereotypical shy people. We have so many young people who have passion, enthusiasm, knowledge and ideas for the world to share! We want to change the stereotypes of Finnish people. We are so much more than you think we are. (But still we are Finns so don’t expect too much or we get uncomfortable.)

You would be amazed how talented people you can find in Finland. Today’s Finnish music is more vivid than ever. We have a lot of new young artists and a lot of humble underground music bands. There is music for everyone at the moment and in big cities like Tampere, Turku and Helsinki there is gigs every week! I think the best thing is to see a lot of people of different ages on those gigs enjoying music together. We also have a lot of amateur theatre activities and free artists. We are humble people so we don’t make a big number of ourselves but nowadays there is new types of possibilities to show our skills. Example we have a large scale of festivals in summer such as Flow Festival which is an urban music and arts festival in Helsinki and Ruisrock which is the second oldest rock festival in Europe and it is awesome how big number ART is there today!

Flow Festival / Samuli Pentti

NATURE

Finns take really good care of nature. I have lived most of my life in a middle of nowhere. I have grown playing outside in forests building a castle and playing a Tarzan etc. Nature means everything to Finns. I love to go out to the forest to breathe and think. It doesn’t matter what town you are in, you can always find forest near you. To me Finland is a place where you can enjoy nature whenever.

@Ruissalo, Finland  ©Riikka Lamminpää

When I got older I moved to a big city to study and I have grown to love city life almost as much as I love being alone in forest and near the sea. In Finland city life is lively and most of the time people seem to be on a hurry. (We are hardworking people.) Luckily, we have the best solution for urgency. We have parks all over the town where your mind can calm down for a moment. It works the same way as a hug works for an angry child.

IT FEELS

Our culture is more like a feeling. Example we have a lots of bad tasting tradition foods but the taste doesn’t matter because it means something to us. You know, it is something more than just a bowl of mämmi. It’s OUR mämmi. (I’m sorry if you like mämmi.) Just like our Christmas songs are terribly sad but we still want to listen the songs every year or it doesn’t feel like Christmas. And this is important! If someone from Finland achieve something internationally it is a moment of victory for all of us and then you will find us going crazy at TORI (market). And if you ever dear to insult our culture WE will secretly hate you together.

2011 Ice Hockey World Championship celebration in Helsinki
Picture: YLE

One of a kind Finland

Finland sure is a country and a nation never seen before. There are couple of things that make Finland special and pop out from the world map. These are some of the things I find the most finnish about Finland:

NATURE

I’m quite sure I’m not the only one when I want to talk about the beautiful nature that Finland has all around. Finland is the land of thousands of lakes and forests so wherever you go you can be certain that those two things can’t be too far away. There are four seasons in Finland (even though nowadays it’s sometimes hard to see it because of the unfortunate global warming). Winter, spring, summer and autumn are all different kinds of seasons in Finland and it can definitely be seen in the nature and in finnish people.

Winter is a unique time of the year when there’s lots of things and acitivities do. It divides finnish people into two categories – some love, some hate. During winter there’s snow and crispy cold climate. On the perfect winter days, the ground and trees are all white covered in powder snow and sun is still shining warmly even though it can get for example as cold as -30 degrees even in the south. When it comes to spring, all finnish people seem to crawl out of their holes that they have been hiding in the whole winter. Trees are starting to bloom and get greener every day and the climate is getting warmer. Never soon enough, summer comes and the whole Finland is praising the warm (krhm) weather, sun and not having to wear winter gear to keep warm. Finland is full of beautiful summercities and pretty much wherever you travel during summer in Finland, you will find beautiful landscapes and various activities to keep you busy. In the middle of summer the sun doesn’t set at all in Lapland, northern part of Finland. It never stops amazing me how incredibly light it is outside during summer, no matter what time it is, day or night. Around September the frightening fall is upon Finland. Just joking, it’s not THAT bad. Fall captures beautiful scenery when the trees are changing colors and the weather requires people to wear a light jacket and something else than flip flops. During November people seem to be a little down, and the energylevels are quite not the same as in the summertime. Luckily finnish people enjoy Christmas, and not too long from November that time is upon everyone. And all of a sudden we are back to winter and snow again!

LANGUAGE

The finnish language is quite special. It’s complicated and difficult to learn since there are no other languages that would even remotely remind or sound the same (except maybe estonian language, which isn’t really more common than finnish). Learning finnish requires patience and undivided will to learn it, because let me tell you, if there’s no desire, there’s also no results when it comes to finnish. There are many different meanings for specific words, letters are pronounced in ways that are not common in other languages such as the letter R, and there are like a billion forms for each word. However, it’s not impossible to learn finnish and if you end up learning it, that if something is an accomplishment and you can be pretty proud of yourself!

SAUNA

Sauna, sauna, sauna. Can it get more finnish than this? No. There are thousands or saunas in Finland and it is very common to have your own sauna at your house. It doesn’t matter whether it’s summer or winter, sauna is being used all year round. During winter sauna and  running to a pile of snow to make snowangels are the perfect combination. During summertime especially at cottages saunas are heated pretty much every day. Sauna and a dip in the lake is almost a requirement for cottage life. It seems like finnish people attach sauna to all the holidays and special or less special days that exist in Finland: Christmas morning sauna, midsummer sauna, saturday sauna and the list goes on.. What can I say, sauna is the answer to everything!

On top of these three things that I find the most finnish ever, there are lots of other things to be proud of in Finland. We value the health system in Finland, that is available for everyone and our free education has been listed as the best in the world. All these things need to be experienced to be able to actually know how amazing and FINNISH Finland really is!

Something about Finnishness

Every Finn knows the most typical features in our culture like our silence in public places, saunas and steadfastness. But what really is typical for us? It is so difficult to analyze those things. One of my friend who is not living in Finland has said “There are no any difficulties to recognize Finnish types. It is obvious every one of you has a summer cottage in countryside and you spend as much time as you can there even if the weather would be awful.” And in question friend is not only one who has told that to me, so I think that the one of the most remarkable thing to Finnish culture probably is summer cottages.

Besides summer cottages there are a lot of forest, fields and lakes. All in all, we have multifaceted nature and just a few large cities. I as many others came small cities rather tiny towns. General saying is that if you blink your eyes in wrong place you drive past over the city. We do not have get used to live in cities, that is probably why the nature is important to Finnish culture, the nature is place where you can chill out and learn to enjoy the beauty of your life.

Finnish citizen are as well as known dismissive and reticent character who also have talent to complain tiny things, for example in traffic we get provoked if someone bypass us or behave aggressive. In addition, we have a bad habit to complain the weather, it is too hot or cold or windy or rainy. But the truth is we are actually truly happy with our non-special days in life.