Tag Archives: personal space

“Finland, that’s one of the Nordic countries, right?”

When telling people that you are from Finland, many don’t even know where Finland is.  If they do the most common stereotypes about our culture and country are snow, Lapland, Darkness, Nature, Northern lights, sauna, quietness, and sometimes our great education. Yes we are part of the Nordic countries and there are similarities, but Finnish culture is unique in its own ways.

For me Finnish culture has many layers and constructs from different aspects.  Some pillars for me would be nature, traditions, peacefulness (unless we win the hockey championships) and personal space.

Nature:

As Finland has so much nature that is free for everyone to explore and enjoy, it has become a vital part of our culture and so called “Finnishness”.  There are lakes, forests, sea, fields and so many other scenery all around Finland that everyone can find their own form of nature that they like. And due to Every man’s rights (jokamiehenoikeudet) we can all enjoy the nature freely, given that we respect and treat it as a living organism that needs to be looked after. We go to the nature to find peace from the busyness of the cities and to get some exercise. Nature is integrated into our everyday lives, Finland is not called ‘the land of thousand lakes’ for nothing.

Traditions:

 

Finns are really traditional and it can be seen in our culture.  Of course culture changes as time passes but ancient traditions can be still seen in our culture even today. Sauna culture is one of these old traditions that doesn’t seem like ever going away. Sauna is part of our big holidays like Christmas and Midsummer as well as everyday routines. Other traditions like traditional dances (seen in the picture) are still danced in these events called ‘lavatanssit’. One can see that this tradition will go on because there are people from different generations attending the dances.

 

Peacefullness and Personal space:

 

Like earlier mentioned, Finns like to go out to nature to get some peacefulness in their life. I think that is one of the reasons we were voted the Happiest country in the world last year. Finns are hard working but we know how to find the balance between free-time and work and we know how to relax. People go to a summer cottage for some peace and relaxation.  With this comes the personal spaces. Finns like their own time and spending time with their selves whether it’s at home, at the cottage or in nature. We function best if we find a good balance of own time, socializing, working and free time.  Personal space appreciation can also be seen in buses: If there is a empty space somewhere in the bus, Finn will not sit next to another person but rather choose a seat all by them selves.

 

These are few points that I think means to be Finnish and tells what Finnishness is. I enjoy and respect our culture and think I will miss some of the aspects while I am doing my exchange. Let’s see shall we!

 

-Niina

Little parts of Finnishness

Travelling to and living in different countries can really make you appreciate the culture you have grown up with. At least for me that is the case. Listed below are a few “features” of Finnishness which I really appreciate especially compared to other cultures and countries.

Personal space

One unique feature of Finnish culture is the value of personal space, as shown in the picture below. This actually is a common sight at bus stops in Finland and it is hard for some people from other cultures to understand. A part of Finnishness is appreciating the quiet moments and not feeling the pressure to socialize if it is not necessary.

People can just quietly pass each other and still acknowledge the person they are passing,  in the Finnish culture, without it being considered rude. In some other cultures it is common to greet people on the street or  at the bus stop, this is considered common courtesy. For example passing a person in a supermarket at an aisle in the US, they would say “Excuse me”, this was strange to me because there was plenty of room for them to pass and in Finland people would just quietly pass behind the person.

This ties into the lack of small talk in the Finnish culture and a key part of Finnishness for me. People can take the same bus with the same people for a year and never talk to each other because there is no pressure for that. This might be perceived as shyness or being rude which might be hard to explain to other people. Instead it should be considered as a good feature in people, because once a Finn starts a conversation with someone else it usually has a purpose and is not just forced small talk. Also when asking someone how they are, a Finn truly wants to know how have you been and are expecting a better answer than just “good”.

 

Nature

The other thing I really appreciate in Finland is the nature. I know this is a common answer among Finns but there is not many places that have similar nature opportunities like in Finland. You do not need to go far to find a quiet piece of nature, even if it is just the park or a small patch of forest. There are always trails near by where you can for example take your dog for a walk and it is not hard to find.

The distinctive four seasons are also very valued here, even if the summer is short and winter is dark. I could not imagine myself living somewhere where I could not experience both the warmth of summer and the beauty of snowy winter.

These are the things that come to mind when talking about Finnishness to myself. I hope people visiting Finland get to experience these in a positive way and Finns remember to appreciate these features even in the darkest times of winter.

The makings of a Finn

What is Finnishness to a Finn? If you ask me, or pretty much any Finn around, there are certain things that will always show up: sauna, sisu, salmiakki. The “Three S’ of Finnish Survival”, if you will. But those three words are already quite well known and connected to Finnishness, so why wouldn’t I look into some other concepts that define a Finn?

Space

Finns are all about that space, whether it’s personal space or space for living. Personal space is well defined and wide-ranged, and entering it without permission is a cardinal mistake. It isn’t to say that Finns are rude – that is, most of the time – but we just simply enjoy our solitude when we are not actively engaging in a conversation with someone. Naturally, this wide personal space of Finns is also a source of many jokes as the one below (which, by the way, is painfully accurate):

Finnish Nightmares: Sharing a bus stop

Aside from valuing our personal space we also value the space around us. Finland is the eighth largest country by area in Europe yet our population is way smaller than any of the countries of the same scale – and even out of that the majority is concentrated in the southern coastline, leaving the northern half mostly natural and sparsely populated. Even in cities you can usually reach a forest quite easily, without the need to travel for hours on end. It isn’t unusual for us Finns to spend our holidays in the nature, away from the constant rush and stress, possibly relaxing at a desolate mökki cottage where the nearest neighbour can be kilometers away. After all, being constantly near other people can be very draining for a Finn!

Pride

Finnish pride is a concept that manifests in several ways. First of all, Finns are awfully proud to keep their face and will not ask others for help. In any situation. Ever.

If you see a Finn fall during winter they won’t wait for you to help – no, they glance around to see if anyone noticed, then scramble on their feet and pretend it didn’t hurt a single bit.

Finnish Nightmares: Being offered help

Finns are also very proud as a nation, which shows especially well whenever our weird little nation gets recognized in the world news, referenced in a work of art, or – and this is the real deal – whenever Finland beats Sweden in any sport ever, but especially in ice hockey. A common phrase for these occurrences is “Torilla tavataan” – “We will meet at the market square”, which means a great celebration is in order.

Coffee

Let’s face it, we just love our coffee. And not just any coffee, but the kind that doesn’t taste quite as rich as southern European dark roast, that makes your hands shake after a couple of cups, and that can be consumed without milk or sugar but only by those who have a stomach of steel. Perhaps it comes as a surprise, but Finland is on the top of the list of biggest coffee consumers in the world! Nowadays several different blends and special espresso-based coffees have taken their place in the café blackboards, but when it boils down to it, it’s the good old, slightly bitter cup with milk and/or sugar that really defines the Finnish coffee scene.

Finnish Nightmares: No coffee

 

(All images are from “Finnish Nightmares” by Karoliina Korhonen!)

Still us?

What are we like here in Finland? I guess the first things that come to mind are that we are a bit anti-social at times, we like our personal space, nature, our summer cottages and saunas. We are a very punctual nation and if we promise to do something, it most certainly will get done. We complain about the never-ending bureaucracy in our systems, but also expect everything to go by the book. I suppose these are all somewhat stereotypical ideas, but they do have quite a bit of truth behind them as well. Although, there are big regional differences as well – we are not the same in the south and up in the north.

As the world changes, it will also probably affect us as a people as well. We are more and more influenced by other cultures through the internet, tv, social media, work and studies, and that’s bound to change our behavior in some ways. We travel abroad and get familiar with new ways of doing things and people traveling here or moving to Finland will bring some of their traditions and behavior patterns with them. We can already see young people become more open and social, getting a bit unfamiliar with nature and for example having favorite foods like sushi or pizza.

I do hope, that this new global world will make us more open to new possibilities in our behavior. But I also believe, that it is important for a nation to hold on to some of their own wacky, stereotypical ways of living – after all, that’s what makes us Finnish.

Is Finnishness a real word?

Studying abroad in Finland is and will be one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life.

Having resided in Tampere, Finland for almost 20 months, I would say that I have adapted to Finnish culture quite fast and overall, everything is quite good!

Back home, I am  always surrounded by people and transports. It is usually very loud and noisy everywhere I go. I did not really appreciate the silence. Everything seems to be different here in Finland. I start to realize the beauty of silence. I manage to live alone and now being alone is a part of my daily life.

I never used public transport back home, and now I never use anything other than public transport in Finland. What a life changing experience. You can never imagine me feeling nervous for the first week utilizing buses in Finland. You have to wave, or raise the bus card for the bus to stop. It is actually different etiquette depeding on regions. I went to Turku and nobody waves except for me and my friend. Suddenly we became weirdos 🙂

I did not really like sauna at first because it was too hot and believe me or not I come from a tropical climate country. Somehow, I cope with the hot issue now. I would go sauna once or twice a week currently, sometimes with friend(s) and usually alone. I am very comfortable with being 100% naked in the sauna!

I notice myself going for fast food 100 times more than me back home. Here many people like burgers just like me like rice. Unfortunately, rice still beats over burger if I have to choose only one option for lunch/dinner. Mentioning about food, I learnt all kind of Finnish table manners. What I come to conclusion is that you can do whatever you want. It is a free country my friend.

Spotify is very popular in Finland. My friend told me because the application was cheap and sufficient to use. Everybody here use internet packages so that they can get access to the Internet 24/7 anywhere around Finland.

Somehow, I like the idea of Finns wanting to have their own space. I mean, it is great to live in your own world without anybody disrupting it! Being lonely and alone is completely different. I like the quiet atmosphere now. It is like your mind and the whole universe just emerge into one. I know it sounds fun in a way, however, trust me on this, the silence is actually very loud as well.

Last but not least, my student mentality of going for free stuffs fits Finns’ mentality as well. Great!

Go back to the question posed in this blog post heading, according to Oxford dictionary, the answer is no.

 

 

My home country, Finland

I think Finland is a very good place to live. Maybe it is because I am used to live there, but I also think it is great how everything works here. For example we have a high quality of education.

Even though the world is getting crazier every day, I feel Finland is quite safety and peaceful place to live. We don’t have massive earthquakes or some other natural catastrophes here.

We have a beautiful nature there, which is one of the most important things for me here. Finland is a land of thousand lakes and forests. I live now almost in the middle of the city, but I can still see trees and plants on my window.

Climate here is a very  variable. In winter we usually have snow on the ground and almost minus twenty degrees. In spring, summer and autumn it might be hot weather, or rain or snowing or anything at all.

Last but not least, I would like to also say few things about people who live there. Finnish people are often called shy and quiet. We don’t talk with strangers on the bus stop or sit next to someone you don’t know in the bus, if there are any free places left.  I am Finnish so I do those things for myself too, because it is maybe part of our culture and behavior. Silence doesn’t mean that someone is rude, of course we speak if someone ask something. In my opinion, that is not a bad thing, because we have some other important features like honesty and punctilious.

-Maria

I wish it was Finnish summer already!

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.

Picture 1. Midsummer Eve’s night.

 

Midsummer

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.

Picture 2. Midsummer Eve’s bonfire

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.

I wish it was summer already!

 

A Finnish mindset

SISU

Having sisu means that someone is unyielding and determined. He/she has endurance and resilience. That’s what the Finns are known for and very proud of. Sisu can be connected with sports. Especially cross-country skiing and ski jump where Finns have succeeded.

PERSONAL SPACE

Finnish people need their own personal space. It’s not okay to go and hug or kiss a stranger or even an acquaintance. I guess almost everyone is familiar with a picture from a Finnish bus stop where people are standing a meter from each other just because they need their own space. They might do that even if it’s raining and everyone won’t fit under the shelter. Or perhaps it’s just a bit exaggerated.

SILENCE

Finnish people don’t mind being silent. Sometimes it’s even desirable. When you’re driving a car in a bright summer night and listening good songs. Or when you’re enjoying the heat of the sauna. You seldom hear strangers talking to each other in an elevator or in a bus. First foreigners might find this behavior strange and disturbing but during time they might start to enjoy it. Enjoy those lovely moments that doesn’t need to filled with small talk.

 

Pictures: http://finnishnightmares.blogspot.fi/

General opinion of Finnish people?

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!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares

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.

/Katariina

Truth about the Finns

When I thought about Finland and what finnishness meant to me, these stereotypes about Finns came to my mind. I’m going to present a few of them in the pictures below. What makes the pics more fun is because they are actually so true!

Coffee consumption

”It’s time for a cup of a coffee.” The Finns are known for the largest coffee consumption in the world with about 2,6 cups per day. Finns usually drink very light roasted coffee, which is lighter than anywhere else in the world. Coffee has always been a part of my daily life and Finnish culture. For example, coffee is served at workplaces (free of charge), at birthdays and at home. Finns must also get their morning coffee and it’s a huge disaster if there’s none of it. TIP: It’s a great way to get to know a Finn by asking him to go for a coffee.

Small talk

Small talk – there is not even a word for that in finnish. Maybe word “jutustelu”, but it does not exactly mean the same. Most of the Finns are introverts and chatting with a stranger feels uncomfortable, so the silence is a better option. For example, if you’re waiting for a bus on the bus stop, you don’t want that anyone talks to you. Not even asking you about the weather (which is always bad). In my case, I just want to listen to music and survive through the day (especially through a morning without a cup of coffee).

Usually, when some foreigner asks you “How are you?”, we usually start to tell about our bad day at work instead of answering “Fine, thanks!” and asking “How about you?”. Why do Finns behave like this? I have heard an explanation that says because Finns are interested in what other people are saying, they are expecting that the other side is also listening. Finns are also better in listening than talking, and in the Finnish culture it’s inappropriate to interrupt the one who is speaking.

Personal space

Finns respect each other and a personal space. It’s said that a comfortable space between strangers is approximately 1,5 meters. TIP: When you are having a conversation with a Finn, and you notice that the other one is trying to get further from you, then you’re too close and you should give more space.

Finns prefer to take free seats on the bus, instead of sitting next to someone strange, like in this picture below. Usually, when I get on a bus, first thing is that I’m looking for free seats and if there are none, I might rather stand. In my opinion, Finns do not like to be loud and in a public place that would be uncomfortable. Once, when I was getting off the bus, I pushed the stop button but the doors didn’t open. There were me and a few others, standing and waiting quietly for the doors to open until someone finally had to say something to the bus driver (and that wasn’t me) for him to open the doors.