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