Being a Finn and meeting new foreign people is almost always an interesting situation. At least in Europe most of the people have some kind of prejudices on the Finnish culture or how Finns act or portray themselves. Are these prejudices to be taken seriously then? Almost every time yes.
The positive aspects often consider things like equality, education and, as funny as it may seem, the Finnish sport achievements. These things are a huge part of the heart of Finnishness. Every Finn can proudly have a conversation about the high level of education offered by our government and include the topic of equality to the same matter. Being proud of these kind of things is proudly being a Finn, to represent an almost to brag about the things that are in a good place in our country.
On the other hand, the conversation with any foreigner can also be about the Finnish humbleness at the same time. Finnishness is about bragging and being very humble about the same things at the same time, being able to represent the motherland proudly and at the same time being very considerate something the other may not have. This is a golden feature of Finnishness.
Humbleness and sometimes even exaggerated shyness is often considered being a very Finn thing. Sometimes this is true but I think that most of the time not so much. Being humble is of course a polite and desirable trait but to me Finns do not seem so shy or quiet. We are very good at defending our national pride and Finnishness when travelling abroad. It’s rare to meet a Finn who would say that their motherland would not be the best country in the world to live in!
If I were forced to best describe “Finnishness” with three words, it would be the following: humble, honest, and proud. I have lived abroad for nearly half of my young life, therefore although I am Finnish myself, I have gained valuable perspective in comparison to various other cultures.
The way humility comes out in Finns is often interpreted in different ways. For instance, to a foreigner, the fact that strangers do not engage in conversation on public transport may seem somewhat antisocial. Simultaneously, the thought process of a Finn may be that they simply respect the privacy of his/her fellow citizens, and therefore abstain from engaging in small-talk.
The second characteristic of your typical Finn is honesty. Finnish honesty can often also come in many different forms. It can be evident in the form of a blunt, yet honest response; something that foreigners may consider to be downright rude. Then again, a Finn will also give his/her peers heartfelt praise when necessary. Honesty is a value that is taught by one’s parents from an early age as something that is (merely) above all else in the hierarchy of values.
Last but not least, Finns are extremely proud of where they come from. I noticed this in myself especially, whilst living overseas as an adolescent. Any chance I got, I would speak proudly of my homeland and its beauty. This is something that gradually faded away (once we moved back), this unconditional pride in being a Finn. I think it is certainly something us Finns take for granted, all the wonderful little aspects about being a Finn. You know what they say, “you don’t realize what you had until it’s gone”. There is an exception to every rule, and the one time that Finns can collectively boast about their homeland is following sporting success (more that likely to come from ice hockey). At these times, national pride is through the roof and unruly amounts of alcohol are consumed, one aspect that is deeply engraved in Finnish party traditions.