For me Finnishness is a lot about personality. Finnish people need their own personal space and peace, even in public. If you go in to an elevator with other people in Finland, you don`t get much eye contact, because all the other people are staring at their feet, ground, walls or the roof of the elevator. If you accidentally put out words like: “good morning” to a stranger in an elevator with you, you might just get odd looks like you would have escaped from a mental hospital or something. You can also see the need of a personal space in public transport like buses or trams. You can never sit beside a stranger, if there is even one empty pair of seats anywhere on the vehicle, because if you do, you probably get the same kind of look than in the elevator when you open your mouth.
Sauna, beer and sausage
Three words that fits in to any Finns mouth. No matter if its spring, summer, autumn or winter, this holy triangle is close to every Finns heart. Especially in summer, the beer and sausage part takes a big part of a native Finns life, because grilling is the thing you just have to do at summer, no matter if it rains or shines. More than just a few times i`ve grilled under umbrella, but it is worth it, because the sausage tastes even better when you have needed a bit of sisu while cooking it. Being a fanatic fan of ice hockey is also big part of Finnishess. That is why the holy triangle will be emphasized during ice hockey world championship games, and once in a blue moon when Finland makes it in to the finals or even wins the cup, the importance of these things go off the charts. These things walk hand in hand.
When I first was introduced to Finland and started trying to learn a few words I quickly took an interest in Finnish curse words, as they were funny to me. I learned quite a few and was proudly saying them out loud. It then since slowed down, as the words became less funny to me, but that was when I started noticing cursing happening all around me. Often, I’d experience old people on the bus bursting out in the classic “Vittu, Saatana perkele”. It has taken some getting used to as I would almost never hear an older person curse in Denmark, but I guess it’s part of the Finnish culture.
The darkness quite surprised me when I first moved to Finland. I expected the winter to be colder and darker than in Denmark, but I was quite taken by surprise. Since then, I found out that the darkness really can affect your health and have recommended all people that I know to be sure to take vitamin-D supplements. Furthermore, maybe the darkness is also a cause for the Finns love for their private space?
Finally, the last thing and one of the more peculiar things I have experienced is the degree of freedom found here in Finland. You are free to be what you want, who you want and look however you want. While I believe this to be a good thing, ultimately it is hard for me to comply as someone who has been very used to looking certain ways at certain occasions. For example, we had a networking event at TAMK and while me and one of my close British friends arrived wearing a blazer and shirt, many Finns were casually walking around in some T-shirt and sweatpants. Something that you would never see in Denmark.
Finland has been an eye-opening in many ways. In some ways Finland and Denmark are so similar but at other points so very different. Finland is a weird, cold and free country
Finns have their own quirks like every nationality. For me, this blog post was hard to write because there were so many topics already covered in previous posts. However, I found some topics to write about.
Need for private space is very obvious. Finns don’t want to get close to strangers so if there is space, it gets evenly filled. In a student restaurant, for example, we don’t go to sit opposite to a stranger. An unwritten rule is that we always leave at least one or two empty chairs in between whenever possible! In case of a smaller table with only four chairs we maximize the distance by leaving the nearest opposite chair to the stranger empty. This way we avoid looking the other person straight in the eyes which would be uncomfortable. The attached simple illustration tries to show this need for private space.
Modesty shows in many ways in Finns behaviour. There is always someone better than us for doing a task. For example, when inviting guests to your place and serving food for them, it’s common to say that “I hope this is eatable” etc. It means that the guests could probably cook better than us. Another example is when you’re going for a date with a Finn. Please start discussing about your mutual interests instead of stressing to what you can do the best even when you’re very good at it. As a professional ice hockey player you should try to downplay your abilities, at least a bit.
One common hobby that many Finnish people have is to collect stuff. Whether it is something small or big or something in between, you can always find someone who collects the same items like you. For example, in Finnish Huuto.net auction website there is over 250000 collectibles now being sold. Some collectables I’m aware of are:
Newspaper articles which have spelling errors
Ice hockey cards
Glossy, often embossed, image (kiiltokuva)
Of course, I’m now generalising all this. Not all Finns are what I just wrote but sometimes you have to do stereotypes.