When talking about Finland and Finnishness people always bring up the beautiful nature or the dark and cold winter. Another topic of discussion is the nature of Finnish people; unsocial, stubborn and modest. To me, however, Finnishness is a lot more. Finnishness is cottage life, sauna and most importantly, good food.
You can’t talk about Finnish culture without mentioning cuisine. For me the most important things in Finnish cuisine are salty liquorice, coffee and rye bread. Salty liquorice, or salmiakki, is a Finnish treat which is hard to find anywhere else in the world. Many Finnish people say salmiakki is the first thing they miss about Finland when they travel abroad. Finns are the people with the highest consumption of coffee in the world. It is not unusual to start your life as a coffee drinker in your youth. Here in Finland rye bread is the most common type of bread. Traditional rye bread is a dark, sour bread which can also be found dried.
Finnish culture has a lot of traditional foods which can’t stay mentioned; Karelian pie, Karelian hot pot, and traditional Finnish Easter dessert made from rye flour, called mämmi. For me, these traditional foods bring back memories of my childhood.
Finns don’t always go to the nearest supermarket to get their food, because our beautiful nature provides us with berries and mushrooms, for example. Some Finns even have their own small fields in their backyard, where they grow their own potatoes, carrots, beetroots and other veggies.
There is no Finnishness without sauna culture. The first thing us Finns mention to foreigners is how great the Finnish sauna is. Sauna is the place where even the most unsocial Finn may open up, but even then, it’s not certain. Sauna is also the place where you can show your guts, so called “Sisu”, when you compete who can withstand the most heat the longest. When you have burned your skin off in the scorching sauna, it is typical to take a cooling dip in the cold lake or even roll in the snow, when there’s no water nearby.
Things that pop into my head when thinking about Finnishness and being Finnish are nature, Finnish food and personal space. Of course, there are a lot of more things that I could mention but these are the few that I want to focus on.
The country of thousands of lakes
First of all, the Finnish nature. I don’t know a better way to describe it than saying it´s really beautiful. One of the reasons why a love Finland is because of its forests and lakes. I have heard foreigners speaking about Finland that how fascinating it is when you go to Finland and there are lakes everywhere and that is true. There are around 187 888 lakes in Finland and that’s a lot! It´s nice that in the summer you don’t usually have to go far to find a lake. Of course, it depends where in Finland you live but I would say mostly you can find lakes close to your home.
Then there is also forests which I love. From where I’m from there has been forest less then 1km away from my house and for me it has always been a place where I can go for a walk just to relax. I also like the fact that you can go pick up berries and mushrooms from there and its completely free! Every summer and fall I go to my hometown just so I can fill up my freezer back in Tampere with blueberries and mushrooms. I think that we should appreciate the nature more. 🙂
Salmiakki and Finnish rye bread
When I think about Finnish food nothing special dishes comes to my mind but we do have some extremely good candy, salmiakki. It´s a salty liquorice which most of the Finnish people love and foreigners hate 😀 It´s one of my favorite candies and every time I get an opportunity to offer it to someone who has not tasted it I do it. People’s reactions when they taste the candy are funny to watch. Usually they can’t eat it.
Another thing which I love about Finland is rye bread. It´s not only good tasting but it’s also healthy. I think that is one of the things I´m the proudest as a Finnish person. Sounds a bit silly but in abroad it can be hard to find good healthy bread and not just toast. But it´s just something that I´m used to. If I would have been born somewhere else, I might not like it.
As a Finnish person, I can say that we want to have our personal space. For example, in a bus, we don’t sit next to someone if there is a chance to sit alone. Also, what we don’t do is that when we are in queue we don’t get close to the person in front of us. Someone has said that the personal space between strangers is around 1,5 meters in Finland. I don’t know if that’s true but if someone would get close to me in a queue I would feel uncomfortable and think that they want to cut in front of me. Even though we have our weird habits I love being Finn 😀