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What is it like to be a Finn?

Finland is a small country with big opportunities. We have four beautiful seasons, outstanding pure nature and a society that takes care of its members. Like all countries, Finland has its issues, but I highly believe that they are been seeing smaller when putting in to perspective. This is one reason why people should explore the world and its differences; it makes you see your home country in a whole new light. In this case –  very positively.

Finland has some things that no other country can offer to a Finn, such as sauna and the outstanding nature that gives us energy and pure oxygen to breathe. We have climate that provides us with four seasons: spring, summer, fall and winter. Every Finn waits for the Finnish summer through all of the other seasons and just wishes it is a warm one. I guess that’s the beauty of it – you never know how it’s going to be, but you know it’s coming.

Personally I love all the four seasons and each one has its own good sides. Spring is the time when everything comes back to life and the nature starts to really show its beauty. Finnish summer is amazing with all its pure lakes to swim in, grilled food and cottage life. It is a time when you can explore different cities in Finland and feel like a tourist. Fall is stunning with all its colors and fallen leaves. The weather is crispy and this is a time of the year when usually something new starts. Finnish winter is like no other – endless possibilities for activities, breathtaking views and a perfect season for the Finnish privilige – the sauna. Nothing beats the combination of cross-country skiing followed by sauna on a crispy winter day.

 

Finland is a great place to live in. When travelling, you will see that not many countries take care of their members the way Finland does. Our country offers same options for everyone, regardless of the background. We have a free education which is utopia for most of the people. So let’s appreciate our beautiful home country and all the things it offers to us.

My Experiences of Finnishness

Beautiful nature, light summers, dark winters and sauna. That`s my Finland.

Finland is known as the Land of the Thousand Lakes and it is actually true. The whole Finland is covered with lakes and forests. Nature is also very pure, so here you can drink clean tap water and breath fresh air.

In Finland we have four seasons. Winter is long and dark, but all snow and ice makes it lighter. Spring is the time when everything wakes up and nature is beautifull light green. Summer is not that long, but it is warm and full of light. Actually in mid-summer sun doesn´t set at all for couple of days. Autumn is dark and rainy, but nature is also beautifully colorful, because all the leafs are changing the colour.

Last but not least my favorite thing in Finland: Sauna! Sitting naked in a small, hot room might sound weird for foreigner. But for us it is a place to relax and warm up.

What I love about Finland

I’m very proud of my home country and I like to live here. Our country is unique and beautiful. Finland is one of the safest country to live, we have free health care and our school system is also one of the best in the world and these are things that Finns are proud of. 

The most important thing for me in Finland is our nature. Finland is a country of thousands of lakes and forests. The air is fresh and clean which tempt Finns and also tourists in the nature. Finnish nature serves many opportunities and our four seasons are amazing. In winter we have snow and ice and the temperature may drop even over -20 degrees.  In winter our ski centers fill with skiers and ice rinks with ice skaters. In Winter you can go ice fishing and the most relaxing activity in winter is ice swimming.

Finnish spring and summer is full of light. It is funny to notice that just a few months ago you could walk on iced lake and now you swim and drive with jet ski on that same lake. I think in summer Finns truly wake up after a long and dark winter and become totally different people, relaxed and cheerful. In summer Finns like to spend time on summer cottages with their family and friends.

  

It is always a bit pity when the summer ends but luckily autumn in Finland is colourful and even if the weather isn’t that nice there is still something in the darken evenings. The best thing in the end of the summer are berries and mushrooms which you can find and pick up in forests. The best thing you can do with your own picked blueberries is delicious blueberry pie.

Another thing that I love in Finland is sauna. When the weather gets cold it is wonderful to heat up the sauna. Also in summer it is nice to heat yourself in sauna and dip to the lake to cool off. For Finns sauna is the place where to go relax and flush your worries away. Sauna is also only place where Finns forget their personal space and it is totally okay to go to sauna with strangers.

My experience of Finland in a nutshell

What do you think of when someone mentions Finland? Santa claus, polar bears, free education, and ice hockey are some things you might hear from other people. Everyone has their own perspective of Finland, and no perspective is wrong in my opinion. I feel that way, because your life experience in Finland is very subjective. Finland can offer you very down to earth experience in quiet and unsocial environment. Finland can also be  experienced in very outgoing and social environment. That’s what I like about Finland – you are not to be judged if you are introverted, and you are not to be judged if you are extroverted.

I think most people abroad see Finnish people as introverted, and I agree to that to some degree. However, even though Finn’s are not really raised to keep noise of themselves, Finn’s can be quite talkative after they have initiated in a conversation. I think we were raised to be well behaving and not to talk to strangers. I think I see a change in this attitude in the streets, with people being more open to strangers.

There’s just thing one thing I am afraid that will be issue in the future. Unlimited internet access for 1 month is cheaper than a restaurant meal in Finland. This is really something if you compare it to other countries. For example in Australia mobile phone data plan can be up to 50 euros, and that doesn’t even include unlimited data! Internet accessibility in Finland is really unique, and we should be proud of that.

When you’re walking down the streets however, you can really see the effect of this accessibility. People are staring down their phones, while ignoring everything else. Lots of people are even using their phones while driving! More and more people are getting smartphone addictions from young age. That is the one thing that should be watched amongst youngsters. With proper usage our internet availability is a huge asset for us, and it should be viewed as a tool, not as a lifestyle.

 

So what does a typical Finn do in his free time? There’s one activity that applies from babies to elders. And that is going to the cottage.  Cottage is a place where you can just lay back, and enjoy being together with your friends, relatives, or just enjoying your own company. It’s quite typical for young adults to go to cottage and enjoy different kind of games and beverages. This can especially be seen in times around midsummer. It’s such a tradition that even though you do not have your own cottage, people will still rent a cottage for fairly high price.  It’s also important to have a sauna in your cottage.

For people who do not enjoy going to cottages, there are festivals around the country during midsummer. They are especially popular in teens, but pretty much people from all ages go there.

 

So how is Finland going to be for you? It’s all up to you. You define how you want to experience Finland, let it be partying or enjoying the nature. Or in the best case, both. 🙂

The Finnish summer paradise

As I feel that it is quite easy for us Finns to focus on the “not so good” aspects of Finland (don’t get me wrong – I’m one of this type of people too), this time I wanted to focus on some of the things I love about Finland and the reasons why I appreciate being a Finn.

The summer 2018 has been so amazing here in Finland that it has almost made me forget about the cold, ruthless winter behind. The summer has been exceptionally warm and beautiful, and I have been truly enjoying every second of it. This lead me to think about the things I appreciate in Finland.

So what is one of the best things about Finland to me? Summer cottage. I think that it can be difficult for foreigners to understand how magnificent the summer cottage culture is here in Finland and furthermore to know how it feels to experience the authentic, Finnish summer cottage life.

At least my summer wouldn’t be summer if it didn’t include going to our summer cottage. The place has been close to my heart all my life and I’ve been crawling in its nearby woods and swimming in its waters since I was a small girl. Nowadays the cottage is close to a holy place to me, and the only place that makes me feel 100% relaxed.

Sitting in the sauna, watching a breathtaking view over the lake is something you cannot describe with words. Swimming in the lake after sauna and watching the sunset with its fairy-tale-like colors makes one wonder if it’s heaven or earth where that moment is taking place.

As a place, I believe that summer cottage brings Finns together and makes them closer. Many of the summer cottages in Finland don’t include the luxury of, for example, electricity or water toilets. That’s why people light up candles, read, paint, go fishing or just talk about life. Living without some of the everyday conveniences gives space to so many other activities, which creates a powerful sense of freedom. Visiting a summer cottage is for sure a relaxing, therapeutic experience which would be in place for so many people.

You can probably tell by now that summer is my number 1 favorite time of the year in Finland. That is why I will be quite happy to leave for my exchange in the autumn, and thus escape the dark, cold winter in Finland. I made a promise to myself that one day when I move out of Finland for good, I will visit during the summer time and hopefully will have a summer cottage of my own – that is something I do not want to give up.

Remove your shoes when entering a house, please.

Even in a Finnish monoculture, there is a lot of variance that makes Finns more culturally diverse than one might think, at least in our own quiet way that is. However, even if we do have our own regional differences, there are still things that are shared and appreciated country-wide. I will share some of my thoughts that I believe are appreciated all around Finland.

For example, taking off your shoes, when enter someone’s house. It’s little to no appreciated thing, but it creates a feeling of certainty and respect. You know that even when entering a house that you have never been to before, you take off your shoes. You still know how to act and that, at least to me, creates a feeling of certainty. Yes, other countries have it too, but a lot of times it’s also okay to stomp around the house with shoes on too, which is usually not okay in Finland. We even have a dedicated place for taking off your shoes, like for a ritual. A ritual of taking off your shoes, that sounds nice.

As I read through the blog posts that have been written in here, there was a repetitive theme of silence, which was mentioned several times. No, Finnish people are not mute, nor people of few words. I know many Finnish people who could talk everyone unconscious if given a chance. I have come to a conclusion, that our silence is silently agreed silence. We are not awkward (all the time), we just don’t feel the need to fill the silence with chit chat.

A thing that I didn’t really want to mention is our sauna culture, but I felt like I had to. Sauna is a place where people were born back in the days (like my grandpa!) and where they were cleaned for the last time before burial after passing away. Even to brides-to-be usually  there is usually held a bridal sauna with ancient magic and sang poetry. There is a certain spirituality that is linked with sauna. Not only sauna-gnomes that live behind the sauna stove, but more abstract spirituality, that comes alive when the temperatures rise in that little steam filled room. It is a place where people from different generations and genders sit together, as naked as the day they were born. Everyone is as they are. No judgmental looks, no makeup or fancy hairdos, only mindfulness being.

This summer, I had two days in row off from work.  What did I do?  Escaped to my in-laws’ cabin in northern Savonia away from civilization. Some might think I’m crazy for wanting something like that, but it’s a perfect way to wire-out so to say. I do hate the outhouse, but clean and untouched nature weighs more in my scale. I can enjoy the silence of the lake at the end of a day, while sitting in an outdoor barrel hot tub, that my kind of perfect Finnish-holiday.

All in all, these are the things that I will fondly remember while travelling abroad (and maybe missing home and silence a bit).

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.

 

 

Finland – the only place I call home

Hello everybody! My name is Miia and I am doing an internship at Hokkaido University for three months.

Finnishness. What does it really mean? Some people might think that Finnish people are shy and don’t talk a lot. Some think that we drink a lot. Well, all those things are partly true. Even the Finnish people think that. But why it is only partly true is because there is so much more in Finnishness. The concrete things that you might think about Finland are sauna, nature, alcohol and the crazy people.

But what is Finnishness really? For me, one example is when you have the long silence with your friend. You can be with someone without talking for a long time and still feel comfortable. I love it. There is no need to fill the silence. It doesn’t mean that we are shy if don’t talk a lot, sometimes the words are not needed just the company of a friend.

Another example is the punctuality of Finnish people. Most of the time Finnish people are on time or even early. Also if you are making plans with a Finnish person the plans are not vague. There are not maybe plans with my friend circle. If something is agreed it is actually going to happen. I don’t like to inquire about the plans. I want to know and with Finnish people you know exactly where and when and usually what is the plan for the meeting.

One thing that I love very much is the Finnish nature. I love the four seasons. The nature is so special for me. I love to see when everything comes to life in the spring and summer. I also love the winter when it is so cold that it literally takes the breath away. I love being in the forests. The plants and the animals and the water make me calm and relieve the stress. The best part is that you don’t have to go far from your home to find nature, wherever in Finland you live.

I guess the most popular thing in Finland that Finns are very proud of is the sauna. People used to give birth there. It is a place to wash away the dirt and the worries. It is a place to relax. It is a place where all the best ideas come to mind. It is a place where you can spend time with your family and friends. For me, it is more

like an event than just a place to go get cleaned. In summertime at my family’s summer cottage, I like to have sauna marathon. I like to go to sauna and then to swim in the lake and then have something to drink and then repeat that for several hours. The summer holiday at the cottage includes great food and great memories.

I guess I am very proud to be from Finland. I think that Finland is the greatest place to live in. I love traveling and seeing foreign places but I also love to return home. That is why Finland is the only place I call home.

 

 

 

 

 

Humble and honest

The icy shores of lake Pyhä

Finnish people are humble and honest, but not very talkative. We don’t make a big deal out of ourselves. Finnish are gentle and thoughtful like the Moomins. Our education and public health care system are high-class and funded by taxes. In Finland we have a very good waste recycling system and we appreciate our nature. The Finnish passports is one of the best in the world: You can get to 175 from 218 countries with the Finnish passport without a visa.

A frosty winter day

The nature has a huge impact in the Finnish mentality. We live in a country of 200 000 lakes and almost every family has a summer cottage (by the lake of course). The best way to spend the summer vacation is to go to your summer cottage, have a sauna, swim and eat barbecue food. The Finnish sauna there is hot (preferably 80 to 100 Celsius) and the best ones are heated with wood rather than electricity.

Pure and bright waters of the lake Saimaa

Finnish people are people of the woods: We pick berries and fungus from the forests during the fall and spend our vacations doing activities in the nature, such as skiing, fishing and hiking. In Finland we have these Everyman’s rights, which allows us to hike, pick berries and camp in the nature, no matter who owns the land, as far as we don’t make a damage or disturb others.

Finnish summer

In Finland we have four seasons, which all come with their unique beauty. In the Finnish Lapland the sun doesn’t set at all during the summer and in the winter the polar night lasts about 50 days during which the sun doesn’t show at all. But you don’t have to go all the way to the Lapland to experience the beauty of Finnish nature: In the winter, if your lucky, you can spot the aurora borealis for example in Tampere also. The Finnish summer is short but lovely: The people come out of their shells, there’s a lot of laughter and joy, and people spend their time outdoors as much as they can.

The springtime in Finland

Finland has it’s own national epic, the Kalevala, compiled in the 19th Century by Elias Lönnrot from Karelian and Finnish folklore and mythology. The tale begings with the traditional Finnish creation myth and is followed by a lot of magical spell casting and singing. There are stories of lust, romance, betrayal and seduction and the nature is present throughout the story in the scenery and dialogue. J. R. R. Tolkien has told that he has taken inspiration from the Kalevala to create the elf language to his famous fantasy trilogy, The Lord of the Rings.

A beautiful summer night in Tampere

On a nightout, Finnish people love to drink beer, tell bad jokes and sing karaoke. Finnish is the only language that has a word for getting drunk at home wearing only your underwear, it’s “kalsarikännit”.

 

Finnishness in a nutshell

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.