Tag Archives: silence

Finland: A Place You Belong

Since I was a kid I’ve always been sort of a little forest fairy or nymph. I spent the first few years of my life in Finland, the second half of my childhood in Sweden, and now that I’ve gotten to do a bit of traveling, I couldn’t be happier to have got to grow up in the north.

Tampere in summer, picture taken from  cliffs in Pyynikki. Photo by Emilia Brändh.
Keskustori at night. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

So many moments lost and found in the woods, magic discovered in hidden ponds and adventures made in wet swamps, on steep cliffs and misty fields.

My nationality is something I’ve always kinda thought about a lot, and never really been able to pinpoint what I am. What I should answer when someone asks me where I’m from. Here and there? Is that good enough of an answer? Being a bilingual dual citizen and culturally confused kid, I’ve spent a lot of my life wondering who I really am, and what country I really belong to. Because even though technically it’s just a word on a passport or ID, it still matters and means a lot to us.

Lush green pine forest in Ylöjärvi. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

If you’re a bit of a “citizen of the world” instead of belonging one country in specific, nationality can be tricky.

But when I swim in Finnish lakes in the golden evenings, run through Finnish woods in the foggy mornings, light candles on Finnish cemeteries around the cold, harsh Christmas times… I feel like yeah, this is who I am.  I am really Finnish, and I feel like I am home.

It’s like a tangible magical dust floating in the air.

Keijärvi in summer. Finland is THE PLACE to have deep thoughts in nature. Full solitude. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

Finnishness is something I can feel on my skin.

It’s the light on summer nights when the sun doesn’t set. It’s the raindrops on your face when you leave your umbrella at home because there’s no way it will suddenly start raining when the sky looks so clear (but this is Finland we’re talking about, so you should know better and always be prepared!). It’s the chilly breeze in the autumn. It’s the frost biting your cheeks, and it’s the wet pine branches slapping against your body when you take a brisk morning walk in the forest.

Finnish people value honesty, silence, responsibility, cleanness, calm, loyalty, security and determination.

I love how our nature and the beautiful, peaceful landscapes around us are a constant reminder and expression of all those values.

That’s the kind of Finnishness I want to be a part of.

Frosty trees and frozen Iidesjärvi lake seen from Kalevankankaan hautausmaa. Photo by Emilia Brändh.
Golden strolls in the evening sun. Photo by Emilia Brändh.

Silence and small talk

People are different when it comes to tolerating silence. Someone thinks it is fine to be quiet when hanging out with friends while someone else has the need to keep the conversation going and to avoid silence. To my mind, Finnish people can cope with silence quite well. Here it is okay to sit on a bus and not to talk to anyone, especially to strangers. People usually queue in silence and don’t start a conversation just because they feel like talking. Sometimes I have had conversations with strangers while waiting for a music concert to begin. In those cases, we shared an interest in something –the band – and there was no need to figure out what to talk about.

(Picture: Finnish Nightmares)

Despite the above-mentioned examples I wouldn’t say Finnish people don’t know the art of small talk. I’ve had chats with strangers in situations I usually wouldn’t talk to anyone, e.g. when waiting for a bus or sitting on a train. Especially at bus stops older people tend to comment on the weather and then continue the conversation. I remember small talk situations well because they do not happen too often. On the other hand, it is nice to mind my own business but then again it’s great to meet new people, even if it was only for a brief chatting.

Another point of silence is the absence of noise. In cities, there are all kinds of noise, e.g. cars, construction sites, announcements… Luckily in Finland it is easy to get away from the noise. One doesn’t need to go far to get to a more silent place. There are forests and hiking trails close to cities or even within them. In today’s world noise may cause problems such as stress or a headache. If noise is work related it is hard to escape from it. That is why I value places where people can go on their free time to enjoy the silence.

Some things about Finns and Finland

After traveling to some countries and coming back to home, first thing to be thankful is recycling. For me that is important matter. When you are at home, you might get too used to recycling your things because in Finland it is made so easy. Recycling reflects to tidiness in living environments and nature.

Finnish people are tight-lipped and silent human beings. Yes, we are politely shaking hands and murmuring hello, but that’s all you can get. No smile, no hugging, no kissing and especially no chit chat.

In Finland, we have four seasons. That should be amazing gift from the nature and it provides so many opportunities for many things. But once again, no. We like to complain about it. The weather is never good enough.

 

Being a Finn

Sauna

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish sauna meme

When thinking of Finnishness, the first thing that pops into my mind is sauna. It is the place where one can fully relax and shake off stress. I find the most common time to sauna is during the weekend, usually on Friday, to conclude work week.

Silence

Finns are quite silent, and we embrace it. We minimize all excess communication. No chit-chatting with your neighbours, a simple greeting is fine. No talking to strangers in the bus, we are invading their personal space (and you also want to have your own space).

 

Punctuality

Finns are work oriented and everything – your work day, family gatherings, free time – is usually planned systematically. Funny enough, in other hand we are also quite inconsistent. Public transport is expected to be either late or early, whichever works against your schedule.

 

Four seasons

Kuvahaun tulos haulle four seasons

In Finland you can experience the full season experience. The whole package.  I personally enjoy all of them. Having four different seasons makes me appreciate each a lot more.

In winter you enjoy having a lot of snow and warming up once you have spent your time outside. The cold makes you long for the warmth of summer.

In spring nature raises once more, bringing life and colours. The summer is almost here.

In summer it’s sunny and warm. On the hottest days you could almost wait for the temperature to drop.

In autumn nature starts its glorious wither before summer. It gets darker and rainy. You prepare for winter.

 

Finns are a lot of other things too, of course, but I feel these points cover up a good part of it.

Bus stops, personal space and Santa Claus

Every time someone talks about Finns, it’s always ice hockey, sauna, midsummer’s eve, long winters, Lapland…

But when you think about Finnishness – what makes a Finn – you might have to go out on the street and look at the “agreeable gaps” between people on the bus stops:

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish people on a bus stop

One thing that sets us apart and builds on what can be considered “Finnishness”, is our unannounced respect for other people. Of course there are always outliers, every society has its share of people who lack mutual respect, but there still lies an almost subconscious habit of keeping and giving personal space to one another. A feeling that makes us try and not to be a bother to others, even up to the point of sometimes being afraid of it. We don’t greet with cheek-kisses, we don’t sit next to people on the bus if there’s an empty row available and we most definitely don’t strike conversation with strangers – not that we don’t like them, but because we feel like they might be bothered or thinking about something really, really important.

Not every Finn likes ice hockey or sauna either. And being Finnish doesn’t mean you have to live up to the exaggerated reputation of being introverted and afraid of change. That’s why I think Finnishness stems more from what kind of people we are rather than what we do, our values, and our ability to take the best out of the worst situations.  On the contrary to what others commonly say, I do not think that Finns are slow to open up or skeptical towards other cultures. We just happen to have this stubborn, serene piece of home inside all of us that we won’t trade away so easily, a piece which keeps us level-headed and appreciative of the simple comforts of living. Nothing like sitting indoors on a dark, wet November afternoon and realizing you’re happy just because you’re at home.

Also, we have Santa Claus and a dark sense of humor. Maybe an unfair advantage?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

A Finnish mindset

SISU

Having sisu means that someone is unyielding and determined. He/she has endurance and resilience. That’s what the Finns are known for and very proud of. Sisu can be connected with sports. Especially cross-country skiing and ski jump where Finns have succeeded.

PERSONAL SPACE

Finnish people need their own personal space. It’s not okay to go and hug or kiss a stranger or even an acquaintance. I guess almost everyone is familiar with a picture from a Finnish bus stop where people are standing a meter from each other just because they need their own space. They might do that even if it’s raining and everyone won’t fit under the shelter. Or perhaps it’s just a bit exaggerated.

SILENCE

Finnish people don’t mind being silent. Sometimes it’s even desirable. When you’re driving a car in a bright summer night and listening good songs. Or when you’re enjoying the heat of the sauna. You seldom hear strangers talking to each other in an elevator or in a bus. First foreigners might find this behavior strange and disturbing but during time they might start to enjoy it. Enjoy those lovely moments that doesn’t need to filled with small talk.

 

Pictures: http://finnishnightmares.blogspot.fi/

General opinion of Finnish people?

I’m trying to wrap my head around the general opinion of Finnish people. If I think about it from an “outsiders” point of view, I see a nation that is doing quite well, people who might be a little bit reserved but who are still very helpful, kind and are open minded.

When talking to people who are not from Finland and asking, “What is your opinion of a Finnish person?” sometimes the answer is that we are shy and quiet and sometimes that we are loud and talkative (this one usually happens if you drink alcohol).

Some have a language barrier with foreign people, maybe their English is not so good, so they seem shy and quiet, even though maybe they would like to get to know the person.

Something that I’ve been wondering a lot is why do the Finns need so much space, where does it come from? Even when we talk to each other we keep our distance. For me, it’s funny, it’s just how we are. A funny example of the need for personal space you can see in this picture where Finnish people are waiting for the bus.

 

I also recommend visiting a blog called Finnish Nightmares. It is one of the funniest pages ever! There is so much truth in the posts, but it really is just funny!

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finnish nightmares

I will end my post with telling you my favorite thing about Finland.

So for me it really is the summer, going to the cottage with my family, going to sauna and going for a swim in the lake. I can’t experience this often since I usually have been away the summers, so when I get to go, it makes me so happy. The forrest surrounds me and it really feels like you can just forget about all your problems, they seem so far when you are so relaxed.

/Katariina