When I think about Finnishness, two things comes to my mind: summer and sports.
When talking about summer, the whole country comes to alive. Nature wakes up after a long and dark winter and people are getting out of their homes. In the summer you can see happy and smiling people all around the cities. Having a picnic in the park, swimming and sunbathing at the beach, having a beer or two at terrace.
One of the most Finnish things about summer in my opinion is music festivals. You can find some kind of music festival somewhere in Finland from the beginning of June all the way to the end of August. Maybe the most popular festival is Ruisrock. It’s held annually on the island called Ruissalo, located in Turku. In the last 3 years there has been annually 105 000 visitors over 3 days of the festival.
And then the sports. In Finland people love any kind of sports. It doesn’t matter if it’s the most popular sport ice hockey or Finnish national sport “pesäpallo” there is always people watching. The finns also has weird habit of having national championships in all kind of sports. You can compete in wife carrying or in swamp football or maybe boot throwing is the right sport for you. So it’s not big surprise people usually refers Finland to “Sports nut Finland”.
as my alarm goes off at 6.30 (following a few too many taps on the snooze-button), so starts a day in the life of a Finnish intern in the Netherlands.
A quick breakfast and I’m off on my daily journey to get to work. In order for me to arrive at my destination, I must carefully pace myself to set me off on a unique chain of routes by public transport.
STEP 1: Hop on my titanium horse (read: bicycle) Ride 400m. Arrive at tram stop.
STEP 2: Hop on tram that takes me to Central station. About 10 minutes.
STEP 3: Transfer to train towards Hoofddorp (small city West of Amsterdam). Arrive at Hoofddorp station. About 20 minutes.
STEP 4: Walk from station to workplace. Around 7 minutes.
One thing that surprised me initially at my internship was the flexible work hours compared to a rigid minute-to-minute monitoring sometimes present in Finnish companies. This of course places more responsibility on the individual worker, but with time it becomes routine: do the work you are responsible for but no need to stress if work is left for the next day.
Another culture shock so to speak was the bread lunch. The Dutch eat an unruly amount of bread, and at any time of day. For someone who is used to eating a proper lunch somewhere around one and two o’clock, the noon bread lunch was something that took time to adjust to.
During my spare time, I enjoyed biking through the city, as each time I left my apartment it felt like a brand new adventure. Just soaking in the city vibes was enough to get me in a good mood. Also the hip waterside terraces were a nice way to unwind with friends after a long day at the office.
For me Finnishness has not always been clear. When on elementary school we were studying English, we went through what does the people often do when they are in the UK or other English-speaking countries. That has made the stereotypes of Finland clearer, and when growing up there are somethings that I have recognized as “Finnishness”.
Talking (or not speaking out loud)
Finns often tend to be comfortable with silence. When we eat, we don’t speak. It is a common rule and it is often quite amusing when you start to think about it in the middle of a dinner with your friends or family. Being comfortable with the silence is a good thing, since then the matter we speak of can be found more valuable than only speaking to make some noise. Also, often silence says more than words.
Wood is everywhere and it represents the Finnishness for me. It is used in floors, ceilings, chairs, tables, saunas etc. Home decoration is quite important for me, and in Finland there are two types of people: the ones whose home is a “wooden home” or the stereotypical Scandinavian home. Now the wood itself has become a huge trend, which can be seen even in several clothing brands like Wulf&Supply and Woobs & Fellows.
Globally, hiking is a topic which separates people in two; the ones who love it and the ones who hate it. But in Finland, hiking is highly in common and people tend to do it even on their summer cottages. The nature of Finns is to love summer cottages, where are the bugs and mud, so how could we not love hiking and the forests.
All Finns stereotypically love winter sports; one does skiing, other skating, someone loves to cross country ski. The matter is to go outside and enjoy the cold.
Appreciation for school
Finns are taught to do their homework since primary school. The appreciation for school and the school system has been taught when we go to the first grade. Appreciation can also be seen on how the system appreciates the teachers: it is highly valuable profession. It is hard to get in to the universities, where one can study to become a teacher.
(The song is not very Finnish, but otherwise it depicts the our winter pretty well!)
The winter in Finland can be as magical as it can be dark and cold. Here I have listed some essential things in experiencing the Finnish winter. Be prepared!
Talvi (winter) takes up to one third of a year, it starts around November and lasts until the beginning of April, which I feel is a very long time. During that time the time of daylight is short, and the weather may change drastically. Temperatures may vary from – 0 to – 20 degrees celcius, sometimes going down to -30 celcius. We tackle pakkanen (the cold, the minus degree temperatures) with warm, thick clothes and go to work and school. Yet, because of the melting of the North Pole, the winters in Finland are slowly getting milder so the actual cold periods are getting much shorter. I wish that meant we could get the summer earlier, because that’s even more beautiful than our winter!
Many Finns do like talviurheilu (winter sports), especially during January and February when the snow and ice are strong enough to carry people’s weight. Skiing, skating, downhill skiing, snowmobile driving, downhill sledging and ice hockey are popular pastimes you can enjoy during winters. In northern Finland you can also go and try riding a dog sledge! Those can be really fun if the weather allows it.
After a long day in the cold a sauna is a must, especially a wood-heated sauna. The heat, the wooden planks, dim lights, sound of crackling fire and a sauna drink (of your choice) will make you feel very relaxed. It is enjoyable both going alone and together with friends and/or family. I haven’t met a Finn who has never been to a sauna, so it’s quite an essential experience.
My favourite holiday! The celebrating of joulu (Christmas) doesn’t differ from other countries that much, except have a thing called ’pikkujoulu’ = ’little Christmas’ which is celebrated on the last Saturday of November. It’s a non-formal party day held by organisations, companies or just among friends, with some Christmas treats like gingerbread biscuits and glögi (mulled wine).
The Christmas we spend with family and/or friends in our homes, decorated with many Christmas lights to lighten up the darkess. We share the presents on the Christmas Eve (or Joulupukki = Santa Claus does!), take a joulusauna, and make and eat lots of good food. Joulupöytä (Yule table, a table the Christmas food is served on) usually includes ham, many different casseroles, fish, cranberry jam, steamed potatoes, salads, cinnamon buns, gingerbread biscuits, glögi, boxes of chocolate, green marmelade balls and many other. I also play a lot of tabletop games and card games, visit my grandmother and watch lots of movies with my family.
Personally, the winter is awesome until the New Year’s Eve; after that it starts to feel like it never ends. I’m glad we have all four seasons!
I am very proud of my home country. Our country is beautiful. We can live safe and our health care is free. Most of us have jobs and our school system is one of the best in the world. I love to see different countries but it is always good to be back at home. I am going to tell you couple things why i love to be Finnish.
Finnish nature is something that everyone should see. We have thousands of lakes and forests. We have four seasons which colors our nature with amazing touch even tough we have lot of rainy days. In Winter we have snow, in autumn we have fall colors. Thats not so usual in other countries. This also enable many different activities. Skiing and downhill skiing, skating, hiking, mushroom and berry picking, swimming in a lake etc. are very popular with finnish people and also with tourists.
SAUNA and SWIMMING
My favourite thing in my home country is Sauna. When it is getting cold outside finnish people heats up their saunas almost every day. Some of us also like to go swim after sauna to the ice cold water. It is fun that we use sauna also in summer. Many finnish people have summer gottage. Each of them have sauna. So it is usual heat sauna in summertime and splash to the lake to cool off.
One of the proudest things here is Finnish National Icehockey Team. Finnish people are not so good in many sports, but when we play icehockey we are world-renowned. We support loud. We are also very proud of our javelin throwers. After big competition you can read many articles about these sports. I like to watch every game or competition where is Finnish team or athlete.
Being a Finn is so much more than just living in Finland and speaking Finnish as my native tongue. Travelling has opened my eyes to some of these specialities of Finns.
Everyone knows that Finns might be a bit shy and quiet. (On the other hand, Finns are pretty talented at drinking alcohol and booze makes us seem more social.) Especially older people in Finland don’t mind the silence at all. I think I’m pretty social and talkative – when I’m here in Finland. When I travel abroad, it hits me how shy and awkward I actually am. I also need more personal space than people from another cultures. As a Finn I think a firm handshake is enough when greeting someone you just met. I guess kisses on the cheeks or hugging would scare me a bit too much and bring out all my awkwardness.
Finns might be shy but one thing I know is that we are also very proud of our country and our inventions, for example, Angry Birds and Nokia. We’re very committed to using those products since they’re Finnish. Even when Nokia was hitting the low point, Finns didn’t abandon Nokia. When Angry Birds became popular, every Finn had to play it. It isn’t that fun but it’s Finnish. On the other hand, our personal accomplishments mostly make us feel awkward. We’re humble.
Education in Finland is widely known to be good. Most Finns can speak also English and Swedish – not only Finnish. There’s also so much people who can also speak German or Russian etc. Our shyness just keeps us from using our skills. We’re too afraid of making mistakes. Questions like “What if I’ll spell that word wrong?” and “What if my pronunciation isn’t right?” are crossing our minds and make us really nervous. This is one reason why Finns are so shy.
Favorite things of Finnish people (food, countryside, sports and sauna)
Usually when people ask about Finnish food, we’re likely to say there’s nothing special in Finnish food. It isn’t spicy or anything extraordinary. Still, that’s our speciality – mostly healthy food preferably from our own garden. We want to hunt our own food or at least go fishing every once in a while. It makes us feel a bit more Finnish. Finns appreciate simple things. We also enjoy coffee, beer and barbeque. We like to have a good time with our families and friends, those simple gatherings with the closest people in our life make us really happy. Finns enjoy quality time spent with their loved ones instead of meaningless small talk.
Finns enjoy quiet environment and being on the countryside. That’s where most Finns spend their holidays – summer cottages are great venues for relaxing and gardening. The most important thing every Finn needs to have is sauna. We enjoy hanging out naked with a bunch of random people we’ve never met before. It’s funny how Finns can’t stand small talk but are fine with this.
One thing every Finn must love is ice hockey. Finns love watching ice hockey and when Finnish team wins, we celebrate, A LOT. The most important ice hockey game is always against Sweden and it really brings people together. Even if you don’t mind sports a lot, you have to watch the game. Football, basketball and floorball never reach the same hype as ice hockey in Finland. This could be linked to being committed to Finnish products and inventions.
To me Finnishness is partly following certain stereotypes or at least making sure everyone knows the stereotypes even if they wouldn’t really picture the speaker himself/herself – I mean not everyone here loves ice hockey or spend hours in sauna, but they still understand that these things are important part of our culture and keep spreading it around. I guess we find joy and feel proud about the image we’ve gotten: We’re happy to be seen as a small, dour nation where everyone loves black candy (salmiakki), sauna and personal space, haha. On more positive side people are trustworthy and friendly after you get past the cold exterior.
There are many comics about Finns and the stereotypic Finnish personality. We’ve already met Matti, the main character of Finnish Nightmares on this blog. These comics squeeze up so well how most Finns are and what they feel in different situations. I can relate to many of these.
I can’t help but to chuckle bashfully everytime I read Country balls and SATW comics where Finland appears. We know exactly how other countries see us and the fact that the comics humor me so much confirms what I said at the start – I’m proud of my country and I enjoy the image we have even if it wasn’t 100 % me or even the people closest to me here.
From my own experience I can say that Finns are quite reserved people, but not nearly as lonesome as most stereotypes suggest. Some of the stereotypes state that a Finnish person can barely handle a smile from a stranger, but I’ve proven that wrong many times. …Just don’t expect a kiss on the cheek as a hello from me if we meet somewhere on the Finnish streets.
Statistics show that yes, we really do love saunas since we have so many of them compared to our population, but having a sauna in your house doesn’t necessarily mean that you’d use it for the purpose it was made, few of my friends keep their saunas cool all year long and just store stuff there as if it was an extra storage room.