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Finnish national identity and free time activities

Elements of Finnish national identity

I’d summarize the elements of Finnish national identity to grumpy yet friendly people, a chilly yet beautiful environment and a indebted yet strong nation. For a foreigner the Finns might seem a bit asocial at first, but once you break the ice with them by simply engaging them into a conversation, their friendly and communicative characteristics begin to arise. Small talk isn’t a natural part of Finnish communication in general, so they’re quite bad at that, but when you get to a conversation topic they can familirialise themselves with, the akwardness begins to fade.

The Finnish environment consists mainly of lakes, forests and fields. The southern part of Finland is mainly flat, but the northern part (Lapland) has a few bigger hills / small mountains, which are called tunturis. Lakes are spread all over the nation and I’d say its one of the best features the Finnish nature has to offer; endless swimming possibilities wherever you go. The climate in Finland is quite chilly due to its location in the northern hemisphere. The winters are long and mainly damp or slushy, yet there still are some snowy periods in Lapland. The summers on the other hand are a bit chilly too, even though you get a few days over 25 degrees celsius when you can get your share of red burnt skin that hopefully turns into a light tan instead of melanoma.

The Finnish nation in general is technologically advanced yet an indebted one. The whole nation is undergoing some financial savings and the government is constantly searching for ways to bring the economy back to a debt free state. Being part of the EU is an important matter for the government yet it has been an opinion dividing subject for the people since the day we joined. The price level in Finland is one of the highest in Europe due to high taxation yet for example the health care system is basically sustained with that so in my opinion it really pays for itself. In general, Finland can be considered as a welfare state and due to working healthcare and pension systems as well as basic municipal services its a no brainer for me.


Finnish free time activities

The Finns have plenty of unique free time activities from boot-throwing to swamp football in the summer and from ice swimming to ice rallying in the winter. Not to forget the most obvious, Sauna, of course. The basic types of spending free time in Finland can include various activities but I’d say the most common ways of fighting the stress of work are having a sauna, spending time with family and/or friends, enjoying some alcoholic beverages at home or at a bar and relaxing in a cottage near a lake or a river. The best way to really maximize the pleasure is naturally to combine them all together with a added possibility for some barbeque. A Finnish TV-advertisement states that the best place for a Finn to be is alone in a summer cottage during the summer near a lake after Sauna and with a sausage in his/hers hand. As accurate as the statement is I’d still switch the alone part to with friends and family. After all, alone you couldn’t have a proper game of darts or “mölkky” before relaxing in the heat of a wood-heaten sauna in the evening.

Cottage sauna

3 things to love about Finland

Delicious food

There are many great foods in Finland. Most of the people are totally in love rye bread, which is not just healthy for you but is a Finnish super food too. Other delicious foods are for example smoked salmon with potatoes with a side of fresh salad from your own garden. One of the most famous treats are Fazer’s chocolates which are popular abroad as well.


Cottage life by the lake

Finland is know for its many lakes and about 10% of Finland’s surface area is covered with water. Therefore, lakes are a huge part of our nature. The other thing thta is really common in Finland are the summer cottages. Almost every Finn loves to go to the country side in the summer time and some cottages can be used in the winter time as well. Spending time at the cottages has become a tradition and a trend. The cottage boom began when people moved after their jobs to the cities, but they didn’t want to spend all of their freetime in the city. Finns are nature lovin’ people and what could be better way to explore the nature than enjoy the day in the lake house.


Finnish design

The country is know for other things too besides food and nature, it is known for modern yet classic design pieces. You may have heard of Artek, Iittala and Woodnotes. They have at least one thing in common, which is quality. Finns value quality and good desing, which in fact is combined in these brands. They are all unique and known for their designs, people recognize them easily and they are classic symbols to the Finnish design. The designed furnitures tend to be minimalistic and they remain classic throughout the years and for this reason they can be combined easily with other furnitures and different styles.


Tips for experiencing Finnishness

When talking about Finland, it is hard to describe what Finnishness is. No matter what nationality it is, I think you need to experience it yourself before you know what it really is. However, there is something I can tell you about Finnishness.

This year will be big for Finland; we will celebrate our 100-year-old independent state.


In honour of Finland’s 100th anniversary, I wanted to list some traditions that make us a Finn. Try out and feel the Finnishness as well!

Explore the nature

Finland is called the “land of a thousand lakes” and no wonder, since there are about 188 000 lakes in the country. But Finnish nature is more than just the lakes; there are also a lot of forests in Finland. And because Finland is quite small country, wherever you are, nature is always close to you. And it really has a calming effect.


Nowadays I really appreciate the clean nature of Finland. There’s a short story about that. I was in Thailand in last winter with my friend and at the end of the trip I got a dengue fever. My friend went back to Finland and I had to stay in the hospital in Thailand. Then I realized how safe country Finland is to live. It is said that sometimes you have to go far to see close and I think it is pretty relevant phrase for this one.

Relax your mind at summer cottage

Many of Finnish people have their own summer cottage. That is the best way to spend a summer weekend with a family or with friends – barbecuing, swimming in a lake and just enjoying a peaceful environment.
In summer we have also that magical midnight sun in Finland. Never ending sunlight, nightless nights… love it!


Go to sauna and take a dip in icy water

Finns have also some other traditional habits such as sauna and ice hole swimming. Both of these leave you a relaxed and refreshed feeling. Finns just love these two things, especially the sauna.


I would like to end this blog post with this fact:

Finland is the third best travel destination in the world in 2017. How cool is that!


I wasn’t born in Finland and my family’s culture and customs are a bit different from Finns. However, I have lived most of my life here in Finland and I think some of that “Finnishness” has rubbed on me, because quite often you can hear my relatives say “That’s so Finnish.” Here’s just a few of mentions.


Now, people often describe Finns as very shy and quite rude, but my experience isn’t quite like that. There are outgoing and loud people among Finns, just like in any other country. Finnish people just usually tend to avoid unnecessary small talk and complimentaries that they do not mean. I guess I would describe them as very straight forward kind of people, who value their privacy.



People often think that Finns like the sauna because of the cold winters, but they also use them during summer time. Of course a hot sauna feels good after spending time clearing your driveway from snow, but I would say that the sauna has more of a social meaning. Families and friends gather around for “sauna nights”, which often would include food and drinks such as beer. Sauna is also probably the only place where Finns are fine with sitting next to each other in close proximity. Completely nude, might I add.


Summer cottages

Finns appreciate and are very proud of their forests and lakes, which is probably why they build/buy/rent summer cottages near lakes and spend their summers there. Typically Finns prefer more rustic cottages that don’t include the luxuries they have at home, because the whole point of summer cottages is to enjoy the nature and do outdoor activities, such as barbecuing, fishing and swimming.



Finland is the land of thousand lakes, but who are the habitants known as Finns and what is the typical Finnishness ? I’m giving you the answer from my point of view:)

Four seasons

No, I’m not talking about the luxury hotels when I say four seasons. I’m talking about Finlands’ one of the special things; spring, summer, autumn and winter, which together compose “four seasons”. Special about this phenomena is that every season has its own character and positive side.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomen ruska

Finlands winter is the longest, coldest and darkest of the seasons, but it also has positive sides. Myself, as maybe many of other finns think that if there is not snow in the winter and especially at Christmas, then it’s no real winter and Christmas time. In winter the white, sparkling snow and the January sun is great experience. Spring is knocking on the door already!

Spring is the time, when finns are “waking up” and smiling behind their sunglasses. In winter you don’t see so many people hanging on the streets because its so cold, but spring is encouraging people outside. You know it’s spring, when you smell fresh grass, see the first coltsfoot and can take of your jacket.


Finns appreciate the summer a lot, because they have waited it almost nine months to come again. Finns like their summer hot, but not too hot because then the weather is too stifling for the people who has cool weather most time of the year.  Finns enjoy the summer with full hearted, because they don’t experience it too often.

After short and hopefully warm summer it comes autumn, which makes the trees to bath in colours. Leaves paint themselves from green to yellow and finally to bright red. I think this is with summer the most beautiful season. In autumn the finns starts to welcome the winter by wearing woolsocks and lighting up candles.



Sauna belongs to finnish culture and finns belong to sauna. In Finland the winter is long so we need something to warm us up and sauna does the trick. Sauna is still needed also in summer and quite many finns have own sauna at their summer cottage, next to the lake of course. The best feeling is to run to the refreshing lake from hot sauna.

Finns think that the sauna is a place to relaxation, silence or a long, deep chat. For finns the nudity in sauna is very natural and even a group of unknown finns together in sauna is not suprising anyone.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle suomalainen sauna

Finnish sauna speciality is a “saunavihta”, that is made of birch branches. We use saunavihta to hit each others backs to improve the blood circulation. Birch leaves also give a good smell to sauna.


Finnish personality

I think finns are a bit quiet and introverted especially when they meet new people but they still enjoy exploring new cultures and meeting new people. Finns just don’t want to make a “scene” of themselves and they rather observe first and they warm up a bit by bit.  Even though finns are quiet, they are very helpful and friendly also for the unknown if they ask for help or wnat to chat. Usually finns don’t start the conversation with unknown people, but they answer when asked. Some finns are flattered the given attention but some try to stay concise.

Finns are usually hard working people, very consicientious and quite self-critical. They always want to do their best. Finns are also cultural people now a days; they know what happens in the world outside of Finland, are interested of other cultures and english skills are mainly fluent. Finns hear english from tv all the time and at school english is taught well from third grade.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle avuliaisuus

I think finns have good skills at serving a client and maybe this is because education highlights the interaction between customer and servant. Good customer service is shown at shops, health care and between people when they interact with each other. We finns don’t show our real nature at first  or not even the second, but when we do, we are worth of getting to know for!

For me the word Finnishness crystallizes in the four seasons. Finland wouldn’t be Finland without the seasons. They bring out the different sides of the Finns and their character, the nature and the culture.


IMG_6959When a Finn thinks about a winter, he often imagines an idyllic landscape with snow and frost. We remember that when we were children we could go skating, skiing and snow sliding the whole winter time but that doesn’t necessarily hold true. Especially nowadays the snowy winter is guaranteed only in the middle Finland and in Lapland.

In southern Finland there’s often frost but only a little snow. If it’s snowing heavily it probably also melts quit quickly. The temperatures range between degrees below and above zero and it’s also raining so the roads are very slippery. What we do? We complain about the weather and wish for snow and frost, like in the old days. And then it snows and gets cold (under -20 °C). And what we do? We complain because the cars stuck in the snow and it’s too cold to go jogging outside.

Some Finns living in the southern areas like snow when they want to go out for winter sports or when they wish for white Christmas. In the everyday life it just causes too much trouble. Many people living in the northern parts are so used to the snow that they don’t waste their time complaining about it.

WP_20150207_005The middle winter is quite dark in the whole Finland. The real polar night (the sun doesn’t rise at all) can be seen only in Lapland but the daylight is also quite short in the southern Finland. In addition to that there isn’t necessary snow in the South what makes the view even darker. The weather in the middle winter is often also quite cloudy.



The cold and dark days have had an influence to our WP_20170121_003culture and customs, too. In the winter the Finns spend more time indoors. We live our everyday life, children go to school, adults go to work. We also celebrate our Independence Day and Christmas quite peacefully. Some may, however, have more hilarious pre-Christmas or New Year’s Eve parties.

The late winter is often the best time for winter sports. Then the days are brighter and warmer and sun is shining more often.


20070505_0086When the summer is coming and snow is melting the nature wakes up and so does the Finns, too.  We make plans for the IMG-20150316-WA0002summer and enjoy the sunny spring days. Many Finns like to spend time doing garden work or walking in the woods and spotting the first spring flowers. In the spring many pupils and students also have a final stretch at school because the summer holidays often begin already at the end of May.


In the summer Finns are often more relaxed, spontaneous and cheerful. That may be due to the summer holidays. There’s of course many ways to spend a summer holiday. Some people want to stay in a town. They can go to a café or restaurant and e20080523_0048at at the terrace. Or walk on the town, listen to the busker and go to a park to read a book and sun themselves. Many music festivals gather people around Finland to the towns to enjoy music and the festival atmosphere.

One way to spend a summer holiday is to drive around with a caravan or a motor home. There’s a few caravanners who spend all of their free time on the road but many Finns also hire a caravan and make a one week trip to view Lapland or visit relatives for example. Or instead of a car some Finns choose a motor bike for their road trips.

But certainly one of the most popular things in IMG-20140813-WA0003summer is to go to a summer cottage. Especially many Finns want to spend the “juhannus” in a summer cottage. It’s a midsummer fest and also the day of the Finnish flag.

2014-06-27-287In many summer cottages it isn’t possible to use electricity, running water or indoor toilet. But nowadays the ever growing part of the “cottages” has the similar equipment as the primary homes and they can be used year-round. A lakeside view is a very important thing for many cottagers. In a summer cottage Finns want to enjoy the silence, peace and nature. Some just want to relax, swim and take a sauna, some want to work in the garden. Physical work outside can be a good counterbalance to indoor office work for example.

In the summer there are hundreds and hundreds of different events around Finland. Every weekend there’s something going on. Many little villages seem to be death silent in the winter but in the summer they all have their own little summer festivals. There’s many summer theatres with non-professional actors and actresses. Finns also have many crazy competitions like wife-carrying, rubber boot throwing and swamp soccer.


IMG_0538In Finland the autumn is a time for a new start, like IMG-20141016-WA0008probably in many other countries, too. The schools begin after the summer holidays and many children and young people start at a new school with new classmates. Also many adults return to the everyday life and routines. Many social clubs reassemble after the summer break.


The autumn and late summer is the harvest time for home gardeners. The forests are also full of different kind of berries and mushrooms. In Finland it’s a public right of access to pick them up free of charge.  The IMG_0563public rights of access include also for example swimming, hiking and angling almost anywhere. Of course it isn’t allowed to disrupt others or cause damage to forest or fields.WP_20151015_012

In the autumn when the evenings get darker and the weather get colder it’s again time to prepare yourself for the winter and light some candles.




I hate to generalize. I can’t imagine any characteristic or custom that all the Finns would have in common. Every Finn is an individual and they have a different culture depending on their background and the area where they live. But we all share the seasons. We don’t live in the same way year-round, the seasons influence our lives one way or another.

My experiences of Finnishness

In this text I want to tell some things that mean “Finnishness” to me.

1)      Summer and summer cottages

I absolutely love summer in Finland. Going to festivals, having picnic outside, jogging in forest, having breakfast on the terrace, coming home during the light night, eating strawberries at the market etc.

Summer is (too) short in Finland but people really enjoy it. During the summer it’s very light. The more north you go the lighter it is.

Many people have their own summer cottage. My family’s summer cottage is in Northern Finland. It takes many hours to drive there but it’s worth it. There is for example “smoke sauna”. And after going to sauna you can swim in the lake.

Turku Ruisrock 09-11.07 2010

www.festarit. org

2)      Food

There are some delicious typical Finnish foods and goodies. I love chocolate called “Fazer’s blue chocolate”. Blueberry pie is also very Finnish thing.  Many people go to the forest during summer and pick up blueberries and to make a blueberry pie. Then is also bread cheese, whipped lingonberry porridge, salmon soup, cabbage rolls, gingerbread cookies, rice pies, cinnamon buns, meat balls, rye bread…



3) Nature

Nature in Finland is really beautiful. I love to go to forest for a run or walk. And it’s said that Finland is the most forested country in Europe. 70 % of the land is covered with threes.

There are also many lakes in Finland. Some people say that Finland is “the land of thousand lakes”. Because there are lots of lakes there is also fish.

Nature is important for many Finnish people. We go there to relax and enjoy the silence.



Finns Are Content in Silence

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One of the biggest cultural differences that I have noticed between Finns and rest of the world is that we can be perfectly at ease with silence even though we are in company. I noticed this especially when I lived for a week with a French family in Belfort, when the mother thought something was wrong if we Finns were quiet during the car ride. We had thought it a bit odd instead, that the mother had tried so hard to keep up small-talk — we were perfectly happy with just appreciating the passing scenery.  When we explained this to the French family, they told us that they felt really weird if things were silent, especially if you didn’t know the people very well.  Silence for them, was a mark that something was wrong.

In addition to Finns being a silent bunch, we normally are not that well versed in the art of small-talk. I had a course in the University of Eastern Finland, where our American professor tried to hammer us some basic dos and dont’s in especially the Anglo culture. First of all, the professor told us, Finns are too honest and straightforward. If someone asks us how we are, we genuinely answer how our day has been; usually the ‘how do you do’ is however, just a polite expression.

There is also something else that stayed in my mind from the course: in the Anglo culture there is a habit of saying the person’s name a lot when you are talking with them. I had never noticed before, but we Finns don’t generally do that. For that reason, our professor emphasized to us, that we should really pay attention to people’s names when they are introduced, as it is expected to use them later in the conversation as a sign of respect.

2014-07-18 13.14.24

Apart from being quiet and having to work on our conversation skills, we Finns sure do love our summer cottages. Maybe it’s because we want to escape to spend our sparse summer months somewhere with even less people, maybe it’s because usually the sauna in the cottage is superior to the one at home. When I was younger, most of our summers were spend in the cottage, and though I go there myself much rarely now, my parents still flee there right when the first a bit warmer weekend comes in the spring.