Tag Archives: Suomi

What Finnishness means to me

Before reading this, I would like to say to you (whoever is crazy enough to read texts longer than a tweet nowadays), that the following text might be a bit boring to read (here you have a perfect example of the Finnish modesty) but I am not a writer like Eino Leino or Minna Canth, I don’t enjoy writing as much as they did. But I still managed to write down this lovely list of things that the word Finnishness means to me.

What Finnishness means to me. Well, it means a lot of different things. Firstly, it means the ability to enjoy all the four seasons with all their positive and negative qualities. It means long cold winter, beautiful and lively spring, green and warm summer and rainy but colorful autumn. It means the ability to breathe in the fresh air and walk around beautiful, clean and peaceful nature.

Lakes are a huge part of the Finnish nature.

 

It means the ability to be whatever I want to be and the ability to study for free. It means feeling safe. It means that everyone has equal opportunities to succeed and everyone is treated with respect. It means that you get a mum package from KELA when you have a baby.

It means a lot of coffee, beer, and sausages. And weirdly a lot of potatoes in different forms. It means eating weird foods like mämmi and liver casserole and pretending to enjoy it (some people actually enjoy these things).

.Mämmi – a Finnish Easter dessert. Picture source: K-ruoka.fi

It is feeling uncomfortable when someone sits next to me on a half-empty bus or a train. It means the weird look on my face if a stranger begins to have a conversation with me. But then again it means being completely fine with going to a public sauna and sitting there half-naked with people you don’t know. It is the feeling of community when people go crazy over something successful that a Finnish sports team does and the feeling of pride when Finland related stuff appears international movies or TV series. It means the pride and respect I feel when I hear the national anthem of Finland and think about how Finns fought for the independence of our country.

Picture source: finnishnightmares.blogspot.com

It means going to the cottage when it is Midsummer and eating rice porridge when it is Christmas morning. It means watching the independence they celebrations and listening to Finlandia together with family. It means celebrating vappu with friends and eating a lot of munkki with sima.

Picture source: Finnish Travel Blog

Finnishness means that it is ok to complain about being chosen the country with the happiest people in the world.  Lastly and maybe most importantly it means queuing up to get a free bucket and hoping to win the lottery. Overall, it is an honor to be able to call this country my home and to live in the same country with Santa Claus, of course.

Picture source: ifunny.com

There is so much more to it as well, I am sure, but here are the first things that came into my mind when I started to think about the meaning of Finnishness.

 

 

 

 

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.

My Experiences of Finnishness

For me, being Finnish means berry-picking trips in the middle of North-Karelian mosquito-filled woods in my grandmother’s century-old jacket, and afterwards, the scent of a freshly baked blueberry pie. Being Finnish is filling a crossword puzzle in the morning at our summer cottage’s patio with a blanket wrapped around my shoulders. It is celebrating the mid summer and watching a flaming bonfire. Being Finnish is  sensing the crisp, cold Nordic air in the wintertime (meaning freezing your butt off), waiting for a bus, which is always late from schedule due to heavy snow.

When I think about the Finnish way of life, I just imagine an all-round basic and simple everyday life. For me, being Finnish is not about being beautiful and polished, it is being pure, bare and honest, which I love. We as whole don’t crave for spectacles, we strive from tradition and harmonic life of honest labor and steady, safe family lives. The stereotypical Finn works a 9 to 5 job for the  most of the year, escapes to his summer cottage for the summer, and returns to the workplace with a messy hair and an uneven summer tan. Steady, safe and familiar, routine-filled life is what I grew up with, and what I respect.

One of my favorite things about Finland is the nature. We have such a beautiful nature surrounding us, which we often seem to take for granted. Although the summer may be wet and cloudy some times, the beautiful view of a lake landscape or the green forests is without a doubt humbling. When other countries may suffer from drought or overpopulation, our small country is full of nature, space, and places to explore. The wintertime is so beautiful, when every place is packed with fresh, white, untouched snow.

Only recently have I woken up to the fact that I love being a normal Finn. I’m glad we have free education, good healthcare and a broad knowledge of different things. Whether I’m staying at home or exploring the town, I feel safe and not afraid. I grew up knowing that I can trust others, and do what I wish. We have freedom of speech and equality.

Being Finnish is knowing the lyrics or the evergreen iskelmä-songs. Being Finnish is stuffing ketchup in every single meal, no matter if the flavor serves any meaning to the food itself.  Being Finnish is dark humor, sarcasm and bad puns. Being Finnish is coffee, Fazer-chocolate, rye bread and sausage. Being Finnish is being Me! 🙂

These aren’t the Finns you’re looking for

To get you to the mood: put this track on, imagine yourself on a finnish summer cottage on a lakeside and continue reading.

Eukon kanto

As a sport in Finland we carry our wives.Eukonkanto
There is even world championship race of wife carrying kept here. Race is kept in a track modified to meet the standards of Wife Carrying Competition Rules Committee. Track is 253,5 meters and the wife carried can be yours or someone elses. (If you’re brave enough it can even be your neighbours wife!). Wife also must meet the standards of WCCRC: she has to be at least 17 years old and weigh over 49 kg (~108 lb). The contestants run the race in groups of two couples, and the winner is the couple who has the shortest time. To make the race more interesting for everyone there is also awards for most entertaining couple, best costume and the strongest carrier.

 

Mämmi

TMämmihe culinarities of Finns. You may have heard of the strange recipes of Finnish people, which include rye bread, salty liquorice and mämmi. Mämmi is sweet traditional Easter dessert in Finland. It is traditionally packaged in birch bark bowls, called rove or tuokkonen. It can be consumed with or without cream and sugar, both of which give mämmi a little bit sweeter and more dessert like taste.

 

Jokamiehenoikeus

In Finland you have this rare thing Retkicalled ’Every-mans-right’ which gives you right to enjoy Finnish nature to the fullest. It still does not mean you can do whatever, where-ever. It gives you a possibility to go camping, go fishing with a fishing rod or jig and during your visit to the wilds you can also eat some berries! But you must know that there is limits to these rights , so you better make friends with the Finnish people first so they will tell you the basics.

Forever cold and beautiful

To me Finland is one of a kind country, having its distinctive characteristics that foreigners will never fully understand. Even though most of the Nordic countries are known for cold weather, personal space, no chit chat small talks, love for alcohol and people being preserved and cold, still I think Finland has something special in it, so called “Finnishness”.

When talking about “Finnishness” a few things immidiately come to my mind:

  1. Nature

Even though Finland is not architecturally rich country, it is especially famous for its clean, fresh air, loads of greenery and hundreds of lakes. Despite having shitty weather throughout the whole year, one can witness breath taking summer sunsets and sunrises, winter wonderland and, above all, amazing Aurora Borealis.

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(all pictures taken by me)

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(found this one on google)

2. Ice hockey achievements

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I think Finns are one of the craziest ice hockey addicts in the world. They get so passionate when cheering for Finland on Ice Hockey Worlds and get extremely frustrated when the country loses. It is good to avoid a disappointed Finnish ice hockey fan 😀

3. Salmiakki or whatever related stuff

Candies/chewing gum/ice cream/shots/other alco beverages – everything can be produced from this mysterious salty liquorice. It is quite challenging to find a Finn who does not like black candy or anything that countains it. Foreigners describe it as “unlikeable” and disgusting and i totally agree with this statement 😀

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4. No direct confrontation

it is not a secret that Finns avoid direct conflict and they are totally non-confrontational people. They do not like getting into situations that make themselves and other people uncomfortable or simply, as one might say, do not have the guts to get in someone’s face. Famous comics character Matti perfectly portrays the typical situation with Finnish passive resistance 😉

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The Finnish way of life

 

Finland is a country where considerable weight is attached to the spoken word – words are chosen carefully and for the purpose of delivering a message. Finns place great value on words, which is reflected in the tendency to say little and avoid ‘unnecessary’ small talk. As the Chinese proverb puts it, “Your speech should be better than silence, if it is not, be silent.“ The conception that Finns are a reserved and taciturn has changed and does not retain the same validity as it used to, certainly not with the younger generations. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that Finns have a special attitude to words and speech: words are taken seriously, and people are held to what they say. Finns rarely enter into conversation with strangers, unless a particularly strong impulse prompts it. As foreigners often note, Finns are curiously silent in the metro, the bus or the tram. In lifts, they suffer from the same mute embarrassment as everyone else in the world.

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Finland mentioned! Let’s meet at the town square!

Honesty is highly valued in Finland. It is important to always keep your promises and adhere to agreements. For Finns, dishonesty is the worst vice imaginable. Work and diligence are held in high regard. Equality and fairness are important values for Finns. In Finnish society, everyone is equal and must be treated fairly. Women and men are equal. Punctuality is important in Finland. When you have a meeting, it is essential to arrive at the agreed time. If you have made an appointment with an official or doctor, for example, it is especially important to be there on time. Modesty is a significant value in Finland. People tend not to distinguish themselves in a group. They avoid loudness and bragging. In Finland, it is good manners to take others into account and listen to them. Finns are not very quick to strike up conversations with strangers. For this reason, Finns may initially appear quiet and cold. The Finnish style of speech is direct and straightforward. Finns tend to state things directly and honestly. In Finland, it is expected that people truly mean what they say. Finns often speak slowly with long pauses in between. Silence is not undesirable but natural, and quiet moments do not need to be filled with speech. It is uncommon in Finland to show your emotions in public. It is considered rude to raise your voice when speaking, especially in a public place.

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President Sauli Niinistö riding a velociraptor

Like Asians, Finns take off their shoes after they have entered someone else’s house which can be considered as  somewhat weird behavior to some people. Tipping has never fitted very comfortably into the Finnish way of life. This may have originally been due to the traditions of a religion which emphasized frugality. Today, the rather blunt reason for not tipping is that the price paid includes any unusual instances of service or politeness i.e. the view taken is that “service is included”.