Finland is a small country with a big heart

As a finn myself, I see Finland as a country of trust. That is the core and heart of our country and our whole society is based on that. We are really reliable, that makes us a little vulnerable and naive in some situations. I feel that finnish people often wanna believe in the good in other people. We are very optimistic about life and I think that is one of the reasons why Finland is often ranked as a happiest country in the world. 

Finland has an amazing nature! I can’t imagine anything better than spending hot summer nights on cottage, watching sunshine on the lake. Going to the sauna and jumping into the warm water to swim. Fully enjoying the moment with your whole body and mind. Finnish nature is something like any other.

Finnish people take care of each others. You can rely on people and promises are a very serious thing here – they must been kept.

Finland is safe – that’s the thing what can’t miss. You can basically walk outside any time of the day with minimum risk to get into danger. You can also let your kids walk to school on their own which is very unique thing on this world. You don’t have to be worried all the time.

Finnish people are often claimed to be shy, maybe even cold but I think that is really far from the truth. We sure appreciate our own personal space and silence is not feeling unnatural to us but that’s because we put a lot of value in every word we say to another person. Often we don’t say anything more, than it’s needed. We are really ”on the point” type of people. And I actually think that it’s one strength about us.

When you come to Finland, it is hard to miss the coffee culture in here. In fact, finnish people are the biggest coffee consumers on the world and you can notice it everywhere. We have coffee breaks at work, you drink coffee while visiting your friends or family, you have to get your morning coffee to stand up. Coffee is what keeps us finns up and going!

Last but not least – the sauna. There are saunas almost in every house or apartment building in the country – and we sure use them! It is our way to relax on the weekend – or just run away from cold weather. Finland is not Finland without our unique sauna culture. 

Finnishness is about trust, reliable people, coffee, soul-relaxing silence, amazing nature in the summer nights and of course hot saunas. Finland as a country is a home, place, where to feel safe and comfortable. Atleast for me.

Photos:

https://www.pexels.com/fi-fi/kuva/aamu-maisema-luonto-taivas-4081119/

https://pixabay.com/photos/bath-firewood-design-sauna-blow-1317997/

https://pixabay.com/photos/helsinki-cathedral-cathedral-church-4189824/

 

 

 

In Finland we have this thing called…

Finnish culture is an interesting one. At a glance it seems as grey as the long drink served in corner bars around the country. Food seems to have all the shades of beige, people dress in black, white and grey, interaction is restrained, and our most acknowledged movies and music is all about melancholy.

 

It takes time and a keen eye to see the colors, liveliness and joy in Finnish culture. Getting to know people is like peeling an onion, you’ll get to the core by patiently peeling of layer after layer. But just as with an onion, it get’s easier after each layer. One needs to accept the dry humor, reserved presence and modesty that is coded into the Finnish DNA. Underneath the surface there is a reward for those who choose to see it: loyalty, respect and a fierce sense of justice as well as readiness to fight for it.

Our language is difficult to learn, yet it is another reward for those who learn it. Finnish language is a cornucopia of wittiness, nuances, unique and near untranslatable words, humor, colors and opportunities for beautiful prose. On the other hand, it can be harsh, vulgar, aggressive, intimidating even. What we hide behind our outer layer of presence, we make up for in the use of our language and its dialects.

But what makes our culture stand out? One might say it’s our love for melancholy, another argues it’s sauna or sisu, and the third insists it’s our integration of nature and people. I argue it’s a sum of all these and more. Quirkiness is definitely an aspect that get’s us noted globally.

In my years living abroad before, I noticed that one of the most used sentences by Finns abroad is “In Finland we have this thing called…”. The list of words and sentences filling the blank is endless and to an extent absurd. Throwing boots and mobile phones, an endless list of alcoholic beverages, sports payed in the swamp,  nakedness everywhere, beating yourself and your friend with a bunch of birch branches, ridiculous proverbs, food that looks like baby poop, and the list goes on and on.  

But it is not just the quirkiness of the list that sums up Finnish people and culture, the key is in the sentence itself. We are proud of what we have and what we do as a nation. It takes innovation and resourcefulness to come up with these things. We are a nation of innovators, we have excellent education, we develop groundbreaking technologies and we work hard to be noticed globally. And once we are noticed, it’s time to meet at the marketplace.

– Wille Holopainen

Finnishness from a French point of view.

I have now been leaving in Finland for seven years, can speak Finnish and my companion is also a Fin, so I am also slowly becoming a Fin.

To me, Finnishness is in 2 layers.

  • The first you see is the cold people, reserved, quiet, distant (unless drunk) and enjoying their sauna but always helpful if dare asks for.
  • The second you see is when you start to know them and have friends. And realize how warm, helpful, and accepting they are.

Besides people, Finnishness is also about nature and lakes. Nature is a very important part of Finland. The presence of green areas and parks in cities is huge and the forest or lakes are never far from you even when living in the center of a city.

Finnish people enjoy going out to the forest as it is quiet and clean. Actually, most Fins own a summer cottage/cabin in the middle of nature and nearby a lake. This shows how important relation to nature is in Finland.

Personal space is also an important part of fins. Standing 1 to 2 meters away from each other while queuing is something normal. Even with friends, we do not touch but for the hug to say hello and even this doesn’t apply to all.  All the rules are changes when going to a sauna. Whether you know the people you are going to or not a sauna is always naked and in a small space. No one cares what you look like or even if you know each other.  It can be a common thing to go to the sauna with coworkers for example.

In the end, Finnishness is warm, welcoming, respectful, and close to nature.

The Finnishness experience from the view of a Swedish speaking Finn

As a Swedish speaking Finn I belong to the linguistic minority in Finland that speak Finland Swedish. Finland Swedish is Swedish but has its own sound, and Finland Swedish has developed own words that Swedes in Sweden do not understand. And it is very common for people to mix Finnish and Swedish together, when they speak Finland Swedish. There are also many different dialects of Swedish, depending on where you live in Finland.

Some Swedish speaking Finns are fluent in both Swedish and Finnish and are bilingual.  Swedish is a mandatory language we have to learn in school in Finland. In my case my mother tongue is Swedish, but I am equally fluent in Finnish. My dad speaks Swedish and my mom speaks Finnish, but both my parents are of Finnish origin. And a fun fact: Swedish speaking Finns have an own unofficial yellow and red flag, which is quite funny.

The Swedish speaking Finns are a very tight knit community in Finland. Some traditions have been inherited from Sweden. One example is “kräftskiva” a crayfish party, which is very common to celebrate in August. You eat crayfish and sing songs with family and friends.

One thing that has been a big thing in my identity as a Swedish speaking Finn, is playing handball as a hobby. It is a ball sport played mostly on the coastal areas of Finland and is almost completely played by only Swedish speaking Finns. The sport is big in other Nordic countries and Europe as well. In Finland it is still a small sport. I have played handball when I was younger, in a few teams and the Finnish national handball team. Handball is a very versatile contact sport that require speed, strength and coordination. Heres a link to a video showing top 30 goals in the VELUX EHF Champions League. From the video it is possible to grasp what kind of sport handball is in action. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRMLs7n-G64

One other thing that has been a big part of my identity as a Swedish speaking Finn, is a big relay running competition called “Stafettkarnevalen”, which is organised for Swedish speaking schools in Finland every year in spring. Almost all Swedish speaking Finns in Finland have participated in the event at least once or know people that have participated. Schools start to prepare for the event early on and there are different teams in different running categories such as 4×100 m running or longer distances. There is also an own category for cheerleaders to come up with their own songs, to support their own school’s teams. And there is also a mascot competition. I have participated in the event every year from when I was 12 years old to when I graduated from high school. It has always been a very exciting event to be a part of.

 

Another thing that is important to me, which I think sums up Finnishness is the Finnish nature, the forests and the archipelago. Especially during the summer I spend time in the Finnish archipelago whenever I can, because it is so beautiful. And the summer nights are never completely dark, which is cool!

Picture of the Finnish archipelago in the summer.

 

Flag for Swedish Speaking Finns: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Flag_of_Swedish-speaking_Finns.svg

Picture of Stafettkarnevalen: https://stafettkarnevalen.fi/dokumentbank/

Crayfish: Picture by Biea on Pixabay

Handball: Picture by JeppeSmedNielsen on Pixabay

My Favourite Part of the Finnish Experience

As a Half-Finn/ Half-American and living most of my life in the United States, the scope of my perspective may be quite limited. However, I have lived in Finland for the past four years so I can comment on aspects that I enjoy of Finnish Culture.

I think experiencing summer in Finland is a unique experience is one that is special to myself, as growing up I would visit Finland often in the summer. As I have gotten older and have been living in Finland this still is true, going to the Mökki every summer is something my family and friends even from abroad make a point of doing every year.



The serenity and peacefulness of being lakeside, hopping in and out of the sauna, and drinking until the sun goes down (haha) is something that every person who has come to Finland remembers and wants to experience again.

I think the tranquility of nature here can also be perceived in the personality of the often seen as ‘soft-spoken’ cliche of the typical Finn, one who is content with the life they live.

 

Finnishness

Finland has now been chosen three times in a row as the happiest country in the world, but what does Finnishness really mean? I have lived all my life in Finland and for me, Finnishness means many different things. One important thing about Finnishness is nature. Nature is always close, and Finns love the peace of nature. There are more than 150,000 lakes in Finland and there are forests everywhere. In summer, almost all Finns go to their cottages to enjoy their holiday. We have four real seasons, so the weather varies a lot throughout the year.

You can’t talk about Finland without mentioning the sauna. Sauna culture is part of Finnishness and almost every home has its own sauna. Sauna is for everyone and it is a place that will heal your body and soul. After the sauna, you can jump into the lake for a swim or even roll in the snow.

As a final point about Finnishness, I want to highlight Finnish people. Finns are often said to be honest and kind. Finns like silence and appreciate their own space. Because of this, many foreigners may find us a little shy. Finns are also proud of our country, Finland is a beautiful and safe country, and our education system is one of the best in the world.

Finnishness

As a guy coming from South of France the first shock coming to Finland was the people, always nice, warm and eager to help you.  Something I’ll remember for a long time, when I first met TAMK social counsellor in person, I asked her if it was possible for her to keep one of my luggage until I move in my apartment and she said yes in a blink of an eye, I had never seen that before and that’s one nice event among many others. I met a lot of great Finnish friends.

 

 

Another thing that surprised me was the nature, where I live, the trees are quite orange and brown because of the heat and there are not that many forests, but here, lakes, forests, green tree everywhere you go. It gives the impression to breath fresh air even when close to a road. No need to drive couple of hours to feel like you’ve travel, a 5min walk is enough to bring somewhere else.

 

 

 

Finally, Finland wouldn’t be Finland without the saunas. There are saunas in student housing and they’re almost always booked. Going to sauna in France and going to Sauna in Finland is quite different, Finnish people bring a beer or another drink inside and play games like Taxi bussi. Sauna feels definitely warmer in Finland.

 

My Experiences of Finnishness

As a Finn myself I have always somewhat resented the Finnish person stereotypes. Shy, reserved, quiet and cold (unless there is Koskenkorva). This is partly due to not being able to relate to them, but mainly because they all seem quite negative. They make us Finns seem like boring, unadventurous people, which most know; we are actually far from. I mean come on! We sit in a 100 degree room butt-naked, beating each other with twigs, just to minutes later jump into a freezing pile of snow. And this is just a basic Sunday.

A few years ago after backpacking on the other side of the world, I found a new perspective to look at all these stereotypes. I soon came to realize that all of those adjectives also have a brighter side. Maybe we are not shy – just observant. Maybe not reserved and quiet – just independent and respectful of peace and boundaries. We are not really cold – but appreciate honesty and authenticity, which we would like to identify before warming up. Koskenkorva is a nice way to start the party, but not a necessity for us to have a laugh. In fact, Finnish humor is one of a kind, and our close relationships warm and jolly.

In Finland we value our nature and family, our cultural roots and individuality, our education and health, our achievements and overcomings, and peacefulness and safety. The four seasons, sauna, our hockey team, summer cottages, salted licorice, lakes and forests are just some of the most beloved Finnish gems. All in all, Finland is a beautiful country with a great story, and us Finns are more than the age-old clichés. As with all other nationalities, stereotypes are often over-simplified generalizations that can be cracked beyond the surface.

 

Finnishness and the cabinfolk

Having been living in Finland for my whole life, I’ve always thought of it as the optimal place to live in. Huge green forests, thousands of lakes that are just made more beautiful by the chilling winters. If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

A view from a lake near Pälkäne we saw while hiking

The Finnish people have a mentality of keeping everything to themselves, not talking to strangers, but at the same time, they usually have a very tight group of a few people, with whom they share everything. Seeming a bit cold to strangers and being warm with your own friends is very common. But at the same time, if you ask a Finn for help in anything, you can be sure we’ll help you in every way we can.

Part of Finnishness is being proud of what we have. Not in a way of showing off your flashy Ferraris or wearing a lot of bling, but more with the simple things. Simple things like the nature, our work, and what we’ve made ourselves, with our own hands. A big thing that combines these 3 things, is building your own house, in a forest a few kilometres away from a city centre, a life goal of myself as well. Also having a cottage, or a mökki, further away of anything is a big thing to be proud of, and to enjoy in your own peace and quiet.

     
Pictures of a lakeside mökki

The sauna culture is also a very important part of Finnishness to me. Just being naked alone in the sauna with a can of beer, is a great way to wind down from all the stress of the workday. With friends, the sauna is a place to talk about whatever comes to your mind, there’s something in the sauna that makes people more honest, and that deepens friendships. There’s also a bunch of public saunas, usually in the swimming halls, the gyms, or near lakes, for ice hole swimming in the winter. In addition to the sauna being a place to relax or deepen friendships, it is also very beneficial for your body, due to the heat shock. It is no fluke, that there’s an estimated 2 million saunas in Finland, with a bit over 5 million people.

 

Finnishess

I think it’s not possible to dive into the topic of Finnishness without quoting the statement of J.V. Snellman he wrote in his text in 1861:

“We are not Swedes, we do not want to become Russians, so let us be Finns.”

So, what it means to be Finnish? Finns have a quite long history of being known for the love of nature, understanding the silence, and seeking it. To one group it is about being proud of our hockey teams, embracing oneness when our teams bring our existence to the world map. To me, as someone who doesn’t watch ice hockey, I still truly enjoy seeing happy people on the streets being friends with one another for one evening. What’s left when the glory disappears?

With Finnish mentality comes a good mixture of being loud and goofy with our closest friends and family members but then observing the people we don’t know yet, looking out for other’s motives and ways of thinking. Slowly letting others into our minds and homes. I think it is hard to make friends in Finland, even if you are Finnish yourself. The other side of the coin is that once you break the ice and earn that trust you have found a treasure for a lifetime.

It is the love for autonomy and freedom but still wanting to know what others think about us so we can upgrade ourselves. It almost seems like robotic behavior sometimes; we are warm robots whose politeness can come our way when trying to make friends. We are too polite for our own good. It’s like having only two settings in the remote controller where we switch from being very polite to being very stubborn once our personal borders are crossed. Some people love it when they see our honesty and stubbornness and some people are in confusion about why we turned our tables.

We love people like Kimi Räikkönen and Seppo Räty because of how normal they are to us, but are afraid of people like Jimmy Kimmel because of his almost unnatural smile and presence. It’s a game of chess, wanting to know what’s inside of the opponent’s head but not wanting to let our guard down right away. In that sense, I think we have a lot in common with Nordic and Slavic people.

At the same time, it feels very proud to be Finnish but at the same time, it is just our everyday life and how in tune we are with ourselves and our surroundings. Dreaming about owning a house where we can drink our morning coffee totally alone. It is not being loud in public about our opinions but still having strong values even though it seems the opposite to others. It is being annoyed when someone brags about their great family history meanwhile being totally obsessed with our own family roots. It is enjoying the short summers we have but accepting the darkness that comes after it. It is loving the normal life with its sorrows and joys, with the good and bad qualities we are very self-aware, just like everybody else around the world but in our way.