Monthly Archives: June 2017

Let’s talk!

What is an effective way to combine people to form a culture? It is a language. In our case unique, rare and a strange-sounding language. Finnish has only more or less 5 million speakers in Finland and minorities in Sweden, Norway, Russia, Estonia and even in the USA, Canada and Brazil according to Wikipedia (Wikipedia. 2017. Finnish language).

A friend of mine once met a man online. He claimed to speak French, English, Italian, Spanish and Finnish. Finnish seemed very odd to this combination. As they were writing to each other in Finnish I was sure that he was using Google translator and just messing around with my friend. It turned out his father was Italian and her mother was Finnish. The family’s children had lived their whole life in France. When I asked him what have been the benefits of speaking almost fluent Finnish he replied ”Not really anything. It has been only useful as a secret language with my siblings. And to communicate with Finnish relatives in Turku”. [He spoke with a strong Turku-dialect with a French intonation which was very amusing to us at



picture1. Oh, how much seeing this picture gives me simple joy. Yksinkertaisuus.  (source: Very Finnish Problems. 2017.)


History matters

Languages evolve constantly. New words are invented with modern needs. Other words are getting out of fashion and forgotten. Finnish is a young language comparing to any bigger country and their linguistic heritage. We have our ”100-year independency birthday” coming up this year which amazes people from old countries like Spain, China or Iran. We are a young nation. The first document of a pre-Finnish language, Finnic is a birch bark letter no. 292 from the beginning of 13th century (Endangered languages. 2017). Whereas the earliest examples of Chinese language are divionary inscriptions on oracle bones from around 1250 BCE and Chinese culture is one of the oldest in the world (Wikipedia. 2017). Their country and culture can be traced back thousands of years.

You can only imagine which culture has more history included in their heritage and words describing their historical culture. Does Finnish have different names for its historical eras while Chinese people name different eras according to their rulers? Well, sometimes in the spoken language we may speak about “the times when Kekkonen was the president”, but nothing like long eras like the Chinese have. Short history could be considered as a factor built in our national identity. We don’t have as many national tales of legendary deeds or heroes to pass on to our generations. We have Kalevala, but it isn’t considered as a children’s bedtime story nowadays. Before Elias Lönnrot wrote down this Finnish mythology in the 19th century it was being passed on to generations orally. It has contributed to our storytelling habits and written language, since there was barely any Finnish literature 150 years ago. Usually tales have been considered as an important way to pass on morals to community and children. Therefore each culture has their own kind of stories and heroes which affect the national identity.


A little about the hidden ways how language works to pass on cultural mindset


Back in high school my French teacher used to tell us how one’s mind works with the language one speaks. For example in Finnish we say I miss you ”Ikävä sinua” or ”Ikävöin sinua”. This could be translated more like ”I am yearning for you”. But when a French person says ”Tu me manque”  they are actually saying you are missing from me.  Languages have words that really don’t have a translation or the same kind of use. An example of this is a simple ”please”. Spaniards say ”por favor” which could be translated more ”to do a favour”. Asking for something without saying please can be considered rude in English and in Spanish. But us Finns, we don’t really say please. For us kind voice, eye contact  and a thank you is enough to be polite. We have the translation to please as ”ole hyvä” which would be literally translated ”be good”, but it is used more to say you’re welcome. Or as Spaniards would say it’s nothing as ”de nada”.

Every language has their unique words that can’t be translated with one word. This is typical for every language in the world. Finnish has many words for different kinds of snow whereas the language of Eskimos has even more. They are words that can’t be translated into English with one word, because English doesn’t have the same words for snow. This is simply because so many different words for snow haven’t been as significant in the native English speakers daily lives.

Note that the language you speak as your mother tongue is usually the language you think in. Which leads to the fact that your mother tongue affects your personality, morals and customs. It can be a much more powerful tool to unite people together.  Scientists have discovered that people who are bicultural and speak two languages may unconsciously change their personality when they switch languages.  I bet many bicultural people can relate to this.

So, to really know Finnish or any other culture it is useful to be aware of how our language affects our mindset, culture and daily lives. And then simply enjoy sauna.


This text was written with passion. Comment or share to carry out discussion about the topic.


Yksinkertainen kiitos,

Lilja Harala

Physiotherapy student




Endangered languages. 2017. seen 13.4.

Wikipedia. 2017. Finnish Language. seen 13.4.2017

Wikipedia. 2017. Chinese language. seen 13.4.2017


Very Finnish Problems. 2017.

Free-time activities and attitudes in Finland

When finnish people are compared into practically any other folk it is easy to say that we tend to be on our own quiet space. It’s not always good for us but we just like to do it like that.

We can talk if we want to…but we really don’t need to.

I am not sure why we behave like this but reasons are probably buried somewhere to the history..and it’s always good reason to blame the cold weather when feeling a bit anxious.

However i dare to say that there is also relaxed and social side under this calm surface. Especially when this long awaited sun comes out and shines all-day and almost everyday you can find us from outside lurking around parks.


Finnish summer is full of different kind of activities and gigs and some of them are also free to join for anyone so there will be everything for everyone.

When people gather around to hangout together listening music and dancing then you can easily feel how we tend to loosen up a bit. It is easy to join a group as it is most likely that they’ll welcome you immediately.


There is nothing better than sitting in a park with a good posse, drinking wine and sharing stories. We love to hear stories from your home country so please tell us everything! We also like to know how do you feel about Finland.

My recommendations are that be brave and go to parks to meet out new people. Especially now when weather is warm and nice then it is easy to get connected especially with younger generation.

If you’re staying Tampere i would suggest that you start from Koskipuisto or Tullintori plaza.

Welcome and i hope you enjoy your stay!

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!

Finnishness, can it be said to exist?

A word such as ‘Finnishness’ seems to contain the idea that there is one or more characteristics that every person born in Finland to Finnish parents and raised in Finland has somehow encoded into their genes or something. But it can also just mean the quirks or distinctive features of the culture, which may or may not be found in some other cultures as well. Being a Finn, it is perhaps harder for me to recognize these features as I have lived surrounded by them my whole life. But I chose the following two topics because those are the ones that I like about Finland and have also noticed to describe myself in one way or another.

Not really ‘Western’ nor ‘Eastern’

Someone once said that a funny thing about Finland is that it can’t really be called a Western nor Eastern country. We are heavily under the influence of American pop culture but then again, we drink vodka. We have the slavic influence and no matter how hard we try, we just are not the shiny happy people that our Nordic neighbors are. We are somewhere in the “gray area”, and I think that’s one of the things, in addition to nature, that appeal to many Japanese Finland fans. Both are more or less unique and isolated countries.


This is a thing that must have been already mentioned by other people but I can’t talk about Finland without mentioning it. It’s present all the time, often in Finnish art as well. It’s probably the most Finnish characteristic I recognize in myself, or the characteristic that keeps me feeling Finnish. I don’t really know. But I think this has something to do with the weather and the seasons. If I wanted to explain it scientifically I’d say it’s because of the lack of vitamin D that people in sunny places get from sunlight. But that just sounds too simple. I think it’s something that has deep roots in our culture. Finnish people have gone through rough times and during rough times you don’t complain, you just focus on surviving instead of showing your feelings. This might have resulted in the concept of ‘sisu’ but also in bottled-up emotions which take the form of melancholy, silent sorrow and longing for something better.

This scene from Aki Kaurismäki’s Ariel is a great example of not only Finnish melancholia but also of a dark sense of humor. Notice that the song on the background is Finnish tango!


Finnishness – suomalaisuus



Finnishness, how I experience it…

I shall turn on Finlandia by Jean Sibelius and wait for the midnight sun to get into that inspirational mood.


Having a sauna, throwing away your winter fur (to swim outside for the first time after winter), swimming in an ice hole, speaking Finnish, having a free education from preschool to university, environmentally friendly consumption, Summer hymn at the end of the school years, forests and drinking pure water straight from the tap. All these have a special meaning for me, which might be confusing for someone who has not experienced them in their childhood. I find it rather difficult to give concrete examples that would explain the impression of Finnishness in a way that people all over the world would understand. I will try to do it by going through a short history lecture. 


We are old and odd as a nationFinnish genetics go back thousands of years. Although the difference between Eastern and Western Finnish genome is greater than difference between German and English genome, researchers have noticed that Finnish genome diverse from both European and Russian genome significantly. Nevertheless the seed for independent country was planted only 150 years ago when Finland was a part of Russian Empire. Before that we were used to be part of Sweden or Russia or both, depending of the last peace treaty.

“Swedes we are not / no-longer, Russians we do not want to become, let us therefore be Finns.”

-Adolf Ivar Arwidsson

When Russian Revolution in 1917 took the power from Tsar, Finnish government declared independence.  After few wars and crisis hundred years have passed.


Finland is the most stable country in the world.

Finland is the safest country in the world.

Finland has the least organised crime in the world.

Finland has the third least corruption in the world.

Finland has the fifth lowest income differences in OECD countries.

Finland is the second most gender equal country in the world.

Finland has the most forests in Europe.

Finland’s primary education is the best in the world.

Mothers’ and children’s well-being in Finland is the second best in the world.

Food in Finland is the cleanest in Europe.



I could continue this list for ages. During the hundred years of independence Finland has grown from a poor rural country to one of the best countries in the world. But I would like to add one empirical study that I have been doing for few years with sad results.

Finnish people are the number one of the whole world when it comes to not understanding the value of being Finnish.

It feels like many people in Finland has no idea how great things are in our country. I do not say that everything is perfect, and we can stop developing. I mean that sometimes you will hear unnecessary whining about good things that are rare in most parts of the world, like the amount of the student allowance. Every Finnish person has heard that it is a lottery win to be born in Finland and yet too many Finnish people want to win in a another lottery. We don’t know what will happen in the next hundred years, but for sure we should be happy and proud of where we are and what we have achieved as a nation. I guess the odd mixture of ambition, perfectionism and humbleness is a big part of Finnishness.


In the end I want to add one study that Finns really can relate to. 

Finns drink most coffee per person in the world.







We are all humans

What is Finnishness?

In my opinion there is not one correct answer to that question.  Basically, you can’t just say that someone is Finnish because she/he acts in a certain way. It is quite random in which culture you were born and nationality is just a tiny part of your personality, it doesn’t specify what kind of person you are. But people seem to love categorizing and that is the reason why we have all these stereotypes.


Now it is time to figure out how Finnish you are. The test is based on common stereotypes of what Finnishness is. You get one point for every claim that fits in you.


  1. Your best and only coping mechanism is drinking. No matter how small or big your problem is, the best solution is to drink yourself into oblivion. Next day you may have a major headache but the problem is forgotten!


  1. You hate Swedes and Russians. You don’t really know why, but does it even matter?


  1. You don’t want to meet new people (unless you are drunk). It is awful. Especially you don’t want to get to know people from different cultures. People are dreadful anyway, so why even bother…


  1. You are shy, socially awkward and you hate being centre of attention (unless you are drunk). So it is better just to sit still and quiet somewhere in shady corner and try not to breathe so loud.


  1. You have sisu (sisu can be translated as gut or persistence). At least you think you have. Sometimes the line between stubbornness/foolishness and sisu can be a little flickering. Some may say that doing same thing in same way over and over again without succeeding in it, is ludicrous, but you say it is sisu.


  1. You love sauna. There is nothing as awesome in entire world as sitting naked in the small, hot room and drinking ice cold beer (or Koskenkorva, or Jaloviina). The best thing ever!


  1. All the Finns are rude, unpolite and cranky. Someone you don’t know asks if you know where is the library, you rapidly turn around and walk away. Old lady asks you to help her cross the road, you won’t. There is a fight in the street, someone should call 112, you don’t have time for that. People really should just mind their own businesses!


  1. You don’t laugh much. Why should you? There is no valid reason to laugh (unless you are drunk) and furthermore it gives you wrinkles.


  1. You have quite special sense of humor. You think you are funny while others think that you are just weird.


  1. You can’t talk about feelings. You don’t want to talk about your own feelings and you definitely don’t want to hear someone else’s feelings. It is better to never ever open up (unless you are really, really, really drunk).



Well, I got one point (claim nro 9) although I was born in Finland and I have lived here my whole life. In my experience Finnishness can be whatever you want it to be. It can be openness, solitude, happiness, melancholy, shyness, bravery etc. There is no certain personality or specific behavior that determines Finnishness.  After all, we are all humans, so should we rather ask what is humanity?


Ps. How many points did you get? 😉