My Experiences of Finnishness

At first

First and foremost I have to tell you that my view of the topic ”Finnishness” is influenced by my background of growing up with two different cultures, the Finnish and the German. I will spend my exchange year in Mannheim, South-West Germany.  I got a room in a student home named Afred-Delp-Haus where there are living ca. 140 students from Germany and all over the world. The great thing about ADH is that it unites students from different universities and colleges in Mannheim. My room will be in the 4th floor and I was asked to join the ”4th-floor-group” at Facebook where I could introduce myself to my future floor mates. When writing my post I got the idea to ask them what they know about Finland without using Google and my post here is partly based on those answears (nature, school system, character, alcohol).

Copyright: Johanna Toivanen

Nature

”Finland is the land of the thousands of lakes.” Untouched nature is nowadays something rare and precious which we here in Finland are fortuned to have. Almost everywhere you live you can find untouched nature near you (at least after a short drive) and you don’t have to think about whether it is allowed to take a walk there or not! You can even collect some berries and mushrooms if you want and in most parts of our nature it is also allowed to spent a night in a tent and do a little fire. This is a special freedom we have to take care of to keep. Our tourism is also more and more  based on this untouched nature and it has become our brand in the world which is positive I think. On the other hand we have to be careful with our nature that it doesn’t suffer from tourism. Every Finn has to be careful not to loose the connection to our nature because the positive effects of for example a walk in the forest are huge. I think everyone can agree with me that there comes thins special feeling and ”vibe” of home when we stand on a rock and look over the incredible view of the lakes and small islands in front of us.

School system

Finland is also famous for its school system which makes it possible for everyone to be educated no matter what their financial background is. From grade 1 to 9 we go to school together and there is no separation. This ensures that everyone is treated the same way but at least I felt during 8th and 9th class that it were the average students who dictated the teachers. Gifted and weak students were somehow forgotten to my mind but nevertheless it is important that there is no early  separation of the children.  As I study besides TAMK also at the university of Jyväskylä to be a music teacher I am aware that there is a big problem in our school system: boys need more attention because there are less and less boys who continue school after 9th grade especially to high school. There are also big differences between cities and the countryside and not everyone has the same possibilities.

Character

”The weather in Finland is cold.” This summer I can agree to the statement with the cold weather, it has been so cold. The annoying thing about it is that the winter is dark and grey. It somehow also affects our mood I think. We are said to be shy, modest and often negative. I have often found myself in the situation that I am being too loud or too enthusiastic. It is great that we Finns don’t tend to brag about our achievements but sometimes we should also be proud of ourselves. It is also rooted deep in our culture that we don’t complain about things which are unfair and I often see a lack of braveness behind it. We Finns are often comfortable with silence and don’t do useless talking. It is also often said the we are reliable, never late and not getting too emotional. Sometimes I think that it is weird that the sauna seems to be the only place where Finns can relax and from moment to another they loose all the awkwardness and inhibitions especially if alcohol is involved. At the same time many people for example from Spain or Brazil feel very uncomfortable in the sauna.

Alcohol

There is no sophisticated drinking culture in Finland. Too many of us don’t seem to be able to relax without alcohol. Many Finns seem uncomfortable with alcohol if the intention is not to consume it a lot. This is sad and a topic we could learn a lot from other cultures and I think we are improving in for example just going for one beer after a concert for example. My view is influenced by the fact that I study music where drinking a lot of alcohol without sense often is involved (at a young age already). It is often explained by talking about taking pressure away or something similar (not only among musician) and this is where we should stop for a moment and think if we want this behavior to be a part of our Finnishness. It is a great improvement that small breweries have started their business because it makes people to learn about different beer or cider sorts.

Common safety and health care system

We are in the far North of Europe and often the things that take place in North Africa or in Middle Europe feel far away. This month we were woken up by the fact that the world is changing. The tragedy of Turku is testing our society and I truly hope that we don’t let terrorism or violence split our country. We have to be brave and instead of blaming all refugees here for what happened we should stay strong and become more tolerant to our multicultural society.

In Finland we have an exceptional health care system where everyone gets help. This is incredible and also prevents the society from separating too much and we all can hope that the politicians also share this opinion.

Copyright: Johanna Toivanen

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