What does being Finnish mean to me?

Based on my life experience I would consider myself a rather international person. I went to an international IB high school, I spent a year as an au pair in the United States, and now I’m spending my second summer at a Girl Scouts camp in New Hampshire in the US. Last year I was a general counselor and this year I am the business manager so I can count it towards the placement for my degree. Through my travels and international experiences, I have made friends from nearly all the continents and gained amazing experiences I would not have gotten back home in Finland.

However, during each of my international experience I have most of all learned how Finnish I am and how I am rooted in Finland. For me being a Finn is something that is hard to explain. It is something wholesome, that truly affects all aspects of life. It is the way I interact with people, it is how I react to events in my life, it is my hobbies in Finland and what I miss when I am not there.

Often it is said that Finnish people do not know how to talk small talk. I do find false, though I am much better at deep meaningful relationships than casual conversations with random people. When I am abroad I sometimes find it hard to just have a quick conversation with someone because I am too interested in actually hearing what they would have to say. To me, that is very Finnish, and I appreciate our meaningful relationships with other people.

More practical Finnish things that I always find myself valuing while traveling, are definitely our sauna and coffee cultures. Finnish sauna culture is rather self-explanatory for a Finnish person. I count myself to be from a family that really enjoys saunas, summer cottages and winter swimming, so it is hard to spend a whole summer in place where you can’t find a proper sauna.

Finnish coffee culture is also very one of a kind. Somewhat similar culture might be found in the other Nordic countries, but that is probably the extent of it. Even though Americans love their coffee, they drink it on the run in take-away cups they get from drive-ins. In Finland relaxing over a cup of coffee is so rooted in the culture we even have mandatory coffee breaks in the work time law. Making a pot of coffee for any guests is expected and not questioned at all. That does not happen in America, or in other countries where I have been a house guest to a local, even when the hosts have been the most welcoming people.


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