As I’m beginning to write this blog entry, I’ve already left Finland for Slovakia. I took a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn in the evening of Thursday the 4th of January and from there made a road trip to the Low Tatras and arrived in Liptovský Mikuláš in the morning of Saturday the 6th of January. The first day of studies will be Monday 19th of February, so I have a six-week vacation to dedicate solely on skiing on the mountains, the only sport I’ve ever loved. My plan is to write down thoughts about Finnishness as they cross my mind during this period of time.
I’ve stayed in shared apartment -style houses/cottages and so far I’ve had neighbors and skiing buddies from Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Russia and even Australia (a surfer dude on a three-month-trip in Europe, who had five days of previous snowboarding experience from two years ago but was a natural, I had some great powder rides with him). Their usual first questions about Finland concerned not surprisingly temperature, language and the amounts of daylight, depression and alcohol consumption and the cause and effect -relations between them. I will not write about any of that stuff.
My favorite thing in Finnish culture is regularly going to sauna, the most comfortable, relaxing and effective way of getting clean. I know I’ll miss it a lot during this six months of being abroad. Sauna is also a place of honesty and openness; the place where it’s natural for Finns to talk about the joys and sorrows of their lives. A common stereotype is that they are introverted and never talk about their feelings. Maybe this is due to not going to sauna with friends often enough.
While trying not to burden other people with ones problems in everyday situations, the Finns put a lot effort into making some of those situations as effortless as possible for one another. The Finns are, by my experience, the world champions in forming a queue, letting others have their personal space when standing on a bus stop and choosing the seat in the bus, not talking too loud on public transport, not complaining even when there’s a reason to and being generally polite. Disclaimer: I haven’t been to Canada.
One thing I don’t like in the typical Finns mindset is the blind belief in authorities such as the political system and media. Free thinking and bringing out ones opinion are more underrated in Finland than in any other “democratic” western country, USA obviously not included. Just look at the demonstrations and protests; if there are any, attendance is very low and the only exceptions for this are the ones that comply with the agenda pushed by the media. Yes, Finland has been developed into a paradise of a society by the world scale in an unbelievably short time, but no, it will not stay that way by only using the right to vote one of the new or old paid liars called politicians, and making that decision based on their empty promises and the paid lies that are called the news. Finland is such a small player in this game in which the only true rule is that the entity with most power, i.e. money, behind it calls the shots, that it’s unforgivably naïve to believe that the decisions made by our politicians are made for the benefit of the state or us, the people. If the majority of the people realized how much their opinions are affected by things other than their own reason and experience, they would start to think more independently. Unfortunately, it’s easier to make people believe lies than to convince them that they have been lied to.
Needless to say, I’m not very optimistic on the future of the world. However, I will try my best to be a non-typical Finn during my study exchange and openly discuss my views with people from different backgrounds and maybe inspire someone to be a free thinker. I’ve met lots of people that share my world view during my previous, though shorter trips in Europe. Traveling and actually getting to know people and their lives, thoughts and views would make an average Finn to at least consider that maybe the truth about the world is to be found somewhere else than the stories told by media corporations with revenues of billions of euros.
This blog entry might not have turned out to be a convenient list of funny stereotypes or a montage of nice pictures of Finnish nature or something else that was probably expected in the assignment, but it is a short and honest version about my experience of Finnishness.
P.S. I got 38 skiing days in before the first day of studies. Best powder walls I’ve ever skied can be seen in the picture below.