It’s often said that being born in Finland is like winning the lottery, and personally I completely agree. Finland has been selected to be ”the best country in the world” a few times, and it can sometimes be hard to understand why, because in Finland we are so privileged we don’t even know it. Here’s a few things what being Finnish means to me:
Democracy in Finland
The political system of Finland is following a system of parliamentary representative democracy. Even though political problems in Finland are a minor issue compared to another European countries, there is still a lot of discussion about them, which proves that the development and improving from the current situation hasn’t stopped. Every citizen in Finland have the right to collect support to a citizens’ initiative, and if it gets 50 000 signatures, the parliament is obligated to process it. Many laws have passed in Finland originating from citizen’s initiatives, which proves the state of democracy in Finland.
Even though the current situation in Finland is good, there is always something that could be better. Finland has a lot of citizens interested in making a change, and for example organisations working for human rights, animal rights or environment are active and visible in the everyday life of everyone.
There is still a lot of old-fashioned and undated laws concerning for example animal rights and sexual minorities in Finland, but the change is hopefully happening soon. Thanks to the many enlightened people fighting for a change! Big part of finnishness to me is being able to be part on making the nation a better place for everyone.
What comes to my mind when someone asks me to tell something about Finland? I’m sure I am not the only one who first starts to tell about how cold and dark are Finnish winters and how quiet and grumpy Finnish people are, But what else Finland and “finnishness” has to offer? When you really think about it, we do have rich culture and nature here in Finland. Winters may be dark and long, but then again during summertime sun is always up and it’s not too hot, but warm enough to survive in shorts and t-shirts.
How about people then, Why they are considered to be rude? In my opinion, I think Finnish people are extremely polite people and do not want to offend anyone or be a nuisance in any way. Thats why our behavior may seem odd and rude to someone else, who comes from another culture. And of course our culture lacks the thing called small talk. And we like to say that silence is golden, which I agree. Of course everything changes when you go to sauna with a finn. In sauna, there is even some small talk, whether it is about the löyly or last nights ice hockey game, it doesn’t matter, it’s there.
Finnish nature is also pretty exceptional (if you don’t really count Sweden or Norway). The whole landscape differs whether you are in southern, northern, eastern or in western Finland. That is something you have to keep in mind when you want to tell something about Finnish nature.
So, thats my thoughts about finnishness, from the land of long and dark winter, where the happiest people in the world lives.
Usually when somebody asks me about Finland, I tell them at first about cold weather, Northern lights and reindeers but finnishness is much more. It’s a lot of traditions, punctuality, good food and beautiful nature in all of four seasons.
Recently I noticed that when I travel, the first thing I start missing from Finland is food. Salmon is definitely my favourite fish. You can cook it at many different ways or eat it raw. I am also proud of Fazer chocolate. No matter how much chocolate I’ve tasted, still the Fazer is the best of all. Rye bread is the third food I really miss. It’s higher in fiber than white bread and tastes really strong and good. In Finland we call it “ruisleipä”.
My new most favorite thing at winter time is ice swimming. In Tampere I like to go to Kaupinojan Sauna because they have a big sauna and the place is very cozy. In ice swimming water temperature is under 0 °C and then people just swim in cold water. After swimming you can hang outside and relax or go straight to sauna to get warm.
We have also a lot of traditional celebrations, like: Vappu, Juhannus and Christmas. Vappu we celebrate in the first day of June. It’s a national holiday and feast for working people and for undergraduate students. At Vappu people usually hanging at the market place or at the park and it’s also the day when people use their graduation cap.
Juhannus is a midsummer celebration and the time when Finns people leave from the city and spend a weekend at countryside. At wintertime we have a lot of darkness and at midsummer it’s the opposite. In the middle of the summer in Lapland, near by Arctic Circle the nights are really short or don’t exist at all. Some of Finns people also believe in magic. For example: if you look at midsummer night at a well or at a pond, you can see in there your future husband.
The country, Finland, is really nice country. It’s not that popular in China, so I only know when I really arrived in Finland. At the day when I came into Finland, I got suprised by the European style. This style isn’t just the style the house had been made, but all types of style.
The first thing makes love Finland and feel the finnishes is the life style. I came to Finland and living in a Northern town. The people there are mostly elder people. I had many trouble not only on studying but the living as well. Sometimes, even the elder lady can’t speak and understand English, they still tring to help me with my troubles. This makes me feel so close to the people living there when I first get there.
After that, I moved to Tampere. Because I didn’t find the student apartment, I had to live in a private apartment with 5 females in it. It made me too nervourse. But even some of them are busy and having their own work, I can still get some help when I really getting troubles. For example: forget the key…
Even though Finnish people don’t care too much on Famous Brand Products, but the promotion did effect on them. My living view is buying Famous brand Products and wasting lots of money even I don’t really need them. But I change my mind slowly after I had living fewyears in Finland. My friend also told me one story of her: She wastrying to find a shoe for running. She asked the waiter if there are some famouse brand shoes for running. The answer is “The most famous shoes for running is which can make you feel comfortable during your exercise.” Finnish people don’t foucus on the Famous Brand that much and this also causes less comparing.
The Finnish environment is the best of Finland. Finnish people has their mind and thinking to protect their environment. The recycling and separating the trash makes the environment clean and easy to reuse the resourses. In Finland, people separated the trash into different types of trash: paper waste, compost waste, glass waste, and other types of waste. With the different waste type, the trash will be separated already before enter into the waste factory. It’s efficient and clean for the people living in Finland. Because most of Finnish people had their own summer cottage, they don’t want to live in a forest surrounding by the waste.
When I think about Finnishness the first thing that comes to my mind is the peacefulness. In our culture peacefulness is appreciated in many situtations. For example we don’t care about too crowded places or too loud people. We appreciate quietness and calmness. I think that’s the reason why we love summer cottages so much. There we can enjoy the beautiful nature in all peace.
In Finland I love our four seasons. The beginning of every season feels like a new start and I think there is something magical with the midnight sun and with the darkness in the winter time. It is just amazing how much the nature changes through the year and that is something I think I will miss during my exchange in Austria.
To me Finnish people are humble and honest. I think the honesty is one of our best characters. It is important for us that you can count on people around you. Humbleness has it’s upsides and downsides. I think sometimes it would benefit us to learn to appreciate our own work and knowledge.
I think one of the best known thing from our culture is the shyness and quietness of the Finnish people. Partly I agree with this stereotype. Still I think that although some of us might be quiet, we are still very polite. I enjoy talking with people and being social, but still from time to time I appreciate the chance just to be quiet.
I think the best way to get familiar with the Finnish culture is to read the comics called ”Finnish Nightmares”. The artist Karoliina Korhonen has been able to summarise the Finnish culture pretty well!
To me finnishness means respect of ones and others personal space. The personal space that we have in Finland might seem too extreme and weird for foreign people, but I think that’s our own way of acknowledging and respecting other people. To me, having my own space gives me a feeling of safety too.
I grew up in a small city, so at least from my point of view Finland is quite peaceful and spacious. Nature is always close to us and our hearts. Finnish people value the silence and the peace that we get out of coexisting with the nature. We have clean environment and air, and we want to also keep it that way. People in Finland recycle a lot in my opinion and I know it’s getting more and more attention as we go by.
The stereotype of Finnish people is that we are either rude or very shy, but that’s not true in most of the cases. We are not rude even if it might seem that way, yes, many of us might be shy, but that can be easily misinterpreted. We can have small silences in our conversations and still feel comfortable and appreciated. We would rather say nothing than do some small talk. If someone in Finland asks you how you doing, we take it as that they really want to know what’s happening in your life and we don’t just give the typical small talk answer ”I’m fine”. We are truly honest and caring people, when you just get to know us.
In my mind there is nothing more Finnish than a sauna. We have over 3 million of them throughout the country and you can find one from everywhere: every a
partment building, family homes, hotels and even our government building has one! The cool thing
about sauna is that once you go in, everybody is equal.
You can be any size , shape, gender or color and all you have to do is get naked and jump up on the bench with the others.
The one thing that always brings the whole Finland together better than anything else is
our national Ice Hockey team, or as we call them “Leijonat”. We have witnessed this
magical phenomenon where every person is the friend of the one next to them,
three times as we have won the World Championship. Every time people storm the streets and marketplaces to celebrate together. And for the official ceremony there are thousands of people becoming one.
Midsummer or “Juhannus” is
one of the only days in the year when Finland completely stops. Cities are empty, there is no traffic or
noise when everybody retreats to the cabins and nature to celebrate with their friends
and family. During Juhannus you enjoy the endless sun, and the warmth (if you are lucky) and just get in peace with yourself.it is my favorite celebration of the year and I’m looking forward for the next one already.
When telling people that you are from Finland, many don’t even know where Finland is. If they do the most common stereotypes about our culture and country are snow, Lapland, Darkness, Nature, Northern lights, sauna, quietness, and sometimes our great education. Yes we are part of the Nordic countries and there are similarities, but Finnish culture is unique in its own ways.
For me Finnish culture has many layers and constructs from different aspects. Some pillars for me would be nature, traditions, peacefulness (unless we win the hockey championships) and personal space.
As Finland has so much nature that is free for everyone to explore and enjoy, it has become a vital part of our culture and so called “Finnishness”. There are lakes, forests, sea, fields and so many other scenery all around Finland that everyone can find their own form of nature that they like. And due to Every man’s rights (jokamiehenoikeudet) we can all enjoy the nature freely, given that we respect and treat it as a living organism that needs to be looked after. We go to the nature to find peace from the busyness of the cities and to get some exercise. Nature is integrated into our everyday lives, Finland is not called ‘the land of thousand lakes’ for nothing.
Finns are really traditional and it can be seen in our culture. Of course culture changes as time passes but ancient traditions can be still seen in our culture even today. Sauna culture is one of these old traditions that doesn’t seem like ever going away. Sauna is part of our big holidays like Christmas and Midsummer as well as everyday routines. Other traditions like traditional dances (seen in the picture) are still danced in these events called ‘lavatanssit’. One can see that this tradition will go on because there are people from different generations attending the dances.
Peacefullness and Personal space:
Like earlier mentioned, Finns like to go out to nature to get some peacefulness in their life. I think that is one of the reasons we were voted the Happiest country in the world last year. Finns are hard working but we know how to find the balance between free-time and work and we know how to relax. People go to a summer cottage for some peace and relaxation. With this comes the personal spaces. Finns like their own time and spending time with their selves whether it’s at home, at the cottage or in nature. We function best if we find a good balance of own time, socializing, working and free time. Personal space appreciation can also be seen in buses: If there is a empty space somewhere in the bus, Finn will not sit next to another person but rather choose a seat all by them selves.
These are few points that I think means to be Finnish and tells what Finnishness is. I enjoy and respect our culture and think I will miss some of the aspects while I am doing my exchange. Let’s see shall we!
Christmas is an important time for us to rest and spend time with our friends and family. It’s one of the most important holidays for Finns, I might say. People usually take at least a couple days off and many travel during that time. Usually to spend Christmas with relatives or to be somewhere northern to surely have snow on Christmas eve.
The tradition of a Finnish Christmas is, among other things, to give the gifts on Christmas eve, on the 24th of December. The eve is the most important day overall, usually. Of course the traditions vary in different families and yearly, due to work, for example. So, I speak from my own experiences and on the base what I’ve heard from other Finns.
Traditionally the 24th day starts with rice porridge and cinnamon. Sometimes we hide one almond in the porridge. It depends on the family what is the result of finding the almond. Sometimes it means that the one finding it can open one present or s/he has to sing a Christmas song. At our grandparents it means that the one finding the almond must do the dishes. So oddly, sometimes the almond is left undiscovered.
As Christmas is a religious celebration, many Finns go to Christmas church on the 24th. Usually in the morning, sometimes during the day or at least to light the candles on the family graves. Many go to church’s events to sing Christmas songs before the eve as well.
The day is usually full of waiting and preparations for the night. Children’s task is to decorate the Christmas tree. Some do this before the eve though. We tend to dress up a bit fancy for the eve’s dinner. The traditional main dish is ham or turkey and different casseroles. In addition to these there are other food as well. In our family we eat lamb, fish and loaf. My personal favorite is roe, sour cream and red onion. For dessert we usually have cheese and fruits. As Finns tend to drink on the celebrations, it’s normal to have at least mild drunkenness from the wine and dessert drinks.
If you have your own sauna, it’s normal to go to the Christmas sauna, naturally. If Santa Claus didn’t bring the gifts during the night between 23th and 24th, it’s expected to happen before the night of the 24th. It’s very common that families have a Santa visiting every year, especially in families with small children. Usually the Santa is the same person every year, someone who happens to be away every time Santa visits. Some people hold on this tradition even when the children have grown up and everyone already knows who plays the Santa’s role.
The most awaited part is to give and get presents. It happens usually after dinner and lasts approximately one hour. The older I have grown the more joy I get of giving presents and from the time together with my family. And good food, of course. The 25th is a very laid-back day to spend with the family as well. We usually play board games and children play with their new toys. The food on the 25th is leftovers from the eve and of course all the chocolate and other delicacies all around the house. Additionally, one tradition many young people have is to go out with friends on the night of the 25th.
The nature of Finland is one of my favorite things. Here we have something that every other country doesn’t – the variation with the seasons and the variability in the nature between the south and north. One upside in particular, to my mind, is the big size, tranquility and purity of most of our forests. We have our problems in Finland as well, of course, as clearcuttings. Still, overall, I think our nature is in good condition and there are good laws to protect the animals. When I was a kid and we lived in the countryside, I got to see a lot of animals while playing outside, mooses and foxes for example.
Nowadays, walking in the forest or going to a cabin in the wilderness is an important way for many people to lower the stress caused by hectic work and school life. Even more than before, I think. Nature comes in the first priorities for many Finns.
Again speaking from own experiences, I really enjoy the nature of Lapland and Central Finland. The following pictures are from Central Finland, Hyrynsalmi from last summer. It’s the place for yearly Swamp Soccer World Championships, Suopotkupallo. Speaking of which, that is an event which wraps up a lot of Finnish culture. People playing football in a swamp in the middle of nowhere, usually drunk every day of the tournament. However, one of the very best parts of the yearly Swamp Soccer is to watch the sunrise at the lake after the tournament.