Grasping the meaning of the word “Finnishness” seems very easy, but also remarkably hard to point out. First things that come to mind are saunas, northern lights, cold people, ice hockey, snow, and an incredibly complicated language. But Finnishness is way more than that.
Sure thing, Finns do love their sauna, and for the longest time I didn’t like the experience. Growing up in a country where most of the year is over +30 degrees, I never really saw the point in sitting in a wooden room in high temperatures. Recently though, it’s been growing on me.
Finnishness also has a lot to do with nature. There’s nature literally everywhere in this country, and I love being surrounded by the peaceful wilderness that is so easily accessible, which makes it such a crucial part of Finnish culture. Berry and mushroom picking, hiking, orientation inside forests, summers spent swimming and fishing in lakes. Even during the cold months, Finns find a way to still be close to nature by practicing a lot of outdoor sports.
You can’t talk about Finnish culture without mentioning the unique way Finns mind their own business. It took me some time to notice how this mindset applies to almost everything, but Finnish people tend to go out of their way to not bother others. This applies to almost everything: quiet restaurants, personal space, filling up all the window seats on the bus and avoiding any seat beside someone else, and queueing for everything, amongst many other daily situations. And I’ve really come to appreciate this particular part of Finnishness.
I first moved to Finland back in 2012 for a 9th grade one year long exchange, and thought I was ready for Finnish culture, given that my grandmother who was 100% Finnish had a huge part in raising me. But it turns out I wasn’t quite ready for what was to come, and being a foreigner with Finnish roots didn’t prepare me from the differences between Latin America and Northern European cultures.