As a person coming from the Eastern Europe, the first cultural shock when introduced to the Finnishness was a big thing. Upon coming to Finland I did not know much about the culture or the country itself apart from snow, ice, cold and dark, sauna and a few very colorful words I’d rather not share (but I bet you guys know what I mean 😉 ). When I came here I found it was far more than that- a very well organized country with people eager to help you. Finnish law is created in such way that it helps the people and everyone follows it almost unquestionably, which is uncommon for other countries.
One of the things that really amazed me was Finnish nature- the vast forests, the lakes, the wild hares and squirrels running around you. Peace rules here. Untouched, cultivated yet virgin and hiding many miraculous places.
Of course some of the stereotypes turned out o be true- most people are not very open to new acquaintances, sauna is an inseparable part of winter days and it’s easy to befriend Finns there if you bring extra makkara ja sinappi.
Having been living in Finland for more than 2 years, it is still complex to convey “Finnishness” in the most succinct or dictionary-like way. Since the word itself consists of the whole nature as well as the culture of the country. Therefore, I would like to describe it with my little experiences as an adapting alien here.
I was born and raised in a Southeast Asian country where all the skyscrapers are being built parallel with the growth of the massive population, where all people are hustling in the never-sleep city. Hence, coming to Finland is like a breath of fresh air to me at that time. Instead of being overwhelmed by concrete jungles in the city, I was amazed by how well nature blends among the modern city and the ancient European architecture; instead of being hustling, people here slowly enjoy their day under the sunlight. Everything is too pure and peaceful, but that peacefulness will turn into tons of laughing and talking in the sauna, where all the shyness was taken place by the more joyful version of Finns.
However, the honeymoon phase passed pretty quickly, since the summer here is much shorter than winter. Growing up in a tropical country whose temperature is never below 25 degrees Celcius, the first time I saw snow and exposed up to -20 degrees was crazily unforgettable. But, the cold made people closer to each other. Because we will spend more time at home to share the cozy atmosphere with a hot cup of tea, scented candles and some movie nights can bring happiness to the Finns. If you think of happy as how safe you feel when walking alone at midnight, how such a simple thing like a hot tea in a cold day or just unexpected sunlight on a winter day brings joy to you, how peaceful your mind is when you are embraced by the mesmerizing nature instead of how big your house is, how rich you are; Finnishness could cover the meaning of that simply happy.
Almost all Finns honestly admit of their being introverted and shy. They are normally reluctant to start a conversation with their friends let alone strangers. Shy as they are, they never overlook your achievement. Every Finns I know is very supportive like encouraging others with compliments or always ready to help you. I could say Finnishness is the quiet but reliable and supportive friend that everyone needs.
Adapting to a new culture is not easy especially from Asian to Finnish one. I am still on the journey of learning and exposing myself to the Finnishness and I am sure that it is one of the milestones in my adulthood adventure
When I think about Finland and Finnishness as a Finn my thoughts are directed towards the vast and beautiful nature of Finland, The forests trails, small lakes, the great Baltic sea and all the four seasons of nature’s diversity. You can always find a quiet place in Finnish nature to collect your thoughts or just to relax and enjoy the day.
The everyman rights in Finland is a one special thing which you can only find in Nordic countries. You can basically camp everywhere in nature and collect mushrooms, wild berries and unprotected plants without any permits from the landowners. These rights are not meant only for Nordic people but to all who visit Nordic countries. The nature provides for us all and we have a lot of it.
Finland is known to have thousands of lakes and you really cannot find a Finn who hasn’t swam in any of them. No matter the season there’s always some crazy Finn swimming in the nature. Sauna’s are often next to a lake and it is common to dip in between sauna sessions, the warmth of the water doesn’t matter at all, you can always go back to sauna if you are feeling cold.
When I think about Finnishness, I think about people who are at first reserved and quiet, but when you get to knew them better, they are social, warm, trustworthy and the most honest people you’ll ever meet. I also think that Santa Claus, snow and the northern lights are things that Finland is famous for.
As a Finn I love nature, silence and sauna. Especially in the summer when you can run straight from the Sauna in to a lake or the sea. It is the best thing about the Finnish summer. I also love Ice swimming during the winter time. I love the Finnish nature and I believe we have a lot to see in Finland. During the summer time the archipelago is enchanting and in the Wintertime Lapland is a winter wonderland with snow and the northern lights. The thousand lakes, forests and national parks are worth to visit, there you can get closer to a Finnish mindset.
Finns appreciate personal space and private time, so if your Finnish friend needs some time of their own after a long weekend trip, give it to them. We are not angry, we just love spend time alone sometimes,e specially after social events.
Finland is a very safe country. As a woman I can walk alone in the city at night time, it’s very usual in Finland. My Spanish friends were borderline angry with me when I left club and walked home alone. It also didn’t help that I tried to explain them that I do this every time in Finland. Small children may also walk alone to the School and back, and it’s completely normal in Finland.
I can proudly say that in Finland we have safe environment, quality education, high equality and we can trust our government and police departments.