Monthly Archives: November 2020

My Experiences of Finnishness

As a Finn myself I have always somewhat resented the Finnish person stereotypes. Shy, reserved, quiet and cold (unless there is Koskenkorva). This is partly due to not being able to relate to them, but mainly because they all seem quite negative. They make us Finns seem like boring, unadventurous people, which most know; we are actually far from. I mean come on! We sit in a 100 degree room butt-naked, beating each other with twigs, just to minutes later jump into a freezing pile of snow. And this is just a basic Sunday.

A few years ago after backpacking on the other side of the world, I found a new perspective to look at all these stereotypes. I soon came to realize that all of those adjectives also have a brighter side. Maybe we are not shy – just observant. Maybe not reserved and quiet – just independent and respectful of peace and boundaries. We are not really cold – but appreciate honesty and authenticity, which we would like to identify before warming up. Koskenkorva is a nice way to start the party, but not a necessity for us to have a laugh. In fact, Finnish humor is one of a kind, and our close relationships warm and jolly.

In Finland we value our nature and family, our cultural roots and individuality, our education and health, our achievements and overcomings, and peacefulness and safety. The four seasons, sauna, our hockey team, summer cottages, salted licorice, lakes and forests are just some of the most beloved Finnish gems. All in all, Finland is a beautiful country with a great story, and us Finns are more than the age-old clichés. As with all other nationalities, stereotypes are often over-simplified generalizations that can be cracked beyond the surface.

 

Finnishness and the cabinfolk

Having been living in Finland for my whole life, I’ve always thought of it as the optimal place to live in. Huge green forests, thousands of lakes that are just made more beautiful by the chilling winters. If you’re lucky enough, you might even catch a glimpse of the northern lights.

A view from a lake near Pälkäne we saw while hiking

The Finnish people have a mentality of keeping everything to themselves, not talking to strangers, but at the same time, they usually have a very tight group of a few people, with whom they share everything. Seeming a bit cold to strangers and being warm with your own friends is very common. But at the same time, if you ask a Finn for help in anything, you can be sure we’ll help you in every way we can.

Part of Finnishness is being proud of what we have. Not in a way of showing off your flashy Ferraris or wearing a lot of bling, but more with the simple things. Simple things like the nature, our work, and what we’ve made ourselves, with our own hands. A big thing that combines these 3 things, is building your own house, in a forest a few kilometres away from a city centre, a life goal of myself as well. Also having a cottage, or a mökki, further away of anything is a big thing to be proud of, and to enjoy in your own peace and quiet.

     
Pictures of a lakeside mökki

The sauna culture is also a very important part of Finnishness to me. Just being naked alone in the sauna with a can of beer, is a great way to wind down from all the stress of the workday. With friends, the sauna is a place to talk about whatever comes to your mind, there’s something in the sauna that makes people more honest, and that deepens friendships. There’s also a bunch of public saunas, usually in the swimming halls, the gyms, or near lakes, for ice hole swimming in the winter. In addition to the sauna being a place to relax or deepen friendships, it is also very beneficial for your body, due to the heat shock. It is no fluke, that there’s an estimated 2 million saunas in Finland, with a bit over 5 million people.