This blog post touches on the subject of independence and its meaning to the Finnish people. I actually seriously considered, for a moment, to title my blog ”The Onion of Independence”, due to the different layers of this complicated concept which makes up such a big part of who we are.
Much like an onion, the Finnish concept of independence is down to earth, tough, sometimes hard to get close to, and makes grown people cry.
Finland became an independent nation in December 1917, after centuries of being subservient to alternately Sweden or Russia. Finland fought hard for its independence, which made it all the more valuable. Independence is celebrated solemnly, with candles and annual viewings of both ’The Unknown Soldier’ and the televised presidential gala.
Even though the war times are long gone and only told about as second-hand stories by those who were born after, the idea of hard-won independence is still quite strong in the Finns’ collective psyche. Standing strong and self-reliant is important; having to rely on someone else is not easy, and for many Finns, it is a question of honor that favors are rarely asked, and when asked, are returned fully.
The concept of independence does not only concern the state; as a nation, we recognise people’s rights to be independent as individuals. Young Finns move to live on their own quite early. Gender equality in Finland is among the best in the world, and the rights of minorities are generally high in the ranks. Women in my family are fiercely independent, sometimes to a fault. We stand on the shoulders of generations of strong women, whose role in Finnish societies all the way back in prehistoric times has been that of mystic gatekeepers: capable of producing new life, standing between the land of the living and the land of the dead.
Finland was named the happiest country in the world for the 4th time in a row in 2021. What does independence have to do with it? Behind the happiness and feelings of contentedness is the view that every individual should have the right to rule over their own life. When one has such autonomy, they feel more content with life and more in charge of what happens to them. That is something to cherish.
For me as a Finn nature is one of the most important thing and Finland is land of a thousand lakes. We have 188 000 lakes in Finland and you can see those everywhere. Driving through Finland in the summer you will see two colors dominating the view: green and blue. Water is a very important element for the Finns and I could never live a far away from forest and lake, and many people have cozy cottages located next to the water. Lakes are home for many animals but also important way for relaxing.
You can take a nice day cruise between different cities or you can use own / rented boat and row in different places enjoying the sun at the same time. Some cities have a city boats which you can use for free if you return it to the same place where you started.
As told earlier, Finns loves lakeside cottages. Holidays are spent with friends and families away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Boating, canoeing, fishing, barbecuing and sauna before and after swimming are basic things to do in summers. Watercrafts are also good way to see a little bit more about Finnish nature and many places rent those. I recommend to test!
Sunsets are one of the most beautiful things in summers. An evening picnic, run and night swim are definitely worth to experience during sunset. Sunsets with your own thoughts works very well too and after watching sunset alone you feel so relaxed. Oh, I’m missing summer already.. Just look at these pictures!
In winters when lakes are frozen, people are ice skating and snowmobiling on the ice. Some people likes also ice fishing, and fishers are completely normal sight on ice. When there is snow on ice, people come also skiing on frozen lakes. Finns loves also go to sauna in winters and then make a dip in freezing water. It might sound crazy, but after dipping the feeling is just so amazing!
All in all, Finnish nature is wonderful in every season!
We – finnish people – are often proud of our multifaceted seasons. We have cold, white winter, rainy, cloudy and sunny spring, short but light summer and colorful autumn. Though, in reality, our autumn is a three-month-long period of rainy, dark evenings. Our winter is a combination of slush and slipery roads whereas spring stir us to miss warm, sunny summer which temperature actually is barely between + 5 and 15 degrees. We often have different expectations about the weather as it is in real life. That is one of the reasons why we often speak about the weather, I guess.
According to the researches, finnish people are the happiest people in the world. Would you have believed that? Well, I know from my own experience that our happiness haven´t always been seemed. Finnish people like to complain – usually about everyday things – for example just about the weather: The weather has been too cold or too hot. There is a lack of snow or too much snow in the winter time et cetera. Honestly, there is a solid trust in society in the background and it gives us a possibility to complain. Our life is really safe and definite and we are content with it.
We take many good things in our society for granted and we often don’t remember to appreciate those things enough. However, I think we have learned something important due to Covid-19-pandemic: the appreciation of finnish nature has increased. Nature and four seasons have offered us a wonderful possibility to do exercise, to be with our friends and close relatives when the society has been closed. And now I can understand an old lady who walked past me in the forest one day, stopped, gasped very happily and asked me: It is a really great weather, isn’t it? And we stood quietly in the snowy forest, in “winter wonderland”, breathing a biting frost air and looking sunset which spread red and yellow colors to the sky.
On the other hand, finnish happiness can also be seemed in our just ordinary life – even when we speak with the strangers about the forecast.