Monthly Archives: August 2021

Backbones of Finnishness

Ah, Finland. Home sweet home. Being Finnish is definitely something I hold in high value. But if I’m being completely honest, that hasn’t always been the case. Most of these blog posts have many reoccurring themes: nature, mökki, sauna. All of these are things that wee little me hasn’t always been able to appreciate. As a child, going to the mökki and spending time in the nature were short of being the worst thing imaginable. I’d rather have been cooped up inside in the city. But times change and people grow. Nowadays I can definitely say that I enjoy all of those things. Those were just some crude examples, but the point is that my view on being Finnish has evolved as I have matured. Seeing the world has shaped my perspective, increasing my appreciation for Finland.

I appreciate Finland’s relative safety. Being able to mind my own business anywhere, any time of the day, in any state of mind. Not having to tape my windows and protect my car when the typhoon season hits. Being able to park that car on the side of the street and still find the windows intact the day after. Not having to fear my encounters with law enforcement end up as a trip to the coroner’s office. Never having to stress over finding my loved ones under a pile of rubble from where our home stood before an earthquake. I can confidently say that in a world of danger, Finland is amongst the safest places you could think of.

In addition to safety, I highly value freedom. The ongoing pandemic has shown us how free we actually are. We have certain rights which are protected by our constitution, much more so than in other “free & democratic” countries. The freedom and safety that have been bestowed upon Finland are of course of major influence when it comes to contemporary Finnish culture. For example, the freedom to roam and the ability to enjoy our surroundings without fear feed into the fact that things like nature come up as a reoccurring theme when talking about Finnishness. In a way freedom and safety act as the backbones of Finnish culture; without them, there wouldn’t be a Finland as we know it.

My experiences of Finnishness

I am originally from Germany and moved to Finland almost four years ago. For two and half years l lived with a Finnish host family. This time, as well as my Finnish friends whom I met while studying majorly, account for my experiences of Finnishness.

I had never really been aware of my own culture. It was only when I moved to Finland that I noticed differences in peoples’ behaviours and thought patterns. In the following I will go through few elements of Finnishness that were particularly remarkable to me when I first came:

Finns find joy in calmness, appreciate their personal space, take time for themself, are pretty straightforward about most things while being humble or modest people. This shows in many everyday situations. Let’s take travelling by bus as an example – the picture below tell more than words (and as communicating with as few words as possible is part of Finnishness, I will adapt 😉)

Finnishness in free-time activities is basically divided into three different yet somehow connected major themes:

  • Drinking: longdrinks or the famous karhu beer in combination with a visit to a karaoke bar or drinking lots of black coffee eventually in combination with ice cream or a munkki)
  • Nature: Finns are very sportive and active people and also I have learned to enjoy spending my free time taking a walk in the forest or spending the weekend at the cottage (as far away from others as possible😉)

  • Sauna: warning: the above-mentioned need for personal space and privacy does not apply here! Sitting naked and sweating in a tiny hot room packed with people is an important part of Finnishness. Going afterwards for the mandatory swim in a close-by lake (regardless of the outside temperature) defiantly requires (at least for me) Finnish perseverance or so-called sisu.

 

When moving abroad and starting to recognize differences in culture, behaviour, attitudes, etc. it is easy to stick to one’s own culture yet it is especially then important to remember to stay open to and observe the culture while then picking the best parts of the culture and adapting pits and pieces to make it your own.

Finnishness

As a Finn first things coming to my mind from Finnishness are sauna, nature, winter and four seasons. Also I would personally classify a stereotypical Finn as a shy person in the company of strangers, but with their friends and people they already familiar with they can surprise you with their true friendly and funny nature.

You may have noticed Finns facts only and straight-forwardness way of telling things without any extra added drama. Good example of this is a Finnish Formula 1 driver Kimi Räikkönen. Who is known of course for his racing skills but also for his quick honest and straight-forwardness answers, which sometimes can be considered to be also funny. Below here is Youtube Link to video of compilation of some of his press conference answers.

Facts and straight-forwardness are also part of the Finnish business culture. Other key values of the business culture are modesty,  trust, individualism, respect for personal space, honesty, punctuality, education, lifelong learning and caring for nature. So example if you are watching presentation held by the Finn. You can normally expect it to be really facts oriented without any super glorification.

My thoughts on Finnishness

Typical Finnish people are quiet, humble and very reserved. Most of us don’t want to be in the center of attention or getting any public credit. We just want to do our own thing without drawing any attention towards ourselves. Finns are usually very quiet and don’t bother to do any small talk and the worst thing one could do is to be too loud in the morning bus. It is the respectful thing towards others that everyone just sits  there looking grumpy and tired. However, once you get to know to them better you’ll see that Finns are actually very fun and warm people. We are also really proud of our culture and history, especially the “guts” (sisu) we showed in the war against soviets, sauna, our pure nature and our success in winter sports. In Finland we have all four seasons and we always try to get best out of them. In summertime many Finns like to spend much time in their summerhouses and in winter to do winter sports like skiing or snowmobiling.

Brown Wooden Dock on Body of Water          Green Pine Tree Covered With Snow

In Finland everything is too good nowadays. Things are so good that people don’t appreciate anything anymore, especially younger generation, and everything good is taken for granted. In Finland everyone can become a doctor, for example, no matter what their socioeconomic background is. We get paid for studying here, and still many students are angry when some of their financial aid is cut by couple of euros! Sometimes too much negativity is very tiring and we should focus more on good things and value our great country and opportunities it offers for everyone equally. I am proud to be a Finn.

 

Finnishness

This blog contains my personal view of what it’s like to be a Finn. We are a bit shy and quiet around new people. But once we get to know each other better, we’ll be really forward and loud. We like to party, drink and go to festivals. On the other hand, we also like the silence of nature. Finland is a country with amazing forests and lakes. There is nothing better than having weekend at summer cottage by the lake with the people you like to be with. And for some reason fishing and having a beer after sauna gives me a peace of mind and I think I’m not the only one that feels this way.

I would also like to bring up sports that are also a big thing in being Finnish. We have a big amount of top tier athletes in different sports. But I think the best part is that you don’t even have to play anything yourself. When Leijonat was playing at the world cup or Huuhkajat finally got to Euros everybody was watching TV and cheering for team Finland. I myself like to go snowboarding and play football and ice hockey with my friends. Sports connects us and brings us together.

My Finnishness- The Finnish nature

To me Finnishness is a lot of things but the first thing that comes to my mind is nature. Finnish nature with its four seasons. I feel like Finnish people have a special relationship with the nature. No matter the season, you can find us enjoying ourselves and spending our time in the nature. In the winter we skate, ski and swim in a frozen lake. In the spring we wander around the forests seeing how nature comes alive after the cold and dark winter. In the summer we enjoy spending time in our summer cottages near nature, swimming in a lake and going to sauna. In the fall we watch the leaves turn into different colors and fall from the trees and go to forests to pick berries and mushrooms. No matter what, you’ll always find us in the nature.

The Finnish cottage culture is also something very special to us. When the weather starts getting warmer in the spring, Finnish people pack their cars and head to their cottages. Finnish people probably spend more time in their summer cottages than in their homes during the summer months. Cottage culture is always without a doubt combined with swimming, going to a sauna, and grilling. The purpose of a summer cottage is to escape the busy everyday life, de-stress and just enjoy the Finnish nature.

I am no exception, I also love Finnish nature and spending time in nature. Even though I love spending time in my family’s summer cottage, my favorite place in Finland to see the nature in all its glory has to be Lapland. I love seeing the views from the tops of the fells. No matter which direction you look at all you can see is forests, lakes, other fells and the blue sky. And all you can hear is silence. The atmosphere of Lapland is very magical and wandering around in Lapland’s nature really puts your mind at ease.

Finnishness

The first thing that comes into mind when thinking about Finnishness and Finland itself is the nature. The nature in Finland is unbelievable. It changes through the year but still remains it’s beauty, also the colour-scheme changes with the season and it goes through the whole colour palette. Finns like to spend time in the forest and in the nature and there are many forests and parks in Finland and especially in Lapland during the summer and autumn there are these beautiful hiking parks that many people visits. The best time to visit Lapland for a hike is autumn during the ´ruska´ season when there are all the shades of red, orange and yellow in the nature. In the winter Lapland offers a lot of different activities but the most popular ones are ski-tracks  as well as ski centers and that is when most of the Finns visits Lapland.

Finnish archipelago is also beautiful and Turku Archipelago especially is known from many little islands and the sea itself. During the summertime many Finns like to make a roadtrip though the Turku archipelago since you can drive through it with car or a bike. There are a few ferries that needs to be taken to get around the whole archipelago but it totally is worth it. There are many restaurants, bed&breakfasts and cafes in the little islands as well as different activities such as golf, kayaking, hiking and sailing. My family has a cottage in the Turku archipelago and I can assure everyone that it is one thing to see in the summer when visiting Finland.

The second part that comes in mind is summer and cottage which is connected strongly to the first one. Finland is known as the country of thousand lakes and many finns have a cottage by the lake or near one. Cottages are very important for Finnish people and it can be seen during the year when everyone spends their holidays in their own or even rented cottages. I have spent many holidays in different cottages but nothing beats your own cottage and a sauna. The true cottage experience includes sauna, dipping in the lake or a sauna and family or friends around you enjoying the Finnish summer.

 

Refactoring the Finnishness

When one should describe the typical Finn, we often hear following stereotypical things. Finns are shy, they love salmiakki and sauna, and can overcome any obstacles with their strong guts (sisu). Plus, Finns love sauna and getting drunk. Speaking of alcohol, this is troublesome especially during the midsummer eve, as we love swimming too.

So there you have one version of traditional Finnishness. But is this really true? To be honest, in the modern society we don’t rely on stereotypes, at least we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t describe Finnishness by the book, but make our own version of it from own experience. That’s what I’m going to do.

juhannus

To me Finnishness means loving the nature, and being proud of ourselves/our customs. This might be due the fact that many countries don’t care/know about Finland, but when we are acknowledged internationally, we feel like achieved something relevant (We go to ‘torille’). Thus, we have formed a way to like the things we are good at like ice hockey. This can be seen, for example, in the latest UEFA 2021. Finland hasn’t been very good at football, but they did very well this year. Suddenly all Finnish people were watching and talking about football, even though they weren’t earlier into it. Paradoxically Finns are humble, but we secretly think ourselves better in some aspects. In addition to humility, Finns are quite law-abiding citizens, we respect education and our customs like sauna for example.

As the globalization has tied more countries together and mixed different cultures, Finnishness too has changed. Therefore, we all are not like described above. Not only due the globalization, but due the individuality in the center of today’s society – we want to separate from the mass. Not all Finns love sauna or drink alcohol or have a cottage to go during the summer. Some of us love living in the cities, brag about themselves, and might like things from other cultures closer to our heart. It all comes to our surroundings which make us what we are, and what we want to be like. We are influenced a lot by other countries and global trends, for example by American products, which changes ourselves and therefore Finnishness itself. This is by no means bad thing, it’s just the way it is.

In a summary, traditional Finnishness is about the stereotypes we all know. At its core, we are on a way to become this stereotyped Finn, because we are affected by our surroundings (our parents say that mämmi is good and make us eat it. So there’s potential we start to like it too). However, the globalization and our awareness of individuality has changed us to choose our own path, so Finns along with the Finnishness are constantly changing as they represent our people.

My thoughts about Finnishness

I have lived in Finland my whole life. Finnishness to me means a lot of different things. Mostly it reminds me of a safe, peaceful and beautiful home. To get the best picture of what it means to me, I’ll list a couple of things below.

  1. Beautiful and fresh nature

I have lived my childhood in a place where the forest with its lakes has been right in the backyard. Now when I live in a city, nature is still not far away. In Finland you can go to enjoy the nature without going far away. You can escape the real life hassle at any time which I love about Finland. It is also true Finnishness if you are able to be prepared for any weather here in Finland. In the same day it can be cold, windy, rainy and sunny…

I would say most Finnish are nature loving and we enjoy going to the cottage at summer and going to sauna and the lake during winter. We also enjoy our own peace with the most important people around. The calmness that the nature brings is good for our soul.

  1. People

Finns are quite modest. We appreciate what we have, the beautiful nature, a country where we can live in peace and where we do not have to fear things as we may need in some countries. Finnish people usually speaks about things that are essential in the specific matter and that’s why we don’t consider silent moments awkward. When you are in a public small place as Finn, we consider that we don’t have to say anything to others. I would say Finns are thoughtful, trustworthy  and straight forward, however we are still quite private people. We usually don’t have the need to be sharing everything about ourselves and we rather listen to others. We like our personal space.

Fun facts:

  • We don’t like to talk money related things.
  • We eat everything on our plate.
  • Being naked is not always sexual (sauna time).
  • We drink way too much coffee.

 

The most authentic part in Finnishness

One of the most authentic experiences I love about Finland and Finnishness is a proper cottage experience. The best Finnish cottage is kind a rough and simple cottage in the middle of nowhere on the shore of lake or sea. You should not be able to see your neighbors to be fully relaxed.

The best moments about being on the cottage are the evenings and nights on the warm summer nights when the sun does not set at all. You can sit on the porch with your friends and family all night and complain about mosquitos and how those creatures are the most useless things in the whole world. You can also just sit there quietly and sip your drinks and just listen the sounds of the nature. It is almost enchanting to do that, the longer you do are quiet the more sounds of nature you will hear.

 

To have a full Finnish cottage experience, sauna and grilling must be included in equation. After sweating in wood cottage sauna, a freshening dip into lake is on point. And again, the porch is playing major role also in sauna experience. You will come out, sit on some bench, and have a conversation like this; “Phew, the wood sauna is something else”. After that you put fire in the grill and grill sausages or something else easy to eat.

For me, these cottage experiences are must haves at least couple times in summer. It brings me to origin Finnishness, own peace, the most important people around you, surrounded by nature and calmness in your heart and soul.