My experience with “Finnishness” began somewhere in my childhood. Often, in the winter my family would go to Finland for downhill skiing when I was a kid. Other times we would visit our family friends, live in a wooden cottage far away from the closest town and I would build tree houses from branches in the deep forests somewhere in the north with my friend. I remember the smell of woods, coziness of the fireplace in the winter, the feeling of freedom when looking at the snowy hills and my skis and some sense of unity with nature – these were my first memories of Finland.
I was born in Petrozavodsk (Petroskoi), Karelia, in the north-west of Russia. Karelian culture is very similar to Finnish and both of the languages share lots of similarities. However Karelian is not an actively used language anymore. Starting from food (Karelian pies with potatoes or millet), folklore, musical instruments, nature and landscapes – Karelia and Finland have a lot in common. As a person who lived in such mix of Karelian-Russian culture for most of my life, Finland was and is still close to my heart. Many of my friends from Petrozavodsk have started studying Finnish at schools or even earlier – kindergartens, then moved to Helsinki or Joensuu to get a degree or simply were grocery shopping in Finland from time to time. “Finnishness” was and is considered something dear for many of us.
Finland as a destination choice to get a degree was something comforting for me, that place where I could feel like at home but at the same time challenge myself with studies, to make friends with people from around the world and experience “Finnishness” in a slightly different and more authentic way. And I think I did get a lot of new ideas and thoughts about the term since then.
I love that “Finnishness” means caring about each other and society in general, providing lots of opportunities for studying and growing personally and professionally for everyone, even to the ones from abroad like me. I appreciate that “Finnishness” means taking care of nature and its inhabitants by recycling, reusing and simply taking responsibility for actions. “Finnishness” also means being with nature, spending time outdoors and showing the right way to treat things around us in general.
My experience with “Finnishness” and Finland was very educating, inspiring, breathtaking and I know that this is not the end and I am happy to be able to explore and understand “Finnishness” in my own way now and share it with you.