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Of “Finnishness” and the escape of small talk

Finland. My home that is now two seas away. Country of thousand lakes surrounded by green forests filled with mushrooms, berries, wildlife, and pine trees.

Long winters have over time turned warmer making them even darker while urbanization has in most cases made the distances between neighbours shorter. People still have the need for their personal space, so they are eager to escape to their happy place at the countryside summer cabin whenever possible. The long distances of rural past not long ago have given people a healthy do-it-yourself mentality compared to many of the other Europeans. They often prefer to do quite a lot themselves instead of buying a service. Traditionally out of necessity, but now to prove themselves, to save money, or just for a hobby. Self-service mentality rules at restaurants, and pub culture is only taking baby steps. Due to long periods of freezing weather, even friends just walk past one another on the streets only quickly nodding their heads to each other instead of stopping for a small talk. When you keep moving, there are better chances of not getting frostbitten toes, and the Finns are aware of it. They will see each other when the weekend comes at their common friend’s place for board game and beers. They rather gather around at someone’s flat than go to pub where music is too loud, beer is expensive and both (the music choices and the tap beer) suck anyway. At the friendly gathering they can have the questioning where they were heading the other day (in case they can’t naturally pick up a more meaningful topic) while enjoying their time at much more comfortable setting than would be commercially available.

PHOTO: H. Myllymäki – While his Scottish neighbours use a service to take care of their garden that might be available just by asking from the landlord, a Finn gets a lawnmower and has uniquely ugly patch of grass on his yard. In addition, he also records his own sound effects instead of using a commercial sound bank, thus tying work and “pleasure” together on the same sunny afternoon.

There you have it. The basis of what makes Finns appear untalkative, grim, socially awkward, and generally bad people by the standards for social situations in many other countries of the world. Why the streets are empty after six o’clock on the weekdays and you can fit into a pub on the main street after nine on a Saturday night. Whereas truly I’d say, Finns just don’t have a culture of hiding behind empty words such as a phrase “professional standards” at a commercial company selling a service for a mundane job. To me, that’s the essence of so called “Finnishness”.

Finnishess

In Finnish summer the biggest and one of the best things is to go to the summer cottage. There we spent weekends and hopefully weeks of our summer. Especially midsummer is the time when everyone goes to the cottage. And because of that, all the cities gets empty. Usually Finnish cottages are by some kind of water. And there is not that much ”modern” comfort as we have in our homes. This also depends whose cottage it is. Some people make it modern and some make it more oldish (without electricity etc.)

Dock, Lake, Finland, Dark, Evening, Water, Nature, Blue

What to do in the cottage then? Just chill, drink, eat grilled food and go to sauna and swim in the lake. It is a place to spend peaceful holiday with friends and family (usually with friends it goes more partying than just chilling).

Smoke Sauna, Summer, Holiday, Lake, Nature, Scenic

I think one of the important things in cottages are that they have to be ”in the middle of nowhere” further away from the cities. In the nature where is silent. Finnish summer is one of the most beautiful things what we have. And even better if it’s warm and not snowing.

Finnishness

To me Finnishness is not things or places like sauna or rye bread or world championship in hockey in 95′. Finnishness can’t be pointed out, it’s within the person. Sure, sauna, kossu and domestic violence are very much Finnish things but going to a sauna while getting wasted on kossu and beating your wife afterwards don’t really reflect what finnishness is really about. (This was an obvious joke, c’mon)

Finnishness is the sum of culture, history and a way of life an individual inherits. It’s about being proud of the nature we have, understanding the history of this country, hating when your neighbor buys a nicer car than you have, willing to pay 100 euros just so your neighbor doesn’t get 50 euros, not telling anyone and living a normal life when you win 90 million in a lottery. It’s about talking about the weather on a first date,  standing 5 meters apart when waiting for the bus, avoiding public human interactions and teaching only swear words to foreigners.

Finnishness is loving Finland and the culture within it, being a part of it. And you know what, it’s pretty great.

 

Difference between finnishness

I was borned in Eastern Finland near the National Park Koli. I have been living  there my first nineteen years of my life and enjoyed it a lot.  After high school it was time to move forward to study some interesting for me, so I moved to West Finland Southern Ostrobothnia.

People are different in different parts of Finland. In East Finland we used to talk lot about our personal life and happenings, but in West Finland it takes time to make friends and get the trust to invite you in someone others homes. People in Eastern Finland are more open and take people as friends really quickly. We like to be open minded and show our personality straight.

I´m posing naked at Koli and it’s okay for me. So I understood very quickly, that no need to go further out to sea to fish, as us Finnish people like to say, to understand difference between our little country and how people feel and think about your talking and acting about your personal life.

The real Finnish experience

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.

FINNISHNESS IS SECRET KEY TO HAPPINESS

According to UN report Finland was the happiest country in the world in 2019. What can be the reason for this phenomena in this dark and cold country where we silently wait for a bus in wet rain slush what feels like most of the year? Happiness can be measured by life expectancy, social security, economic status and so on but let me tell why I truly feel that I live among the happiest nation in the world.

You can consider every finn a master of meditation, we do practise it every day whether we know it or not. Imagine a morning bus, everyone sits quietly gazing through the window and if possible on the window seat and no one sitting next to you. That is important to us, gathering thoughts and being with just your own self, that sounds like meditating doesn’t it. That bus ride does not sound so grimm now if you consider everyone just meditating on their way to work, sound nice actually.

Little meditation inspiration from the finnish summer. You can play it on background while reading.

You may hear lots of stereotypes about finishness but actually underneath the surface you can find the happiest nation in the world, it just depends on the way you look at things. Key to happiness maybe?

Finnish nightmares, author Karoliina Korhonen

 

Finnishness

Even though we often joke about “it’s like winning in the lottery to be born in Finland”, I think we really are the winners.

Something I really appreciate in Finland is our nature. It doesn’t matter where you live, you can always find a forest in a short walk. Walking in the nature is so calming and peaceful. Many people have their own summer cottages, where people spend a lot of time during summer. They swim, goes to sauna, grill and just chill.

During winter, it’s really popular that people go to public saunas, sit butt next to butt each other and go to ice swimming. For foreigner it might feel strange, but for most of the Finns it feels really good and feel very Finnish. It’s funny though how Finns are absolutely fine sitting very close to each other in sauna naked, but in bus stop they stand at least one meter from each other in fully clothes. 😀

Finnishness

What do I remember when I Hear Finland?

Dark and cold weather, people whom you can trust, and of course beautiful summer

Image result for finnish weather

The first question I always get from people out of Finland is about the weather, asking: is it really six month dark nights and six month sunny days I Finland? 

They think that people in Finland are really into themselves. Alone, drunk, but happy. That could be true and one thing that I couldn’t get it yet is about Finland being one of the happiest countries in the world! really? A few days back I read an article that one in every five Finn is depressed and most of them don’t admit that. 

Finnishness is also about how good Finns trust each other in society which is one thing I really like about.

One more thing that I appreciate about Finland and the Finnish workplace is the way colleagues interact with each other, the way they communicate with each other and with their boss. The boss is just the position most of the time, otherwise, they work together just like normal colleagues. It is really different than many other places around the world.

My Experiences of Finnishness

What I’ve heard is that Finland is one of the happiest countries in the world if not the happiest. At first, I thought, how is that possible with the cold temperatures and dark winters. In the past few years, I’ve had the chance to travel, work, and study abroad and now understand why Finland is such a great country and why I love living there.

Finland is very dark during the winter, and it does get very cold, which can be frustrating at some point, but we do have saunas and homes that are built to keep us warm during winters, we have a lot of activities to keep us busy and to enjoy the cold. We eat quite healthy compared to other countries where I have been, and we are active. We do like to spend time on our own, but we do hang out with friends and interact with people more than most people think. The summers are amazing, and the lakes are perfect for swimming. The nature is also breathtaking during both summer and winter. One of the significant roles in happiness; however, in my opinion, is the good social security system in Finland. This causes less stress and more freedom, for example, students, medical care, the elderly, homeless people, and the unemployed. The social security system also has its flaws, but I do think it brings more happiness and less stress to society.

My experience of Finnishness. I have lived in Finland since 2007. My parents are Finnish, and most of my friends are also Finnish. In my experience, compared to the places I’ve been, Finnish people and Finnishness can be described as quiet, hard-working, loyal, and misunderstood people. By misunderstood, I mean this because we do not show our emotions as clearly as the Italians or Spanish people, and we are bad at saying what we mean. Finns can also be very shy sometimes, which adds to the misunderstood part.

But all in all, I think most of us Finns are packed with good morals and a good heart. We are proud of our country and our ancestors, who helped defend it. We are proud to be Finns, and we are proud of our culture and everything that belongs to Finland. And yes I do consider myself a Finn even though I wasn’t born here.

Finnishness

My first experience with the Finnish culture was in 2011 when I did one year exchange in Finland, during high school. After some years back in Brazil, I decided to go back to Finland to do my bachelor’s degree. And the reason for that was my love for Finland.

For me, Finnishness means nature and quality of life. I love being around nature and in Finland you can get it anywhere you want, it doesn’t matter if you live in the city. I like to walk around the trees, hiking or having a picnic with my friends.

 

Another thing I like in the Finnish nature is the white winter. I love snow. I saw it for the first time in Finland and only there in the proper way, the real beautiful snow. I love how the city gets brighter (since there isn’t a proper sun) and I love to play with the snow, I feel just like a kid.

 

Of course I couldn’t forget one of the most Finnishness thing, sauna. Finnish sauna is the best one. And even better than being in the sauna, is how you feel after it. Going to sauna and bathing in a lake, specially if it is a frozen one, it’s an experience everyone should have in their lives.

To conclude, I would like to say that Finland is one of the best places in the world. I’ve never felt as safe in a country as I have in Finland. I love how everything works, how it has the best education, and how Finns enjoy their nature.