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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.

What Finnishness is

When people hear about Finland, they think about snowy winters,  vast forests, endless amount of lakes, the Finnish sauna, the almighty Nokia and probably even polar bears (yikes). These things are mostly nature-related but I think the true Finnishness is in our personality. We have great national pride and that really shows when we achieve anything significant.

Everybody unites at the point of victory and even though we might be regarded as a tad shy and quiet, nobody is quiet when we qualify for European championship in football or win the ice hockey world championship. That’s the moment when everybody unites and celebrates as a one big group, which is the purest form of Finnishness if you ask me.

Even though the Finnish bureaucracy might be annoying at some points, travelling around the world has shown how well everything works in Finland (except VR), and that’s something we should be proud of. As some wise guy has once said “It’s a lottery win to be born in Finland”!

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.

My thoughts about Finnishness

When I think about Finnishness, I think about people who are at first reserved and quiet, but when you get to knew them better, they are social, warm, trustworthy and the most honest people you’ll ever meet.  I also think that Santa Claus, snow and the northern lights are things that Finland is famous for.

As a Finn I love nature, silence and sauna. Especially in the summer when you can run straight from the Sauna in to a lake or the sea. It is the best thing about the Finnish summer. I also love Ice swimming during the winter time.  I love the Finnish nature and I believe we have a lot to see in Finland. During the summer time the archipelago is enchanting and in the Wintertime Lapland is a winter wonderland with snow and the northern lights. The thousand lakes, forests and national parks are worth to visit, there you can get closer to a Finnish mindset.

                                 

Finns appreciate personal space and private time, so if your Finnish friend needs some time of their own after a long weekend trip, give it to them. We are not angry, we just love spend time alone sometimes,e specially after social events.

Finland is a very safe country. As a woman I can walk alone in the city at night time, it’s very usual in Finland. My Spanish friends were borderline angry with me when I left club and walked home alone. It also didn’t help that I tried to explain them that I do this every time in Finland. Small children may also walk alone to the School and back, and it’s completely normal in Finland.

I can proudly say that in Finland we have safe environment, quality education, high equality and we can trust our government and police departments.

 

 

 

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

 

My thoughts on Finnishness

When I describe Finnish people to others, I usually just say that we’re quiet or shy. I don’t personally really think that, but compared to other nations we really seem like it. But I think what really defines us more than “quiet” is “honest”. There’s no need for courtesies or small talk: we just say what we have to say and that’s it. It might come across as shy, quiet or reserved but to me it’s all I need. The concept of small talk was so unfamiliar to me that I’ve really had to put my back into learning it! I still struggle with it from time to time. It’s also hard to tell sometimes if a foreign person is qenuinely interested in talking with me or if it’s just small talk. Usually with Finns I don’t have to worry about that, which is relieving. If somebody asks you how you’re doing and you answer with how you actually feel, it’s only normal and even expected.

Even though the way Finnish people speak can be a little short on words, our language is really versatile. It’s wonderful that a lot of Finnish people can speak many different languages beside Finnish, but sometimes I wonder if others have noticed the beauty of their own language. I find constant joy in all the wonderful little phrases and words that have gained their meaning in the older times but which are still used today. Sometimes while talking I realize what the words we use actually mean. For example “marraskuu” means “November”, but what it literally means is “moon of the dead”, but you never really stop to think about it!

To me Finnishness culminates in how our language could bend into so much to best fit what we’re feeling inside and yet we choose to say so little. Only the necessities.

That… And the completely bright nightless nights when you can just sit on a dock watching insects fly over a lake, hear a faint cuckoo from the forest and smell the smoke coming from the chimney of a sauna. That too.

Summer in Finland, view of a lake

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. 😀