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.
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. 😀
Dark and cold weather, people whom you can trust, and of course beautiful summer
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.
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.
I mean I have lived here basically my whole life, but I still wouldnt call my self a Finn. My roots are from Bosnia originally. I’ll base this blogpost off of my own experiences and my own everyday life.
The first thing that comes up to my mind when talking about Finnish people or culture and I’m not even joking but alcohol.
Atleast among students alcohol is seen as a kind of stress reliever. When you’ve got 2 essays and a few difficult tests on the same week it can get pretty stressful, so a student party and a get together with your friends can occasionally help I guess. Also when you’ve worked the traditional 9-5 job the whole week you often find yourself drinking over the weekend with your friends. I’ve been in a couple of situations when deciding not to drink the people around me ask is something wrong, its actually kind of funny.
Some of the many boozes in Finland.
The second thing is sports. Whenever theres news that some Finn or Finns are doing good in some sport in a major tournament it gathers a lot of viewers. I’d say a good example is when a e-sports team called Ence was competing in a CS:GO tournament called Katowice Major. Myself and my friends have not watched any e-sports, but when we heard of this, of course we intented to watch it. The tournament gathered a lot of views from Finland and it was actually exciting to watch. They ended up in 2nd place and they really made a name for themselves. My point with this is that no matter the sport Finnss always gather up and root for their own to win, even though they have not watched the sport, like ever.
The last things come actually as a package almost. Im talking about cottage, sauna and nature. You cant have one without the other. Finlands nature during the summer is just beautiful to look at. Especially in your own cottage when you’ve got your own peace you can just relax and take it easy. Cottages usually at best reside by the seaside but most of them reside on the shore of a lake away from the busy city life.
I was raised in a small Finnish town in Satakunta. A town of 7000 people where every young person knows each other. We had quite nice time living there. Our school was quite small but everyone in there had big dreams. Nowadays I live in a bigger city of Tampere. Some people around me share the same background as me. Most of my classmates are from different cities and different families and have all their own stories. Still all of us have the same opportunity of achieving something in life.
The fact that education is available for everyone and for free is something I am very proud of as a Finnish person. You don’t need to have rich parents or work night shifts on the side to go to a good university. Everything is possible if you work for what you want.
I liked living in a small rural town. I could go swimming in a river in our backyard. Even if you managed to swallow some of the water while swimming you wouldn’t get sick. Being surrounded by fields and forests make it a beautiful place.
In the summer all the small towns come back to life. Having months of not so good weather really makes the summer feel so much better when it finally arrives. In my hometown Kokemäki there are several different events held in the summertime. My favorite is the annual VastavirtaRock festival. It is a free music festival for all to see. The festival is funded fully by donations and there have been some great indie performers in the past years. Another good event is the Riverside Kustom day – a classic car and motorcycle meet held by a local motorist group. People around the region gather to see cool cars and rock bands play. Those kind of events are definately the best time to live in Finland.
Alright. Define ”finnishness” my guy. Simple, right?
Well yes, but actually no.
Finnishness is an odd phenomenon. It’s being super proud of our country whenever it gets mentioned anywhere in any context, but at the same time shying away from any praise, being all modestly self-deprecating. It’s a weird thing, and I’ll try my best with these four points to show you how:
1) The F is up with saunas?
Did you really think we were going to go through this without mentioning saunas? Ohohoho, no sir-ee! It’s right into the stereotypical deep-end with this one!
First off, for the record, I love me my saunas. I love the fact that they exist. They are a massive point of collective cultural pride deep within our DNA. It’s the place where throughout the times people have been born and died in, it’s where some of our most important and famed political discussions have been held, and most commonly it’s the place where you go wash away the worries of your everyday life and relax – if even for the most fleeting of moments.
So why is it so natural for us?
I mean really, you go to a bus stop and people are standing meters apart from each other. At a public urinal you only ”go domino” (the act of using the urinal in between two vacant urinals) if you absolutely have to – and even then it’s up for discussion.
I don’t like you too near me, and you don’t like me too near you, got it?
Unless it’s in a steaming-hot room and we’re naked. Then it’s fine. Then it’s super ok. Then it’s actually super okay to the point of it being weird IF you have, say, a towel on to hide your body parts you were just so conscious of at the urinal. I mean bruh.
And riddle me this: If I gather around a bunch of friends, we undress, grab a couple of beers and sit around at very close proximity of each other in a room, it’s considered weird, right?
What if we start to slowly raise the temperature? When does it become socially acceptable?
Or is the idea of a sauna more in the wooden planks you rest those gorgeous cheeks of yours on? Where does it begin and end? (I’m serious, this shit has kept me up during nights)
So saunas are a thing – for whatever the reason. I guess that is something you would call ”finnishness” on some level.
2) Fokken buckets
I love this one man. Just the fact that we queue (hate that word, btw: is it just a Q followed by four silent letters?) for ages for a free bucket. I don’t know why, but I love it. Aren’t we cool!? Yeah we are! Not much else here to stay – I’m a Finn, born and raised, and I don’t understand it. But then again I kinda do. You go get yourself a bucket Marjut! Yeah! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!
In the picture, you’ll find the author. And a free bucket he raffled. They are a thing!
3) The aforementioned pride of being Finnish.
Okay my guys, we are a humble bunch. You know it, I know it, your granny knows it, hell, your neighbours are probably aware of it as well. If you are a non-finn reading this, you’ve probably noticed this as well and if you haven’t, try it out: Go give a compliment to a Finn and watch them squirm.. We don’t like to take credit too much, and often brush praise off the shoulders with a ”Ahhhhh, it’s really nothing, it’s just yada yada yada..”
But man oh man if we don’t go nuts whenever Finland gets mentioned anywhere. Our schooling system and the results of those are on the top? YES! Bernie Sanders lists off the Nordic countries as an example of a working socialist democracy and says Finland? ALRIGHT! One Finnish person or a company is succesful abroad at basically anything? THAT IS OUR BOI! Right?
And don’t get me started on sports: Ice hockey, Teemu Pukki, or Lauri Markkanen? God damn! Even a person who has never done sports in their lives can’t help but feel some sort of weird, indescribable pride when you see a ”-nen” suffixed surname anywhere in the news from a foreign news outlet. We love it. And we should too! We are a small country with a population of an M&M’s bag, we have never in history been a superpower like our neighbouring countries, so when we ever get any appreciation or acknowledgement from anything, we take the praise with a smile. Maybe because it is not directly linked to us as individuals, thus effectively not making us squirm? Who knows, could be.
I mean, there’s that joke of a conspiracy theory going around the internet that Finland is not even a real country but a paper country, so it makes us feel all warm and fuzzy inside when we are acknowleged.
And then the most important point, which in my opinion really reflects the Finnishness of the Finns:
Erhm, ladies and gentlemen,
Look, we don’t talk too much. We look weirdly at people who are too open too quick, and roll our eyes if somebody just wont stop talking. We say what we have to say and then not too much else.
You can always trust a Finn to give their honest opinion when asked (emphasis on when asked – other than that, we probably won’t even voice our opinion). It’s going to be rough around the edges, but man if it isn’t going to be honest.
A Finn sees a person drop a 50€ note on the ground and they pick it up and give it to the person who dropped it, probably with as few words as possible, maybe even with a tap on the shoulder accompanied with a nod. We would have the opportunities to go ”well, tough shit” and pocket it for ourselves, but we hardly ever do. This has actually been proven as well in a research where 12 wallets were ”dropped” on the ground in different major cities across the globe with return details to see where the most honest people are? Guess what? In Helsinki, 11 out of 12 were returned! With money inside! Imagine that! (Read more here.
We don’t beat around the bush in the good nor the bad, and I think this is something we should truly embrace. It’s so engraved in us that most people aren’t probably aware of it. Be it from nature or nurture – who cares? We don’t even run a red light even if there is nobody else on the road. We are an honest and humble people. Let’s hope we dont’t lose that.
And with that note, I will down my way-too-expensive beer in HEL, and move on to my gate. I’m gonna make a quick stop in Arlanda and then move on to Amsterdam from where I’ll grab a train towards Rotterdam and probably (hopefully) the best six months I’ll see in a long time. Wish me luck!
Stay humble my peeps. Stay honest. And take a compliment next time one is given to you! Oh, and just as a parting gift, here’s a picture of President Niinistö firing an SMG whilst riding a velociraptor. You’re very welcome.
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.
It is hard to think about the interpretation of Finnishness since the word covers thousands of topics itself. What would it be? Human? Nature? Food? Stories? Or a particular characteristic like the genetic awkwardness that everyone said about Finns?
There are a lot of concepts considered as Finnish trademarks and some are widely and proudly accepted by Finns themselves. Snow, sauna, Santa, lakes, reindeers, ice hockey, shyness, etc,. As someone who has been in this country for one and a half year, I realized that it is easy to fall for those conceptions because they somehow are all based on facts, but moreover, Finnishness exists in combinations of intriguing contradictions that it takes a little bit more sensation to convey and appreciate.
As someone coming from a tropical country, the first thing that comes to my mind about Finland is undoubtedly its severe winter. Going out to a minus somewhat celsius degree at 4pm when it’s already as dark as night may not be a pleasing experience. There are no ways to avoid it but to make it more enjoyable like watching the city lighten up by thousands of light bulbs and art projections on walls. It is also the only chance to observe northern lights flowing in the air making its magic brushes in black canvas. The colder it gets, the better it is to spend time with family and friends through cozy nights of Christmas sipping hot Glögi with Joulutorttu. Yet Finnish winter is tough, but it is also worthy for those who survived it.
All Finnish people I know agree that they are some of the most socially awkward nations on earth. This is not necessarily equal to shyness but rather an aspect of personal respect that is born and raised by Finns. They encourage silence and introvert way of living. They only speak and act when they feel the need to, without breaking others’ personal space. In fact, some of the boldest people I know are my Finnish friends who have a kind of “you do you” attitude that allows them to be and to live fully as themselves no matter how others may think. I mean who can be the boldest and most daring people but the ones who feel comfortable naked in a sauna with total strangers then go out for a dip in an icy lake? Nonetheless, like two faces of a coin, this lifestyle stimulates comfort bubbles that isolate people and weaken connections which explains why depression and other mental health problems are so common in this country.
I usually receive “terve” from people on the streets or small acts of kindness from strange people on the bus. Once my friend lost her purse and without any hope, it did come back safe and sound to her doorstep with all her belongings inside thanks to some random stranger who sent it back by the id info inside. The same thing happened when I forgot my camera bag on the train from Tampere to Helsinki. So to me personally, Finnishness also means kindness, friendliness and honesty.
It really takes time and patience to understand Finneshness, just like being friend with a Finns. It may be challenging at first, but once you get used to it, it’s really hard to take it out of you.
When I think what “finnishness” is and what it means to me, the first things that come to my mind are nature, weather, ice hockey and the level of education. When I have been travelling abroad this subject come up every time I tell people that I am from Finland.
Nature and weather
Finnish nature itself is unique. When you show pictures of Helsinki in the summer and then you show pictures of Lapland in the winter people get confused. People from other countries can’t believe that that is same country. Four different seasons also bring their own variation. In the winter the record can be -37 degrees and in the summer it can be +35 degrees. Fluctuations above 60 degrees are not possible in many other countries. Also the amount of snow amazes many people “how can there be that much?”. In Finland we have large areas made up of only forest. Forest and conservation are important topics for finnish people. In Finland you find very little bit garbage on the streets if you compare to many other countries.
Finnish education and the discussion around it surface often, when I mention I am from Finland. Often the first note or comment is that “in Finland you have good education!”. According to research and also my own experience Finland really has good and versatile education. In Finland everyone has an equal opportunity and obligation to go to school. Primary schools are totally free for students and that is uncommon around the globe. Schools take longer time but in return they offer a too level of education opportunity. Finnish education makes it easy to get job around the world. Employers appreciate finnish education. Finnish people are often considered highly educated and people want to exploit finnish people’s skills.
Ice hockey is one of the pride topics in Finland. Many countries have their passion for football but instead this in Finland we have a hockey. Ice hockey is big part of finnish culture. Many people connect hockey and snow to Finland. Ice hockey is interesting topic and great experience for people who come from elsewhere. Big part of finnish hockey culture is also the fans. Hockey is big part of fans daily lives. When finnish teams win something big all people live “the dream” together. When Finland won the world championship in 2019 everyone went out to celebrate it. It was big and desired achievement. Foreigners coming to Finland often have hockey game one of their bucket list ideas.