Finland is the happiest country in the world for four years in a row by the United Nations World Happiness Report. We often hear foreigners as well as Finns being surprised by that. However happiness is not measured by how much people smile at stangers or make small talk with them. Happiness in Finland means having close friends and family and spending time with them. Happiness for us is having fresh water, free education and good healthcare system.
Finns are often described as shy and grave but we actually are nothing but. Sure, we usually aren´t that talkative with people we don’t know but when hanging out with close friends it´s a whole other situation. When travelling abroad it´s easy to get to know people but they rarely become your true friends. Whereas in Finland you really have to make an effort to make friends but when you do, the friendship is for life and they would even take a bullet for you.
Many people mention the nature when speaking of Finland and it was the first thing that came to my mind also. Finns love to spend time at their cottage in the lap of nature but they often also love to go to festivals and spend time among other people. In my hometown Helsinki and in my study town Tampere the restaurants and terraces are always full of people. Helsinki and Tampere are lively cities that have a lot to offer.
The most Finnish sentence by a survey made by Menaiset.fi is ”Ei minua varten tarvii keittää” which means ”No need to make (coffee) just for me” and that summarizes Finnishness perfectly. In that sentence come up Finns´ love for coffee and their modesty. Finns don’t know how to receive compliments or certainly not how to compliment theirselves. Finns´ greatest trait is definitely their honesty. Finns often take honesty for granted and are surprised when people abroad don’t always mean what they say. Finns´ honesty reflects also on the trust and respect in the authority. Especially during corona it´s became clear that Finns follow the rules even tho its not mandatory.
Finns are proud of their origin and get very excited when Finland is mentioned abroad. We are proud of our little Northern country with language like no other. We enjoy the little things like good weather and company of friends. We love to travel around the world but are always happy to return home. All in all Finns should acknowledge that the Happiest country in the world -title is right and be really proud of it.
Finland, country far away from everything. Minus thirty degrees cold, Santa Claus riding with reindeers and of course polar bears on the streets. Those are the things what I often hear when people talk about Finland. Now I will tell you few things about real Finland and Finnishness.
Lets talk about Finnish people first. Most of us are humble, quiet and pretty calm persons. We like to give space for each others and if you are thinking small talk with Fins, forget it! Example if you go in bus somewhere in Central Europe, you probably say hi or do little chat with the driver and to the person you are sitting next to. In Finland most of people say hi for the driver, but if you say everything more than that you are going to get weird eyes. And I think we should open little more. Take chat with people we don`t know and share some smiles. Other thing is own space. The rest of the world learned safety distance in about one and half year ago, but in here its old thing. Example in bus stop or markets cash desk you never go one or two meters closer for another person.
Should I tell something about Finnish culture? Well no problem, sauna, viina ja kirves. I think we have good taste humor about the dark sides of Finnishness, because pretty many things are stigmatizing. Like so many people in Finland think we have a big alcohol problem. I see it this way that we drink lot when we drink, but we spend less in overall picture. In Central Europe people take beer or wine almost everyday with dinner and lunch. In Finnish culture have of course own delicious tradition foods, like karelian pies and rye bread. At first time most of these foods are weird for foreign people, but everybody gonna love those after one taste!
After all Finland and Finnishness is a thing that you have experience and learn. Its unique, beautiful and little weird.
Things which comes to my mind first when thinking of Finnishness are sauna, nature, four seasons, coffee, strange sports and activities, cottage, lakes, northern lights, salt licorice, rye bread… I could just go on and on but instead of continuing I want to tell you interesting facts about some of these things.
Sauna. Sauna is definitely Finnish thing. We love saunas and almost everyone has sauna in their house. It’s a place where you can relax, have a couple of beer and talk about the purpose of life. There are also public saunas in Finland where people visit and spend time with friends.
Nature. Finland is known as the country of thousands lakes but that’s nowhere near the truth. Finland has more than 180 000 lakes, more than in any other country.
Four seasons. Finland has beautiful nature with its four seasons. We have 4 different seasons; summer, fall, winter and spring. When summer comes Finland offers round-the-clock sunshine.
Coffee. Finns drinks too much coffee. We drink approximately 10 kilograms coffee per person per year. It’s the most than anywhere else.
Different type of sports and activities. Finns have invented many strange and exotic sports. I think the most strange and funniest is Eukonkannon world championship. It is a sport that aims to carry a woman through an obstacle course as quickly as possible. There is also some other exotic world championship species such as mosquito hunting, boot throwing, air guitar playing and swamp football.
However, Finnishness means much more to me than the things mentioned above. I have lived in Finland my whole life and I love my country. There are many things we should be proud and thankful for. Things like safety, honesty, freedom and peace. There are times when it’s good to stop to think about things you value and are grateful for.
As a born and raised Finn the first things that come to mind about Finland are the Saunas, mökki life, drinking, forests, and the shy/reserved nature of the typical Finnish person. These things are amazing and I cherish them dearly and I would not swap my quiet summer mökki evenings for anything but on the other hand, there are those cold dark winter nights that just seem to suck the life out of me, this plays into the idea of Finland being the land of extremes.
Finland is the land of extremity, I feel that there is rarely any middle ground:
With the beautiful warm summer comes the cold dark winter
A quiet and Finn with a bit of alcohol can turn into the most outgoing person in the world
From the sauna which temperature is close to boiling, we like to jump into the frozen lake
In a nation that is so into peace and quiet is remarkable how many heavy metal bands we produce.
Many people have already explained how amazing Finland is in its extremes and beautiful this country truly is which I wholeheartedly agree with, but I want to take this opportunity to explore the negatives that this extremity can bring.
As a half Malaysian- Indian I do not look like the typical Finn having been born here and lived here my entire life my personality at least can be considered very Finnish. Being the way I look I have also experienced extremity in the way I’ve been treated, racism is still a major issue here and I don’t know how but something needs to be done about that, but on the good side, people are more often than not very understanding and extremely kind here in Finland. The extremity can also be felt politically Finns haven’t been this divided politically for a while, this is evident when you hear how people talk about other people with opposing ideologies e.g calling each other terrible names.
There is always good and bad in almost everything and Finland is one of those things our extremity that we experience in this country can bear fruit to the most beautiful things in the world like the sauna and the Finnish summer and the worst part of every year winter.. This is of course how I see it and it is subjective, things that I perceive as good might be the opposite to someone else, hell maybe both sides of the coin are amazing but how I see it Finland is a land of extremes and I cherish it.
This blog has presented so many different sides of Finnishness. I would like to focus on Finnish values from another perspective. Sure, we love sauna, frozen lakes and beer but I think there is so much more to mention.
Finns are very humble on everyday life. Don’t mind me -attitude is very common and it is always just easier to eat the wrong meal at a restaurant than to mention it was not what you ordered. Despite this attitude, we are very proud of anything that has made Finland knownto the whole world. Leijonat have won the ice hockey world championships three times already, Lordi won the Eurovision song contest 2006 and Sanna Marin was mentioned in Time magazine among the next 100 most influential people as a rising leader.
We have a beautiful country to live in, and at least once a year we remind ourselves how we got there. Every 6th of January we watch Tuntematon Sotilas and Linnanjuhlat on TV, eat well and have a drink to Finland and to all who fought for our independence. Finland is a free country where the state takes care of everyone, offers free health care and considers making new laws when 50 000 people agree on something.
So, among our war veterans we have many national heroes in addition. Finns have succeeded in many fields, and we take pride in all of them.
Like many of the Nordic countries, Finland has made huge progress in people’s equality and human rights issues. Gender equality has been improving fast. Finns have had many fighters for women’s rights and big steps have been took. Having female prime minister or female president has been normalized. Same sex marriages have been legal since 2017. The list goes on and the work for equality continues.
To me Finnishness is represented by sauna, sisu, the most wonderful coast, nature and lakes and always respecting social distance. As much as Finnishness is all these things, it is also safety, equality for everyone, freedom of speech and desire to go forward. For all these things, I am proud to be Finnish.
Nature and specifically forests are the first thing that comes to my mind from the word Finnishness. When I was a little my dad often took me to roam in the forests and taught me things about plants. Also, I used to go to pick up mushrooms with my grandmother. Later in life I’ve spend a lot of time in the forests playing with our family dogs. And even nowadays I sometimes enjoy a long walk in the forest. It truly calms me and nurtures my mind.
Finnish forests are amazing. We have A LOT ofthem. What’s great about them is that they’re very safe. We have very few forest animals that are dangerous, and they naturally avoid humans. The forest provides us with foods like many different varieties of berries and mushrooms. It also gives us wood, that is widely used material in Finland. In Finland we have this right called “jokamiehenoikeus” which freedom to roam in any forest and enjoy nature if you don’t harm it.
Many Finnish people learn no to love our nature and forest from very young age. Schools arrange field trips to forests where children can get to explore the nature by collecting plants and picking up berries and mushrooms. Many families have summer cottages outside of cities close to nature where people spend time during their summer holidays.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.