Born in Finland and raised in another Country, without never have lived in Finland, only some memories that I had when I used to visit Finland every summer was difficult to understand the meaning of Finnish culture.
I never really get to know what Finnish culture is, what kind of customs Finns have and the most important how society works. Coming to Finland for studies was a moment that I was really waiting for, I really wanted to see what Finland really is.
The truth is except for the heavy Winter which is a little bit difficult for me to handle, I got excited with the whole packet. The nature is amazing, you can find forest and lakes wherever you go, its an opportunity to have some time with yourself and enjoy the green. The combination of sauna and cold winter creates an atmosphere that only in stories you find. Also, the winter and snow give the opportunity to try winter sports such as snowboarding and skiing, which from personal experience are extremely fun and challenging. Sauna with a traditional Finnish sausage (makkara) is what I look forward to when I am abroad and the combination of sauna and frozen lake. Probably you have heard that Finns are not the most open people in terms of public relations but when you get to know them they are the most friendly and honest people. Anywhere you go shops, restaurants, cafeterias they are extremely helpful and ready to provide the best possible services.
The innumerous lakes that Finnish land consists of is amazing, is the country with the largest number of lakes in the world. Anywhere you are there always be a lake close by for a chill walk or camping.
When thinking about Finland and ‘’Finnishness’’ it instantly reminds me of the vast forest and many lakes. According to my traveling experiences, there really aren’t lakes in anywhere as in Finland.
When I describe Finnish people to other nationalities I usually joke about how quiet and depressed our people are. Darkness in Finland makes the Finnish people turn to heartless and quiet soul. Of course, this is not the case, but I guess one think is that Finnish people quite often are rather sarcastic and friends with black humor.
The ultimately best thing in ‘’Finnishness’’ is sauna and Finnish summer. Nothing beats the weekend at a cottage by a lake with friends. Being able to relax near the nature and chill at sauna.
As a person coming from the Eastern Europe, the first cultural shock when introduced to the Finnishness was a big thing. Upon coming to Finland I did not know much about the culture or the country itself apart from snow, ice, cold and dark, sauna and a few very colorful words I’d rather not share (but I bet you guys know what I mean 😉 ). When I came here I found it was far more than that- a very well organized country with people eager to help you. Finnish law is created in such way that it helps the people and everyone follows it almost unquestionably, which is uncommon for other countries.
One of the things that really amazed me was Finnish nature- the vast forests, the lakes, the wild hares and squirrels running around you. Peace rules here. Untouched, cultivated yet virgin and hiding many miraculous places.
Of course some of the stereotypes turned out o be true- most people are not very open to new acquaintances, sauna is an inseparable part of winter days and it’s easy to befriend Finns there if you bring extra makkara ja sinappi.
Having been living in Finland for more than 2 years, it is still complex to convey “Finnishness” in the most succinct or dictionary-like way. Since the word itself consists of the whole nature as well as the culture of the country. Therefore, I would like to describe it with my little experiences as an adapting alien here.
I was born and raised in a Southeast Asian country where all the skyscrapers are being built parallel with the growth of the massive population, where all people are hustling in the never-sleep city. Hence, coming to Finland is like a breath of fresh air to me at that time. Instead of being overwhelmed by concrete jungles in the city, I was amazed by how well nature blends among the modern city and the ancient European architecture; instead of being hustling, people here slowly enjoy their day under the sunlight. Everything is too pure and peaceful, but that peacefulness will turn into tons of laughing and talking in the sauna, where all the shyness was taken place by the more joyful version of Finns.
However, the honeymoon phase passed pretty quickly, since the summer here is much shorter than winter. Growing up in a tropical country whose temperature is never below 25 degrees Celcius, the first time I saw snow and exposed up to -20 degrees was crazily unforgettable. But, the cold made people closer to each other. Because we will spend more time at home to share the cozy atmosphere with a hot cup of tea, scented candles and some movie nights can bring happiness to the Finns. If you think of happy as how safe you feel when walking alone at midnight, how such a simple thing like a hot tea in a cold day or just unexpected sunlight on a winter day brings joy to you, how peaceful your mind is when you are embraced by the mesmerizing nature instead of how big your house is, how rich you are; Finnishness could cover the meaning of that simply happy.
Almost all Finns honestly admit of their being introverted and shy. They are normally reluctant to start a conversation with their friends let alone strangers. Shy as they are, they never overlook your achievement. Every Finns I know is very supportive like encouraging others with compliments or always ready to help you. I could say Finnishness is the quiet but reliable and supportive friend that everyone needs.
Adapting to a new culture is not easy especially from Asian to Finnish one. I am still on the journey of learning and exposing myself to the Finnishness and I am sure that it is one of the milestones in my adulthood adventure
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.
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.
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?
Safety and freedom are some of the best things I like in a Nordic country. I can just go to walk alone in the middle of the night in a park and the risk of anything bad happening is really small. I also appreciate the nature. I can go to a summer cabin or just hike in the nature and enjoy its beauty, breath the pure air and swim in a fresh water lake. Well, I don’t own a summer cabin but I go to my friends’ cabins. Sometimes with friends, we rent a cabin for some occasion like the midsummer solstice celebration. I guess that I will miss the Finnish sauna a lot while being out of the country. Going to a sauna and swimming in a lake is the best combination ever.
As a Finn I was subjected to the horror of bad Finnish food. In school, at home, in many places. Of course I liked some foods like Karelian pies or mämmi. After I moved into my own apartment I stayed as far away from most Finnish foods as possible. After a long time I’ve understood that many of the foods can also be done well. I learned to cook some of them and nowadays I have started to appreciate more and more of the typical Finnish foods.
We have survived from from our bigger neighbours attempt to occupy our nation. We have learned to survive in the harsh conditions of the north. We were a second nation in the world to implement full universal suffrage in 1906. Finnish culture has lots of music, literature and everything. We have interesting history. There are many things I wish to know better. We are tough and reserved but on the other hand all the Finnish people I know are different. Maybe the things that are most common to us are need for personal space and honesty. Maybe those are the most common Finnish traits that define us.
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. 😀