Tag Archives: Finland

Finnishness in me

I have always struggled with the fact that I’m only Finnish and both of my parents are from Finland. I have felt that something is missing in me because I have the passion of different cultures and languages. When I was younger I was little a shamed even of my Finnishness and I thought that I will move out of Finland the minute I turn 18.

Still I stayed here and I have learned to love my Finnishness inside me. I have discovered that I can always learn about new cultures and see the world by traveling. Now days I like to tell the positive aspects of Finland rather than the negative which I did a lot in the past.

I have spend several periods aboard and home is Finland to me. I still want to move somewhere for few years but I want to built my family here in Finland. I think Finland is safe and great place for children and you can always travel to get new experiences. The Finnish weather is unique because we have all the seasons. Summer nights are something that I love and there’s no other than midnight sun that you can’t experience in many countries.

Finnishness

Finnishness means many things to me. The first thing that comes to my mind is the Finnish Independence Day on the 6th of December. All Finns gather to celebrate and honor the independence our grandparents fought for. I believe this day is the heart of all Finnishness.

The nature in Finland is clean and beautiful with its four seasons. I have been living in Northern Finland for my whole childhood before moving to Tampere.  In winter it can get extremely cold and in summer the sun is shining around the clock. Finland is also known for its northern lights, which people around the world come to see.

Finns are described as quiet, calm and humble people, which is often true. At first, Finns are not very open people but when you get to know them better, they can be very friendly and easy going. It can take a little longer to get to know them but the friendships are strong and will most likely last for a lifetime. The easiest way to understand and make friends with Finns is to go to the sauna with them. Most people in Finland have their own sauna and this is a very important tradition for us.

Finland is one of the safest and most equal countries in the whole world. Also, the education and healthcare systems are top-notch. It is great to live in a free country where everyone has the same opportunities. I’m proud to be Finnish.

Backbones of Finnishness

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.

My experiences of Finnishness

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.

My thoughts on Finnishness

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.

Brown Wooden Dock on Body of Water          Green Pine Tree Covered With Snow

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.

 

Finnishness

This blog contains my personal view of what it’s like to be a Finn. We are a bit shy and quiet around new people. But once we get to know each other better, we’ll be really forward and loud. We like to party, drink and go to festivals. On the other hand, we also like the silence of nature. Finland is a country with amazing forests and lakes. There is nothing better than having weekend at summer cottage by the lake with the people you like to be with. And for some reason fishing and having a beer after sauna gives me a peace of mind and I think I’m not the only one that feels this way.

I would also like to bring up sports that are also a big thing in being Finnish. We have a big amount of top tier athletes in different sports. But I think the best part is that you don’t even have to play anything yourself. When Leijonat was playing at the world cup or Huuhkajat finally got to Euros everybody was watching TV and cheering for team Finland. I myself like to go snowboarding and play football and ice hockey with my friends. Sports connects us and brings us together.

Finns are special. Or are they?

“Finnish culture is so unique!” Why is it always the Finn who brings this fact up and not the foreigner? Also, why Finns do not like to talk about themselves and are generally quite reserved, but when the conversations’ focus shifts from individual people to one’s culture, the quiet Finn rises from the corner table and talks hours on end about our sisu, sauna and Koskenkorva? This picture sums up my thoughts quite well. Our culture is not in the minds of foreigners even though we believe so.

 

In regular conversations about Finland, the most common topic Finns bring up is how Finnish language is among the hardest for foreigners to learn, as if it would be some kind of trophy to be proud of. The funny thing is that this notion among Finns is not even true. Recent study has shown that Finnish is not considerably harder to learn than other languages. The misconception of “Finnish being hard” in itself causes the language to become hard to learn for some because it discourages them to even begin. While it is true that a new language completely different to your own might be difficult to learn, it is far from impossible like some Finns boast.

This is not to say that our nation wouldn’t be unique from the rest. The sheer fact that our country is over one thousand kilometres long guarantees that there’s bound to be many distinct sub-cultures which makes our culture as a whole very diverse. There are many things in the Finnish culture none other culture has, but in all honesty, which culture is not like that? All cultures are unique in some way, Finns just seem to make a big deal about it.

Also, Finns laugh at foreigners for believing that there would be polar bears here. In fact, there are at least two, in Ranua zoo. Who’s laughing now, Finland?

-Arttu

My Experiences of Finnishness

As a Finn myself I have always somewhat resented the Finnish person stereotypes. Shy, reserved, quiet and cold (unless there is Koskenkorva). This is partly due to not being able to relate to them, but mainly because they all seem quite negative. They make us Finns seem like boring, unadventurous people, which most know; we are actually far from. I mean come on! We sit in a 100 degree room butt-naked, beating each other with twigs, just to minutes later jump into a freezing pile of snow. And this is just a basic Sunday.

A few years ago after backpacking on the other side of the world, I found a new perspective to look at all these stereotypes. I soon came to realize that all of those adjectives also have a brighter side. Maybe we are not shy – just observant. Maybe not reserved and quiet – just independent and respectful of peace and boundaries. We are not really cold – but appreciate honesty and authenticity, which we would like to identify before warming up. Koskenkorva is a nice way to start the party, but not a necessity for us to have a laugh. In fact, Finnish humor is one of a kind, and our close relationships warm and jolly.

In Finland we value our nature and family, our cultural roots and individuality, our education and health, our achievements and overcomings, and peacefulness and safety. The four seasons, sauna, our hockey team, summer cottages, salted licorice, lakes and forests are just some of the most beloved Finnish gems. All in all, Finland is a beautiful country with a great story, and us Finns are more than the age-old clichés. As with all other nationalities, stereotypes are often over-simplified generalizations that can be cracked beyond the surface.

 

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”.

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”!