Tag Archives: Finnish stereotypes

Finnishness

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.

Refactoring the Finnishness

When one should describe the typical Finn, we often hear following stereotypical things. Finns are shy, they love salmiakki and sauna, and can overcome any obstacles with their strong guts (sisu). Plus, Finns love sauna and getting drunk. Speaking of alcohol, this is troublesome especially during the midsummer eve, as we love swimming too.

So there you have one version of traditional Finnishness. But is this really true? To be honest, in the modern society we don’t rely on stereotypes, at least we shouldn’t. We shouldn’t describe Finnishness by the book, but make our own version of it from own experience. That’s what I’m going to do.

juhannus

To me Finnishness means loving the nature, and being proud of ourselves/our customs. This might be due the fact that many countries don’t care/know about Finland, but when we are acknowledged internationally, we feel like achieved something relevant (We go to ‘torille’). Thus, we have formed a way to like the things we are good at like ice hockey. This can be seen, for example, in the latest UEFA 2021. Finland hasn’t been very good at football, but they did very well this year. Suddenly all Finnish people were watching and talking about football, even though they weren’t earlier into it. Paradoxically Finns are humble, but we secretly think ourselves better in some aspects. In addition to humility, Finns are quite law-abiding citizens, we respect education and our customs like sauna for example.

As the globalization has tied more countries together and mixed different cultures, Finnishness too has changed. Therefore, we all are not like described above. Not only due the globalization, but due the individuality in the center of today’s society – we want to separate from the mass. Not all Finns love sauna or drink alcohol or have a cottage to go during the summer. Some of us love living in the cities, brag about themselves, and might like things from other cultures closer to our heart. It all comes to our surroundings which make us what we are, and what we want to be like. We are influenced a lot by other countries and global trends, for example by American products, which changes ourselves and therefore Finnishness itself. This is by no means bad thing, it’s just the way it is.

In a summary, traditional Finnishness is about the stereotypes we all know. At its core, we are on a way to become this stereotyped Finn, because we are affected by our surroundings (our parents say that mämmi is good and make us eat it. So there’s potential we start to like it too). However, the globalization and our awareness of individuality has changed us to choose our own path, so Finns along with the Finnishness are constantly changing as they represent our people.

Life as a Finn

Finnish people are pretty individual. We might have a close relationship with our family and friends, but otherwise we might be circumspect and distant. We like to keep our own space and not to come too close to other people.

Finns are really exact. If we agree to do something on a certain date, we will do that. And we like to be on time, rather 5 or 10 minutes early, and we don’t like if someone else is late from an agreed time.

 

We are effective and we don’t like to keep our customers waiting. That’s why you can assume fast service almost everywhere you go.

Finns do not like to talk about money or politics.

There’s no small talk, and it doesn’t represent rudeness or a lack of interest.

There are no hierarchies. Everyone is equal and deserves the same amount of respect.

 You can buy wine only from Alko, which is a State Alcohol Company. We don’t tend to drink wine often, for example with a dinner. Alcohol itself is served more like on special occasions.

In Finland there’s no big income or social differences. A plumber and a lawyer can be great friends and no one thinks it’s shameful or weird.

 

Fun fact: In Finland there’s a verb called ”kursailla” and it means that when a host asks you to sit on to the table to drink coffee and eat, no one will do that. Usually the atmosphere is also really tense. I think it’s because everyone wants to show as much hospitality as possible, and we think it’s rude to be the first one drinking and eating.

Pictures attached are taken from Finland, Tampere and Nokia. They represent very well Finland’s different seasons.

Top 3 things to do when trying to be Finnish!

For reasons unknown to me, there seems to be a growing need for people to find fact based and proven methods to achieve a certain state of “Finnishness!”. To meet this need head-on I have compiled a list of undisputable facts about what you need to be doing in order to achieve this elusive goal.

  1. Become one with the Rye Bread

Like with many other cultures, the way to start on the path that is knowing real Finnishness is to fall in love with its cuisine.  Often times the food stuffs consumed inside certain cultures are a great way to get glimpse inside the mind-set of a nationality.

In Finland’s case, that glimpse requires the consumption of some stone-hard, teeth-breaking, soul-draining and man-kneeling Rye Bread. This thing is hard as life. There is no place for egos here and humility is paramount when partaking in chewing of this life altering substance. It has kept the bowels of many generations of Finns clean as a whistle through centuries.

It truly is the perfect metaphor for the Finnish understanding of itself and its position in the world, which is to be humble and hardworking over everything else.

If you are successfully able to chew through a packet of “Jälkiuunileipä” you truly are one great step closer towards finding real Finnishness!

 

  1. Practice the art of intense listening

Second skill to acquire when aiming for that sweet, sweet title of a “Finn” is quietness. Silence. The art of no-talk-and-have-the-expression-of-deep-thought.

This skill involves the usage of many facial muscles: Squinting of your eyes to add some gravitas and give the impression of focus, tightening of lips to make sure you don’t give out your position on the matter that’s been discussed too early, slowly nodding maybe for approval or maybe because he arrived to a conclusion of some sort, who knows?

The point is, just be quiet and keep your distance. It will make you seem a lot smarter than you probably are and it will cut down the time required to spend on these annoying social-interaction situations (which, by the way are hated by all Finns).

 

  1. Sauna: institutionalized nudism

Last thing you got to learn, in order to receive your congratulatory, Finnish government mandated Waist Pack, is to embrace yourself, without any clothes, in a hot and steamy room with complete strangers, while whipping everyone inside that steamy and hot room with tree branches.

While doing this holy ritual, it will dawn upon you that everything you read on this list of must-dos is a fallacy. While inside that hallowed space of a sauna, sitting butt-cheek against a butt-cheek with strangers, all the things you got told about Finns wash away. Suddenly closeness isn’t a problem and a non-stop conversation, with some dry jokes, becomes the standard. Life doesn’t appear as hard anymore and inside that dark, steamy room you can finally see that those weird Finns with their weird tribal customs aren’t really that weird or different after all.

Sami Juntunen