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.
I’m originally from Estonia so finnish culture was something new for me. Estonian culture is mostly borrowed from Russia etc. Finland, on the other hand, has culture mostly of it’s own. When I tell foreigners about Finland I begin with our education system and our healthcare. Those are the things I’m most proud of as a finn because our healthcare and education system are better than in most countries.
As others have written, nature is important to us. We are proud of our forests and lakes. The best way to enjoy our nature is to spend time at the cottage in the woods, near to a lake. That’s where townspeople and hard workers relax. Also we have many nature parks near to big cities and the cities itself have lots of vegetation. Our nature changes with the seasons and every season has it’s beauty. Finlands speciality is Lapland, where the winter is longest and snowiest. Summers in Lapland are magical. There you can experience the green mountains, the quiet deserts and the nightless nights. The northern lights are a must see!
Because nature and climate are so important to us, we carry a huge responsibility for them. Sometimes it can be overwhelming when we make not-so-good environmental decisions. Like when we buy plane tickets to somewhere warm and sunny in the middle of depressing winter or when we choose spanish cucumber instead of finnish because the taste is better. But we compensate our bad choices with many good choices. For example, our recycling system is very advanced and most finns utilize it. Our grocery store are full of greener and organic alternatives and finns prefer domestic products. Also the popularity of finnish recycled crafts and design is on the rise. Not forgetting our comprehensive and functional public transportation, which reduces private car use. Finnishness is love and great responsibility towards our nature.
Almost every time when I return back to Finland from a trip abroad, I realise how well things are in Finland. When I start thinking about what Finnishness means to me, these 6 things come up to my mind immediately.
- Equal & free education for everyone
I feel privileged and grateful that I have had the possibility to get educated for free because that is not the case in most parts of the world. Education makes the whole country function better overall as people know what they should aim at in order to get along. It helps people to try to achieve the lives they want to live.
- Free health care
Health care being free to every Finn is a big thing as well since insurances are quite expensive and every human needs to see a doctor once in a while. I believe free health care as well as education keep the country’s people all in all in better condition.
Every time returning back to Finland from abroad, I feel so safe after seeing what it’s like in other countries with totally different cultures and behavioral patterns. Of course, there are places and countries which are even safer than Finland but many times after travelling I feel safer in Finland. Although I know this is also partially because I have lived here my whole life and I know how people behave in this country.
- Beautiful nature
Lapland is my favorite part of Finland because of the beautiful landscapes and peaceful nature. The clean outdoor air is something I am very grateful of as well. Go and explore it yourself! 🙂
- Rye bread & homemade food
During my upcoming exchange I believe I will miss ryebread and homemade food mostly. They have a place in my everyday life in Finland and which I enjoy eating at home especially. In this case I could say that they are some kind of symbol of safety and home for me, so this is why I believe I will miss them during my exchange.
- Own space
Finns love their own space, for example in public transport they usually prefer sitting all alone. I also enjoy having a few moments for myself during the day as it helps me to relax and calm down after a busy day at work or school.
After years of travelling around the globe and exploring different cultures few thoughts have come to my mind. There are many things that I would like to change about Finnish culture, but also many that I am truly grateful and proud of.
I love our nature. Me and my friends have often joked about how most of Finland is only forest, but I grew up in a small town and my house was in the middle of forest and I have to say that some of my best memories growing up was playing with my friends in the forest making tree houses. We have many beautiful lakes, and during summer the colors are amazing. There is nothing better to do during summer than to go to a cabin in the lakeside and just relax and enjoy the calm environment. The Finnish nature is also one of the most recognizable and curious part of Finland for foreigners. Whenever I am abroad and tell someone that I am from Finland, they point out the beautiful nature.
I also appreciate our healthcare. As someone with a disease that will last a lifetime, I am truly grateful of the medical care and reduced medicine costs I can get here. I often wonder how I would survive living abroad where the medical costs can be very high. Here in Finland we get good care, and everyone has access to it.
Today’s world is full of conflicts and war, so I would also have to point out how great it is that it is so safe here in Finland. We don’t have any big natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, and crime rate is relatively low, and you can usually trust people. For example, in many other European countries, you couldn’t leave your bag unattended without someone stealing something. Security is very important to people’s wellbeing, and you can really feel that in Finland.
Something more carefree I also love about Finland is ice hockey. It is the only sport I understand and love to watch, maybe that is because it is one of the few sports that Finland is actually good at. When Finland is playing, almost the whole country goes insane with nothing but hockey in mind.
Part of Finnish culture that I don’t like is our eating and drinking culture. In Finland we eat dinner rather early in the day, around four or five, and we eat pretty quickly and then carry out with our day. In many other European cultures they eat dinner late, with whole family or with friends and spend time together. It would be nice to apply this more in Finland as well. I think Finnish drinking culture is a bit too much, as here many people drink just with the purpose of getting drunk, which is very unhealthy and bad habit.