Tag Archives: sauna

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.

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.

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.

The most authentic part in Finnishness

One of the most authentic experiences I love about Finland and Finnishness is a proper cottage experience. The best Finnish cottage is kind a rough and simple cottage in the middle of nowhere on the shore of lake or sea. You should not be able to see your neighbors to be fully relaxed.

The best moments about being on the cottage are the evenings and nights on the warm summer nights when the sun does not set at all. You can sit on the porch with your friends and family all night and complain about mosquitos and how those creatures are the most useless things in the whole world. You can also just sit there quietly and sip your drinks and just listen the sounds of the nature. It is almost enchanting to do that, the longer you do are quiet the more sounds of nature you will hear.

 

To have a full Finnish cottage experience, sauna and grilling must be included in equation. After sweating in wood cottage sauna, a freshening dip into lake is on point. And again, the porch is playing major role also in sauna experience. You will come out, sit on some bench, and have a conversation like this; “Phew, the wood sauna is something else”. After that you put fire in the grill and grill sausages or something else easy to eat.

For me, these cottage experiences are must haves at least couple times in summer. It brings me to origin Finnishness, own peace, the most important people around you, surrounded by nature and calmness in your heart and soul.

Finland is a small country with a big heart

As a finn myself, I see Finland as a country of trust. That is the core and heart of our country and our whole society is based on that. We are really reliable, that makes us a little vulnerable and naive in some situations. I feel that finnish people often wanna believe in the good in other people. We are very optimistic about life and I think that is one of the reasons why Finland is often ranked as a happiest country in the world. 

Finland has an amazing nature! I can’t imagine anything better than spending hot summer nights on cottage, watching sunshine on the lake. Going to the sauna and jumping into the warm water to swim. Fully enjoying the moment with your whole body and mind. Finnish nature is something like any other.

Finnish people take care of each others. You can rely on people and promises are a very serious thing here – they must been kept.

Finland is safe – that’s the thing what can’t miss. You can basically walk outside any time of the day with minimum risk to get into danger. You can also let your kids walk to school on their own which is very unique thing on this world. You don’t have to be worried all the time.

Finnish people are often claimed to be shy, maybe even cold but I think that is really far from the truth. We sure appreciate our own personal space and silence is not feeling unnatural to us but that’s because we put a lot of value in every word we say to another person. Often we don’t say anything more, than it’s needed. We are really ”on the point” type of people. And I actually think that it’s one strength about us.

When you come to Finland, it is hard to miss the coffee culture in here. In fact, finnish people are the biggest coffee consumers on the world and you can notice it everywhere. We have coffee breaks at work, you drink coffee while visiting your friends or family, you have to get your morning coffee to stand up. Coffee is what keeps us finns up and going!

Last but not least – the sauna. There are saunas almost in every house or apartment building in the country – and we sure use them! It is our way to relax on the weekend – or just run away from cold weather. Finland is not Finland without our unique sauna culture. 

Finnishness is about trust, reliable people, coffee, soul-relaxing silence, amazing nature in the summer nights and of course hot saunas. Finland as a country is a home, place, where to feel safe and comfortable. Atleast for me.

Photos:

https://www.pexels.com/fi-fi/kuva/aamu-maisema-luonto-taivas-4081119/

https://pixabay.com/photos/bath-firewood-design-sauna-blow-1317997/

https://pixabay.com/photos/helsinki-cathedral-cathedral-church-4189824/

 

 

 

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”!

My thoughts on Finnishness

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.

Summer in Finland, view of a lake

My thoughts about Finnishness

Finnish nightmares

For me Finnishness is a lot about personality. Finnish people need their own personal space and peace, even in public. If you go in to an elevator with other people in Finland, you don`t get much eye contact, because all the other people are staring at their feet, ground, walls or the roof of the elevator.  If you accidentally put out words like: “good morning” to a stranger in an elevator with you, you might just get odd looks like you would have escaped from a mental hospital or something. You can also see the need of a personal space in public transport like buses or trams. You can never sit beside a stranger, if there is even one empty pair of seats anywhere on the vehicle, because if you do,  you probably get the same kind of look than in the elevator when you open your mouth.

Sauna, beer and sausage

Three words that fits in to any Finns mouth. No matter if its spring, summer, autumn or winter, this holy triangle is close to every Finns heart. Especially in summer, the beer and sausage part takes a big part of a native Finns life, because grilling is the thing you just have to do at summer, no matter if it rains or shines. More than just a few times i`ve grilled under umbrella, but it is worth it, because the sausage tastes even better when you have needed a bit of sisu while cooking it. Being a fanatic fan of ice hockey is also big part of Finnishess. That is why the holy triangle will be emphasized during ice hockey world championship games, and once in a blue moon when Finland makes it in to the finals or even wins the cup, the importance of these things go off the charts. These things walk hand in hand.

 

That is what being a true Finn is.

Finnishness in the eyes of a non Finn

I mean I have lived here basically my whole life, but I still wouldnt call my self a Finn. My roots are from Bosnia originally. I’ll base this blogpost off of my own experiences and my own everyday life.

The first thing that comes up to my mind when talking about Finnish people or culture and I’m not even joking but alcohol.

Atleast among students alcohol is seen as a kind of stress reliever. When you’ve got 2 essays and a few difficult tests on the same week it can get pretty stressful, so a student party and a get together with your friends can occasionally help I guess. Also when you’ve worked the traditional 9-5 job the whole week you often find yourself drinking over the weekend with your friends. I’ve been in a couple of situations when deciding not to drink the people around me ask is something wrong, its actually kind of funny.

Some of the many boozes in Finland.

The second thing is sports. Whenever theres news that some Finn or Finns are doing good in some sport in a major tournament it gathers a lot of viewers. I’d say a good example is when a e-sports team called Ence was competing in a CS:GO tournament called Katowice Major. Myself and my friends have not watched any e-sports, but when we heard of this, of course we intented to watch it. The tournament gathered a lot of views from Finland and it was actually exciting to watch. They ended up in 2nd place and they really made a name for themselves. My point with this is that no matter the sport Finnss always gather up and root for their own to win, even though they have not watched the sport, like ever.

 

The last things come actually as a package almost. Im talking about cottage, sauna and nature. You cant have one without the other. Finlands nature during the summer is just beautiful to look at. Especially in your own cottage when you’ve got your own peace you can just relax and take it easy. Cottages usually at best reside by the seaside but most of them reside on the shore of a lake away from the busy city life.

A pic taken by me at my friends cottage

 

 

Finnishness

For me, Finnishness means lots of different things. The first thing that came to my mind is nature. I feel like most Finnish people have a close connection with it. There’s always nature nearby and you don’t have to walk far to find a forest. I love how easy it is to find a place where there’s no one else and you can just be alone and enjoy the silence and calmness. It’s the perfect place to collect your thoughts together if you feel stressed about something. Us Finns really appreciate the quietness and our own personal space.

I also love the contrasts in Finland such as the cold, long, dark winters and the warm, short, light-filled summers. Also, the change of seasons looks so beautiful in nature, especially in the autumn.

Even though the Finnish summer is short, there’s even more to do for example visiting the local markets, music festivals and amusement parks. The local markets in Finland offer lots of traditional Finnish foods and you should definitely go to one if you are visiting Finland. Finns love fish and I would recommend trying the traditional Finnish salmon soup or fried vendace. Afterwards, you should have a cinnamon bun with a cup of coffee. Did you know that Finnish people consume the most coffee in the world? Well, now you know!

My absolute favourite thing during the summer is to have a swim in the lake and go to a sauna after that. Sauna, swim, repeat! There’s nothing more Finnish than a sauna. In winter cross-country skiing is a must and would recommend that to anyone who’s visiting Finland during the winter. Nothing beats a cup of hot chocolate after your skiing session.

And you can’t forget mushroom hunting and berry picking. There are so many great things that nature offers us here!