This blog is your window to Finnishness. Here you will find blog posts written by students of Tampere University of Applied Sciences (TAMK) describing their personal experiences and notions of being a Finn or living in Finland.
What first pops to mind when thinking about our Finnishness are typical stereotypes of Finnish people. They are quiet and shy people, they need their own space, etc. Although a lot of these stereotypes might be common features in Finnish people I don’t see it as a bad thing. I think it’s one of the things that makes Finnish people unique.
One on my favorite things about being a Finn is our honesty. We are straightforward with each other maybe even too honest sometimes. We speak what is on our mind. You rarely get cheated in Finland on deals or if you lose something most of the time it will be returned to you.
Small talk, etiquette and personal space
I’m glad that we don’t have the same kind of small talk like they do in other countries. Don’t get me wrong meeting new people and chatting with strangers is fun occasionally, but sometimes you just want to be alone and quiet. Talking about the weather gets a little bit boring after chatting about it for the 6th time that day. I don’t think that in Finland we take etiquette that seriously. For example, if you buying a coffee and you forget to say please or thank you to the clerk it isn’t that big of a deal. The clerk won’t give you an attitude about it. I believe that’s because Finns are taught to be respectful in a different way. We follow rules and societal norms. We show our respectfulness with our actions not with what comes out our mouth. Finnish people need their personal space where they feel comfortable. If someone were to approach a Finn in his one meter radius safe space unpleasant. They do have the same in other cultures as well, but I don’t think it’s that emphasized as it is in Finland.
First thing that comes to peoples minds about Finnish people is shyness and that they don’t come near you if they don’t have to. I guess that’s true in some situations. My experience is that, Finnish people just don’t say anything if they don’t have anything to say and they keep distance of people just because they don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable. (and they love own personal space) I have noticed, that Finnish people are getting better in small talk, usually its about a bad weather but still!
Because of internet and social media, Finnish people are also getting more sparkly with their looks and personalities. When you walk at the center of Tampere or Helsinki, you can see more colors and patterns in peoples clothes. Not only on youngsters but also on elders! It is great that Finnish people are also expressing them selfs with clothes, not only in facebook groups.
I have also noticed that Finnish peoples helpfulness and symphaty for other people is increased in past few years. Especially in facebook you can see this more and more companies and individual persons offering help for another. Everyday I notice someone needing for help and random people are offering their help without any counter-service! For example, group “Hätäkahvit” is one of Facebook groups where random people offers help for another.
Like everyone know, Finnish peoples love nature. It’s amazing how Finnish people are thinking global warming seriously and doing something about it. More Finnish companies are doing their part and people are recycling more and thinking about they behavior. We are proud of our nature and we are ready do to work to keep it healthy and beautiful.
Finnish people are shy, grumpy and need there personal space, but they are also getting little bit more helpful and curious about other peoples business.
I have thought this blog text couple days now and have ruffled the other blog text’s quickly. There were only couple of students mentioning that some Finnish phrases really won’t translate in any other language. And everybody knows that Finland is best known from it’s beautiful nature “the land of thousands lakes and forrests”, shy people and ice-hockey. So I will focus on couple of the Finnish phrases in this blog text.
“Oma lehmä ojassa”
“Own cow in a dike” – It doesn’t seem as it would mean that you are doing something because the cow is yours and not the neighbors cow. So you’re doing something for your own good or there’s something vested interest. Do you see the logic? Same kind of phrase in English would be “Own horse in the race”.
“Rakkaudesta se hevonenkin potkii”
“The horse kicks out of love, too” – A phrase we have taught already in kindergarten when the kids tease each other “because” they have a crush on you or something like that. Actually it doesn’t make sense in Finnish either. Horses won’t kick if they love someone. But why we have this? I don’t really know.
“Ahneella on paskanen loppu”
“Greedy has a shitty ending” – This actually makes sense (for Finnish at least). If you’re too greedy everything can turn out as shit. So to us it means be even little bit humble and don’t get too greedy.
“Sitä saat, mitä tilaat”
“You get what you are ordering for” or “Ýou get what you pay for” – But actually it means that if you’re doing nice things you’ll receive nice things and if you’re mean the karma will get you.
“Kell’ onni on, se onnen kätkeköön”
“The one who has happiness, should hide it” – Do not brag. Finns believe that if you show off how happy you are, you will lose it. Have you ever seen an article of Finnish lottery winner before they have already lose the wins? Me neither.
If someone asked me, what is the best about Finland or Finnish my first thought would be nature. Nature is important to Finn. Thera are so many forests and lakes in Finland. We have got used to, that there is only short walk to nearest forest in Finland. It is privilege that we have so many forest because short walk to forest may be rarely in some other countries. It is also great that many of these forests and lakes are public, so everyone has possibility to go to walk in forest, pick berries or swim on the lakes.
I think that our love to nature tells us that we appreciate clean air and environment. It tells us also, that sometimes we need stillness and time for ourselves. The forest is place to calm down, forget the rush and turn off the phones.
I think Finnish nature is very beautiful in every season although we have long and dark fall and winter.
Finnish food isn´t the most popular or tastiest compared to other countries food, for example there are many jokes about mämmi, the traditional Finnish Easter food. Spices don’t belong to Finnish kitchen. Food is simple and flavoured only with salt and pepper.
(mämmi; traditional Finnish Easter food)
There aren’t long family dinners in Finland, where is invited friends and neighbours. I think this tells about us, that we aren’t so social and like to be with our own family on weekdays. Home has to be clean and perfect, if someone is invited to visit. I guess that is very Finnish thought. But if a Finn invite you to dinner or cup of café, there are so many foods and pastries and almost everything has to be eaten.
Spontaneous dinners aren’t Finnishness, but long designed dinners are.
Finnish people are very honest. Finland may not be the promised land of small talk, actually the majority of Finns are quite taciturn. We enjoy quietness here and even when hanging out with friends it’s not uncommon to have some silent moments. I believe that here it’s actually more appreciated that you speak when you have something even borderline meaningful to say rather than being babbling about virtually nothing for hours.
When Finnish people open their mouths, you will get the truth. If a Finn compliments your outfit, they must really like it. Otherwise they wouldn’t dare to say anything. In general, Finns don’t give compliments for free. So pat yourself on the back – you must have done something really great when you get praised here.
On the other hand, you will definitely know when a Finn is pissed off. You will either read it from their face or hear it from their mouth – and this applies to a number of customer service workers as well. Somehow It feels more acceptable over here than anywhere else in the world…
“Kalsarikännit” and other peculiar expressions
I wouldn’t say that the Finnish language is very beautiful. However, I quite like it despite the angry sounding R’s and strong double consonants. Finnish also has many funny and weird expressions, such as “kalsarikännit” that some of you might already be familiar with – it basically means getting drunk at home in your underwear with no intention to go out. Even everyday expressions like “myötähäpeä” or “vahingonilo” are interesting and sometimes so difficult to explain to non-Finnish speaking people.
Another great thing about Finnish language is that it you may speak quite freely and carelessly when outside of Finland since the chances that someone understand you are quite slim. Maybe don’t tell all your secrets in public, however..
Check the video below for some more funny Finnish words and expressions!
WEIRD FINNISH WORDS? | LEARN FINNISH WITH EMMA - YouTube
Independence is a norm
Finnish children are brought up to be very independent from a young age. It’s not unusual to see even elementary schoolers walking a long way home from school or taking the bus by themselves. In Finland, children know how to make at least some kind of snack for themselves, women carry heavy items without the need for anyone and young men have at least some basic knowledge on sewing after their middle school studies.
Finns are often reluctant to ask for help, which makes it even more crucial to know how to manage on your own. I think it would be greatly beneficial for children in other countries to also be taught cooking and sewing skills like in Finland. I am still unable to sew myself!
People are different when it comes to tolerating silence. Someone thinks it is fine to be quiet when hanging out with friends while someone else has the need to keep the conversation going and to avoid silence. To my mind, Finnish people can cope with silence quite well. Here it is okay to sit on a bus and not to talk to anyone, especially to strangers. People usually queue in silence and don’t start a conversation just because they feel like talking. Sometimes I have had conversations with strangers while waiting for a music concert to begin. In those cases, we shared an interest in something –the band – and there was no need to figure out what to talk about.
(Picture: Finnish Nightmares)
Despite the above-mentioned examples I wouldn’t say Finnish people don’t know the art of small talk. I’ve had chats with strangers in situations I usually wouldn’t talk to anyone, e.g. when waiting for a bus or sitting on a train. Especially at bus stops older people tend to comment on the weather and then continue the conversation. I remember small talk situations well because they do not happen too often. On the other hand, it is nice to mind my own business but then again it’s great to meet new people, even if it was only for a brief chatting.
Another point of silence is the absence of noise. In cities, there are all kinds of noise, e.g. cars, construction sites, announcements… Luckily in Finland it is easy to get away from the noise. One doesn’t need to go far to get to a more silent place. There are forests and hiking trails close to cities or even within them. In today’s world noise may cause problems such as stress or a headache. If noise is work related it is hard to escape from it. That is why I value places where people can go on their free time to enjoy the silence.
Observations of a girl from the country of many trees, bilberries and lakes. Why are they so important to us anyway? There are some pictures, and real-life stories to prove why. Playing the lead in these tales – exclusively Finland.
Chapter 1 – Hiking in Lapland
What a long day of hiking! We’d been walking through thick forests and over barren fells for a few hours and been fascinated by still ponds, beautifully flowing streams and enchanting silence that can only be experienced in a remote place like this. Along the way there was a wood full of fallen trees. When I went to see those trees a bit closer, I realized that the ground was all blue – of berries! So, there I was, picking up those nutritious delicacies, concentrating on their beauty one at a time, knowing they would serve me as a snack, dessert and breakfast. There is something so liberating to be able to do all this for free, without time limitations or distractions any kind.
You feel such tranquillity and security when surrounded by strong spruce forests and still waters. Just before falling asleep, one might hear the call of an owl or a fish splashing, that’s all.
Chapter 2 – Always changing light
There is only one hour between these two pictures and look how much even short a time affects the scenery. During the darkest time of the year, which is around the last two months, it feels like you are living in a sack. It certainly acts as a nice counterbalance to the summer when the light literally never dies. It gave me such a warm feeling inside to see the sun that day of December – even though it didn’t want to stay for long and was distant and cold as ever. Yet what could be better than getting chilled in frosty weather and going inside after, getting wrapped in a fluffy, colossal blanket and enjoying a couple mugs of hot chocolate and tasty rye sandwiches.
Chapter 3 – Finland objectively
What makes Finland special, I wonder…
It must be our close bond with nature and how we utilize it from day to day. There is also certain beauty in our modest appreciation towards our surroundings. Anyone can go outdoors any time they want, and it is free and completely safe to pick up fresh food from the forest.
Finland is a great place for nature lovers because of its four seasons and diverse, clean environment, which enable a great variety of outdoor activities. A big part of Finnish magic is in the contrasts that can be experienced through four seasons – all having their specific features. Seeing the Northern Lights for the first time, oh that’s something!
Finnish people and their quietness yet strength of character, are like reflections of Finnish nature. The land is frozen eight months of the year, as are our minds prone to melancholy. Like the trees silently carry the heavy weight of snow, we work hard to maintain our privileged position as one of the most equal, educated and safest countries in the world.
Finnishness as a term is a combination of multiple variables, Finnishness is about being a small united nation in a vast world. Since Finland is rather small in terms of population and most people are of the same ethnicity we are very united regarding our way of thinking and manners. If one was to take two Finns from anywhere in the country and group them together there most probably wouldn’t be any difficulty in finding common ground. If you take a look at Finland today it’s hard to imagine this nation was in civil war 100 years ago. We are that united nowadays.
Finnishness is not only about being a Finn it’s also a state of mind. Adjectives tied to Finnishness include persistence, sulkiness, progressiveness, modesty and the most important of all: honesty.
Persistence: Finns don’t give up easily and prefer to finish what they have started. Finnish persistence in action (WARNING: video contains explicit language):
Suomalainen sisu - YouTube
Sulkiness: Finns may appear sulky because we don’t do small-talk. Small-talk just isn’t a part of Finnish culture. Most of us don’t feel the need to participate in small-talk and we have no problem sitting in silence. People very rarely initiate conversations with strangers on public transports. Even though Finnish people might seem sulky compared to other nationalities that is most certainly not the case. Finns are actually very nice and warm people once you get to know them but compared to people from other cultures Finns are relatively quiet at first. However once one manages to befriend a Finn and gain their trust, they’ve got a loyal friend for life.
Progressiveness: Finland is one of the most progressive countries in the world in terms of human rights and technology. In Finland gender equality is the norm and it says in the law that nobody should be treated differently because of their sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity or gender. Also going green and recycling is considered to be cool in Finland.
Honesty: Finns are incredibly honest. They will tell you about the best deals instead of trying to get as much money out of you as possible. Finns are taught since childhood to strive to be honest and as a result most are.
Modesty (WARNING: explicit language and comedy content, please don’t take too seriously.):
Finnish modesty and shyness in politics - YouTube
We are very proud of our education system as well as our thousands of lakes and billions of trees. Other Finnish prides include our national ice hockey team and success in winter sports such as cross-country skiing. However whenever Finland has success in something or somebody says something positive about Finland, the Finnish modesty comes in. We always seem to have excuses for succeeding: “We were lucky.” “The conditions were in our favor.” etc.
Finland’s biggest pride, men’s national ice hockey team, in action:
Finland's Hilariously Bad Line Change vs Czech Rep May 4, 2014 HD - YouTube
There are many things to be proud of when thinking Finland or Finnishness; school system, health care, safety, equality, honesty … And of course, the nature of Finland and the sauna!
In Finland we are happy to have four different seasons of the year. They all are very special and have their own perks.
December to February
-30’C – 0’C
White activities; downhill and cross-country skiing, ice-skating, ice-fishing
Christmas and Santa Claus
Spring March to May
0’C – +10’C
1 of May – Vappu
Grass growing and the leaves bursting forth
Summer June to August
+15’C – +32’C
Endless summer days when the sun doesn’t set
Relaxing summer cottage life
Autumn September to November
+2’C – +15’C
Colourful leaves, “ruska”
Cozy evenings, hot drinks, candles, books, movies, wool socks
“Build the sauna, then the house”
The Finnish sauna is a big part of Finnish culture. There are over three million saunas in Finland – so an average of one per household. I have heard that there are more saunas than cars in Finland! Another fun fact – even a Burger King located in Helsinki has the world’s first in-store sauna and spa.
For Finnish people sauna is a place to relax, socialize, have a couple of drinks and enjoy. Many Finns who have the opportunity usually take a sauna at least once a week. There is no matter what season or time it is, you can always go to sauna.
Finnish people are warm, open and honest, even though they might tell you the exact opposite. Us, as Finns, may see ourselves totally differently than other people. There’s a myth Finns are awkward and quiet people but if you’ve ever met a Finn, we are actually talkative and hospitable people.
But not all the things you have heard are a myth: we indeed value our personal space and love to sit naked with other people in a steamy, hot sauna. We are aware of this stereotypical image but we don’t take it too seriously. We actually are good of self-deprecating humor and we can laugh to ourselves. Finns are not big small talkers and quiet moments in conversations are not considered awkward. Silence merely means the person doesn’t have anything important to say. This means we, as Finns, are genuine and honest. There’s no necessity to fill gaps in conversation with chatter. This can be a good or a bad thing. Since we are very punctual, and want everything to make sense, we might come out as boring and serious. Even when World Happiness Repost announced that Finland is the happiest country in the world, we criticized the methodology of the study and questioned its conclusions. I guess we criticize it because we are modest and as a small nation, it is a bit overwhelming when our country is mentioned on the news around the world . We are aware of how powerful other countries are and how small ours is, so it might be hard to believe our country could be the best in something.
What I have always valued about Finland is the feeling of being safe. Finland is ridiculously safe. I’ve walked in the forest in the middle of nowhere at 3 a.m. and never had trouble or any reason to be frightened. You do read or hear about violence in the news, but it’s nowhere near as frequent as in the news in US or rest of Europe. I feel perfectly safe here, I consider myself lucky to live in such a trustworthy country, as I can be pretty naive myself. From my perspective, maybe one of the reason’s I feel so safe here is because of people and the nature.
In Finland, nature is never far away and Finns have a love connection with it. Getting away from civilization time to time is greatly valued, that’s why you can see many Finns walking in the woods, collecting their thoughts or spending time with their friends or family. The spring is an amazing time in Finland. After long and dark winter, it starts to get warmer and sunnier and this springtime is filled with smiling and easy-going people. Spring and summer is the time, when I think, Finns are happiest. The Finnish summer is so short that we want to enjoy it to the fullest. The amount of events from music festivals to local markets, the long summer nights and Midsummer gathering with your closest friends and family, is simply astounding and makes it the best time of the year for Finns. But winter is very much liked as well. There’s nothing better than relaxing at home drinking Glögi after being outside in the cold snow whole day.
As I have been traveling the world I have started to appreciate Finland even more. There’s many things that are good in here: equality, education, cleanliness and silence. As much as I love traveling around the world, it always feels good to come home. Finland is so calm and quiet which you can really appreciate after spending weeks or months in cities, where it is busy day and night, and full of people. Air in Finland is so fresh and you have the freedom to roam around the nature as much as you like. No wonder Finland and Finns are starting to get more popular around the world: we rock!