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Finnish traditions and a way of life

Finland is an easy country to visit. Finnish customs and manners are mostly European, of course, there are a few national variations. Finnish attitudes are liberal. Finns don´t expect foreigners to know much about their country, but they´ll be pleased if a visitor is familiar with some milestones of Finnish history or sports achievements. Finnish people love to read things written about them abroad.

Finnish people are most characterized by their love and close relationship to nature. It has traditionally been the source of livelihood and nature is the place where we retreat from the hustle and bustle of the modern world. Nature makes most Finnish people happy, and Finns are one of the happiest nations in the world.  Nature has also been the source of inspiration for artists and architects for centuries.

Finnish traditions

Coffee is almost like a holy thing to Finnish people. Coffee is drunk anywhere and everywhere at any time. In Finland, people drink coffee more than anywhere in the World per person. You will get used to the fact that when Finns get together for a chat, coffee is invariably part of the scene.

A country of 5 million people with 1.5 million saunas has no need to acquire a formal sauna education. To bathe in the sauna comes as naturally as learning to speak or walk. Having a sauna is really natural thing to all Finns, but people do have their own rituals of bathing in the sauna. Despite their own rituals, Finn would never say to another that he is “doing it wrong”. Finns usually go many times between sauna and lake, snow or outdoors to cool down, but you need to listen to your own feeling when doing it.

Traditional Finnish cuisine is a combination of EuropeanFennoscandian, and Western Russian elements. Table manners are European. Finnish food is quite simple, fresh, and healthy. Meat, berries, milk, and ground vegetables are typical ingredients. Spices are not so common due to their historical unavailability. The prototypical breakfast in Finland is oatmeal or other continental-style foods such as bread. Finns don’t eat sweet things in the morning. Lunch is usually a full warm meal, served by a canteen at workplaces. Dinner is eaten from 17.00 to 18.00 at home, and it is also common to have supper later in the evening. Uneaten food on the plate is terrible as from the Finnish point of view. Uneaten food is a sign that you’re not thinking of the environment, and you’re also hurting the feelings of the person who made it.

In Finland, we are proud of our baby box system, which is over 80 years old tradition. Expectant mothers receive a maternity package as a gift from the government. This box has a needed things for the baby’s first year, e.g., quality in- and outdoor clothes, bedding things, and baby products and the box itself doubles as a crib.

In Finland, we have a concept called “Everyman’s rights”. It means, that everyone is allowed to roam freely in nature, eat and pick berries and mushrooms anywhere in forests and do fishing for your own needs. You can also camp out overnight in a tent, vehicle, or boat, if it doesn´t cause damage or disturbance to the landowner.

The biggest annual holidays are Christmas and Midsummer in late June. For most Finns, it’s important to spend these holidays with family and friends. Almost all stores, museums and restaurants are closed at those times.

Way of life

In Finland people are very aware of equality between the sexes. Here can be seen in the relatively high number of women holding advanced positions in politics and other areas of society. Chauvinistic or patronizing attitudes towards women are generally considered unacceptable. Women are usually independent financially. For example, women can offer to pay their share of a restaurant bill. A man may politely refuse such an offer, but it is equally polite to accept it.

The entire country “shuts down” for the month that follows Midsummer in late June. This is the time when Finns mass moves to their vacation homes and cottages in the countryside.  One in four Finns owns a summer cabin, which is regarded as a second home. Sociologists like to explain that the summer dwelling is a tie that Finns maintain to their rural past. Many Finns transform into fishermen, gardeners, farmers, carpenters, or foresters when they withdraw to their summer homes.

Those who stays in the City goes, in street cafés, bars, parks and on beaches. Business and personal correspondence may be temporarily shelved, e-mails cheerfully return ‘out of the office’ notifications for a month also. It is easy for a visitor to observe that in summer Finns are especially proud and happy to be Finns and to live in Finland.

Finns are punctual people, kind of a prisoners of time. Agreed meeting times are scrupulously observed, to the minute if at all possible. Being over 15 minutes late is considered impolite and requires an apology or an explanation. Concerts, theatre performances, and other public functions begin on time, and delays in domestic rail and bus traffic are rare.

In Finland, the standard greeting is a handshake. Hugs and kisses are exchanged between family members and close friends. Finns naturally keep their distance to other people. Especially when it comes to people they don’t personally know. From a Finnish perspective, it is like being polite and not disturbing the other person.

Fun facts about Finland

  • Finland is known for having some of the most unique and crazy events in the world. Finland is home to the world championships of wife-carrying and air guitar that draw participants and crowds from all over the world. We also have swamp football competition and much more…
  • It’s pretty sure that in every Finnis home they have Moomin mugs. Many countries have a world-famous fairytale character. We Finns have Moomins.
  • Finns love all tiny lifehacks. Behind this is the idea to save money or time, or both.
  • Santa is of course Finnish.Finns are crazy serious about the fact that Santa Claus lives in Finland, not at the North Pole.
  • Forest covers 74% of the whole country. That’s an area larger than the UK or Italy.
  • The mobile gaming sensation Angry Birds began life in Finland. Nokia’s Snake–arguably the most influential mobile game ever and Clash of Clans are also Finnish.
  • The world calls Finland Finland, Finns call their country Suomi.

Please keep in mind that people are not all alike and these are generalisations.
Your own experiences with Finns might give you a totally different opinion.

-Anniina

Sources:
Finland.fi
HerFinland.com
VisitFinland.com
Wikipedia.org

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