Finnish people are warm, open and sincere, even though they might tell you the exact opposite.
If you’ve ever met a Finn, chances are they’ve mentioned the reserved nature of their countrymen. Be not afraid – we’re not taciturn brutes. Finns are talkative and hospitable, but the myth of the withdrawn Finn is still alive and well inside Finland. And Finns, with their self-deprecating wit, will be the first to let foreigners in on it. An example of a Finnish joke: “An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes”.
Full of interesting contrasts, such as the four seasons, the Midnight Sun and winter darkness, urban and rural, East and West.
In certain ways, Finns are a pretty peculiar people and we secretly enjoy conveying that image of ourselves, even if it weren’t always true. A Finn will tell tall tales with a straight face, giggle internally and go on until stories just get too much for anyone to believe. Joking with someone (or even at someone’s cost!) is a Finnish way of saying “I like you”. It would probably be fair to say that Finns are civilized and sociable, but have a mischievous way of showing it.
Finns are not big small talkers, and quiet moments in conversations are not considered awkward. Silence merely means the person doesn’t have anything essential to say. There’s no necessity to fill gaps in conversation with chatter. On the other hand, Finns are genuine – we mean what we say. “Let’s have a beer sometime” actually means you will be contacting the other person sooner or later for a drink, and they will be expecting it.
Finns are masters of self-deprecating humour and regularly rip on themselves for being shy and introverted. “It’s a playful awareness. Unlike stereotypes in many other countries where people are hesitant to make jokes about them, most Finns seem very aware of their image and don’t take it too seriously”, says New Yorker Chris Wlach, who’s been to Finland twice.
“I heard from my Finnish teacher and friends that there was this idea of Finnish people being reserved, which was funny, because it wasn’t at all my experience”, he says.
When you get invited to a Finnish home, you know you’ll be meeting Finns at their most genuine. You’ll not be expected to dress up, act stiffly or anything of the sort – casual is the word. Finnish hospitality will be showcased in the form of endless food and drinks, and the more at ease you are, the more the hosts will enjoy it. This is where foundations for lifelong friendships are often laid.
There’s nothing more Finnish than sauna, a way of life that is passed on from generation to generation. Besides cleansing both physically and spiritually, the sauna used to be a gateway in and out of this world: in the old days, women would give birth in saunas, and upon a person’s death, the body would be given a final wash there. Finns are not the type of people who take to the streets when unhappy about things, but restricting their right to sauna – which you must never try – would certainly cause an outrage of unprecedented proportions. And yes, we normally do it nude.
The Finnish summer is short, only about three months, but it is celebrated with all the more zest. The amount of events from large-scale music festivals to local markets and fairs is simply astounding, and the white nights make sure revellers never run out of steam.
At some point of the summer, escaping to the countryside is a must for every Finn. Ideally staying at a cottage by water, time there is mostly spent doing nothing save for barbecueing, the occasional dip in the lake and just general hanging about. With round-the-clock sunlight, cottage life is the best way to recharge your batteries and forget about everyday worries like schedules and appointments. Simply being is a weirdly wonderful feeling.
The spring is an amazing time in Finland, especially in Lapland, the northernmost province, where Finns flock for ski breaks from February to May. The springtime sun and ideal outdoor conditions are perfect for combining fun and exercise, and resorts everywhere are crowded with smiling, easy-going people. It is said Finns are born with skis strapped to their feet, but they can certainly party with them on, too.
Finns see themselves as reserved, but calm would be a more fitting description in most cases. Calm works until you put a Finn in charge of a motorized vehicle – then it’s all systems go! Finns like to think of themselves as the fastest nation on earth, and with the number of Rally and Formula One world champions we’ve produced, the claim isn’t too far-fetched. As fast speed is in our heritage, Finland boasts several driving academies, where travelers can test their own skills on the icy roads.
In Finland, nature is never far away and Finns definitely have a close connection with it. Getting away from civilization is greatly valued and walking in the woods is a simple, yet terrific way for collecting your thoughts and hearing yourself think every once in a while.
Finland is a country of extremes and contrasts – for example, cold and dark winters alternate with warm and light-filled summers. For some reason, Finns need to accentuate this by swimming in icy waters while bathing in steaming saunas. Come to think of it, the rather challenging conditions must have played a part in making Finns wanting to test their limits so vigorously. The reason why is probably unclear even for most Finns; it’s just something we’re born with, for better or for worse.
In the southwest coast of Finland the city of Turku retains its enchanting old town feel while increasingly becoming a culinary hub. For both budget-dining and fine-dining Turku offers excellent eateries that will flick the taste buds and make visitors go back for seconds. When hungry, along Aura River …