In Finland we have this thing called...

Finnish culture is an interesting one. At a glance it seems as grey as the long drink served in corner bars around the country. Food seems to have all the shades of beige, people dress in black, white and grey, interaction is restrained, and our most acknowledged movies and music is all about melancholy.


It takes time and a keen eye to see the colors, liveliness and joy in Finnish culture. Getting to know people is like peeling an onion, you’ll get to the core by patiently peeling of layer after layer. But just as with an onion, it get’s easier after each layer. One needs to accept the dry humor, reserved presence and modesty that is coded into the Finnish DNA. Underneath the surface there is a reward for those who choose to see it: loyalty, respect and a fierce sense of justice as well as readiness to fight for it.

Our language is difficult to learn, yet it is another reward for those who learn it. Finnish language is a cornucopia of wittiness, nuances, unique and near untranslatable words, humor, colors and opportunities for beautiful prose. On the other hand, it can be harsh, vulgar, aggressive, intimidating even. What we hide behind our outer layer of presence, we make up for in the use of our language and its dialects.

But what makes our culture stand out? One might say it’s our love for melancholy, another argues it’s sauna or sisu, and the third insists it’s our integration of nature and people. I argue it’s a sum of all these and more. Quirkiness is definitely an aspect that get’s us noted globally.

In my years living abroad before, I noticed that one of the most used sentences by Finns abroad is “In Finland we have this thing called…”. The list of words and sentences filling the blank is endless and to an extent absurd. Throwing boots and mobile phones, an endless list of alcoholic beverages, sports payed in the swamp,  nakedness everywhere, beating yourself and your friend with a bunch of birch branches, ridiculous proverbs, food that looks like baby poop, and the list goes on and on.  

But it is not just the quirkiness of the list that sums up Finnish people and culture, the key is in the sentence itself. We are proud of what we have and what we do as a nation. It takes innovation and resourcefulness to come up with these things. We are a nation of innovators, we have excellent education, we develop groundbreaking technologies and we work hard to be noticed globally. And once we are noticed, it’s time to meet at the marketplace.

– Wille Holopainen


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