Image of a lakeside view from a pier
Photo by Atte Grönlund on Unsplash

What comes to mind when I wonder what Finnishness entails

What comes to mind when Finnishness is mentioned, is first and foremost how interacting with people from other countries feels like. The most common perception I hear is that Finns are hard to approach, and even intimidating to interact with at first, however quite steadfast as friends when you get to know us. A significant reason for this, I believe, is the straightforward nature of Finns. This is most apparent in smalltalk like asking how someone is doing, since where elsewhere this is just a prelude to a conversation, a typical Finnish answer might include whatever they’ve actually been doing today and how life is treating them. This kind of “no-nonsense” attitude extends much further, and where a Finn might be surprised you’re asking something so personal, the person asking this question might similarly wonder why this Finn is replying in such a personal fashion suddenly. It’s often been remarked that this Finnish straightforwardness can be both scary but also comforting and personal, since there’s no “extra” to cushion everything.

Another huge clash in cultures can appear in social distance. Forget about hugs and kisses between new aqcuintances, even standing too close can cause discomfort to Finns! In Finland it’s important to be mindful of other’s “personal bubbles”, and individuality is held in high regard. Generally you’re expected to do whatever you’re doing as long as anyone else isn’t bothered or dragged into it. Though if you’re asking for help or directions from a random Finn, they will usually do their best to help you out, which is something you probably wouldn’t expect based on what I previously wrote!

It’s this paradoxical nature of focusing on oneself and leaving others to their own devices, yet offering honest, straightforward thoughts at the drop of a hat that can make us Finns seem like strange creatures.

A picture of a cabin by lakeshore
Photo by Joakim Finell on Unsplash

Regardless of all that, what I really think everyone should experience about Finnishess is Sauna.

Sauna is going to a small room heated somewhere around or above 80°C  (176°F) with a bunch of other people naked. Wait, didn’t I just say keeping social distance is important and even standing too close is a thing? Well that’s probably why you’d be baffled going into a sauna, where apparently the whole concept of Finnishness is turned on its head. Sauna is a space for destressing, relaxing all your muscles while getting a deep cleaning. It’s the ideal place to feel free and open. There really is no more calming place to me personally than a Sauna, alone it is a sanctuary and with others an open forum. The walls built around each Finn melt in the heat of Sauna, so strangely enough that’s a decent place for getting Finns talkative.


In conclusion, while Finnishness seems distant and cold, if you get your foot through the door you might experience the warmth of Sauna.


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