Finnishness for a Finn who grew up in Germany

My thoughts and experiences of Finnishness.

Being a Finn has always been something I am proud of.  The first time I truly realised my “Finnishness” was when I moved to Germany.  Whether we want it or not we Finns are just built different and there is no doubt that people might find our culture and us as people confusing. At least in my experience my Finnishness has caused many (more or less) funny misunderstandings.


Finnishness is appreciating the beauty of silence. Finland is such a calm, peaceful and silent country. Generally, we Finns are more on the silent side. We are not naturally that talkative and small talk is a very foreign concept for us. We also prefer to have our personal space and do not want to stand out from the crowd. Often our silence can be misinterpreted as rudeness or social awkwardness. I learned it the hard way. But when we warm up to people, we are actually very loving and not rude or scary at all.  Us appreciating silence also has a plus side. People are not obnoxiously loud at public places because it is not socially acceptable here.

When I moved to Germany at 12 years old, I behaved like any Finnish child would. I was calm and pretty silent. I never interrupted any conversation or was too loud because in my culture it is rude. My peers found me hard to approach and everybody thought I was shy or rude. I have never been shy (nor rude). My grades also suffered a lot because in Germany a big part of your grade consist of oral participation in class. It took some time to adapt but it got easier with time. Thankfully there were also teachers who knew about this aspect of Finnishness and were more understanding. They found it funny that my siblings and I fitted into the Finnish stereotype perfectly.


Finnishness is living modestly. Finns do not make a big deal out of themselves. We try to not take too much space in the room hence we are more on the silent side. We prefer simplistic lifestyle and in contrary to material things we value equality, individualism and nature to name a few. Especially nature is such a crucial aspect of Finnish culture. Reason being there is a lot of it in here. Nature provides us the whole year around. Nature gives us food and physical and mental health benefits. There is punch of activities you can do like hiking, swimming, skiing or just enjoying the beauty and calmness of Finnish nature. The importance of nature for us can be seen in Finnish art, stories, songs and even names. Lot of them are nature themed.

In Finland nature is everywhere. I realised I had taken nature for granted when I moved to Germany. I grew up like almost every Finn playing in the forest, marvelling how everything comes back to life during spring, collecting berries and swimming in lakes during summer, collecting mushrooms during autumn, skiing in the fields, forests and on the frozen lakes during winter. This was all made possible by ‘’everyman’s right’’. There is no such thing as ‘’everyman’s right’’ in Germany. The nature is also very different and there are not really four seasons (where I lived). Finnish nature just hits differently. I also felt that my peers did not have the same connection to nature as I did. Forests were part of my everyday life and suddenly I did not have them. I truly missed Finnish nature and snow. Now my opinion on snow has changed but I cannot deny how beautiful everything is when covered in snow.


Nothing describes Finnishness better than the word “sisu”. Every Finn possesses this type of determination (that cannot be explained) which enables us to survive anything. If I dare to say I doubt that us Finns and Finland would exist if it were not for “sisu”. When you think about the geological location and the beautiful yet harsh nature and climate.

Thank God for “sisu” otherwise I would not have survived my first year in German high school as some one who did not know any German whatsoever.


Finnishness is also drinking litres of horrid Finnish coffee on daily basis, swimming in frozen lakes for whatever reason, spending time naked in a boiling hot steamy room, waiting in line at 5 am for a free bucket and gathering in a marketplace whenever something worth of celebrating happens.  And let’s not forget swimming in fountains.

Those are some aspects of our culture that I personally do not participate in. But I love to talk about them to my non-Finnish friends. They are often amazed that being Finnish is more than just being drunk and grumpy.


Despite just listing punch of cultural stereotypes above of being a Finn. Finnishness for me is something bigger than fitting the cultural stereotypes. Being a Finn gives me a sense of belonging. Sense of belonging that cannot be explained or described. To be honest we are such a weird punch of people and I love it.


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