How little I know

I recently came to think that I know rather little about my country despite my curiosity that has taken me to many places around the world. This summer I visited the northmost part of Finland and it was a very eye-opening experience to me as I had only ever been to the southern Lapland before. Neither have I really seen the eastern parts of my country. The Sámi culture, the Karelian and the Roma culture are all very unknown to me, to name a few. I might say the same about rural areas and their lifestyles and livelihoods. How could I say I know my own country?

I suppose I never considered myself as someone with a strong national identity. I am curious about other peoples’ lives and opinions regardless of how far or close to me they are. If I visit my neighbor’s home I expect different habits, if I visit a Tanzanian home, I expect different habits. Simple? Perhaps not so.

There must be a whole bunch of different opinions, ways of life, expressions and views I have absorbed since day one without even realizing. No matter how much I study social sciences, my point of view is at the very least European. No, I don’t go to hockey games, watch Eurovision, use the sauna, drink skim milk, eat salmon and meatballs, avoid contact with my neighbors at any cost or do many other stereotypically Finnish things. But the culture is there, it might be my way of waking up missing the smell of archipelago, my Turku habit of only saying the first half of the words so that even my Finnish friends struggle to understand me, it might be a tiny tear in my eye when I hear an old Finnish rock song or read a book from a Finnish author. It doesn’t matter if I also miss the red hot sand, mix other languages into my everyday Finnish, or cry along British music or Indian novels.

I do love the nature all around Finland, I love how content we are to spend days or even weeks in summer cabins, perhaps without electricity or running water, taking hours just to do the daily tasks that would normally be done with machines in or urban homes. I do love the clumsy habits others may laugh at, I love how easy it is to surprise strangers with a smile or a friendly gesture. I love having a first language that just happens to be Finnish, as much as I might ache for not speaking others perfectly. Languages touch and describe reality, but the also create it. So my reality will automatically be slightly different from that of a German or Brazilian person.

There is a lot I love really. What I don’t like is our pride, and reluctance towards new ideas or cultures. Maybe that is why I don’t feel easy about writing about my Finnish identity. There is a lot I am not proud of, and don’t want to be a part of.

When I leave Finland for my exchange studies, I expect not only to learn about another culture but also about my own, as it will be there with me everyday, set to comparison. And perhaps, when I get back, I will be more eager to discover the Finnish culture more.


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