I have always highly valued the opportunity to grow up close to nature. Many Finns, including me and my family, have gotten to grow up in a small town that’s actually more forest than town. A river flows next to the house I grew up in, a five minute walk could take me to a forest, and our summerhouse by a lake in the middle of a big forest was a half hour drive away. In the winter we would cut down a tree and chop it on the icy lake to make wood for the next sauna season, and in the summer we would swim in the river or lake and enjoy the sauna. We’d sometimes make food from berries and mushrooms that we gathered from the forest, fish from the lake, and fresh herbs and fruit from the garden. The sensory fireworks of a lifestyle that was heavily influenced by local natural elements and resources are unforgettable.
High standard of living, good education, freedom of expression and having all basic needs covered have offered a safe and protected environment for growing up and learning. When having food to eat and a roof on your head is supported by the government, everyone has the opportunity to focus on learning and personal growth at least to some extent. Of course Finland is a class society and there are heavy disparities in opportunities given, but having basic needs covered almost certainly is quite unique on a global scale. As the need for focusing on survival is eliminated, Finns have the privilege of having relatively huge amounts of free time that they can spend by learning and developing any new skills that they wish, as well as resting, which is also essential for learning. I feel like one of the most valuable things that Finns have the opportunity to gain from all of this is developed skills in critical and independent thinking.
Overall I would say that before my experiences abroad, I had a positive view of Finnishness. Having time to sit down with friends and exchange thoughts and ideas daily or almost daily in a stress-free atmosphere is an unique privilege, and having the chance to do these things by a lake or in a silent park are, for me, essentials for mental well being and a feeling of safety and freedom. Unfortunately however, when thoughts and ideas are exchanged in an extremely privileged and luxurious echo chamber, things can stop being as progressive as they seem pretty quickly. More on that later in this course.