Before coming to Finland I didn’t know much about their culture. Sure, I had heard the basic stereotypes like “Finns are shy” and “Finland is the happiest country in the world”, but also that the winter is dark, cold and long. Little did I know back then that this country would soon turn into my long-term home – needless to say that I like it here. In this post I will write about Finnishness from a foreigner’s perspective.
At first, I have to mention that German and Finnish culture are quite similar, which is why I never had a culture or anything like that. I have also only travelled within Central and Northern Europe – the most “exotic” place I have been to is the Southern France 😀 – so all the cultures I have experienced are relatively similar, but I still found some small differences.
One thing that I stumbled upon quite soon after my arrival here is the Finns’ laidbackness. In comparison to my home country Germany people here are less formal in many situations. In Germany I grew up having to address my teachers at school formally, as well as any other adults, unless they tell you that you can address them informally. Finnish people on the other hand address basically everyone informally, whether they know them or not.
One aspect that I really like about Finnishness is the contrast between spending a relaxing weekend at the mökki, but then Finns go absolutely bananas when they win the Ice Hockey World Cup or they are celebrating Vappu and Juhannus. What I really enjoyed was getting to know about the specific holiday traditions, for example how children collect candy from their neighbours on Easter, similar to Halloween in other countries.
To me the most important and interesting part of Finnishness is the Finnish student culture, which is one of many reasons why I study here. The first time I saw student overalls I immediately wanted to get them as well. They stand for a sense of belonging to a community. I’m so impressed by the amount of student events that are organized all year around and especially around Vappu, students put so much creativity and time into maintaining traditions, as well as creating new ones.
Overall, I can say that I’m very happy and grateful to be able to live here!
Below is a picture from the 1st of May, when me and my friend proudly finished the Teemutour as Emäteemus, which we achieved by going to 21 student events within 2.5 weeks before Vappu.