Reflections of Home

When I think about my experiences about being a Finnish person, first thing that comes to my mind is actually nothing in particular. Nothing in the sense that Finnishness being a part of me, something I live and breathe daily that I’ve grown to take it for granted so much it’s barely recognisable.  It takes me time to appreciate my surroundings and figure out what made me me. So walk with me for a while I explore what being Finnish means to me.


I take my time to walk to the bright blue lake near my apartment. I hear seagulls crying out, the slightly cold wing ruffles my hair into a wild mess. I’m mildly bothered by mosqitoes, and my sneakers slip in the mud as it hasn’t had the time to completely dry from the way of summer yet. Quivering birch trees around me are not quite awake yet, and you need to squint to discover a hint of pale green leaves signing the end of winter. Someone is fishing up a big catch in the distance of the shore and the deep breath I drag in feels soft and peaceful. The lake smells like familiarity and memories from my childhood fishing trips.

I sink my teeth into a chewy, fresh rye bread. The taste is ever so sweet, mixed with salty butter and slices of cucumber. It makes for a simple breakfast. I wash it down with black coffee, something I swore as a kid I’d never learn to like until the moments spend at a coffee table with family became something rare after moving out. The smell of fresh coffee envelops me, and for a moment the hurries of everyday life disappear into a single warm mug.

The noise is overwhelming. A crowd of people dressed in black from head to toe moves in waves around me, tightly packed in a club where a lesser known metal band is playing tonight. I do not know the band, but I’m welcomed into the audience nonetheless. They sing in finnish, but I can’t make out the lyrics from the singer’s growling. The chorus that follows is more melodic and I lose some of myself into the music, dancing and trashing my hands wildly up in the air. Afterwards I buy a black bandshit that shows the tour dates. After Tampere, their next destination seems to be in Kuopio and after that, a summer festival dedicated almost exclusively to heavy metal.

I close my eyes as water hits scalding hot stones placed on top of the sauna kiln. Hot steam hits my skin and sweat starts to drip on my temples and back, temperature rising easily to 80 celsius. There’s a sweet scent of rye around me, because I mixed the water just a drop of finnish beer before tossing it in. This particular sauna was built sometime in the 40s, and it still gives you the softest löyly ever imaginable. There’s no clock and no noise, just the quiet crackling of fire. Time has no place in sauna with me, and when I leisurely return to the porch with a worn towel wrapped around my waist the sun is already setting, but the sky isn’t going to be dark until months from now.

Snowflakes tickle the tip of my reddened nose. I wrap a bright woolen scarf tightly around me to block the wind, and the whole world is softly blanketed in white. My bus is late just enough that I shiver from cold. The morning sun is only now starting to break through the horizon, dark blue making way to fiery orange. I find it hard to appreciate the view due to the creeping cold in my limbs, but the arrival of a bus heading to TAMK brings a timely relief. A memory of mandatory elementary school ski lessons passes my mind. Despite hating it at the time I think of making use the weather later, finding a pair of second-hand skiis  and trying again.

A dimly lit room separates the world from me and my loved ones. It’s our first Christmas together, one where we decided to make our own traditions. A slow morning where we could sleep in, a first attempt with rice porridge with a peelles mandel hidden in the mixture. We agreed the finder of the mandel doesn’t need to sing for the rest, but we make wishes all morning while the glimmer of (slightly clumsily) wrapped presents gets too tempting. We set the table again for later, laugh until our sides hurt and in the company of my friends my heart feels even more decorated and bright than the christmas tree we put up together.

I am wearing mismatched socks. I have always been a bit of a careless person, despite still being convinced the socks always get stolen by either my cat or a sock-goblin occupying every Finnish household. Thankfully, I have never been short on hand-made woollen socks, made by my mom, grandma or godaunt. By the time of writing this they live quite far away from the city where I moved to study, but the warmth remains. The socks are knit with colourful woolly yarn and love, and I make a mental note to hug them tightly the next time we see each other.


Finnishness is in my essence, one way or another. It’s with me in moments and in people, in all five of my senses like a friend who never leaves your side. My ”nothing” is quickly filled with ”everything” instead: I feel immensely privileged to have experienced these things in full and to be able to call all of them my home.


Beautifully connected with home to the happiest country in the world, because home is always a beautiful place with so many memories.

Hira Iftikhar

8.6.2024 16:34

Thank you so much for your comment! 🙂

Samuel Saarivirta

10.6.2024 21:10

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