What Finnishness Means to Me

When I moved to Finland 2 years ago, I didn’t realise how impactful the cultural differences will be. Since Latvia, my home country, is very near Finland and the weather is almost the same, I had always assumed that the changes in my life when moving shouldn’t be that big.

Well, I was wrong. Coming here has opened a completely new look at life. In this blog I will cover three viewpoints to tell you more what Finnishness means to me: nature, sustainability, and relationships.


The first and perhaps the core aspect of Finnishness that I have discovered is the connection with nature. This reflects in the many tracks in the woods, sauna and avanto swimming, cross-country skiing, berry picking, and so many other sports and rituals that people enjoy and that I have also become fond of. For example, when I first arrived in Finland, avanto swimming seemed impossible for me. The moment my feet touched the freezing cold water, that was the start and end of my “swim”. However, with practice and patience, I have become able to enjoy the water for at least 30 seconds (which might not be a lot but is a surprise for me). One can also often notice that the cities are almost never fully urban. Amongst the concrete streets, there is always greenery involved. I believe that nature and being so closely connected to it on every day basis is something that every Finn can take pride in. And I am thankful for it, too.



Sustainability is one aspect that is very different from where I come from. It somehow feels like Finns make and want things to last. For example, the Iitala collection of cups and plates that goes from one generation to the next. I also often notice that people would rather buy something more expensive, if they are sure that it will last longer, rather than choosing the cheapest option just for the moment. Or another example could be the walkable and bikeable design of cities, that enables a more active lifestyle and minimises carbon emissions. Or the free education which enables a happier and more educated society.

Of course, sustainability divides into different pillars and it is a topic that can go very deep. However, I have learned so much about sustainable lifestyle just from my friends here in Finland, and I believe that caring for our planet, heritage, and people is something they all share.



Talking about people, I believe that the relationships I have built here in Finland are the ones that best describe what Finnishness means to me. I came here knowing no one, and now I can happily say that I have made amazing friends and family. I can learn new things from my Finnish friends and boyfriend’s äiti, while having a laugh about the weirdness of this place with my foreign study mates. For example, I suppose we will never truly learn how to pronounce the letters ä and y correctly, or never truly understand how Finnish people pronounce the words “sushi” and “jacuzzi”. But it is all a part of it. Finnishness to me is the people that make this place and experience the way it is. They are the reason why I can call this place home.



When asked the question what Finnishness means to me, I think of nature, sustainable lifestyle, and the relationships I have created here. I know that Finnishness can mean so many different things, and I am excited to keep discovering them. Perhaps while being abroad in Portugal, I will notice something unexpected about Finland, too. As they say, “sometimes you just need to distance yourself to see things more clearly”.


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