On Being A Finn: Ode To The Awkward
Updated: Mar 1
Being a Finn can be awkward at times. But being awkward has its sides, as sometimes it reveals the human behind the excessive cultural pileup. Behavioral patterns elsewhere seem to have been designed to get one through any social situation by memorizing supposed-to's and not-to's. Being a Finn is more like walking in to a sauna buck naked and facing the flabbergasted looks of the ones less comfortable in their natural habitat. And not turning back to correct the mistake.
Being a Finn abroad means confronting the ugly stereotypes of the world's best education and extremely high work morals, and having to face the fact that everyone knows someone who used to have a Finnish girlfriend. The far less easy thing about us Finns is our language that only the most extreme masochists, who live to fail, attempt to master. On a positive note this means that on a pub crawl a Finn usually wins the quiz whilst drinking the others under the table. (Edit: Only Scottish seem to beat Finns in this one)
The booze myth
Despite the tiny population Finns seem to spread all-over and have a tendency to stick. Due to their nature some might isolate themselves and often the best way to observe one close is to lure it out with free alcohol. Alcohol, in fact, is what keeps the Finnish population growth under control, as more people seem to end up overdosing than making babies as a result. Luckily the government is doing its best to limit the thirst by annual alcohol tax increase, approximately the same rate as the Estonian ferry fees become more affordable.
Traditionally and sober, emotions are poorly expressed which often leads to depression and violent bursts of anger towards oneself or the unfortunate ones closest. The upside is that very few Finns know how to fake their feelings. Honesty is a national trait that I can be extremely proud of, even when it does not concern politicians.
Talking about politics, as a Finn abroad I'm concerned about the ongoing image-changes the new global era is slowly revealing. I would prefer to be all about Moomins and remarkably powerful wood-cutting tools, rather than an unfortunate example of what happens when a country deconstructs its own welfare system.
The gap between the rich and the less fortunate is getting deeper while the extreme ideologies offer false sense of control and community.
Though undeniably struggling with some fear I do have remarkable trust in my roots. Being a Finn, to me, has always meant equality. I was born and raised with an extremely rare freedom that I believe brings along the responsibility to try and make a change to better.
Stereotyping me (and other nationalities):
To a Swede I'm the Russian one.
To a Russian I lack style.
To a Scandinavian I'm the grey area.
To an American I'm from the North Pole where Santa comes from. Then I remind them that they got one thing right, Santa and I indeed come from the same country.
To an Italian I'm as frozen as our pizza.
To an Estonian I am what the English are to the rest of the world. Drunk and misbehaving.
As a Finn one develops a remarkable tolerance towards alcohol and harsh weather conditions.
The food and the clothing are best kept simple, sufficient and seasonal. Being a Finn also means having a passionate long term love-hate relationship with snow. After an excited wait you celebrate the anniversary by acknowledging its immense beauty in its clean white coat, only to swear its impossibly unpractical nature at the first possible occasion. In its less flattering days snow can be clingy, messy and very much in-your-face. You only miss it when it's gone. Until the warm lover, called Summer, comes along. The beyond-stunning nature in Finland is dotted with clear blue lakes, green lush forests and an occasional moose crossing a motorway. The nature of Finns is not as simply described but well worth taking a deeper look. More than thrice I've had a stranger ask me to 'cheer up' and to 'open up', and I do share this experience with some fellow Finns.
We are not shy, sad or troubled, nor is there anything wrong with us.
Most of us are born with an extra dose of melancholy, there's no denying of that, but only the people who believe that the colours they can name are the only colours that exists, are the ones who remain blind to what is beyond. At times I keep my doors shut for the simple reason that I come from a place where it gets really cold. But those who have a key know that they don't really need one. Things that make a Finn uncomfortable:
- Too much chili in breakfast
- Cheek kisses and not being sure whether to actually kiss or just do the sounds
- Being asked how we are and not being expected to answer truthfully
- Being dragged to the dance floor before the alcohol has properly kicked in
- Sharing a bill with a group and not sharing equally
Things that make a Finn (and others less) comfortable:
- Silence. Being a Finn means that the silence only becomes awkward if there's a lack of it. Meaningless words are waste of air while the words that are put out there are rock solid.
- Nudity. Please refer to chapter one.
- Alcohol. Please refer to the rest of the chapters.