Life in Finland: 5 Fascinating Facts About Finnish Culture
Nestled in the northernmost part of Europe, Finland is a country that boasts a rich history and a unique cultural heritage. Situated between Sweden to the west and Russia to the east, Finland has been shaped by its geographical location and historical events that have unfolded over the centuries. From its roots as a part of the Kingdom of Sweden to its emergence as an independent nation, Finland’s journey has been one of resilience and innovation. But what’s life in Finland really like?
In this blog post, we uncover five fascinating facts about Finnish culture so that both travellers and curious readers can get a better understanding of what life in Finland is like in 2023.
When it comes to life in Finland, there’s one tradition that stands out as truly iconic: the sauna. Finnish saunas hold a special place in the hearts of Finns and are an integral part of their lifestyle. In fact, it’s estimated that there are over 3 million saunas in Finland, which is quite impressive considering the country’s population of around 5.5 million.
Finnish saunas are not merely a luxury or a means to relax; they are deeply ingrained in Finnish identity and cherished for their physical and mental health benefits. Taking a sauna is seen as a way to cleanse both the body and the soul. Moreover, it’s a place for introspection, socialising, and even conducting business meetings.
And, do you know what’s the best part about the ritual? Finns often alternate between the sauna and refreshing dips in icy lakes or rolling in the snow, a practice known as “avanto.” This contrast between extreme heat and cold is thought to invigorate the body and promote circulation. It truly sounds like an amazing experience, doesn’t it?
If you’re a coffee enthusiast, Finland might just be your paradise. According to Insider, Finnish people consume more coffee than anywhere else in the world. Evidently, coffee is not just a beverage for Finns; it’s an essential aspect of life in Finland.
In Finnish culture, coffee plays a central role in socialising and hospitality. As a consequence, it’s customary to offer coffee to guests upon their arrival, and declining a cup of coffee is considered impolite.
So, now you know — If you ever find yourself in Finland, be prepared to savour the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee and engage in conversations that flow as smoothly as the caffeine in your cup.
Traditional livelihoods and rural occupations are still very much a part of life in Finland. One such occupation is reindeer herding, which is mainly practised by the indigenous Sami people. These skilled herders care for and manage reindeer, often relying on their knowledge of the land and the animals’ behaviour to navigate the Arctic wilderness. This practice is not just a means of sustenance but also a way of life, deeply rooted in Sami culture and traditions.
Another traditional livelihood that has endured the test of time is forestry. Finland’s vast forests have provided resources for generations, and the forestry industry remains an essential part of the country’s economy. Many Finns still work in logging and timber production, embracing a connection with nature and a sustainable approach to managing the forests.
By preserving these traditional livelihoods, Finland honours its heritage and ensures that future generations can appreciate the skills, knowledge, and wisdom passed down through the ages.
In Finland, punctuality and good manners are highly valued, forming an integral part of the country’s social fabric. Finns take great pride in being reliable and considerate, and being on time is considered a sign of respect for others.
Whether it’s a business meeting, a social gathering, or simply catching public transportation, Finns strive to be punctual. So, if you’re ever invited to a Finnish event, remember; arriving late without a valid reason is generally frowned upon and may be seen as a lack of respect for other people’s time.
In addition to punctuality, good manners, and politeness are deeply ingrained in Finnish society. Finns are known for their reserved nature and often adhere to a code of conduct that emphasises modesty, humility, and respect for personal space. Even today, it’s common to greet others with a firm handshake, make direct eye contact, and address people by their last names or titles until invited to use their first names.
While these aspects of Finnish culture may appear formal to outsiders, they reflect Finns’ commitment to creating a harmonious and considerate society.
Last but certainly not least for us, the Finnish language is a fascinating aspect of Finnish culture. As a member of the Finno-Ugric language family, Finnish is not directly related to the majority of European languages, making it unique and distinct.
Known for its complexity and rich vocabulary, the Finnish language can be challenging to learn for non-native speakers — It has numerous grammatical cases, vowel harmony, and a distinct sound system. For this very reason, Finns greatly appreciate it when foreigners make an effort to learn their language, and, lucky for us, they are often delighted to help.
Another interesting feature of Finnish is its emphasis on equality and gender neutrality. Unlike many other European languages, Finnish doesn’t have grammatical gender. In other words, nouns, personal pronouns, and adjectives don’t have gender-specific forms or use masculine or feminine pronouns. This linguistic characteristic aligns with the Finnish value of equality, and it makes Finnish a very welcoming language for people of all genders.
At Language Trainers, we believe that exploring the Finnish language can be an adventure in itself, allowing you to delve into the intricacies of a unique linguistic heritage and gain a deeper understanding of Finnish culture.
By embracing the aspects of Finnish culture discussed in today’s article, foreigners can gain a better appreciation of what makes Finland truly special.
So, whether you’re enjoying a steamy sauna session, sipping a cup of Finnish coffee with newfound friends, or immersing yourself in the nuances of the Finnish language, remember that life in Finland is an invitation to experience a culture that beautifully weaves together the old and the new.
Finns are often perceived as reserved, but it is more a cultural characteristic (shared by the Norwegian and Swedish people) than shyness. They value personal space, tend to speak more softly and take time to build relationships. Once you get to know them, Finns can be warm, hospitable, and engaging.
Yes, the Finnish education system is highly regarded worldwide. It emphasises equality, individualised learning, and a holistic approach to education. For decades, Finnish students have consistently ranked among the top performers in international assessments.
The Northern Lights, or “Revontulet” in Finnish, hold a mystical and awe-inspiring place in Finnish culture. They are considered natural wonders and they’re often associated with folklore and myths. Finns appreciate the beauty and magic of the Northern Lights.
Life in Finland is generally more expensive than in other parts of Europe, especially when it comes to food, housing, and transportation. However, Finnish citizens benefit from high quality of life and social welfare services, so the cost of living is often worth it.
Yes, it is possible to live in Finland without learning the Finnish language. English is widely spoken and many Finns have a high level of proficiency. However, to truly experience the culture and build meaningful relationships with locals, it is advisable to become fluent in the Finnish language.
Would you like to experience life in Finland instead of just reading about it? Learning Finnish is a great way to familiarise yourself with Finnish culture and become part of the fabric of the country.
At Language Trainers, we work with native Finnish teachers to design custom-made Finnish courses tailored to your individual needs and preferences. No matter what your current level is, our qualified instructors will carefully tailor the course content to match your learning objectives and ensure you make rapid progress.
So, if you’re ready to discover the culture of Finland and get an insider’s perspective, start learning Finish with Language Trainers and find out how we can help you take your language skills to the next level.