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Are you a Finn?

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If you're Finnish...


  • You are familiar with many TV personalities and celebrities, Finnish and foreign. The latter are, in decreasing order of probability, American, English, Scandinavian (rarely), French or German (very, very rarely).
  • You believe in the news on TV and in the newspapers. In fact, you are used to believing in most of what you read or hear -- people are supposed to "say what they mean" or remain silent.
  • You have (or you plan to have) a family, which means a spouse and 1 to 3 children (but not having one doesn't mean a catastrophe). It's possible that you are a single or divorced parent, even a mother who has never wanted to marry or live with the father of her child(ren).
  • You may state that "old people should be respected", but you know you don't have to obey your parents, at least not if you are over 18.
  • You are accustomed with the society (rather than families, churches or charity organizations) taking care of the poor, sick and disabled. When your mother gets too old and sick to live alone (and that means really old and sick), it's normal to put her in a nursing home, not to take her to live with your family.
  • You may like football (if you are a young urban male, perhaps even the strange American version of so-called "football"). In general, however, you feel most comfortable watching sports where people wear helmets: Formula One (you know that it is dominated by Finns called Mika), ice-hockey or ski-jumping.
  • Cricket is something incomprehensible, but for baseball you have a version of your own, the Finnish pesäpallo. "Skiing" means cross-country skiing, but if you are under 25, you might prefer the snowboard.
  • You have a vacation of at least a month a year and you do take it, preferably in July (although it is generally complained that "in Europe" nobody has vacations of more than a week and we should follow that trend). You spend it at your summer cottage, bathing in the sauna and swimming in the lake, or visiting the numerous summer events every village in Finland has, from opera festivals to world championships in wife-carrying or rubberboot-throwing. In winter, you take a week or a prolonged weekend to travel to the Mediterranean or the Canary Islands. If you are younger than 60, you won't take a supply of Finnish meat balls and sausages with you...
  • You are most probably a Lutheran (which usually means that you go to church in Christmas or never, get married in church and have your children baptized). You may also be an Orthodox or sometimes even a Catholic (in the latter case, you are usually of foreign descent or an intellectually oriented convert looking for "something different" -- the latter also applies for many Orthodox Finns). Or an atheist, in some few cases even a Jew or a Moslem. You are accustomed with the state church (and religion, maybe even God) being there but don't want it (them) to interfere with your life. What you really believe in is a private matter (and doesn't depend on whether you belong to a congregation or not), and people who want to talk about religion are labeled as fanatics.
  • If you are middle-aged or younger and urban, you believe in a kind of all-European gourmet cooking (anything from pesto to paella) and also visit McDonalds or other junk food places. You have also eaten in a Chinese restaurant and, if young and urban, you might like sushi. If you are old and rural, you eat rye bread and potatoes every day, with either fish (mostly Baltic herring in different forms) or "sauces" with different kinds of meat. You feed your foreign guests with reindeer and arctic brambleberries (an exquisite taste and seeds like pebbles between your teeth) and try to convince them that these belong to a typical Finnish menu. - You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys or guinea pigs to be food -- but crayfish and reindeer are. You also know that in order to pass for a good "European", you should eat frogs, oysters and snails.
  • Milk comes in cardboard cartons (never in bottles -- and you must go to the shop for it!), and the colour shows how much fat it has. If you are male or over 40 (or under 12), you maybe drink milk at every meal. (And milk means plain milk, not hot milk or some fancy liquid with banana or chocolate flavour.)
  • You drink coffee in every situation where a typical Englishman would have a "nice cup of tea". Elderly and rural people literally force their guests to have some coffee, and people whose job includes visiting people's homes (like clergymen) may develop a stomach ulcer.
  • Your place is heated in winter and has electricity, a TV, a bathroom and a toilet -- although your summer cottage might not have all of these. You don't kill your food yourself (except a few times a year, if you happen to be one of those who like hunting or fishing).
  • Winters are always snowy (except on the south coast) but not VERY cold. The heating and other technical facilities work so that you wouldn't think of people really getting killed because of snow or cold weather. (Trains may be late, though.)
  • A bathroom (kylpyhuone) is a room with a tub and/or a shower. Toilets are to be found in WC (Water Closet) or behind doors with more or less clearly identifiable male and female creatures.
  • If you are over 15 (or, in some circles, over 10, or over 8) and under 65, you have a cellular phone and you use it, all the time. The traditional telephones work, too, and getting a new phone is routine.
  • Trains are good, but they mainly reach the towns and cities. If you live in the countryside (and are over 18), you are accustomed to using your car always and everywhere. In Helsinki, the public transportation works well but seems to be used mostly by women and children.
  • It seems natural to you that there are many political parties, although the differences between them are mainly ideological cosmetics -- in practice, most of them seem to follow a consensus based on the idea that there is only one feasible alternative.
  • It seems natural to you that there are people who (still) believe in socialism or (a kind of) communism, although you know that the Soviet Union even at its best was an underdeveloped oligarchy. If you belong to those who revolted against their parents in the 1960's and 70's by singing praises to the Soviet Union, you make public apologies now.
  • You are not really a racist but unaccustomed to different races, maybe a little xenophobiac. And then, if you are a male, you might get aggressive if you see black-haired or dark-skinned foreigners in the company of Finnish women.
  • You think most problems could be solved if only people would work hard enough.
  • The Russians never got through -- but Walt Disney did. - You find Americans ridiculous with their primary reflex to sue whenever they can get away with it, even if it is their fault. You also watch TV serials featuring American lawyers and court dramas, and know the American court practices far better than the Finnish ones.
  • You trust doctors and respect them enormously. If they fail to cure you, you won't sue them. (And you wouldn't dream of bribing or tipping doctors and nurses -- as people did in some countries of the former Eastern Europe. But then, you think -- unless you are a doctor yourself -- that Finnish doctors earn too well already.)
  • You speak English more or less fluently. At school you have also learned quite a lot of Swedish and usually German or French, maybe even Russian or some more exotic language, but you might not be able to actually speak these languages, unless hard pressed. You are annoyed at English-speaking people who refuse to learn other languages; at the same time you speak English with all foreigners, also with Swedes or with foreigners who desperately want to learn Finnish, and put your children in an English-speaking kindergarten or school (if possible), "because it's useful to learn foreign languages read: English as early as possible". You know that Finnish is the most difficult language in the world (and of no use anywhere abroad) and treat foreign students of Finnish with a mixture of admiration and pity.
  • You complain about the scandalously high taxation, but not very loudly.
  • School is free, so are the universities.
  • The date comes first : 6.12.1917. (And you should know what happened on that date.)
  • The decimal point is a comma, or so you are taught at school. People in technical and computer professions seem to use the dot.
  • World War II consisted of our fight against the Soviet Union, divided in two periods: "the winter war" and "the continuation war". We came out "second best": Finland was the only country on the losing side that was not occupied by foreign armies, we didn't become a "people's democracy" (a satellite of the Soviet Union), we successfully relocated the evacuees from Karelia (the area that was annexed to the Soviet Union) and didn't leave them to rot in refugee camps, we managed to shake off the Germans (they were our Waffenbrüder but not really "allies"!) in time, after the war we paid what was required -- and in time. (And rebuilt our country without foreign aid.) Those were glorious times, now generally admired, because there is no Soviet Union to be afraid of and the present-day young and middle-aged adults have not been fed up with their parents' reminiscences of "the War" any more.
  • You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by third parties. Mostly (and especially if you are a female), you want a romantic church wedding (if you are a member of the church, no other ceremony by "worldly" authorities is required). You have a best man and a maid of honour at the wedding -- mostly your best friends. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time (and vice-versa).
  • Premarital sex is not chastised (except in some religious subcultures), and young people (of both sexes) often want to finish their studies and enjoy "a life of their own" before marriage. Most couples just "live together" in avoliitto ('open union') for some time, before getting officially married. Some marry only after the birth of the first child(ren), some never.
  • If a man has sex with another man, he's a homosexual. (Or, in more urban circles, maybe a bisexual or an ultra-modern gender-blender.) And if you are middle-aged or older, you believe that most Swedish men are gay.
  • You can use a more polite (plural, like French vous) or a more intimate (singular, like French tu) form when addressing people, although the polite form is used only in very formal situations (most people would use it with the president but not with a shop assistant). Politeness is often expressed by avoiding direct reference to person, and first names are seldom used in conversation (often only when you need to catch somebody's attention: "hey YOU there -- listen to me {and shut up}!").
  • If you're a woman, you perhaps occasionally go to the beach topless (depending on which beach).
  • If a young woman (or a child) is plumper than the average, it makes her despair. "Fat" means "ugly". (And yet, many people are fat. But then, women are supposed to earn their own living so that good looks and getting a husband won't mean the whole world.)
  • Films are subtitled, never dubbed (except those for young children).
  • You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal with the government, without paying bribes.
  • You wouldn't dream of trying to bribe a policeman. (What for?)
  • You don't have to give tips to taxi drivers, waiters or barbers.
  • If a politician has been cheating on his wife, serious journalists seldom bother with it.
  • Just about any store will take your credit card.
  • Firing somebody is not always possible. It has to be justified. If it can't be justified, the company may be condemned to pay damages. This could be one of the reasons why young people often only find temporary jobs.
  • Labor Day is on the 1st of May. (It's also the day of university students and approaching spring, and a kind of carnival for all people.)
  • You've probably seen Casablanca, Sound of Music and/or ET, perhaps something by Ingmar Bergman and Aki Kaurismäki. If under 40 (and maybe in other cases, too), add a lot of American action and romance, from Terminator and Rambo through Star Wars to Titanic. If not (and maybe even if yes), add several films directed by people like Teuvo Tulio, Valentin Vaala or Hannu Leminen -- or Jörn Donner, or Spede Pasanen, for that matter. If you consider yourself an intellectual, you have seen some French and Italian films, maybe even German ones!
  • You know (at least by name) the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Queen, Michael Jackson, ABBA, Björk, Spice Girls, Eppu Normaali, Kauko Röyhkä, Jimi Tenor, Eläkeläiset, Nylon Beat and Värttinä. If not (or maybe even if yes), you know Zarah Leander, Georg and Eugen Malmsten, Olavi Virta, Tapio Rautavaara, Georg Ots, Frank Sinatra, Eino Grön, Irwin pronounced: !ee-RR-vin Goodman, Elvis, Mireille Mathieu, Edith Piaf, -- maybe even Tino Rossi or Jacques Brel. (But probably not Caterina Valente or Guildo Horn!)
  • You count on excellent medical treatment. You know you're not going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You think dying at 65 would be a tragedy. On the other hand, you know that reaching an old age may mean spending many years deserted in a hospital, maybe unable to move, maybe struck with Alzheimer's disease or something of that kind.
  • In school, you learned bits of European history, something about America and even less about the Third World. If you are over 35, you and your friends tell each other horror stories about how miserably few facts of history and culture modern kids really learn at school (while in "Europe", as you know, children are still forced to memorize important names and dates and read several national classics).
  • You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything you buy. (If you are older than 50, you might remember a time when well-off people could take a ferry to Stockholm to buy things one couldn't get in Finland.)
  • You measure things in meters, kilograms and liters.
  • You're not a farmer. But you have relatives who are, or were.
  • Comics appear in newspapers and/or as books (albums).
  • The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals. Authors and artists or other "intellectuals" have no special talk shows; there are some programs per week reserved for "culture".
  • You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian, you cross streets on the appropriate walkways when there is a green light for pedestrians.
  • You are proud of Finland's role in the European Union, but you speak of "Europe" (with a certain yearning and envy) whenever you mean a (West) European country farther away than Sweden or Denmark.
  • "America" means U.S.A., unless specified as "Canada" or "South America" (where there are dictators ruling over lazy people who wear sombreros or dance samba).
  • You are always anxious to hear what foreigners think about your country. And, although you should know better, you are disappointed when they don't even know that Finland exists.
  • You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be something between a small and a medium-sized car.
  • The police are armed, but not with submachine guns.
  • The biggest meal of the day is at noon.
  • The nationality people most often make jokes about is the Swedes (they are effeminate sissies who have enjoyed the bl ssings of peace while we have done all the fighting for them). You are extremely annoyed when foreigners take famous Finns, cellular phones or saunas for "Swedish". (The Swedes, in return, think of us as primitive creatures who work hard, drink too much and fight with knives.)
  • If you live in Helsinki, there are some parts of the city you maybe want to avoid at night, if you are a female walking alone.
  • You are either unemployed or over-worked. If you have a permanent job, you cling to it. Otherwise, your work consists of periods of whatever you can find between periods of unemployment. In any case, you are either working or looking for work -- unless you are a female with both very young children and a husband who can afford to keep you at home or a job which is really poorly paid and not worth returning to. (Most mothers put their children in daycare homes and return to work after a maternity leave of a little less than a year. It's also possible, although not very usual, that the father stays home to take care of the kids.)
  • The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to be divided equally between their children.
  • You think of opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments. However, you might have visited an opera festival. You don't go to theatre very often -- except, perhaps, if there is a summer theatre (organized by a half-amateur group) in your town or village.
  • Christmas is in the winter. You spend it with your family, give presents and put up a tree.
  • You know almost all the capitals, maybe even the leaders of Europe (although you might have difficulties with countries like Romania or Bulgaria). - "The welfare state" is a good thing
  • If you are under 45, you are more or less familiar with Lucky Luke, Tintin and Asterix (but not Gotlib or Moebius) -- and, of course, the Simpsons. In any case, you know Donald Duck.
  • You've left a message at the beep. You probably have an answering machine at home, or an automatic answering service (provided by your telephone company) connected to your phone.
  • Taxi drivers usually remain silent if the client doesn't start a conversation.
  • You think that Social Security and unemployment payments are good ideas and should continue. You also "know" that some people profit from them without trying to find a real job, which is deplorable.
  • If you want to be an engineer, you don't go to universities, but to a korkeakoulu (literally: "high school") -- but you know these are called "universities" in "Europe".
  • You know something, but not very much, about Asia and Africa.
  • Great Britain is an important part of Europe. So is France -- you are ashamed that you don't speak French, and if you are well off, you dream of buying a château in the Loire valley.
  • If you are over 65, you learned at school that Germany is the leading nation in Europe and European culture (and helps us against the Eastern barbary). If you are younger, your attitude towards Germany may be a little ambivalent, as you have consumed a lot of Anglo-Saxon films, books and comics about World War II. They make good beer, though. And reliable cars.
  • You know that Russia, once a dreaded neighbour and enemy, then a country where tourists like you and your countrymen could enjoy the feeling of Western superiority (and cheap vodka, enough to make many Russians believe there is no booze available in Finland), now sends us mafiosi, prostitutes and beggars while accepting humanitarian aid and still ignoring the truth about its aggression against Finland in World War II. You know that Russians aren't Mongols with slanted eyes (like West Europeans believe) -- but you really know very little about Russian culture. Except that they like melancholy music, as we do.
  • You may have a problem with alcohol. The traditional pattern (men work hard the whole week and drink themselves unconscious in the weekend) has been disrupted with unemployment (no more hard work for everyone), more and more women and children drinking (the reverse side of equality and individual freedom), and the so-called "European drinking habits" (which are understood as sipping wine or beer all the time).
  • Being deep in a forest, with no houses, cars or people in sight, is something pleasant and natural, there is nothing magical (as for Germans), romantic or frightening (as for many Central or South Europeans) about it.
  • There sure are a lot of people working with computers.


From the Internet

This page is an extremely subjective vision of Finnish culture in a wide sense. It rests heavily on the example of Mark Rosenfelder's and others' similar "tests" for other nations and cultures. Enjoy! Johanna.Laakso@Helsinki.FI

June Pelo


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