Our First Impression
Isn’t it luck to know people all over the world? Jaakko is a friend who I met two years ago in Georgia. This guy embodies the Finnish culture. A respectful silence surrounds him. His persona is filled with humor and some melancholia.
Uru and I had a great time with him. We stayed at his student apartment, not far away from Helsinki centre.
The Finnish Soul
Do you ever met somebody from the Scandinavian countries before? Then you might agree with the following description. It is to mention that all the observations where made from by my personal impression about the Finnish people. So perhaps you can see the written ideas as a part of an unfinnished puzzle *hehe*.
The first time I met somebody from Finland was in my exchange semester in Georgia. Here I got to know Jaakko, Jussi, Kaisa and another girl who’s name I forgot (I am very sorry!). Already at the first gatherings I felt the difference in their way of communicating. It is clear that every one had a different character which influenced their intonation and still there was a similar unknown melody in their spoken English. The words didn’t seem to rush and in between were little pauses that respectfully waited for an response. Respect and calmness would be the the right adjectives to describe their way of speaking. And I loved the greeting”Moin” that reminded me so strong to the fishermen language in northwest Germany: “Moin Moin” as good morning.
And then I heard the Finnish language for the first time. “Jäätynyttä vettä” long words with double consonants and vowels, impossible to repeat and still unforgettable. I am very bad at understanding languages and still I felt the beauty here. Of a language shaped by winter, summer, war and peace. Like an stone from the sea that was formed by the time, here was something ancient shining through. Was this feeling that inspired Tolkien when he invented the language for his elf’s?
Followed by the words were their mimic and gestures. The four Finns never showed and overreacting of feelings in their faces. Yes, there was happiness, curiosity and anger and still an unknown lightness in their expressions. As it was not necessary to show the high tones, because the song was always understandable, you just have to listen.
I gave my best to be aware of their way. And blame me, but I felt around this people better than by all the other exchange students, even better then with my Georgian people. It was a joy to be near this four. Only with them I could go to the hot springs in Tbilisi. The was no shame to show the naked body.
The boys and girls were curious and open to join every event I invited them too. And later they invited me to a “Finnish picnic”. It was a cold November evening when we went from the hots springs to a mountain lake. We sat closely together shared hard Finnish bread (and Georgian wine) and took a bath naked in the water. It was bibbering cold, but even I survived. This experience showed me a “Nordic” feeling of getting together for cold bath or a warm sauna. I felt a new feeling of joy, in sharing something like this together.
Jussi and Jaakko often spoke about the love of Finnish people for melancholy and depression. I was aware of this cliché and still I found a little truth in it. Searching in the web for “depressing Finland” led me to some results. Especially the Finnish telenovela left a bittersweet taste on my tongue. There was a strange blackness in all the media. I pictured this feeling as an old dark lake that is calm and beautiful but still known for his life taking water. Only later in Turku (Finland) Jussi showed me a comparable music for this feeling. I never got a deeper look into this darkness.
There is also light. An easy and elated happiness that the four gave me in Georgia. Every smile that I received from them was a dance in the spring. A symbol of life and light. The same feeling if got later in Helsinki when I met and spoke with people. The most of them showed me an embracing smile, that just left me up.
Strange isn’t it? Like winter and spring manifested them self in the emotions of the Finnish people.
There is nothing deeper in can tell you about Finland. I was blessed with staying some days in Helsinki but the most of the time I spend for other not beautiful business. It was sad that I couldn’t make more experiences to write about.
But still some short points can be mentioned:
1. Religion – Let’s summarize this topic in words of an anthropologist “Religion is not so strong here” (Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi in “Religion is not so strong here”: Muslim Religious Life in Khorezm after Socialism).
2. Food – Berries, Mushrooms and strong Finnish beer. Expensive for German standards but incredibly delicious.
3. Alcohol – Beer is cheaper as other stuff. Friday and Saturday seems to transform a lot of people in the “Walking Dead” and later into a forest of dead streets. No, seriously some people drink much over their edge, as explained in another video.
4. Being social – The people on the street will respond respectfully and friendly to you. But there is a space that you must give them, because in the northern cultures the “intimate sphere” is much bigger (a nice article here) . Also I experienced that some people don’t like to be social the whole time. Perhaps you can give your Finnish host some “personal space” even if he insists to take care o you the whole time.
Did I catch something of the Finnish soul? What do you believe? Write me you opinions or critic.
Thanks for reading.
People of Finland (1)
"Finland is not the home of barbarians, as some folk imagine, neither do polar bears walk continually about the streets..." (Mrs Alec Tweedie - Through Finland in Carts: 1897)
One of the wonders of Finland are the people. At least for me, I got with the help of my finnish friends a deeper look into the culture, into the frozen soul itself. It was not as cold as I expected, actually there was no ice, only warm light.
You might have read the text about the finish soul (HERE). This understanding I could only reach with the support of people and through communication. This experiences I would like to share with you.
I made an interview with one of my finnish friends: Jaakko
The full video is HERE on YouTube
(because WordPress doesn’t allow me to upload videos)
The questions consists of some interesting facts about Finland, some typical clichés and of course Jaakkos own impressions about Finland and Russia.
Are you familiar with THE famous finnish saga Kalevala? No?
Then take a look HERE. Tom Hogan explained in his video the saga in less then 9 minutes.
Or you looking for the whole saga to read? Check out HERE. A “must do” for all who are interested in world literature.
See you soon with the next part of “People of Finland”