What I’ve Been Told About Finland and the Finns

I leave for Finland in one month. A surprisingly large number of people I talk to here in Oregon have been there, have lived there, or are from there. So I hear the impressions of visitors, memories, stereotypes, points of pride, keen observations, pieces of nostalgia, talking points. My image of the country is a jumble of these images, jumbled with my own expectations. I wonder about the diverse origins of these myths, wishes, and traits. Where did they all come from?


Here is a list of what people, both Finnish and American, have told me to expect:
Finnish people are very, very, very quiet;

Finnish people are the huggiest people in Europe;

Finnish people tell you just what they think;

Finnish people eat a LOT of fish;

Finnish people don’t like small-talk;

Finnish people drink more coffee than anybody;

Finnish people love heavy metal;

Finnish people value their personal space;

Finnish people expect visitors to know about Alvar Aalto and Jean Sebelius, but also Linus Torvalds and Tommi Mäkinen;

Finnish people speak English;

Finnish buildings are hot inside;

Finnish people go to Estonia to buy alcohol because of high taxes; they wheel it back in little carts;

Finnish gender roles are traditional; Finland is the best place in the world to be a working woman;

Finland has a lot of alcoholics;

Finnish cruises are “party cruises”;

Finnish children don’t have tantrums;

Finnish people have “sisu,” which means determination, guts, and resilience;

Finnish schools are very traditional;

Finnish schools are good because the students are homogenous;

Finnish students spend a lot of time looking at their phones in class;

Finnish kids aren’t taught to read until they are 7 or 8 or 9 and by then they know how anyway;

There are no bad schools in Finland;

There are no bad neighborhoods in Jyväskylä (where my family will be living), only poorer ones.


I guess I will go and see for myself!


Image: http://www.domnik.net/photos/helsinki/kuvat/kaivopuisto/2005-03/leikkipaikka2.jpg

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