Monday, October 27, 2014

Stereotypical Finn

Today I've got so interesting task to write about the common stereotypes of Finnish people and my thoughts of them, that I decided to share it with you:

The stereotypes I most often face while encountering people from other cultures and countries than mine are that Finnish people drink a lot of alcohol and love vodka, Finnish people love sauna and every Finn has a sauna in their home, Finnish people are quiet, unsocial and depressed and we commit a lot of suicides, Finnish people do not express their feelings, Finnish people are honest, well-educated and speak perfect English, and that Finnish people love metal music.

The stereotype of Finnish people drinking a lot of alcohol might be based on facts and statistics of alcohol consumption. We do consume a lot of it. As far as I have seen, Finnish tourists and for example exchange students encourage this stereotype with their alcohol consuming habits. I think that in Finland it is more acceptable, maybe even admired, to show that you are under the influence of alcohol, than in some other cultures. Finnish people traveling abroad then might not think that in that culture being drunk is not acceptable. Also in Finland, traditionally, alcohol is maybe not consumed so often than for example southern Europe, but in bigger quantities at once. So you see a Finnish person drunk more often than an Italian person, even the total alcohol consumption would be the same. Finnish people drinking a lot of vodka: this stereotype I do not quite agree with. Vodka is expensive in Finland and I think we are drinking more the lighter alcoholic drinks, like beer and cider. I assume this stereotype has something to do with Finland being so close to Russia.

Sauna is one of the most famous Finnish things, and it is true that sauna is a common thing to have at least in bigger houses and new apartments. Sauna is a significant part of our midsummer and Christmas traditions and it has long history being the place where women gave birth and men enclosed business deals. Not every Finn love sauna, but I do think this stereotype is quite accurate.

In Finland we have bigger need for personal space than in some other countries, which might encourage people to think that we are unsocial. We are used to live by ourselves and our core families and the distance to the neighbor might be big, as we are so few people in a big country. In some other countries people live with their whole extended family in smaller houses and the density of the population is much bigger than in Finland. In Finnish culture it is not encouraged to bother someone unless you have some real business to talk about. In Finland people also speak quieter, slower and maybe less than for example Spanish, which might give a picture of a quiet, unsocial person. People usually think that we must be depressed, because the winter is so long and so dark. Usually these people add that we have most suicides in the world in Finland, which is not true, but unfortunately we are quite high in the ranking. I do not think that Finnish people are more depressed than others. There is several other countries in the world with long and dark winter. And we have very light summer. Actually I think that we Finns are quite fond of our darkness and in Finland we know how to make most of the dark time, with Christmas lights, candles, fireplaces and so on. If there is any statistics of Finnish people being more depressed, I think it is because in Finland it is not a tabu and people seek for help more easily.

In Finland we have an attitude that being pessimistic is good, so you won't get disappointed. Also showing your good luck is sometimes not considered appropriate, instead modesty is admired, which might lead to Finnish people being shy showing feelings of happiness. Older generation might also not want to show their sadness, frustration or tiredness because one needs to be tough, but I think that among my generation this has changed.

I think that the stereotype of Finnish people being honest comes from the fact that we have very low corruption in our country. Also Finnish people abroad are often hard workers, who do their job quickly and can be relied on. Also according to a recent “wallet test” that was all over social media, Finnish people were the ones who were most likely to return the lost wallet with all its content. This was a conversation opener in my work place in Poland, where my Polish colleagues agreed that Finnish people are honest and can be trusted easily. Of course in reality, there is dishonest people also among Finns, but I think that we have quite high morale due to the lack of corruption in our country. We have transparency in our political system, we can trust the government, we have good social care, equality among citizens and more modest separation between rich and poor than in some other countries, which all encourage honesty.

The stereotype of Finnish people being well-educated comes probably from the newspaper articles and studies that praise our school system. And also from the PISA test results where Finland has usually been high. In Finland almost every one finishes at least the first nine years of school, because this is written in the law and quite hard to escape from. I don't know if after that Finnish people educate themselves more than for example other Europeans. But at least in Finland higher education is possible for every one and is not dependent of money. Due to good social care, children do not need to work to help their families survive, which enables them to use their time for education. Finnish people do usually speak quite good English, on my opinion for example better than Germans, which probably is due to the fact that we do not dub the TV programs and that Finnish is a rare language and to travel and to study in upper level one needs to know English.

Finnish people's reputation as metal music lovers is likely due to the fact that we have a lot of metal bands, the most famous being Eurovision winner Lordi. On my opinion Finnish people listen all kind of music, and I for example, cannot stand metal music, so I cannot confirm this stereotype.

So according to this, am I a stereotypical Finnish person? Let's see: I have had my fare share of alcohol, but nowadays the consumption is very low. I go to sauna twice a year; on Christmas and midsummer, I've never had a sauna in my home (if my childhood home is excluded). I might seem quiet and unsocial, but I can also be a social butterfly if necessary. I've never been depressed and never had suicidal thoughts (if teenage angst is excluded). I love to talk about my feelings, but sometimes it's hard to show that I am very happy or excited. I would like to consider myself as an honest person, but of course every one of us tells a white lie every now and then. I have university degree and my English is good (not perfect). I hate metal music.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for your honest post. Every country's people seem to be stereotyped by people outside of their borders. Humans tend to seek definition and understanding. Maybe stereotyping is an attempt at defining people. Stereotyping is one reason why I think traveling is so important, to debunk stereotypes and get to know people based on more than their national identity.

    Ronni Casillas @ JNH Life Styles