It was year 2000, meaning over 9 yrs ago, when I first had contact with what I was about to call ‘my true brothers in the North’. In all this time I haven’t spent a day without establishing a connection in some way with these people: reading articles, history and literature, observing forums and discussion boards, looking through thousands of pictures, listening to their music (of course!) and especially talking to them.
Now, when it’s been almost a decade of proud Finnish passion, I’m asking myself: what have I gotten to know about them?
I took only my personal experience first, to let me see for myself what they are about. The first Finn I truly got to know is still my friend even after 8 yrs, in which we’ve grown apart, as quite different individuals, and even argued much. So, today I can tell that Finns care for a friendship. This was not the only one to show me loyalty. Looking at the changing figures around me, I see how life brings people together only to separate them after a while. And I see that the constant figures are mostly Finnish…
Well, I don’t live in Finland yet. I use the internet to keep in touch with these people. So, here I realize that this type of communication is something different to them. In my country, if you don’t see a person in the flesh too often, you let it go with the time, you tend to let if fade, you need the so-called ‘real thing’. Because there’s a sort of What’s the point?! – philosophy. To me, Finns stand in contrast. They know that beyond the screen, there is a real person, with real life and feelings.
I made my way to Finland in summer 2005. The most amazing experience was that people were offering to help me before I even considered asking for it! If I was stopping in the street to read a street name, someone had to ask me if I’m lost or need some directions. The same when I was taking a map out. Also, as a metalhead, I was being treated fairly. Mainstream people don’t seem to bother if you’re on the dark side and will give you directions and even precious advice when you’re heading for the first time to a rock festival. (I am used to being mislead on purpose or disregarded…) The Finns’ attitude in public places is something to admire. They are free beings, they need to be what they are, and they understand you have the same right. It could sound weird, but in some other countries, including where I live, there seems to be no such right, so that’s why I was so enchanted to finally find normality! Why should everyone care what you’re wearing or where you’re going, as long as you’re decent and don’t do harm? That’s the healthy way to be, isn’t it?
Then, they are really welcoming. It was extremely surprising to see how easily a Finn invites a stranger to their home. No, I’m not talking about the romantic encounters here I’ve been in various Finnish homes and wondered “How can these people trust me and welcome me so soon?” And I’ve heard many others telling the same: “They had no idea of who I was, yet they let me in and left the whole house on my hands!” Yes, I am aware this may be one of the cultural differences, but think about it – isn’t it great? It’s trust, that trust we ought to have before anything, and becoming suspicious only when something feels wrong.
Also, I noticed the very nice treatment they offer to visitors. I’ve heard stories about them being cold and distant, but I never encountered this attitude myself. It’s not that I don’t believe it though. Maybe I’m just very lucky or social-skilled, but that’s hard to believe…
Finns are nice when treating a tourist. They don’t start taking me to 100 various ‘must see’ places in a single day, because they know it would cause total exhaustion and chaos in my mind. They don’t start bragging about how they are the people who know the best how to live the life. Instead, they care for the needs… because one might get hungry, bored, tired etc. And they tend to ‘take you in the mood of the place’, to show you how they live… Therefore, I enjoyed a nice stay in Helsinki’s southern harbor, watching the navigation and the colorful summer life; I drank some salmari while watching a fun heavy karaoke; stayed in a square and fed the seagulls while the sun was setting down; found some rocks to sit on and talked about the coming gigs etc.
It was great to see that whenever communication happened, it was effective. If you miss or you’re in the need for smalltalk, think again. Do you really prefer to hear useless words and never know where you’re standing, or you want to get something meaningful? I know it can take some effort, patience and maybe frustration occurs, but it’s a small price for what you get. Try it and you may start to prefer it that way. Don’t be afraid of drunk Finns. They do speak more, but it’s not the nonsense one might expect. Anyway, drunk Finns is a subject to be treated on another time, separately…
Since 2005, I visited Finland again in 2007 and 2009, each time in summer. It was always delightful, but I was missing on something. I could get hints of it when I was alone in a room on rainy days. The music began to sound like never before and something was there… I should definitely visit the country in autumn/winter. I’m ashamed I haven’t. This would get me very precious insight and knowledge to complete the picture.