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The Finnish Character

Updated on December 19, 2016

So you are thinking about traveling to Finland. Well I am willing to bet it's either for business or for pleasure; and that pleasure may be love itself. The latter was the case with me in 1984 and I never forgot the experience.

Finland is located in Northern Europe and is bordered on the west by Norway and Sweden and on the east by Russia. To the south lies the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Bothnia. The interior of the country is comprised of large expanses of forest; trees stretch literally from horizon to horizon and lakes dot the countryside by the thousands. It is truly a sight to behold and very reminiscent of Northern Canada.

The Finns are a rugged people. The Finnish term sisu ( roughly translated as intestinal fortitude) is most often how the Finns describe themselves. They view their culture as one of getting by - by force of will and perseverance alone. Beholding to no one, the Finns were one of the first countries to pay off their debt incurred during the Second World War.

Most Americans will find the Finns to be shy - painfully shy and very hesitant to speak to strangers. My impression of the Finns was that they would almost go out of their way to avoid putting themselves in a social situation - something as simple as asking a passer-by the time would be uncomfortable to the man on the street. The joke in Finland is that if you see a man smiling on a public bus, he is either drunk or an American. It is also not unusual for a wife to never hear the words I love you from her husband - it is just too intimate, too personal. And that says a lot... There is one thing, however, that will bring a Finn out of his or her shell and that one thing is alcohol.

Alcoholism is a serious problem in Finland. But it seems to be the social grease that the fuels the culture. Open drunkenness is common - particularly on Friday nights. And alcohol is not just a vice for the old. Young people often gather in the downtowns of villages and towns on Friday nights and openly consume liquor, beer - whatever they can lay their hands on. This has become such a fixture of Finnish society that adults and other authorities simply look the other way. And of course fights ensue and teenagers wind up in the emergency rooms of local hospitals. But again, this is accepted and part of the Finnish identity.

So have you made other travel plans? I hope not - seriously. Finland is a beautiful country and with a little patience, the people will warm up to you. One more thing - airfare to Finland is particularly expensive so shop around. Sites such as can steer you in the right direction. Oh and one more thing - the food leaves a little something to be desired. Happy Travels.


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    • DTR0005 profile image

      Doug Robinson 7 years ago from Midwest

      I did not eat tongue, thank GOD, bu...t I did eat reindeer.. yikes. That and some God-awful concoction of cranberries and "straw" I think. Aside from the food, I did have a good time...

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Very interesting and helpful. When I was quite young a Finnish couple (their name was "Lanola" but that's probably not a good Finnish spelling) moved into the house next door. I don't remember anything else about them except they did socialize with my parents. And for some really bizarre reason they introduced me to "tongue" and I liked it. Years later I was informed that "tongue" is actually cows TONGUE and have never eaten it since.

      I don't think I will be visiting Finland in my lifetime. But thanks for the excellent hub!! MM