It’s fun to be a Finn!

Since my lack of running also means there is a distinct lack of running related posts my mind has been working on something “completely different”. Hope you don’t mind.

As you might know, I am Finnish. When I was 20 I moved to Holland and lived there until 7.5 years ago when we moved to London. I am fast nearing a point where I have spent majority of my life living “abroad”. I use quotation marks as it is Finland that feels foreign to me now. I have rarely been back, in fact I think you can count the times with the fingers of one hand, more or less. Definitely not more than 10 times – in 15 years.

Anyone who has moved around a lot knows that it can leave you a bit rootless (and restless). You are not sure anymore where you belong and where you came from becomes a vague concept that you are not sure defines you anymore.

But every now and again something; a song, a hockey victory (that I don’t really care about but still makes me weepy) or even a cinnamon roll, gives me a pang that leaves me breathless and patriotic.

I am desperately out of touch with Finnish pop culture, politics, economic climate and housing market. I just don’t feel the need to follow these. But here are a few things I do know about us Finns that you might find interesting.

1. Finland has lost an arm and a leg to Russia

I mean that quite literally. Finland was part of Sweden from the 13th century to 1809 and Swedish is still officially the second language in the country which kids need to learn at school. We then became part of the Russian Empire and the Finns got fed up. They distinctly felt separate from the Swedes and definitely not part of Russia. Finnish nationalism emerged along with the Finnish language (see point 4) and lyrics associated with Finnish music. I am not going to bore you with the details of our history but in 1917 Finland declared independence. Yes, it’s that recent. The Swedes were cool with this but the Russians not so much and in the WW2 Finland had to fight them twice (!!). Finland won (though Russians try to put a spin on this and claim they did) and kept it’s independence but lost an arm and a leg (and slimmed down). There have been some traumatic times in the history of Finland and WW2 is among the worst. Definitely worth reading up on it if you are interested. Not least because the Finnish troops were 250,000 vs Russian 1,500,000 men. (I am oversimplifying here leaving out the Germans and our attempt to regain lost land but you get the point – the Finns kicked ass)

Finland at it’s largest in 1942. She is called Suomi Neito (Finnish Maiden) in Finland due to the country’s distinctive humanlike shape (being carried by Baltic Sea) (image from Wikipedia)final
Finland after the WW2. Mutilated but independent.

2. Sisu

This is a tough one to translate. This word encapsulates the sheer teeth-clenched-“goddammit-I-will-do-this-if-it-kills-me” determination of the Finns. It is bravery, resilience and stubborness all rolled into one. Wikipedia explains it quite well here. The above picture also goes a long way to illustrate how it comes handy. I like to think that sisu is what helps me eek out that extra kilometer when I am all spent on a run. PERRRRRKELE!

3. Languague

A very difficult language to learn grammatically. Someone posted this on Facebook and it illustrates it perfectly:

English: A dog.
Swedish: What?
English: The dog.
English: Two dogs.
Swedish: Okay. We have: En hund, hunden, Två hundar, hundarna.
German: Wait, I wan’t to try it too!
English: No, go away.
Swedish: No one invited you.
German: Der Hund.
English: I said go away….
German: Ein Hund, zwei Hunde.
Swedish: Stop it!
German: Den Hund, einen Hund, dem Hund, einem Hund, des Hundes, eines Hundes, den Hunden, der Hunden.
Finnish: Sup.
English: NO.
Swedish: NO.
German: NO. Finn, you go away!!
Finnish: Koira, koiran, koiraa, koiran again, koirassa, koirasta, koiraan, koiralla, koiralta, koiralle, koirana, koiraksi, koiratta, koirineen, koirin.
German: WHAT?
Swedish: You must be kidding us!
English: This must be a joke…
Finnish: Aaaand… koirasi, koirani, koiransa, koiramme, koiranne, koiraani, koiraasi, koiraansa, koiraamme, koiraanne, koirassani, koirassasi, koirassansa, koirassamme, koirassanne, koirastani, koirastasi, koirastansa, koirastamme, koirastanne, koirallani, koirallasi, koirallansa, koirallamme, koirallanne, koiranani, koiranasi, koiranansa, koiranamme, koirananne, koirakseni, koiraksesi, koiraksensa, koiraksemme, koiraksenne, koirattani, koirattasi, koirattansa, koirattamme, koirattanne, koirineni, koirinesi, koirinensa, koirinemme, koirinenne.
English: Those are words for a dog???
Finnish: Wait! I didn’t stop yet. There is still: koirakaan, koirankaan, koiraakaan, koirassakaan, koirastakaan, koiraankaan, koirallakaan, koiraltakaan, koirallekaan, koiranakaan, koiraksikaan, koirattakaan, koirineenkaan, koirinkaan, koirako, koiranko, koiraako, koirassako, koirastako, koiraanko, koirallako, koiraltako, koiralleko, koiranako, koiraksiko, koirattako, koirineenko, koirinko, koirasikaan, koiranikaan, koiransakaan, koirammekaan, koirannekaan, koiraanikaan, koiraasikaan, koiraansakaan, koiraammekaan, koiraannekaan, koirassanikaan, koirassasikaan, koirassansakaan, koirassammekaan, koirassannekaan, koirastanikaan, koirastasikaan, koirastansakaan, koirastammekaan, koirastannekaan, koirallanikaan, koirallasikaan, koirallansakaan, koirallammekaan, koirallannekaan, koirananikaan, koiranasikaan, koiranansakaan, koiranammekaan, koiranannekaan, koiraksenikaan, koiraksesikaan, koiraksensakaan, koiraksemmekaan, koiraksennekaan, koirattanikaan, koirattasikaan, koirattansakaan, koirattammekaan, koirattannekaan, koirinenikaan, koirinesikaan, koirinensakaan, koirinemmekaan, koirinennekaan, koirasiko, koiraniko, koiransako, koirammeko, koiranneko, koiraaniko, koiraasiko, koiraansako, koiraammeko, koiraanneko, koirassaniko, koirassasiko, koirassansako, koirassammeko, koirassanneko, koirastaniko, koirastasiko, koirastansako, koirastammeko, koirastanneko, koirallaniko, koirallasiko, koirallansako, koirallammeko, koirallanneko, koirananiko, koiranasiko, koiranansako, koiranammeko, koirananneko, koirakseniko, koiraksesiko, koiraksensako, koiraksemmeko, koiraksenneko, koirattaniko, koirattasiko, koirattansako, koirattammeko, koirattanneko, koirineniko, koirinesiko, koirinensako, koirinemmeko, koirinenneko, koirasikaanko, koiranikaanko, koiransakaanko, koirammekaanko, koirannekaanko, koiraanikaanko, koiraasikaanko, koiraansakaanko, koiraammekaanko, koiraannekaanko, koirassanikaanko, koirassasikaanko, koirassansakaanko, koirassammekaanko, koirassannekaanko, koirastanikaanko, koirastasikaanko, koirastansakaanko, koirastammekaanko, koirastannekaanko, koirallanikaanko, koirallasikaanko, koirallansakaanko, koirallammekaanko, koirallannekaanko, koirananikaanko, koiranasikaanko, koiranansakaanko, koiranammekaanko, koiranannekaanko, koiraksenikaanko, koiraksesikaanko, koiraksensakaanko, koiraksemmekaanko, koiraksennekaanko, koirattanikaanko, koirattasikaanko, koirattansakaanko, koirattammekaanko, koirattannekaanko, koirinenikaanko, koirinesikaanko, koirinensakaanko, koirinemmekaanko, koirinennekaanko, koirasikokaan, koiranikokaan, koiransakokaan, koirammekokaan, koirannekokaan, koiraanikokaan, koiraasikokaan, koiraansakokaan, koiraammekokaan, koiraannekokaan, koirassanikokaan, koirassasikokaan, koirassansakokaan, koirassammekokaan, koirassannekokaan, koirastanikokaan, koirastasikokaan, koirastansakokaan, koirastammekokaan, koirastannekokaan, koirallanikokaan, koirallasikokaan, koirallansakokaan, koirallammekokaan, koirallannekokaan, koirananikokaan, koiranasikokaan, koiranansakokaan, koiranammekokaan, koiranannekokaan, koiraksenikokaan, koiraksesikokaan, koiraksensakokaan, koiraksemmekokaan, koiraksennekokaan, koirattanikokaan, koirattasikokaan, koirattansakokaan, koirattammekokaan, koirattannekokaan, koirinenikokaan, koirinesikokaan, koirinensakokaan, koirinemmekokaan, koirinennekokaan

(Still with me??)

Yep, good luck with those…

Here is Mika Hakkinen speaking Finnish:

And just for kicks, here he is speaking English:

(A Finn cracking a joke!! Poor thing, noone laughs!)

Want to speak Finnish? Try some of these.

4. Sauna

This is probably what I miss the most about Finland (in addition to rye bread, Oltermanni, Fazer chocolate and salmiakki (salty liquorice)).

In the “olden days” this is where babies were born (and sometimes made…) – it would be clean and frankly I can imagine it being rather lovely for the newborn to slip out into the warmth rather than the freezing cold. There are different kinds of saunas (wood burning, electric, smoke sauna) but one thing is certain – you will find one in most houses in Finland. In fact I lived in a very small flat (maybe about 45m2) but yet we had our own sauna. Most large apartment blocks will have a communal sauna with dedicated turns for women, men, families and even for everyone together if they felt like it. Sauna is part of, not just our culture but our psyche. Some rules: you go into the sauna naked. Yes, naked. So leave your swimming costume for your trip to the local pool, it’s not needed here. It’s a sauna, not an orgy! In fact soon after I met my (now) husband, we went to Finland to my sister’s wedding. The wedding party (my sister, her new husband, their friends, my boyfriend, my mum etc) all ended up at a cabin by a lake (as you do in the summer in Finland) and of course two things were a must: sauna and grilled sausages. If P. was surprised to find himself wedged naked between myself and my sister’s new husband he didn’t let on. Of course we all then ran to the lake for a skinny dip whilst my mother sat on the porch. All totally normal. All totally non-sexual.

The hottest sauna I have been to was 120C but normally around 90C is perfect. If available, bringing some snow into the sauna to rub onto your skin can be lovely and refreshing (or going out and rolling in it). Or you can whip yourself with a vihta (smells so gorgeous).

Further to point 1., it is often said that Finland won the winter war because of sauna. The men would often build a sauna ad hoc which not only got them warm but helped dry their wet clothes and in many ways kept the men healthier.

Oh what I wouldn’t do get to one now…..

5. Music

Finland is very into heavy metal. I find the below map a very interesting representation of this fact. We like our music hard and heavy. (Oh, in case you don’t know where Finland is on the map, its the red country furthest to right). This is the metal bands per 100,000 people.

Image courtesy of SA-Depo, 2012

You might remember Lordi that won Eurovision Song Contest in 2006, refresh your memory here  


But the Finnish music, at least to me as someone living abroad, is at it’s best when it combines the grit with lyrics that make you feel Finnish.

Here are some examples, some you might get, some you might not – mainly due to the language.


Music played a huge (a HUUUUGE) part in Finland becoming independent in 1917. It helped form the identity of the fledgling nation. Jean Sibelius created the stunning symphonic poem Finlandia and quoting Wikipedia “The piece was composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire, and was the last of seven pieces performed as an accompaniment to a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history.”

Feast your ears and eyes on this.

Maamme Laulu

Our national anthem. I am going to link to an incredibly badly sung version of this song but I just wanted to give you a glimpse of something that is incredibly important to the Finns – ice hockey. Not a huge fan myself so won’t be going any deeper into how important chasing the puck is to my country folk.

Actually, I can’t resist. In 1995 Finland won the World Ice Hockey Championship against Sweden (our arch enemy) and promptly ripped off their song. They won again in 2011 and noone seems to see the irony in resurrecting the Swedish song (in Swedish).

Olen Suomalainen (I am a Finn) (Ehem, originally L’italiano – no further comment…)

Here is the latest version which is a new take to show the new cultural and social variety of Finland these days. Very pretty.

And here is my favourite version of the same song. Very typical.

Monty Python Finland Song

Self explanatory…

Suomirokkia (Finnish Rock)

Just need to add this as well. Wish you could understand the lyrics as they capsulate the Finnish summers of my youth so well.

I seem to have veered a bit off topic but I wouldn’t be doing the Finnish music justice if I didn’t add Matti Nykanen for his services to the nation.

Here is Matti Nykanen in 1988:

Here he is in 2005 (live (not live)) – Matti, you hot thing you!:

I think I need to bleach my eyes…

Oh dear, I’d better leave it here. I seem to be delving way too deep into the amazing archives of Youtube… I am going to spare you such gems as “Bat & Ryyd”.

If you want to know more about the Finns you might want to check out: rally, Formula 1, ice hockey, mental illness, alcoholism, depression, lakes, northern lights etc.

Kiitos ja näkemiin!

7 thoughts on “It’s fun to be a Finn!

  1. My knowledge of Finland has grown exponentially from reading your post. I’m impressed with all the languages you speak, but I did get a bit lost in the dialogue above. It sounds like no matter where you go Finland will always be in your heart and a big part of your identity. Loved the post, thanks for writing it.


    1. I am glad you enjoyed it, it’s been tricky finding any uplifting running related topics at the moment. Finnish language is crazy – we build positions and possessive into the nouns. So eg: car=auto, my car=autoNI, in my car=autoSSANI etc. I feel for anyone trying to learn it (though why would you?!). 🙂


  2. That losing an arm and legs thing … I don’t know if it’s a cool fact …. but looking at how Finland lost land (your graphics) was kinda cool…they DID lose what looks like appendages.

    And … I have a few Finnish friends … their names are spelled soooo different, though they seem to be pronounced ‘American.’ (I put that in quotey thingys as I am not sure if the sound is American or not.) Marja and Liisa … who taught me the joys of eating ludafisk and mammi 😯


    1. I know, the poor maiden was totally maimed!! Not an easy time in our history for sure but I suppose things could have been worse and rather than say “kiitos” I would be saying “spasibo”… Well done to Marja and Liisa for having gotten you to eat mämmi!! Did it take a lot of convincing?… 🙂


      1. Nah … I grew up learning to try things. Though it did give me pause as it looked almost like thick gooey tar!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s