My Finland is a home, a safe haven. A cold land somewhere up north that yet has a warm heart. A bit dull sometimes, ordinary, no frills; and still so well-functioning, clean and modern.
My homeland that has given me a lot to be grateful for.
This post is dedicated to Finland and to the Finns. To all good about us.
We are genuine
The Finns are honest, direct, they say the things the way it is. We are known for our trustworthiness. We might not be the best ones to sugarcoat our sayings, like the Americans for example, but usually all that comes from our mouth, is true in the most pure and the most brutally honest form.
The baby box
This might be the best branded Finnish product that people know even all the way in Australia. There is something pretty stunning that our government grants this box full of necessities to all new babies. And yes, I did receive my own, back in the 1987. And yes, I did sleep my first months in the box!
Another thing Finland is world-famous for. I have received free education starting from the first grade up till my master’s degree. I am even currently studying my second degree, and even this one comes free of charge. I have received a free warm meal at school, free books up to high school, free school trips and free tutoring. During my university studies, the government even granted me almost 500 euros student benefits monthly, and I graduated with zero student debt!
The Finns often say that Finland is a boring country. There might be a hint of truth there, but with Finland being a bit boring, there comes safety. There are no car bombs or suicide bombers in Finland, no erupting volcanos, no violent parties trying to overtake the political power. In Finland, I can also trust the government officials, the police and to the fact that if I ever want to return to Finland, the country will take me back with open arms.
We got the Sisu
I have tried to explain this word to many non-Finnish speakers. It means perseverance, but much more. It means that the Finns get things done, no matter how difficult it is, they just “bite the bullet”, take whatever there is to come and survive. I know that life in Finland is not that difficult as it was back in the old days, when losing one’s crop might have been a matter of life and dead. There is still some part in us that gets a bit of a sadistic pleasure out of suffering and pain and things being tough. When Finns are sitting in a steaming hot sauna, they still add more water on the stones. They suffer, but there is pleasure in it, too. They go swimming during the winter, and roll in snow afterwards. What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. There is even a popular Finnish rye bread commercial in Finland, saying that the bread is “hard like life”. Because, in Finland, it is a good thing for a bread to be hard.
Finnish women were the first women in Europe to gain the right to vote in 1906. And after that, nothing has kept us quiet. We are filling the lecture halls at universities, and more and more the seats around the tables of corporate senior managements. Also in the private sphere we have many unwritten stories about exceptionally strong women. By the time for example my grandmother was my age, she had worked 12 years on her husband’s farm, given birth to six children, buried one and kept the home and the husband under control. Respect.
There is nothing like Finnish nature. While living in Malta, what I have missed the most, are the green vastness, forests, lakes, the smell of moss and the sound of spruce forest, when the trees are rocking slowly in the wind. And the berries, god I miss the wild berries picked straight from the forest!
Internet banking codes
Yes, this is on my list. With my Finnish internet banking codes I can identify myself and get access to several different services: I can do my taxes, check my pension funds, apply for benefits, apply to get into universities or other schools, I can even resign from a religion with them or log into a site to read what my GP has written about me on my last visit!
We have libraries in every single small town in Finland, and they are filled with treasures. Thousands of books, movies, music, magazines, newspapers – and all free of charge. You can even request the librarians to order books of your liking, and you will get a note when they have arrived.
I am grateful that I have been lucky to be born in a country that offers me an opportunity to become everything I want to be. My wealth, my family background, or my gender does not determine the future for me. I have been able to study what I want, earn my living the way I want, choose a partner myself or choose not to choose one. Finland is a great country to start, to explore the wonders of this world. With a Finnish passport the doors are open to you. It is also quite easy to travel and be a Finn. Other people don’t know a lot about us, and what they know, it is usually something neutral or positive. So even abroad, we can be anything we want to be.
Finland has given me blocks to build my identity, the Finnish language that I love, strong education and a safe place to grow up. The most importantly, it has given me a chance to become anything I want.
Happy Independence Day to 100-year old Finland and to all Finns around the world!