by Joonas Sandman, degree student in Environmental Engineering
It’s normal to get an awkward mumble as a response to a hello from a stranger and if you try to strike up a conversation with a fellow bus traveler you often might as well be talking to a brick wall. It’s not that they hate you, necessarily. It’s that Finns need their space.
Finland is a nation of space, after all, and by space I mean surface area. We have a huge amount of square kilometers for each Finn it might as well be a product of good (or bad, depending on situation) luck we see any other person during the day. This abundance of area combined with the cold and somewhat hostile climate has had its effect on the Finnish mind set making us a naturally private people.
This conditioning to guard ourselves against people as if they were the forces of nature does not mean that Finns are an emotionally cold people. On the contrary, Finns care deeply about the quality of their friendships and show seemingly unlimited warmth and good-will to a person they consider a friend. That word is not thrown around lightly. If you succeed in getting through a Finns thick outer shell and into the gooey warm goodness that lies within then you have made a loyal friend, potentially for life.
The thing about Finns is authenticity. The respect of a Finnish person may not be easily claimed with pretending to be happy in the long dark winter and it’s ok not to be. In fact it is a common source of humor, ironically.