Disclaimer: The blog is usually in Finnish and most likely will be that in future as well (unless I get carried away). I promised my neighbour I would post something in English as an experiment – and ofcourse a Finn would always keep their word. 😉
Pardon my Finnish,
Or rather my silence,
I got caught up thinking an answer to your question: How´s it going?
It’s been good, or how we say in Finland: “Siinähän se menee – there it goes”, “tässähän tämä menee – here it goes”, “ei pahempaa – not so bad”, “sitä samaa – same old, same old” or “hyvinkuneivälitätaivalita – Good! as long as you don’t care or complain.”
Of course, after living in the States for the past 12 months (and spending last 30 years of my life watching foreign series & Hollywood movies), I know that the correct reply is “Good”, “Great” or “Very well!” or at least “Fine, thanks!”. The challenge is – us Finns being so freakishly honest- that we don’t want to exaggerate, mislead anybody or the worst thing ever: let somebody believe we’re something that we´re not. So: Can I say “great”, if I actually have a headache, or is that faking?
Honesty is a virtue though, and therefore you can trust that all of our Nordic compliments are genuine. If I say your hair looks amazing, you don’t have to worry about me trying to please you for some reason. If a Finn says she loves your hair, Finn is 100 % in love with your doe, with absolutely no risk of sugar coating. Mainly because we don’t know how to. With us, it’s often what you see is what you get – what you hear can be carved in stone. And vice versa: we believe what we hear.
If you complement our school system, our nature, ice hockey player, prime minister or unbeatable mobile phone model from year 2000, we’ll take it all in! We cannot even imagine you being only polite, because why would someone say something that they don’t really mean?
Believing everything you say -and sometimes taking it too literally- it might be dangerous to suggest something to a Finn too casually. We take it seriously. If you say “Oh it would be a fun to go camping together one of these weekends!”, you might expect to see me next Saturday morning at your front door, wearing their waterproof jacket and tent rolled on top of my back bag. “Good morning! What? It was just a thought? Maybe another day then?”
Or if you mention over a small talk, that “it would be so cool to come to Finland so you could introduce me to the best spots”, a Finn already has ten tabs open in her inner search engine. What would they show you, which relatives had that nice cottage by the lake and how could we increase your possibilities to actually witness the northern lights? (which any visitor must have seen in Youtube but might be rare sight even to locals.)
We are actually quite honored by your visit (when it’s safe again!), but if you’re not really coming, please let us down easy. I already called my mom and she asked me to check if you like your blueberry pie lactose free or normal? And who’s going to take the first turn in the sauna: women, men or shall we have “uikkarisauna” which would be a swim suit version?
You can´t leave punctuality out of the conversation, when talking about us taking things seriously. When inviting native Finns to your party, please be specific of the time you actually want them arrive. If you say “around six a clock”, they will be ringing your doorbell 6.05 at the latest (and even then, they might apologize for being late). It’s not only once or twice, me and my husband have been the first ones arriving, only to find out there´s nobody else and the other guests won´t be arriving in hour or two.
To my fellow Finns: This might seem like I’m making fun of us, but trust me it’s all love and even a bit of pride. Let’s not look at the mirror too strictly (anymore at least). In fact, I think we should finally embrace our almost stubborn willingness to show up, do our best in any given circumstance, taking a moment to think what we really want to say and holding on to what has been agreed.
After all, being trustworthy, punctual and honest is not too bad blue and white label to leave behind, when we sail to new ports. We might arrive that port awkwardly too early, but would never stand you up.