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Are you a Finn?
This page is an extremely subjective vision of Finnish culture in
a wide sense. It rests heavily on the example of Mark
Rosenfelder's and others' similar "tests" for other nations and
If you're Finnish...
- You are familiar with many TV personalities and celebrities,
Finnish and foreign. The latter are, in decreasing order of
probability, American, English, Scandinavian (rarely), French or
German (very, very rarely).
- You believe in the news on TV and in the newspapers. In fact,
you are used to believing in most of what you read or hear --
people are supposed to "say what they mean" or remain silent.
- You have (or you plan to have) a family, which means a spouse
and 1 to 3 children (but not having one doesn't mean a
catastrophe). It's possible that you are a single or divorced
parent, even a mother who has never wanted to marry or live with
the father of her child(ren).
- You may state that "old people should be respected", but you
know you don't have to obey your parents, at least not if you are
- You are accustomed with the society (rather than families,
churches or charity organizations) taking care of the poor, sick
and disabled. When your mother gets too old and sick to live alone
(and that means really old and sick), it's normal to
put her in a nursing home, not to take her to live with your
- You may like football (if you are a young urban male, perhaps
even the strange American version of so-called "football"). In
general, however, you feel most comfortable watching sports where
people wear helmets: Formula One (you know that it is dominated by
Finns called Mika), ice-hockey or ski-jumping. Cricket is
something incomprehensible, but for baseball you have a version of
your own, the Finnish pesäpallo. "Skiing" means
cross-country skiing, but if you are under 25, you might prefer
- You have a vacation of at least a month a year and you do take
it, preferably in July (although it is generally complained that
"in Europe" nobody has vacations of more than a week and we should
follow that trend). You spend it at your summer cottage, bathing
in the sauna and swimming in the lake, or visiting the numerous
summer events every village in Finland has, from opera festivals
to world championships in wife-carrying or rubberboot-throwing. In
winter, you take a week or a prolonged weekend to travel to the
Mediterranean or the Canary Islands. If you are younger than 60,
you won't take a supply of Finnish meat balls and sausages with
- You are most probably a Lutheran (which usually means that you
go to church in Christmas or never, get married in church and have
your children baptized). You may also be an Orthodox or sometimes
even a Catholic (in the latter case, you are usually of foreign
descent or an intellectually oriented convert looking for
"something different" -- the latter also applies for many Orthodox
Finns). Or an atheist, in some few cases even a Jew or a Moslem.
You are accustomed with the state church (and religion, maybe even
God) being there but don't want it (them) to interfere with your
life. What you really believe in is a private matter (and doesn't
depend on whether you belong to a congregation or not), and people
who want to talk about religion are labeled as fanatics.
- If you are middle-aged or younger and urban, you believe in a
kind of all-European gourmet cooking (anything from pesto to
paella) and also visit McDonalds or other junk food places. You
have also eaten in a Chinese restaurant and, if young and urban,
you might like sushi. If you are old and rural, you eat rye bread
and potatoes every day, with either fish (mostly Baltic herring in
different forms) or "sauces" with different kinds of meat. You
feed your foreign guests with reindeer and arctic brambleberries
(an exquisite taste and seeds like pebbles between your teeth) and
try to convince them that these belong to a typical Finnish
Rudolph the Reindeer is food
- You don't consider insects, dogs, cats, monkeys or guinea pigs
to be food -- but crayfish and reindeer are. You also know that in
order to pass for a good "European", you should eat
frogs, oysters and snails.
- Milk comes in cardboard cartons (never in bottles -- and you
must go to the shop for it!), and the colour shows how much fat it
has. If you are male or over 40 (or under 12), you maybe drink
milk at every meal. (And milk means plain milk, not hot milk or
some fancy liquid with banana or chocolate flavour.)
- You drink coffee in every situation where a typical Englishman
would have a "nice cup of tea". Elderly and rural people literally
force their guests to have some coffee, and people whose job
includes visiting people's homes (like clergymen) may develop a
- Your place is heated in winter and has electricity, a TV, a
bathroom and a toilet -- although your summer cottage might not
have all of these. You don't kill your food yourself (except a few
times a year, if you happen to be one of those who like hunting or
- Winters are always snowy (except on the south coast) but not
VERY cold. The heating and other technical facilities work so that
you wouldn't think of people really getting killed because of snow
or cold weather. (Trains may be late, though.)
- A bathroom (kylpyhuone) is a room with a tub
and/or a shower. Toilets are to be found in WC (Water Closet) or
behind doors with more or less clearly identifiable male and
- If you are over 15 (or, in some circles, over 10, or over 8)
and under 65, you have a cellular phone and you use it, all the
time. The traditional telephones work, too, and getting a new
phone is routine.
- Trains are good, but they mainly reach the towns and cities.
If you live in the countryside (and are over 18), you are
accustomed to using your car always and everywhere. In Helsinki,
the public transportation works well but seems to be used mostly
by women and children.
- It seems natural to you that there are many political parties,
although the differences between them are mainly ideological
cosmetics -- in practice, most of them seem to follow a consensus
based on the idea that there is only one feasible
- It seems natural to you that there are people who (still)
believe in socialism or (a kind of) communism, although you know
that the Soviet Union even at its best was an underdeveloped
oligarchy. If you belong to those who revolted against their
parents in the 1960's and 70's by singing praises to the Soviet
Union, you make public apologies now.
- You are not really a racist but unaccustomed to different
races, maybe a little xenophobiac. And then, if you are a male,
you might get aggressive if you see black-haired or dark-skinned
foreigners in the company of Finnish women.
- You think most problems could be solved if only people would
work hard enough.
The Russians never got through -- but Walt Disney did
- You find Americans ridiculous with their primary reflex to sue
whenever they can get away with it, even if it is their fault. You
also watch TV serials featuring American lawyers and court dramas,
and know the American court practices far better than the Finnish
- You trust doctors and respect them enormously. If they fail to
cure you, you won't sue them. (And you wouldn't dream of bribing
or tipping doctors and nurses -- as people did in some countries
of the former Eastern Europe. But then, you think -- unless you
are a doctor yourself -- that Finnish doctors earn too well
- You speak English more or less fluently. At school you have
also learned quite a lot of Swedish and usually German or French,
maybe even Russian or some more exotic language, but you might not
be able to actually speak these languages, unless hard pressed.
You are annoyed at English-speaking people who refuse to learn
other languages; at the same time you speak English with all
foreigners, also with Swedes or with foreigners who desperately
want to learn Finnish, and put your children in an
English-speaking kindergarten or school (if possible), "because
it's useful to learn foreign languages [read: English] as
early as possible". You know that Finnish is the most difficult
language in the world (and of no use anywhere abroad) and treat
foreign students of Finnish with a mixture of admiration and
- You complain about the scandalously high taxation, but not
- School is free, so are the universities.
- The date comes first : 6.12.1917. (And you
should know what happened on that date.)
- The decimal point is a comma, or so you are taught at school.
People in technical and computer professions seem to use the
- World War II consisted of our fight against the Soviet Union,
divided in two periods: "the winter war" and "the continuation
war". We came out "second best": Finland was the only country on
the losing side that was not occupied by foreign armies, we
didn't become a "people's democracy" (a satellite of the Soviet
Union), we successfully relocated the evacuees from Karelia (the
area that was annexed to the Soviet Union) and didn't leave them
to rot in refugee camps, we managed to shake off the Germans (they
were our Waffenbrüder but not really "allies"!)
in time, after the war we paid what was required -- and in time.
(And rebuilt our country without foreign aid.) Those were glorious
times, now generally admired, because there is no Soviet Union to
be afraid of and the present-day young and middle-aged adults have
not been fed up with their parents' reminiscences of "the War" any
The honest people with blue eyes
- You expect marriages to be made for love, not arranged by
third parties. Mostly (and especially if you are a female), you
want a romantic church wedding (if you are a member of the church,
no other ceremony by "worldly" authorities is required). You have
a best man and a maid of honour at the wedding -- mostly your best
friends. And, naturally, a man gets only one wife at a time (and
- Premarital sex is not chastised (except in some religious
subcultures), and young people (of both sexes) often want to
finish their studies and enjoy "a life of their own" before
marriage. Most couples just "live together" in avoliitto
('open union') for some time, before getting officially married.
Some marry only after the birth of the first child(ren), some
- If a man has sex with another man, he's a homosexual. (Or, in
more urban circles, maybe a bisexual or an ultra-modern
gender-blender.) And if you are middle-aged or older, you believe
that most Swedish men are gay.
- You can use a more polite (plural, like French vous) or
a more intimate (singular, like French tu) form when
addressing people, although the polite form is used only in very
formal situations (most people would use it with the president but
not with a shop assistant). Politeness is often expressed by
avoiding direct reference to person, and first names are seldom
used in conversation (often only when you need to catch somebody's
attention: "hey YOU there -- listen to me [and shut
- If you're a woman, you perhaps occasionally go to the beach
topless (depending on which beach).
- If a young woman (or a child) is plumper than the average, it
makes her despair. "Fat" means "ugly". (And yet, many people
are fat. But then, women are supposed to earn their own
living so that good looks and getting a husband won't mean the
- Films are subtitled, never dubbed (except those for young
- You seriously expect to be able to transact business, or deal
with the government, without paying bribes. You wouldn't dream of
trying to bribe a policeman. (What for?)
- You don't have to give tips to taxi drivers, waiters or
- If a politician has been cheating on his wife, serious
journalists seldom bother with it.
- Just about any store will take your credit card.
- Firing somebody is not always possible. It has to be
justified. If it can't be justified, the company may be condemned
to pay damages. This could be one of the reasons why young people
often only find temporary jobs.
- Labor Day is on the 1st of May. (It's also the day of
university students and approaching spring, and a kind of carnival
for all people.)
Blessings of civilization
- You've probably seen Casablanca, Sound of Music and/or ET,
perhaps something by Ingmar Bergman and Aki Kaurismäki. If
under 40 (and maybe in other cases, too), add a lot of American
action and romance, from Terminator and Rambo through Star Wars to
Titanic. If not (and maybe even if yes), add several films
directed by people like Teuvo Tulio, Valentin Vaala or Hannu
Leminen -- or Jörn Donner, or Spede Pasanen, for that matter.
If you consider yourself an intellectual, you have seen some
French and Italian films, maybe even German ones!
- You know (at least by name) the Beatles, the Rolling Stones,
Bob Dylan, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Queen, Michael Jackson, ABBA,
Björk, Spice Girls, Eppu Normaali, Kauko Röyhkä,
Jimi Tenor, Eläkeläiset, Nylon Beat and
Värttinä. If not (or maybe even if yes), you know Zarah
Leander, Georg and Eugen Malmsten, Olavi Virta, Tapio Rautavaara,
Georg Ots, Frank Sinatra, Eino Grön, Irwin [pronounced:
ee-RR-vin] Goodman, Elvis, Mireille Mathieu, Edith Piaf, --
maybe even Tino Rossi or Jacques Brel. (But probably not Caterina
Valente or Guildo Horn!)
- You count on excellent medical treatment. You know you're not
going to die of cholera or other Third World diseases. You think
dying at 65 would be a tragedy. On the other hand, you know that
reaching an old age may mean spending many years deserted in a
hospital, maybe unable to move, maybe struck with Alzheimer's
disease or something of that kind.
- In school, you learned bits of European history, something
about America and even less about the Third World. If you are over
35, you and your friends tell each other horror stories about how
miserably few facts of history and culture modern kids really
learn at school (while in "Europe", as you
know, children are still forced to memorize important names and
dates and read several national classics).
- You're used to a wide variety of choices for almost anything
you buy. (If you are older than 50, you might remember a time when
well-off people could take a ferry to Stockholm to buy things one
couldn't get in Finland.)
- You measure things in meters, kilograms and liters.
- You're not a farmer. But you have relatives who are, or
- Comics appear in newspapers and/or as books (albums).
- The people who appear on the most popular talk shows are
mostly entertainers, politicians, or rather strange individuals.
Authors and artists or other "intellectuals" have no special talk
shows; there are some programmes per week reserved for
- You drive on the right side of the road. You stop at red
lights even if nobody's around. If you're a pedestrian, you cross
streets on the appropriate walkways when there is a green light
Finland, Europe, Earth, Universe
- You are proud of Finland's role in the
European Union, but you speak of "Europe" (with a certain yearning
and envy) whenever you mean a (West) European country farther away
than Sweden or Denmark. "America" means U.S.A., unless specified
as "Canada" or "South America" (where there are dictators ruling
over lazy people who wear sombreros or dance samba).
- You are always anxious to hear what foreigners think about
your country. And, although you should know better, you are
disappointed when they don't even know that Finland exists.
- You consider the Volkswagen Beetle to be something between a
small and a medium-sized car.
- The police are armed, but not with submachine guns.
- The biggest meal of the day is at noon.
- The nationality people most often make jokes about is the
Swedes (they are effeminate sissies who have enjoyed the blessings
of peace while we have done all the fighting for them). You are
extremely annoyed when foreigners take famous Finns, cellular
phones or saunas for "Swedish". (The Swedes, in return, think of
us as primitive creatures who work hard, drink too much and fight
- If you live in Helsinki, there are some parts of the city you
maybe want to avoid at night, if you are a female walking
- You are either unemployed or over-worked. If you have a
permanent job, you cling to it. Otherwise, your work consists of
periods of whatever you can find between periods of unemployment.
In any case, you are either working or looking for work -- unless
you are a female with both very young children and a
husband who can afford to keep you at home or a job which
is really poorly paid and not worth returning to. (Most mothers
put their children in daycare homes and return to work after a
maternity leave of a little less than a year. It's also possible,
although not very usual, that the father stays home to take care
of the kids.)
- The normal thing, when a couple dies, is for their estate to
be divided equally between their children.
- You think of opera and ballet as rather elite entertainments.
However, you might have visited an opera festival. You don't go to
theatre very often -- except, perhaps, if there is a summer
theatre (organized by a half-amateur group) in your town or
- Christmas is in the winter. You spend it with your family,
give presents and put up a tree.
- You know almost all the capitals, maybe even the leaders of
Europe (although you might have difficulties with countries like
Romania or Bulgaria).
"The welfare state" is a good thing
- If you are under 45, you are more or less familiar with Lucky
Luke, Tintin and Asterix (but not Gotlib or Moebius) -- and, of
course, the Simpsons. In any case, you know Donald Duck.
- You've left a message at the beep. You probably have an
answering machine at home, or an automatic answering service
(provided by your telephone company) connected to your phone.
- Taxi drivers usually remain silent if the client doesn't start
- You think that Social Security and unemployment payments are
good ideas and should continue. You also "know" that some people
profit from them without trying to find a real job, which is
- If you want to be an engineer, you don't go to universities,
but to a korkeakoulu (literally: "high school") --
but you know these are called "universities" in "Europe".
- You know something, but not very much, about Asia and
- Great Britain is an important part of Europe. So is France --
you are ashamed that you don't speak French, and if you are well
off, you dream of buying a château in the Loire valley.
- If you are over 65, you learnt at school that Germany is the
leading nation in Europe and European culture (and helps us
against the Eastern barbary). If you are younger, your attitude
towards Germany may be a little ambivalent, as you have consumed a
lot of Anglo-Saxon films, books and comics about World War II.
They make good beer, though. And reliable cars.
- You know that Russia, once a dreaded neighbour and enemy, then
a country where tourists like you and your countrymen could enjoy
the feeling of Western superiority (and cheap vodka, enough to
make many Russians believe there is no booze available in
Finland), now sends us mafiosi, prostitutes and beggars
while accepting humanitarian aid and still ignoring the truth
about its aggression against Finland in World War II. You know
that Russians aren't Mongols with slanted eyes (like West
Europeans believe) -- but you really know very little about
Russian culture. Except that they like melancholy music, as we
- You may have a problem with alcohol. The traditional pattern
(men work hard the whole week and drink themselves unconscious in
the weekend) has been disrupted with unemployment (no more hard
work for everyone), more and more women and children drinking (the
reverse side of equality and individual freedom), and the
so-called "European drinking habits" (which are understood as
sipping wine or beer all the time).
- Being deep in a forest, with no houses, cars or people in
sight, is something pleasant and natural, there is nothing magical
(as for Germans), romantic or frightening (as for many Central or
South Europeans) about it.
- There sure are a lot of people working with computers.