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The bits of Finnish culture that don’t appeal to me

September 9, 2014

I have been living in Finland for nearly 16 years and I have tried and seen and done a lot of different things. Yet, I just realized there some are habits that are culturally important in Finland that I have just not subscribed to or do not actively take part in. Here’s a few:

  • Crayfish parties – ‘Tis the season – now. Taking apart a tiny little crayfish is a lot of work for the measly reward of a tiny little piece of meat.


  • Dancing to humppa – maybe I need to be a little older πŸ˜‰
  • A lot of Finns pick seasonal flowers and tree branches to mark different kinds of celebrations, like Juhannus (birch branches). I prefer to leave them in the fields and bushes.
  • Changing curtains and house decor with the season. Are you kidding me? I don’t have time and nor do I feel like I need to fill my house with extra linen to be washed, dried and ironed.
  • Spring / Christmas cleaning – Finns tend to basically empty the house and clean like crazy ahead of Christmas and in the spring. I clean regularly, but I don’t make a ritual out of it.
  • Seasonal / celebration food – Don’t get me wrong, I really like Christmas ham and Christmas food, but if it was my house, you probably wouldn’t find the peruna and lanttu laatikko on our table. You’d probably find turkey, oven baked potatoes, lots of fish, salad and sweet desserts

Have you lived here for a long time? Is there something you don’t do as the locals do?

p.s. Sorry for the recent absence. With the advent of school and ringette season (both mine and the Little Miss’) my energy has been focused on those things. It’s been tough to keep up!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. maria permalink
    September 9, 2014 1:21 pm

    After reading this, it reminds me why I love to live in Canada! I could not live in Finland and have to try to keep up with my neighbors on the cleaning and curtain changes! Another thing I dont miss are all the flowers on the window sill, all the berry canning, juice making, potato and carrots in the cellar for the winter…I prefer to buy as I need from the store!! In Canada you can be lazy, close your door and dont have to give a hoot about the neighbors!! lol Love your blog!!

  2. September 9, 2014 6:17 pm

    I don’t beat and wash my rugs. I mean seriously who has time for that? haha.

  3. September 9, 2014 7:56 pm

    I think you may have to be a little older for the curtain changes too (maybe that comes with liking dancing to humppa?;)), as I don’t know any younger (= 30+ Finns like me) doing that. My mum definitively does those though πŸ™‚

    Funny enough, I just realised that I used to say the Christmas/ spring cleaning is absurd but looking back it has been about those times of the year when I’ve felt like I need to go through the closets anyway… maybe I was brainwashed?! πŸ˜‰

  4. September 9, 2014 8:11 pm

    I was expecting you to bring up the Finnish drinking habits. ‘Rapujuhlat’ is just code for drinking vodka πŸ˜‰ I’ve never been to rapujuhlat and they don’t seem all that common to me.
    Humppa, seasonal flowers, curtains and cleaning are all things my late grandma used to do but already my mom’s generation has given those up.
    The seasonal foods are a funny thing – you need to have something special to make the day stand out so you eat special foods. Back in the day those foods were better than normal but today they are actually worse – or else we’d be eating them all the time, the gluttons we are!

    • anonymous permalink
      September 13, 2014 1:44 pm

      It’s more of a Swedish-Finnish (and Swedish) thing – not a Finnish Finnish common thing at all (except maybe for the upper class). So, I suppose it should technically be akvavit rather than vodka, too. But considering you basically drink a shot per crayfish, or something to that effect, it’s probably more about drinking and singing than eating.

  5. Sonia permalink
    September 18, 2014 12:19 am

    Perhaps those things strike us foreigners, because Finland has such a homogenous society. I am missing proper regionalism and diversity – many things appear “same” (even if not everyone acts identically). I often hear that “We Finns do/think/like x” or “tavallinen suomalainen” (ordinary Finn) – I cannot imagine anyone telling something similar “We Germans…” (or actually yes, if it is a negative feature, we love nest fouling πŸ˜€ ), because there are so many different cultures/regions and little collectivism. Also nobody would tell to be an ordinary person, because it’s boring and negative. Or the typical slogan “suomalaisen maun kanssa”. What? Every aspect is nearly daily squeezed into yet another study or statistics.

    I need to think about my top 5 – I am sure I can find a lot πŸ˜€

    But integration is not assimilation. You can pick the best parts of another culture, still keep your habits if you deem them better and if you don’t harm anyone with doing so πŸ™‚

    PS. I love crayfish, because of the crayfish, not because vodka and Swedish drinking songs. Preferably in a small circle. And this, like many other food traditions originate from Sweden. At some point, I was teaching Finns how to eat crayfish, so it’s really not everyone who celebrates regularly a crayfish party πŸ™‚

  6. Sonia permalink
    September 20, 2014 10:32 pm

    So let me now rant about my top 5:

    5. Things, I have last time done in the kindergarden – sandals and socks indoors, anti-sun headscarf (with unikko πŸ˜‰ ), rubber boots when raining, returning dishes in a cafΓ© (you paid service charge for), milk with lunch, bringing dishes to the host’s kitchen (just stay off my dish-washer and relax!).

    4. Other “seasonal norms” – ever returning black/gray/beige “fashion” in autumn/winter. Also, “hyvÀÀ syksyn jatkoa” (have a good autumn) is inacceptable, but common in… August /rant

    3. “Sameness” of any kind: first everyone eats light products, then everyone eats low carb, everyone follows vitamine D recommendations, everyone has an Abloy lock, everyone loves Fazer blue and licorice.

    2. Flag obsession – in sports (flag matters more than performance – “the main thing that Sweden loses” -mindset), in promotion/protectionism of local products (suosi kotimaista 70s propaganda), in media fuzz around some next generation expat Finns such as Marissa Mayer.


    1. Lack of attention/courtesy to others and “living in a bubble” a.k.a “leaving others in peace” – cars not stopping in front of pedestrian crossings, cars not letting you to change lanes, not greeting when entering or leaving/not greeting neighbors, turning the back in elevators, smashing doors, not introducing who’s accompanying you when meeting someone else. I do understand it’s not rude, but it bothers me.

    Bonus whine: bread does not come from a plastic bag, sausage contains meat and beer does not contain chemistry – industrial, heavily preserved food. Missing fresh baker & butcher shops and reasonable alcohol policy (not killing all small, authentic breweries).


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