Yesterday, the 6th of December, Finland celebrated 100 years of independence! In honor of this milestone, I thought I’d share 5 reasons why I admire the nation.
Number 1: the atmosphere. Finland is known for its peacefulness, of course. This peacefulness, of course comes from nature but also from how people behave. During the celebrations I noticed another proof of Finnish peace. In most countries, according to my knowledge at least, there is a military parade on the national holiday. In Finland, there is a student parade. Students from all universities in Helsinki walked around town with lights and torches. There was no music and not even that much security. It was just a pleasant stroll around town which ended with a speech by the mayor of Helsinki and the national anthem.
Number 2: lagom. I know it might be controversial to use a Swedish word to explain this but there is no better word. Lagom means just enough, not too much, not too little. The day befor yesterday, the celebrations started, I noticed that everything was quite discrete but still effective. There was a band playing the national anthem, and then later some choirs joined together to sing traditional Finnish songs. No extra microphones, no special effects, just music. When the president gave a speech, he just said a few words, no need to ramble about how great Finland is (everyone knows it anyway). The celebrations were simple, discrete and cheerful in their own way.
Number 3: the hats. When Finnish students graduate in Finland, they get a white hat. It resembles the Swedish version but also has metallic, gold-colored cockade depicting the lyre of Appollo, the insignia of the University of Helsinki. Finns wear their graduation hat mostly on certain holidays such as Vappu (1st of May) and ceremonies such as the students parade on Independence Day. What I appreciate most about this tradition is that every single student can wear this hat. In Belgium, we also have what we call student hats but one can only get them after being baptized as a member of a certain student union. The Belgian tradition surrounding the hats is thus much more divisive.
Number 4: waving. Finns value politeness. The most important word in Finnish is ‘kiitos’ which means thank you. Finns say it a lot, even when getting off the bus. However, sometimes they are too far from the driver and replace kiitos with a wave. As a foreigner, I first thought “oh so Finns like to wave”, it turns out they don’t. They keep their waves for when they feel it is necessary. This does not include waving to students in a parade.
Number 5: omakehu haisee (literally: it smells like bragging). As I’ve said before, Finns are very discrete, they don’t even talk about their accomplishments. The idiom omakehu haisee is therefore used in a rather negative way. Bragging is a big no no in Finland, even though it is ranked number 1 in security in safety, it has the best primary education in the world, it has the safest banks in the world, it’s the most stable country in the world, it’s also the most literate country in the world, it has the strongest digital knowledge capital in Europe, it’s the best country on wellbeing, food in Finland is the cleanest in Europe. Finns know they have many reasons to be proud but they will still say their country is “pretty good.” Here’s a little video to show a bit more about #bragforfinland