Meeting a Finn is definitely good for a stressed-out soul, especially if you come from a nation of money-oriented achievers, celebrity fixations, and the latest “must have” status items. As a whole, the Finns definitely to do not “do” this status thing, nor do they vie for one-upmanship. They are unpretentious, warm, and friendly — but like their solitude. Although they may appear taciturn, they have a genuine natural affection, are hospitable and easy to get along with. They are tolerant but distrust and despise people who gossip, are melodramatic and overemotional. Being overconfident and over-opinionated is frowned upon. They do not boast, brag or show-off and definitely recoil from the foreigners that do — for in this land only a foreigner would behave like that. In many respects, the Finns have protected themselves from the greed of individuals, as greed and excess are cultural taboos — society works towards the common good. They have a robust self-esteem (in terms of self-reliance), a deep-rooted sense of time-honored values and a healthy sense of irony!
It has been said that a characteristic of the Finns is their sameness. They do not like to stand out in a crowd and their mode of dress is very similar to everyone else’s. The Finns, of course, disagree with this overgeneralization and consider themselves very individualistic. However, an example which illustrates this trait is they do not celebrate people’s achievements much. Whilst births and marriages may be news on the office grapevine, outstanding achievements in professional life, educational examinations or industry awards seem to be swept under the carpet. Their culture does not accept outright propaganda. Any open broadcast would be seen as bragging or showing off, which isn’t good. Being humble is regarded as a plus.
Sisu is the ability to endure hardship and adversity. The Finns reckon that it is this trait that helped them fight off the Russian Army in World War II. Although heavily outnumbered (300,000 against 2 million), they could fight as self-reliant, free-thinking individuals, using guerrilla tactics, against a trained army and incredible odds.
The Finns have had a long struggle for emancipation and a continuing struggle to survive once independence was won. This brave country has had to fight so many times for its freedom. This fact alone has seemingly strengthened the resolve in each and every Finn. They have a built-in resilience to survive prolonged hardship. This Finnish trait is called sisu, meaning guts, toughness, stamina, courage, stubbornness. Even if all looks lost, a Finn with sisu will fight on valiantly until final defeat, and then he still won’t give up. Sisu is a quality that is central to their being — a tough independent personality — engendering selfreliance and cool pragmatism. What sisu is really all about is doing things until they’re done, not because they’re important but because they need to get done, somebody’s got to do it, and you just don’t leave anything unfinished. It’s not about what the “neighbours might think” — it’s about what you think about yourself.
The Finns do not consider themselves Scandinavian, nor do they like to admit that any part of them may be Russian. However, Finnish traditions owe something to both cultures. In spite of being very modern, very technologically driven and “Western” in outlook, old traditions bind people together.