Today, on 6th December, we celebrate the independence day of Finland. Even though we haven’t lived in Finland for a while and only made short visits there during the last years, it’s still our country of origin and a significant part of our identity. It is true that when you live abroad, you start seeing your home country with new eyes. We are on the other side of the world right now but eventually there is only one country between Finland and Japan 🙂 While traveling and living abroad, we have got used to answering many questions about our home country. We also got inspired of this blog post so today we decided to write about Finland.
Finland and Japan have a good relationship and Finland has a positive reputation here so we are proud to tell the people where we come from. And we have met many locals while hitchhiking around the country! When we tell that we are Finnish, the standard reaction of a Japanese person is an enthusiastic “OOHH really?? Finrando!”, followed by an astonished sigh. Generally, the Japanese people tend to have a lot of interest towards our country and the ones who haven’t been to Finland would like to visit there.
The Moomins are normally the first thing that comes to people’s minds when they hear the word Finland. After one month in Japan we are not even surprised anymore when we see a Moomin shop or a girl walking with a Moomin bag. Sometimes it almost feels like they are even more popular here than in Finland. A good example is a towel museum in Imabari where our couchsurfing host brought us yesterday. A big department in the museum shop was dedicated only for Moomin products and there was also an exhibition and a Moomin garden in there.
Finnish sauna is the second topic that pops up in almost every discussion. We like to share the funny fact that Finland has more saunas than cars and that statistically every second Finnish person has an own sauna.
Finnish winter and cold weather is a frightening thing for Japanese. Even though it’s December, the weather has been quite warm here in Japan and in some sunny days it has been even more than +15 degrees. The people are shocked when we tell what the temperature is in Finland right now and laugh when we say that the weather is close to the Finnish summer. They also know about the lack of sun in the winter and nightless nights in the summer.
Santa Claus is a Finnish trademark and most of the people remember that he lives in Finland 🙂
Many people we met have also mentioned the northern lights, Marimekko, Kimi Räikkönen, Janne Ahonen and a bit surprisingly Simo Häyhä, the Finnish sniper known from the Winter War. One night a random American guy stopped us in the street and we had a half an hour discussion about Paavo Nurmi who seemed to be the guy’s biggest idol. Sometimes the knowledge about Finland really surprises us…
We want to spread a positive image of Finland so instead of depressive news and high suicide rate, we like to tell about the beautiful nature, thousands of lakes and forests full of berries, summer houses, high-quality education and good food. We like to show pictures of landscapes and food. Sometimes we also tell about the informal and laid-back communication style and equality. Differently than in Japan, in Finland we can wear jeans in most working places and talk to our boss almost the same way like to our friends.
Talking about one’s home country is nice because it connects people. It’s an easy topic even despite the language barrier. We have had many long and funny discussions even with many people who couldn’t speak one word of English. On the other hand, we also like to tell what we have seen in Japan and what are our favorite foods. The people are very happy when they hear that we like their country.
Happy 99th Birthday Finland!
The ones who are in Finland, don’t forget to eat joulutorttu and watch Linnan juhlat 😉 We cooked some Finnish salmon soup and riisipuuro yesterday.