Being Finnish is a blessing and a curse. We have clean air and lots of beautiful nature. We have the sauna and The Santa Claus (=Joulupukki). Our school and health care systems are quite awesome. We don’t have to worry how to pay the tuition fees, simply because studying is free. We have a system which takes care of you if you get unemployed and if you get sick, you don’t have to think about your insurances to get the treatment. Obviously this doesn’t mean that we don’t have any people who are down and out, sure we do, but overall it’s a great country to live.
Finnish culture is quite… different. I actually found this website which describes the cultural etiquettes around the world and this is what it said about Finnish people:
Loyalty, reliability, self-sufficiency and independence are highly valued. Finns are proud of their heritage and current society (they are leaders in peace conferences and international peace initiatives). They enjoy nature and proudly protect their environment, which is one of the cleanest in the world. Finns value their privacy and appreciate others respecting it.
You always have to remember that we’re all different, obviously, but I can agree this. This is pretty much what Finnishness is. The same website also tells what Finnish body language is like:
Keep some physical distance from Finns. Respect their shyness and desire for privacy. Do not engage a Finn in conversation on a bus or in a line, restaurant or other public places. Never hug, kiss or touch a Finn. Maintain eye contact when speaking to someone.
OMG. This is hilarious. I know, trust me, that this is kinda true. We don’t usually wanna talk to strangers on a bus. We avoid sitting next to someone we don’t know. And yes, we need our own space. But there’s a lot of us who hug and touch and laugh out loud, even though we don’t have the same kind of small talk culture like in the US for example. When I’m at work or with my friends, we’re constantly talking, laughing, joking and sometimes I even feel that I’m too talkative. Many of my friends and co-workers are so loud that someone who reads a book about Finnishness and comes to Finland would be shocked when meeting them.
I’ve been born in a small town in the middle of nowhere, where people are quite Finnish. I mean that they think first and if they really have something important to say, then they might say it. (Except my sister-in-law, she’s loud. And laughing constantly.) My parents handled their divorce without talking about it. When I was a kid, we didn’t really show our emotions a lot at home. I was raised to prioritize work over life and to do normal things without drawing attention. I’ve had some phases in my life when I haven’t really done my parents proud, and I’m still sorry for all that. I’ve never been encouraged to live my life to the fullest and chase my dreams. It’s always been about working and settling down. And over time I started to think that maybe that really is the way to happiness. Maybe the only way to live this life is to abandon my stupid dreams about travelling the world and just do my job, pay my bills and find someone to share my life with. And I’ve tried.
I love my family and my parent has given me a good life. I understand them since I know their history and how the life has been after the war. It hasn’t been easy and they’ve done their best and I’m grateful for having an amazing family. I don’t see them often ’cause I live quite far away now (and I have to work!), but they are always there for me and vice versa. I was actually 16 years old when I moved away from home but in my home town it’s normal, because there are no schools other than the primary school.
Okay, this became a long story of my Finnish family 😀 Anyways, this is the story behind my doubts. Few times I’ve been talking about my travel plans for some guys and the response has usually been that becoming a solo female traveler is just insane. I’ve basically always dreamed about travelling the world by myself but I haven’t had the courage for that. How could I leave my job and live without any incomes? And if I save money and take off, what do I do after that? Isn’t it irresponsible to waste my money on travelling? What would I do with all of my belongings? And relationships! Ohh shit, relationships. I’ve had way too may of them and I’ve let them to hold myself back wayyy too much. I’ve even been thinking that I’m too old for taking off. WTF!? So I’m 33 now and I should live the rest of my life thinking that I can’t pursue happiness in my own way ’cause I’m too old for that. Good luck for the next 60 years!
Right now I’m actually quite happy. I live alone, I don’t do much besides work and yoga and I have just a few good friends whom I meet every now and then. I work as a nurse in rehabilitating evaluation unit, which means that I go to peoples homes and evaluate their need of care and so on. And I like it even though it has it’s ups and downs, just like every job on this planet. Sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming and I find myself thinking: is this it? This is what I’ll do the rest of my life? Work, take my dog for a walk, try not to be too tired for my yoga practice, laundry, grocery shopping and the same stuff everyday. And yes, I just said that I’m happy! I am, but mostly because living alone and having this ”freedom” is quite new for me. I have this empowered feeling that I’m going to do some awesome stuff in my life, I just need the courage to do that.
I’ve decided to make myself understand the following: I’m responsible for my own decisions and I can choose to live my life to the fullest just the way I desire, as long as it doesn’t cause any harm for anyone else. I’m never too old, I don’t honestly need any material things that I used to be dying for and I’d rather invest my money on travelling than a house. And if I become totally broke and miserable somewhere on the other side of the world, so what? In case I miss home, I can always come back to Finland, easily get a job as a nurse and start paying my bills and rents, all that familiar and safe stuff.
So YES. It is acceptable to take off. It is acceptable to live your life the way you want to. It might require some time, planning and hard work, but it might be worth it. Or not. But that’s life, you’ll never know before you try. We shouldn’t hesitate so much when it comes to living our lives to the fullest. We shouldn’t always focus on things that aren’t possible. There are ways to make your dreams come true. And life is changing all the time, your dreams change, nothing is permanent after all – and it doesn’t have to be.
P.S. If you’re someone who is interested in Finnish culture, read a book called 101 Very Finnish Problems. That sums it up being so hilarious at the same time.