“An American, a Frenchman and a Finn go on a safari in Africa. They’re walking
through some bushes, and suddenly they come across an elephant. How do they
react?
The American: “I wonder how much money I could get for those tusks.”
The Frenchman: “I wonder what kind of a love life this elephant has.”
The Finn: “I wonder what this elephant thinks about me.”

No, this post is not about dad jokes, or even better, mom jokes, but about Finnish personality. More specific, a Finn interacting with other people.

We as Finns are thought as shy. At least that’s what the other people say to us. Maybe that’s only what they say to our faces, but behind our backs they think other things completely… It’s not paranoia if they’re really out to get you.

Yeah shy. I can relate. A Finns worst nightmare is having the spotlight on you. Be it in a school play, public speaking, or on a podium addressing the press, maybe even as the President of Finland. Doesn’t really make a difference, everyone hates it. Some call it stage fright, others call it common sense. If I go up there, they can judge me. Maybe I’ll say something wrong, maybe someone didn’t fact check my speech (this of course would never be a problem with Mom of Finland), maybe there’s food stuck between my teeth, maybe they don’t like my teeth…

And we can’t avoid these situations either. There’s conferences or seminars, there’s book clubs and there’s other clubs, there’s group therapy, there’s the twelve step program. There’s so many different situations where you have to gather up the courage to simply introduce yourself. It’s horrible, simply dreadful. You sit on a circle facing other people and one by one everyone needs to speak up and tell the others their name, and usually, because it’s apparently easier if you make it a little more fun, some fun facts about yourself. There are many different ways to torture the poor Finn, the people call these “icebreaker games” or “introductory games”. And these games are no use, since everyone is panicking. Before their turn everyone is focused on what they should say about themselves, nervous about not messing it up, not being the weakest link. And after, we are too busy scolding ourselves for saying something stupid. No one remembers one thing about the other ones, lastly their names.

And even when we know how everyone feels about these types of things, we still continue forcing others to participate. Every school function, or Christmas party, someone gets the bright idea that everyone should sing together. At these situations you can only hear the person who is leading this unpleasant action sing, and the children if there are any. Children will always sing, bless their unspoiled hearts. The adults only pretend to sing. We pretend to read the words on the leaflet we were given and move our lips, so you would think that we sang, if you were deaf. We’re tricky that way.

Unless there’s enough alcohol involved. Then all the previously mentioned rules fly out the window. We sing and dance and be merry, like no one is watching. Usually no one is, since we like to be alone. Karaoke is the number one drunk hobby in Finland. And when we’re drunk we’re the best singers in the world, Beyonce got nothing on Pirkko from Helsinki.

Joke time again! What is the difference between an empty stomach and a Finnish person who wants to ask something from a stranger? You can actually hear the empty stomach.

Photo by Andrea Tummons.

— Editors

The writer of this story is a member of the Mom of Finland community.


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