Even though we as Finns are proud of ourselves on a national level, best education, best health care, blah blah blah, and very proud of our country itself, for the land of the ten thousand lakes and midnight sun and all the other nice natural things, on individual level pride is a sin like no other.

Sin might not be the right word. Even though about 70 percent of Finns are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland, only around 25 percent of Finns believe in God in the way that the church teaches us. By some survey made in 2011, no time for facts here. We still mostly born into Christianity in Finland and are maybe just too lazy leave it, and there is no separation of Church and State yet.

But that wasn’t the point today. Today we talk about personal pride and why it is bad. You have to be humble. Like our proverbs teach us. Finns are huge fans of proverbs, fun little traditional sayings that include a teaching of some sort in them. Or a fact. Has something to do with common sense and experience. And in Finland there are of course proverbs that have something to do with pride or humility, since humility is a virtue. Here’s one: “God doesn’t grow horns on a proud cow.” Honestly not sure about what that means, anyone have any suggestions?

Another fun one is “Who has fortune should hide it”. And that’s a big part of Finnish mentality. If you happen to get a promotion at work, or win a raffle, or a buy a nice house, you’re not allowed to be proud about it, even better, don’t tell anyone. It’s acceptable so long as you are humble about it. You have to mask your success, as if it was all just a coincidence, or you remind everyone of the downsides of this “success”, if they find out about it. “Oh they just needed someone do to more work”, “Well now I have to pay lottery taxes”, “It is a nice house but we’ll see, maybe it has mice or mold and we’re in debt for the rest or our lives now”. That way people know the fortune hasn’t gone up to your head. You get nice things but at least you’re not happy about them.

Heaven forbid someone compliments you on something you have or do! You have to blush and dismiss it. You don’t say “Thank you”, because that’s being proud. You are allowed to feel good because of the compliment, but you shouldn’t let it show, only happy on the inside. Because that would be bragging and bragging is bad. “Fancy clothes are for ugly people”.

From when we are children we Finns are thought to be humble. Don’t be too happy about your birthday presents so the other kids won’t feel bad. Don’t praise your children so they don’t grow up proud. If you happen to trip and fall, on your feet or on a banana peel, you might hear “You’re too proud, walking with your nose up, that’s why you fell”. Pride does indeed go before the fall?

Photo by Joakim Honkasalo.

— Editors

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

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