Friday, September 24, 2010

What is a Finnish Man?

For the fall issue of the New World Finn, my sisters and I co-wrote an article that explores the question: what is a Finnish man? Della wrote about Finnish men's humour and told a very funny story about our father, Kalevi, and his brother, our uncle, Leo, when he came to Canada in the late '60s. Katja wrote a poem about our father's camera and included some amazing images that she created. 

Below is a short excerpt from my section; for the whole article you will have to buy yourself a copy of the NWF! (soon the journal will be available online as a downloadable pdf, so stay posted as their website is currently being revised). 
Mieskuoro Huutajat [Men's Choir: The Shouters]
Finnish men are a beleaguered bunch. They have to put up with all sorts of stereotypes being thrown at them like a bucket of cold water in the sauna.  

Silent. Shy. Stubborn. Stoic. Hard-working. Handyman. Hen-pecked. Non-communicative. Brooding. Pensive. Bottles up emotions. Drunk. Spews off-color obscenities. Refuses to ask for help. Refuses to give up. Refuses to acknowledge illness. 

We may all know a Finnish man who fits one or more of the stereotypes, but then again there are men who don’t fit any of them….
Helsinki's saunas: full steam ahead

that is, after you get to know them. 

Our Isȁ fit about nine of the fourteen characteristics above, but that doesn’t mean he was a stereotype. Far from it. 


Do Finnish men (including men of Finnish descent) share similar traits? Is there a definitive statement to capture their masculine characteristics? 

After your sister, what better place to look for answers than the web? 

I posted a query on my Facebook page, asking my friends to define a Finnish man in one sentence. I know, it seems as impossible a task as building a house on your own, and there may have been some silences out there stemming from incredulity, but some fish jumped to the bait. 

 Here's one of the answers I received [note: in the article I cite more]: 

Visa wrote: "Sorry, my sentence is not a direct definition, but rather a suggestion of what seems… important when considering Finnish men. The suggestion is slightly melancholic from my part:

Although not every Finnish man has experienced sauna or military service, they are the two things with which he has to deal with in one way or another, and they are places where bonds with strangers, friends and family are made and maintained in very particular, Finnish ways."

to be continued....


Ari said...

Hi Taina !
Finnish men didn't give any comments, because "Me ollahan niin vaatimattomia ettei viittitä kehua ittiämme missään julkisessa mediassa".

northshorewoman said...

so, Finnish men haven't left any comment because they are so modest and don't like to talk about themselves in any social media?

No,I don't believe that!....

maybe when a Finnish woman speaks the truth a Finnish man doesn't know what to respond at first???!!!


uliqed said...

I am russian and i do share many of "Finnish Man Stereotypes".
Many years i thought that i have some kind of mental disorder, but after seeing some tv-program about finns i realized that i am all right and i am "not alone" :).
My mother is from north Russia and father have baltic roots.I have red hair and blue eyes, so maybe i have some nordic roots.
Anyway, now i think that it is ok to have some "Finnish Man" characteristics.

uliqed said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
northshorewoman said...

I agree with you; it is absolutely ok to have some of the Finnish men "stereotypes". The more traditional Finnish way of being can make one feel odd in today's world especially. I hope young people who feel strange learn the lesson that it is not only ok to be different than the norm, but also preferable!

Jean said...

Have this finnish BF, who happened to be here with me in my country(philippnes) 2014..But before that, we have ups and downs… 4 months that he not able to chat with me.. Till September came, we back to normal and he met me here.. Right now, we are in the situation where, he not again talk to me while, the past days, we were happy. Don’t know what is going on but..I am being patient. I’ll wait till he spoke to me. Not sure, is this normal to Finnish men?

LittleLil said...

My grandfather came here from Finland during the Cold War. He was not a drunk and always talked to me. I ran to my Bapa everyday after school, he would ask about my day at school and tells me stories about Finland while we sat on the cellar steps eating pickled herring we got in large vats shipped from Finland. What precious memories. I still have the roll-top desk where he taught me to write in Finnish to my relatives in Finland and they would write back in English. An absolutely marvelous, hard working lumberman and carpenter whom I still miss to this day!!!

Anonymous said...

I’m a Persian girl and have known a Finnish man for almost 3 years now and I have been in the same situation as you’re now a few times! Finnish men are a big fan of silence, they are rather talkative when drunk and that’s when they start to speak out or express their emotions. When sober they are super shy! I think they are also so cautious! To me his reactions were quite strange at first and it took me a while until I realized it’s not a mental issue and that’s just the way (most) Finnish men are! sorry for saying that but their traits remind me of people who suffer from severe depression and lack of self esteem. It’s not easy to gain their trust and it’s not easy to trust them really! Every second you should worry about them leaving you all of the sudden. If you’re a social, emotional person who tends to be communicative just forget about expanding your relationship with your Finnish man! They are just too complicated for you and many other people! You can’t change them. They leave you very easily. Me myself have a sense of humor and I laugh a lot but it’s like whenever I talk to my Finnish man should be cautious about the words I utter! They are quick to take offense! And they are grumpy! They also tend to act in a formal way most of the times. They are always worried not utter something that might offend you I think that stems from their low self esteem! I believe we don’t have to be scared to express our emotions the way they are. If someone really loves you they love just everything about you and they accept you the way you are,those who stay away aren’t your type and aren’t the right person for you. I believe everyone needs to let ppl bravely know the real them without being embarrassed for who they really are... anyways, If you would like to have a large amount of times filled with just silence be patient until he’s back again and don’t expect it to be the last time he stops talking to you all of the sudden...
Good luck!