Blogi | 31.12.2016

Another look at the Finnish identity

Recently many of us have been wondering what does it mean to be a Finn. What does it include and how should we talk about it?

The record low in the matter was reached by the youth members of Perussuomalaiset (True Finns Party) with their vulgar video about Finnish Swedes. It was a disgrace mostly for the party but unfortunately also for Finland.

I support the suggestion of PR entrepreneur Terho Puustinen (Facebook, #olensuomenruotsalainen / #iamafinnishswede): show this minority that they have crossed the line. Being a Finn means you should never need to hesitate to use your native language – whichever it may be.

Just like any other nation, we have grown to understand our national heritage in the traditional way: every Finn should know the country’s geography and sceneries of greatest national importance, appreciate local cultural features, and so forth.

Now this picture has been challenged by globalization. Finns earn their living from a global market and, therefore, education and upbringing must set a basis for cultural broad-mindedness. First and foremost, we must express interest in the languages of our closest neighbours.

As a communications professional, I believe that cultural pluralism is of great value for any nation. In Finland, we continue our very own debate about our two native languages. Truth is, the Swedish-speaking Finns have a subculture of their own with elements we all need. For example, self-esteem and positive attitude that will help you wherever you go.

The rest 99% of values are mutual. For example, as communicators, both the speakers of Finnish and Swedish respect engineers and industrial experts who talk only when they have something to say – and still they keep on breaking sales records. Just think what would happen if we started to chatter in multiple languages. Absolutely nothing could stop us.

To take Terho Puustinen’s thought a step further, I recommend you to shift to Swedish now and then: watch YLE Fem, subscribe to HBL, Vasabladet or DN, go to Swedish theatre, sing Allsong or the classic Swedish toasting songs (a nice way of showing off at a crayfish party), … Anyone can find his or her own positive way of learning to know the Finnish identity in Swedish.

(My ancestors came from Sweden more than 200 years ago but the language vanished in a few generations. My grandfather still talked a few words of “uleåborgssvenska” but mostly to his horse. Still I find it natural to think that I have the Scandinavian bit somewhere in me.)

Alpo Räinä