Culture Café: Finland

The last Culture Café of the first module was held on October 18, and was dedicated to Finland. It was the very first time ESN HSE Moscow and the International HSE Office hosted the Nordic country! We would like to thank the real Finnish guys, Mira, Minna, Ida, Ville and Eero, who made such a great Culture Café possible.

Could it be more obvious? We started, of course, with the most common stereotype - the introversion of Finnish people. ‘Finnish nightmares’ is an amazing source of memes about being a Finnish person and living your shy and non-chatty but beautiful life.

The presentation peppered basic facts about Finland, including the capital Helsinki and small population on a large territory (so, like Russia!) with a short three-lined, or rather three-period, history. You should know that from the Middle Ages until 1809, Finland was a part of Sweden. That is why, even today, you can find Finnish street names in … guess which two languages!

Then, from 1809 until 1917, Finland was a part of the Russian Empire, and this is why you see many Russian-style buildings in the country.

Finally, in 1917, Finland became independent.


Before moving to the next part of the presentation, we desperately need to share this  Introduction to the Criminal Code of Finland – your only question is ’why’, right?

“We, Alexander the Third, by the grace of God, Emperor and Sovereign over all of Russia, Tsar of Poland, Grand Prince of Finland, etc., etc., etc., make it hereby known: by the proposal of the subject legislator of Finland, We wish hereby, by mercy, to ratify the following criminal code for the Grand Duchy of Finland...”

And this was it, a real quote from a real document read by a real Finnish student and future lawyer. A good laugh and good to know…

Everyone in the room was thrilled to get a taste of the Finnish language, its secrets, how to understand it, learn and succeed. To begin with, what we did understand was the fact that one word cannot technically have one straight translation. By using prefixes and suffixes, you can change it forever, getting the same meaning in a completely new form. The question was asked — does the Finnish language had at least one word with one clear meaning? The answer was a 3-second silence and NO.

More facts about Finnish — 15 cases, no articles, no gender, no future, no word ‘please’, and double letters matter… Learning new languages is fun, right?

           Are you curious about what makes Finnish culture so special and unique? Then, let’s dive into this subject. To start with, we learned about the Finnish version of the Russian ‘dacha’ — it’s called a ‘mökki’, a traditional summer cottage. Almost every family owns a small house like this, located by a lake or in an archipelago, and this is how a sincere and touching love for nature is passed down from very early childhood.

           However, the Finnish don’t just relax all the time, enjoying the sun and fresh air. Students in particular have a very active social life. They are… ‘party animals’! When you get into university, you receive a special pair of trousers— different colours represent different universities or educational programmes. From that moment, each party means another fabric stamp that should be sewed on your pants. And here the rule ‘the more – the better’ works. Isn’t that a fun reason to join the Finnish students’ community?

Food, food, food… Obviously, fish goes first. What is more, Karjalanpiirakka (the oldest traditional pasties, with a rye crust and usually a rice porridge filling) and mämmia (a traditional Finnish Easter dessert made of water, rye flour and powdered melted rye) both sound and taste unusual. Put them on your to-try-once-in-a-lifetime list!

We will not do too much stereotypical screaming and shouting about the stunning beauty of Lapland, or the Northern Lights, or the romantic dream of every child and adult to see the local Santa – Joulupukki. Instead, let’s FINNISH the article with a most unexpected topic – weird Finnish sports. There is swamp football (e.g. swamp soccer), a form of association football played in bogs or swamps, and wife carrying (Finnish: eukonkanto or akankanto), a contest in which male competitors race, each carrying a female teammate through a special obstacle track in the fastest time.

We are confident that was a lot of information to digest. Be sure to travel to Finland some time, but don’t forget the Finnish need private space! They are cold on the outside, but once you become friends – you stay friends for your whole life!


Author: Irina Klimova

Editor and proofreader: Rachael Horwitz