Today, Finland is celebrating its independence. It is the 16th Independence day that I will be spending abroad, but I will still be observing Finnish traditions throughout the day. But what does being Finnish mean? Is it being proud of the fact that a nation of 5.5million has produced a couple of F1 and WRC world champions, won a couple of world championships in hockey or being proud of the technological innovations that come from the Finnish shores? In Finland, there is a saying “it’s like winning in the lottery to be born Finnish.”
Yes, those things form a part of what it is to be Finnish, but to me being Finnish is about pride of my cultural heritage and roots. Whilst I don’t want to romanticise war, being Finnish to me means to remember the struggles the country has gone through to achieve its independent status. As I’ve lived abroad, I think all Finns have certain characteristics, which is best described by the word sisu. I mean what else would drive a nation of people to run around practically naked in early May in 1995 and 2011?
The older I have gotten and the more years I have spent away from my native, the more emotional I have become over Finland’s independence. To me it is a day to pause and reflect on the achievements of myself and those of our nation. I find it rather strange that some people on social media networks say they want to leave Finland, but I have a yearning to go back.
Where sure, Finland is not the same country it was back when I grew up there, or what it was when men gave their lives to protect its independence and values, I am still damn proud to be Finnish.
As I grow older, I hope to share the ethos of what it is to be Finnish with my son, who has both British and Finnish nationalities. I want him to have the same cultural heritage as I do and that he understands where his family originated from and the history of Finland and the meaning of what it means to have an independent and peaceful nation to live in.