Finns – Ordinary Joes, Vikings or Neither?

Finnish actor Peter Franzén plays King Harald Finehair in the historical drama television series Vikings. Picture: A screen capture from YouTube

Almost every Finnish-Fevering girl has her own imaginative picture of a standard Finnish guy based on the books she’s read and on movies and series she’s seen. If you have to put it all in one sentence, you could say that this typical Finn looks like a Viking. For such a girl the first visit in Finland may turn into a shock and confusion . . . or there could be a feeling that all her dreams have just come true.

Why? That’s rather easy to explain. When you are so keen on some country, its civilians appear elusive, unreachable and difficult to imagine beings. You aren’t even sure that they are real and exist. They eat bread, go to work and lead an absolutely ordinary life? Noooo, that’s not possible! Your mind doesn’t allow that. It’s well-fed by passion paste made of books, series, movies, histories, anecdotage and pictures.

You exit the airport with your backpack and a head full of expectations and land in the middle of the Helsinki crowd. A crowd of real people with hearts and hands just like yours. And that is the moment all stereotypes brought from your motherland are finally allowed to speak. You cannot read their minds, you want to get to know better who they really are, but you don’t know how to do that.

The typical image of a Finn in a Polish mind is a mix of three ingredients: a piece of isolation in the middle of the stunning, dense wood; a glass of absolutely understandable ability to go to sauna naked; and a pinch of poker face in every situation.

Peter Franzén during an interview in 2013. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

So your thoughts start unconsciously running through the well-known and well-worn paths. The typical image of a Finn in a Polish mind is a mix of three ingredients: a piece of isolation in the middle of the stunning, dense wood; a glass of absolutely understandable ability to go to sauna naked; and a pinch of poker face in every situation.

Stereotypes are often the way to the gentle unknown. For example, Polish people are far away from the Spanish or Brazilian hospitality, but we come across as a rather welcoming nation. Polish people are also rather extroverted, like to meet each other, celebrate and talk.

In general, of course, in general.

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