What is Finnish culture?

In Finland you can hear people saying that significantly many parts of the Finnish culture are imported from other cultures and nations.

”The Finnish ’national culture’ is mostly imported. Without foreign influences we would not have had Sibelius, Gallen-Kallela or Edelfelt.” (Claes Andersson, Helsingin Sanomat on 4 March 2011.)

”Lutheranism brought us German influence. […] Sauna is not a Finnish innovation. […] Helsinki, the white capital city [sic], was designed by the architect Engel who was born in Berlin. […] Coffee, our favourite drink, is not Finnish and neither is pizza.” (Kari Arola, Yle Radio 1 on 9 August 2012.)

”The German composer Friedrich Pacius practically created the Finnish music society. We should not forget that he also composed out national anthem. Furthermore, the Finnish economy would hardly have developed without Finlayson and other immigrants.” (Outi Merisalo, Iltalehti on 10 January 2013.)

”We have received almost everything from Sweden.” (Tuomas Enbuske, Yle TV1 on 22 March 2013.)

And so on.

These statements are not false per se. But in Finland these arguments are repeatedly used against nationalistic movements. That makes no sense.

There does not have to be disharmony between nationalism and international actions. Why should everything about Finnishness be created by Finns? There has always been communication and interaction between nations and cultures. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

In my opinion Finnish culture is not defined by the things that Finns have created, but by the things that Finns do in their own special way. Coffee is related to the Finnish culture because Finnish people drink exceptional amounts of it. Sauna is related to the Finnish culture because Finns go to sauna more frequently than most other people. In a nutshell, Finnishness is all about special features. The origin of those features does not matter much.

Following this same logic, I claim that not all Finnish-made is automatically part of the Finnish culture. For instance, let us assume that some Finnish top chef creates a new dish that receives long-lasting popularity in France but not in Finland. That dish becomes a part of the French cuisine instead of the Finnish cuisine.

The music of Eppu Normaali is Finnish. Not primarily because it is made by Finnish guys, but rather because it is sung in the Finnish language and most of the listeners are Finns. Nightwish, a Finnish metal band, makes much more international music: Most of their songs are in English and they have fans in many different countries. Sure, Nightwish as a group is from Finland, but their music is not Finnish – at least not as clearly as Eppu Normaali’s songs. On the other hand, metal music as a genre is exceptionally popular in Finland and that way it is linked to our culture.

No singular tradition, phenomenon or innovation alone forms the core of the Finnish culture. Finnish culture is a unique combination of many ideas, practices and symbols. Individual pieces of the culture may be endemic or foreign. What matters is the whole.

History knows no stability. There has never been a static, completely original instance of the Finnish culture. As time goes by, our culture alters in at least two ways: 1) Finnish people create new cultural phenomena on their own and 2) Finnish people adopt memes from other nations. What Finnish people find worth adopting is up to them.

From generation to generation, the Finnish culture alters inevitably. This can be called evolution. But can this constant change eventually make our culture vanish? Yes it can, precisely for the reason that Finnishness consists of special features. On a day when the culture of the Finns can no longer be told from the culture of some other nation(s), or when the Finns do not exist anymore, Finnish culture no longer exists.

Tietoja Tuomas Tähti

Kategoria(t): 2013, blogi, English Avainsana(t): , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Lisää kestolinkki kirjanmerkkeihisi.


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