I would go back to Finland in a heartbeat. Despite the price of beer, the cold climate, and the high living expense, I found the greater reasons. Before I pour out the great things about Finland, I want to talk to you about the similarities I found in Finland. If you remember (if you don’t you can catch up from this link) I talked about my travel purpose: to find similarities and differences. I always thought I was from a different and unique country, but I’ve learned it’s all same how people think and lives anywhere in the world. In fact, I thought about this article while I was sitting in the hot-steamy sauna room. Here are the three facts that I found, how Finland is similar to Korea.
The Finnish language is very compelling to me. I wanted to learn even though I knew it’s not spoken in any other part of the world except Finland. I practiced my fair share of Finnish despite the fact that most of the people could speak English. For me, Finnish was easier to pronounce than English. (And I also have learned that Finnish is one of the hardest languages to learn. Shall I challenge?) I could read and say pretty much everything in the phrase book and communicate with people easier than I thought. That’s the charm of a phonetic language.
I always tell people the Korean language is easier to learn than you think because it’s phonetic. Just like Finnish, you can let people know what you think by reading it from the phrase book. Of course, it would take a long time to be familiar with the sound of the language but at least starting point has a low threshold.
I almost freaked out when I first found out sauna was not originated in Korea. Even the world ‘sauna’ is an ancient Finnish word. For some reason, I always thought it was an odd Korean word. The sauna was always in my culture while I was growing up, and still, most of the population enjoy going into the hot-steamy room. Our weekly visit to the public bathhouse when I was little, I got dragged into the wooden-sauna room by my mom or my grandmother every time because it was supposed to be good for me. As a kid, I didn’t like the feeling of breathing the hot air while sweating from my bones. Nonetheless, it was always ‘our’ thing.
Finnish people build the sauna first before the apartment. There are five million inhabitants and over two million – average one sauna per hose. They say the world is most beautiful right after the sauna. A sauna is almost a sacred place for them to cleanse the mind and body.
The best thing I did in Finland has experienced a local sauna right next to a lake. After sitting in the 100degC sauna for ten minutes, diving into the 15degC lake couldn’t feel better. They were right; the world was beautiful right after the sauna.
Once, my Finnish friend said ‘Finnish people are shy. We don’t hug much’. It’s impossible for me to know it since I know only handful Finnish friends but at least from the people I know and I meet, I could feel the distance. Of course, it’s not right to make a simple assumption for such a big group of people but it’s a generalized statement. It’s the same one I for describing my own people. On some level, I feel very comfortable around the Finns. Maybe because they remind me of the people back home. I don’t know the reason why my friends said Finnish people are shy, but I know why we Koreans are.
When I met a traveler who has been traveling in Korea, the subject always came out ‘Korean people are shy’. The shyness comes from the fear of embarrassment. We are not prepared to make mistakes in life. Getting B on the test, saying something incorrectly, not knowing something is all highly prohibited in Korean culture. At least that’s how we were educated in school and home. For a matter of English, even though their English fluency is pretty good they couldn’t speak the word out loud because they are afraid of being wrong. Could someone tell me why people are saying (and even the Finns themselves) the Finnish people are shy? I would like to know.