To visitors, Finland can appear to be two countries—one in winter, another in summer. In winter, you’ll find people hunkered down for a long twilight, when the sun never quite rises. The Finnish character trait known as sisu, a form of stubborn persistence, no doubt derives in part from this seasonal swing. But every cool and irresponsive Finn is countered by one more cheerful.
In summer, when the sun never quite sets, you’ll find lively, outgoing people who never seem to rest. Residents prolong the midnight sun through outdoor music and arts festivals. Long days mean more time for galleries, museums, cafes, live music of all kinds and, especially, the great outdoors. The country has an abundance of scenic lakes, islands, forests and pristine wilderness to explore, and a Finn is never more at home than in the countryside, where most residents have a cottage with a lakeside sauna to which they retreat on weekends.
At other times, Finns flock to galleries and museums in numbers rarely seen in other countries, and Finland is said to have the highest rate of newspaper readership in the world (as well as the world’s highest intake of coffee per capita).
Playwright Bertolt Brecht famously referred to Finns as people who are silent in two languages, namely Finnish and Swedish. True, Finns are prone to long silences and bouts of shyness, but when the mood is upon them (and it can strike at any time) Finns can be as lively and talkative as people from any other nation. In general, Finns are honest and refreshingly direct, not skilled at airs and graces.
Finns take their culture and traditions seriously—and expect the same from visitors. The visitor to Finland, whatever his or her tastes, will find much to delight, amuse, inform and enchant.
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