Finnish People

Meet the Finnish people: Exploring the physical characteristics and personality traits of people from Finland

Finland as a country may seem enigmatic to foreigners — what is this strange land that houses reindeers, Santa Claus, and reportedly the happiest people in the world? Finnish people are surprisingly straightforward and simple folks.

The most common stereotypes paint the people of Finland as honest (almost to a fault), reserved, and resilient. Do the stereotypes ring true? Are they all blonde, light-skinned, and blue-eyed? In this article, we explore the Finnish people, their characteristics, and what makes them so unique.

People from Finland: An overview

As an independent country, Finland is a relatively new one. Before gaining its independence in 1917, Finland was under the power of its two neighbors, Sweden (1150–1809) and Russia (1809–1917).

In the century or so that Finland was part of the Russian Empire, the country built its culture and identity slowly and quietly in the background, careful not to attract too much attention to itself.

Even after Finland became independent, Finnish people endured decades of poverty, wars, and a lack of natural resources in rural settings. This, in addition to the high level of religion, resulted in people that believed in hard work and not making a fuss about oneself.

Humility and wanting to avoid too much attention remain at the core of being Finnish, but one should not confuse these characteristics with arrogance or awkwardness — Finns take pride in their country and the defining characteristics that it brings.

Having to navigate the quirks of neighbors on both sides has molded Finns into flexible, easygoing people who take all situations as they come with ease and the belief that things will sort themselves out eventually.

The most typical Finnish people personality traits are humbleness, honesty, pensiveness, and perseverance. The Finnish people have endured quite a lot in their century of independence, but they trust their country’s ability to continue to flourish in the years to come.

The idiom “When a Finn speaks, they truly mean it” describes the Finnish character quite accurately, as Finns prefer to keep a low profile and not blabber on just to fill a silence that others might deem uncomfortable.

Finnish people believe that unless you have something real to say, you should simply keep quiet. So, if a Finn opens up, make sure to listen — they mean what they say!

Finnish People

The personality and character traits of Finnish people

When visiting Finland, foreigners are often surprised by how reserved and quiet Finns seem. Indeed, Finnish people are traditionally much quieter than, for example, central Europeans.

Although Finns may appear reserved and quiet when meeting new people, however, this often changes quickly in two situations: after a few drinks, or once the person gets to know the Finn a bit better.

A large part of the Finnish character is the desire to avoid making a fuss about oneself and to appear as neutral and humble as possible.

Therefore, when a Finn is confronted by a smiling stranger on the street, they typically assume that the stranger is either a bit odd or an American.

Thinking that a chattier personality is a bit full of themselves or wants to make an unnecessarily big deal about themselves is typically Finnish.

Mistaking Finns’ reservedness for social awkwardness or shyness, however, would be hasty.

Finnish people tend to be fine in social situations and are not afraid to speak their minds if the moment calls for it, but simply prefer to avoid loudness and making a scene unless absolutely necessary.

What people from other cultures might consider an awkward silence or a situation is usually not so for Finns – they are comfortable with silence and even encourage it; the ancient proverb “Speech is silver, but silence is golden” is often used in Finland.

Finnish people are known for being blunt and saying things how they are, not how the other person would prefer them to be.

This bluntness can be considered harsh and even offensive in some cultures, and Finns who, for example, work abroad and have to accustomate to working with people from other countries can run into trouble with how their bluntness appears to others.

Being blunt can easily be mistaken with being rude, but Finns are actually very polite people — they simply want to get their point across without having to sugarcoat it.

This combination of bluntness and politeness often works well with Japanese people, due to the similarities in cultures. Perhaps this is why Helsinki and Lapland are so often filled with Japanese tourists!

What are Finns really like?

Honesty and modesty are at the core of being Finnish, but, perhaps surprisingly to some, so is humor. The nonchalant, “don’t mind me” attitude is sprinkled with a healthy dose of self-awareness and self-deprecating humor.

Finnish people are very aware that their country is among the top in the world in many aspects, including safety, education, and clean water and air, but Finns do not like to underline their lucky status.

Despite the desire to keep a low profile, security and privacy are values that Finns hold dear and do not take for granted. In the light of such turmoil as the pandemic and war in Europe, Finns trust that a well-functioning society such as theirs will keep its citizens safe.

While privacy is a core value to Finns, one quite uniquely Finnish thing might suggest otherwise: tax records are public information in Finland and each year as new records are released.

The incomes of everyone who makes more than 100,000 euros per year are loaded into an online database that anyone can browse through freely. The income data of those making less than 100,000 euros is available as well but requires a quick trip to the tax offices in person.

So, one might say that Finns are private, but also surprisingly curious — looking up the neighbor’s income out of sheer curiosity is definitely not uncommon!

In terms of trusting strangers, people of Finland are perhaps among the top in the world. Visitors often tell stories about accidentally leaving their coat, bag, or even laptop computer in a café or a library and coming back hours later to find it untouched.

This speaks to the deeply trusting nature of Finns and how they would rather believe the best of people until proven otherwise; the exact opposite of how people in many other countries think.

If taken advantage of for their trust, however, Finnish people will change course immediately — if you try to swindle a Finn, you will lose their trust forever!

Finnish people are not big believers in small talk; in fact, they would rather sit in silence than try to fill it with empty formalities.

This may feel unnerving for foreigners at first, but they soon realize that Finns simply do not feel uncomfortable in such a scenario — on the contrary, they revel in it.

The deep, uninterrupted silence of a crowded bus or metro in Finland on a weekday morning should be enough to prove that Finns are quite alright with sitting quietly with their thoughts.

Finns are very polite people and causing a scene in public would be considered a deep embarrassment for most. This ties back to the common desire to keep a low profile and not make a big deal of oneself, but also to the deeply Finnish desire to keep things in order at all times.

Finnish people are big believers in a well-functioning society that can function only if all parts of it work together, and most Finns are more than willing to do their share.

By maintaining a low-key aura and stepping in to help whenever needed, Finnish people believe that their country and society can continue to thrive.

Finnish People

How do others see Finns?

Finnish resilience is known worldwide in the form of the term sisu, which was established early in the country’s independence.

Sisu strengthened into a pivotal word in the Finnish culture during the Winter War of 1939–1940, when the power of the Finnish forces against the Soviet Union invasion surprised everyone.

Although no direct translation to other languages exists, sisu could be described as having perseverance and ferocity in all situations in life. “With Finnish sisu,” goes the idiom uttered from between grinding teeth while relentlessly carrying on.

Sisu is such a notable part of the Finnish personality that some say it could be used to describe the Finnish psyche in one word.

Finland is also well known for being one of the happiest countries in the world — if the rankings of various publications and organizations are to believe, that is.

The World Happiness Report chose Finland as the happiest country in the world for the fifth year in a row in 2022, stating such factors as life expectancy, safety, and general quality of living as qualifications for such an accolade.

When people of Finland hear about these kinds of rankings, however, they tend to scoff and note that Finns don’t always seem very happy. True enough, Finns aren’t known for boasting their happiness, and instead might complain about the weather or other daily inconveniences.

A famous Finnish proverb goes, “Whoever is happy should hide it,” meaning that speaking of one’s good fortune could reverse it and bring it to the attention of naysayers.

Finnish people may have a better functioning society than most of the world, but they believe that in this case (as in most) humility and avoiding unnecessary and excessive attention is the best way to go.

As mentioned, some Finnish characteristics clash with those of other cultures. Finns take things very literally, and a simple “We should get together sometime” from a foreigner who means it merely as a formality means that a Finn will start planning a time and a place to meet up in the future.

An American asking “How are you?” throws an unaccustomed Finn into a confusion — do they really want to know how I am, or are they just asking? It is quite typical for Finnish people to say what they mean and leave the rest of the chatter for others.

“Why waste time blabbering, when we can just be clear from the get-go?” a Finn might ask.

Punctuality is a trait that the people of Finland seem to almost be born with. If a Finn says they will be somewhere at a certain time, they most certainly will — apart from an emergency, of course.

The Finnish character traits deem being late as a sign of disrespect, which is something that Finnish people try to avoid as much as possible. Finns tend to try to avoid risks as much as possible, which results in a very stable and trustworthy environment.

Finnish People

What do Finns look like?

Finns, like the people of most countries, tend to have some unifying aspects of their looks, but of course, not at all Finnish people look alike.

The persistent stereotype that all Finns are blonde and fair with blue eyes is simply not true, although such physical characteristics are indeed prevalent in Finland.

Finns who have ancestry outside of Finland can often feel slighted when asked about the origins of their darker features, as if only blonde Finns are real Finns.

On par with their modest nature, Finnish people often downplay their physical characteristics, stating that their features are boring and nothing special.

Of course, what Finns often forget is that their sleek, light brown or blonde hair and bright blue eyes are sought-after looks in many other countries.

A common Finnish saying goes that people always look their best after a sauna; fresh-faced, red-cheeked, and as close to nature as possible.

Physical characteristics of Finnish people

Many foreigners associate Finns and other Nordic people with blonde hair, fair features, and blue eyes, and for good reason: nearly 90% of Finns have blue eyes, more than any country in the world (although other Nordic countries come close).

In all Nordic countries, more than 80% of the population have blonde hair.

For Finnish people, the most stereotypical hair color is what Finns refer to as “road brown” or “road grey,” referring to the equivocal color of worn-out asphalt or dirt roads that cover much of Finland.

This “colorless color” often drives Finns to dye their hair drastically darker or lighter in an attempt stand out from the crowd and bring some personality into their look.

In recent years, however, Finns have started to realize that the ashy blonde that they so often refer to as mousey is in fact in high demand in other countries where it does not appear as often naturally, causing Finns to embrace their “road brown”.

If the typical Finnish hair is light brown to blonde and the most common eye color is blue, it should come as no surprise that most Finns are quite pale. The most common Finnish skin color is an ivory or porcelain that tans rarely and burns easily.

Due to the low UV index in Finland at any given time (the highest is typically in June and July, when the index can reach 5–6, and during winter months the number is usually a plain 0), Finns tend to lather on quite a lot of sunscreen with a high level of SPF when traveling.

Finnish facial features and physical features in Finland

How does one identify a Finn from a crowd? This might be a difficult task for a foreigner, but Finns themselves recognize each other quite easily when abroad.

Finnish people carry some typically Finnish characteristics that may not be very recognizable for others, but Finns notice them immediately: for example, the Finnish self-proclaimed “potato nose”.

The term, which Finns mostly use endearingly and self-deprecatingly in a humorous way, refers to a type of nose that is rounder and bulkier toward the tip.

This, combined with the previously mentioned “road brown” hair, may indicate that Finns have low self-esteem about their looks, but is mostly a testament to their ability to laugh about themselves.

Since Finland neighbors Russia, it is no surprise that Finns do share some genetic inheritance with Siberians. In fact, the Sami people that live in Northern Finland today share more of this inheritance than any other people in Europe.     

Although most Finns don’t share much of the physical features of Siberian people, these features become more and more dominant the further north one travels in Finland.

Finnish facial features can be hard to pinpoint, but the genetic uniformity of Finnish people due to the country’s small population means that they do carry quite a lot of similar features.

Grabbing a seat at a café in central Helsinki and watching the passersby to try to determine which ones are local could result in quite an interesting game!

Finnish people come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, but that is not to say that they do not have some unifying features.

Blue-eyed blondes make up the majority of Finns, but a better way to identify a Finn in a crowd would be to instead look for the common personality traits — the ones who are comfortable in silence, reservedly curious about strangers, and funny in an unexpected, self-deprecating way.

If you get a Finn to open up and trust you, congratulations — you have a loyal friend for life!

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