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Culture & People


Like the people, Finnish culture is indigenous and most prominently represented by the Finnish language. Throughout the area's prehistory and history, cultural contacts and influences have concurrently, or at varying times, come from all directions. As a result of 600 years of Swedish rule, Swedish cultural influences are still notable.

Today, cultural influences from North America are prominent. Into the 21st century, many Finns have contacted cultures from distantly abroad, such as with those in Asia and Africa. Beyond tourism, Finnish youth in particular have been increasing their contact with peoples from outside Finland by travelling abroad to both work and study.

There are still differences between regions, especially minor differences in accents and vocabulary. Minorities, such as the Sami, Finland Swedes, Romani and Tatar, maintain their own cultural characteristics. Many Finns are emotionally connected to the countryside and nature, as urbanisation is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Most Finns speak very good English, in particular the younger generation. Overall Finns are friendly people but they can be a little cold at the beginning, normally waiting for foreigners to make the first move towards establishing friendships. Once you’ve got over this hurdle though Finns tend to be open and warm hearted people especially if you’re reliable and honest.


The Finnish written language has existed since Mikael Agricola translated the New Testament into Finnish in the 16th century as a result of the Reformation. History and folklore were handed down to generations through the spoken word. Few notable works of literature were written until the 19th century at which time the Finnish national romantic movement began. This prompted Elias Lönnrot to collect Finnish and Karelian folk poetry and publish them as Kalevala, the Finnish national epic. The Kalevala promoted national pride and optimism is numerous realms. The era saw a rise of poets and novelists, notably Aleksis Kivi.

After Finland became independent there was a rise of modernist writers, most famously Mika Waltari. The second World War prompted a return to more national interests in comparison to a more international line of thought, characterized by Väinö Linna. In 1945 modern Finland introduced Tove Jansson's "Moomin" characters created for children's books.


Traditional Music

There are two major traditions of folk music in Finland, namely, music of the Kalevala form and Nordic folk music or pelimanni music (North Germanic spelman, "player of music") of which the former in considered the older one. Its most important form is called runonlaulanta ("poem singing" or chanting) which is traditionally performed in a trochaic tetrametre using only the first five notes on a scale. Making use of alliteration, this type of singing used to tell stories about heroes like Väinämöinen, Lemminkäinen and Kullervo. The songs were memorised, not written down, and performed by a soloist, or by a soloist and a chorus in antiphony.

A form of rhyming sleigh singing called rekilaulu became popular in the 17th century. Despite opposition from most of the churches in Finland, rekilaulu remained popular and is today a common element in pop songs. Since the 1920s, several popular Finnish performers have used rekilaulu as an integral part of their repertoire. Early pioneers in this field of pop rekilaulu included Arthur Kylander, while Erkki Rankaviita and Pinnin Pojat have kept the tradition alive.

Pelimanni music is tonal, and is the Finnish version of the Nordic folk dance music. It came to Finland from Central Europe via Scandinavia starting in the 17th century, and in the 19th century the pelimanni music replaced the kalevaic tradition. Pelimanni music was generally played on fiddle and clarinet. Later, also harmonium and various types of accordions were used. Common dances in the pelimanni traditions include polska, polka, mazurka, schottische, quadrille, waltz and minuet.

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