SPIR­I­TU­ALLY FIN­NISH

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - FRONT PAGE - By Yin Lu

If Amer­i­cans are known to be out­go­ing, the British el­e­gant, the French ro­man­tic and the Ger­man rig­or­ous, then what are the Finns?

A comic book that has been widely dis­cussed on Chi­nese so­cial me­dia an­swers this ques­tion.

Fin­nish Night­mares by Karoli­ina Korho­nen fea­tures Matti, a “typ­i­cal Finn” who prefers min­i­mal con­tact and ap­pre­ci­ates his per­sonal space. The un­com­fort­able so­cial sit­u­a­tions de­scribed in the book, such as hav­ing to stand next to peo­ple in an el­e­va­tor, and want­ing to try a sam­ple snack while fear­ing the shop as­sis­tant, have struck a chord with many Chi­nese youth.

It has lead to the pop­u­lar­ity of a newly coined word jingfen, or “spir­i­tu­ally Fin­nish,” which refers to be­ing in­tro­verted or even so­cially awk­ward.

When the Chi­nese ver­sion of Fin­nish Night­mares was printed in June, Rauli Patasvuori and his Chi­nese col­leagues had a good laugh, be­cause many who know Patasvuori see him as “a typ­i­cal Finn.” Patasvuori gladly mocks him­self and even bought sev­eral copies of the book as gifts for his friends.

“It is true,” he said. “Finns are straight­for­ward and warm, and we like peo­ple but some­times we like our own space more.”

He ex­plained that, in Fin­land, it is very com­mon to see that when com­ing into a bus or el­e­va­tor only half full, peo­ple think it’s al­ready full and won’t en­ter, as they’re afraid that they will have to sit or stand next to each other.

Typ­i­cally Fin­nish

To be­friend a Finn, you have to be the proac­tive one, ac­cord­ing to Patasvuori. “[When] we also want to be friends with some­body, it is hard for us to ex­press it. So it’s eas­ier if the other per­son in the be­gin­ning is more into it and giv­ing more.

“I was in Fin­land once for a few days, and it’s re­ally [like that],” tes­ti­fied Va­lerie Sokolova, a 24-year- old Rus­sian stu­dent in Bei­jing.

She gave an ex­am­ple that, back in Rus­sia peo­ple in a line usu­ally stand next to each other, while in Fin­land peo­ple stand about “four me­ters away” from each other.

“They don’t smile when walk­ing down the street, but when you ask them some­thing, they are very friendly.”

Jo­hanna Heikki­nen, a veteran ex­pat from Fin­land who speaks flu­ent Chi­nese, con­sid­ers her­self “partly Fin­nish and partly not,” be­cause she val­ues pri­vacy and her own space but also en­joys con­ver­sa­tions and the com­pany of oth­ers.

She re­calls when first com­ing to China about two decades ago as a stu­dent, she had an in­ter­est­ing talk with a lan­guage tu­tor.

“He said that I was too lively and happy to be a Finn. He had an­other class of Fin­nish en­gi­neers, who were quiet and only an­swered to peo­ple with a yes or no,” she said. “[But] my friends tes­ti­fied that of course Jo­hanna is a Finn. ‘She also likes go­ing to naked sau­nas, en­joys a walk in the for­est and re­ally val­ues na­ture.’”

Connecting with in­tro­verts

Ac­cord­ing to Heikki­nen, the “na­tional per­son­al­ity of Fin­land” of be­ing low key is also shared by many Chi­nese peo­ple she knows.

“[Both] try to be mod­est and not make too much noise about our­selves,” Heikki­nen said, adding that the dif­fer­ence is that Chi­nese pre­fer to be around peo­ple while Finns pre­fer to be alone. Patasvuori thinks that his time liv­ing and work­ing out­side of Fin­land, in­clud­ing 1.5 years in China work­ing in re­tail, has changed his re­served na­ture.

“I was forced to learn to com­mu­ni­cate with peo­ple, with­out

Jyri Lin­tunen, Press and Cul­ture Coun­selor at the Em­bassy of Fin­land, holds the comic book ti­tled Fin­nish Night­mares.

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