Northern lights in Helsinki

Pet peeves: 10 things Finns love to hate

Northern lights in Helsinki

Due to long winters and rainy summers, it’s not unusual for someone with the warm, yet reserved Finnish mentality to spend a lot of time being annoyed about things. If you sit down and listen to Finns you’ll probably come across more than a few pet peeves.

To help you prepare, we’ve collected a list of common gripes. If you’re hanging out with Finns, you could do worse than to make bingo cards with these.



1. The weather

What’s there to like about Finnish weather, most of the time? It keeps you from enjoying the gorgeous surroundings.


2. Sweden

Our western neighbor is seen as some kind of annoying big brother figure. Then there is the Swedish national hockey team, which deserves a special level of loathing.


3. Russia

For obvious reasons, Finland has a complicated relationship with the great oligarchy of the East. Most annoying: that grumpy bear is a vital trading partner. Infuriating.


4. Smalltalk and unsolicited sociability

It’s not uncommon for Finns to hurry into their flats in apartment blocks as to not have to make the choice of whether to greet a neighbor or not.



5. Wolves

Many “suburban” Finns live in what’s essentially utter wilderness. Still, they remain shocked and appalled by the occasional wolf. If a wolf is spotted, panic and hunting mania ensues.


6. Themselves

Let’s face it: if most people suck, you probably suck.  A popular source of communal self-loathing (‘myötähäpeä‘) is the English language. Finnish, as fascinating as it is, is a weird affair, and Finnish speakers tend to default to a slightly quirky pronunciation of English. Despite great passive language skills and vocabulary, thanks to subtitled tv, Finns tend to think they’re the only ones who default to speaking English with a distinct accent.


7. Sobriety

This is one of those cases where young people these days are way saner than even gen X:ers. However, you can still run into situations in Finland where people consider you a buzzkill if you don’t drink. In some circles, even vegans aren’t seen as equally annoying as non-drinkers. Doesn’t matter if you’ve discovered that you tend to ruin your life if you touch alcohol, you’ll find out who your true friends are after you decide it’s time to dry up.


8. Neighbors

The typical Finnish agricultural landscape of disparate homesteads, rather than villages, is due to a relatively recent land reform. However, many Finns remember their roots in these landscapes and have taken to heart an attitude of Finns just being unable to bear too many people. This makes the idealized version of Finnish life a bizarre version of suburbia, highways and strip malls in the wilderness.



9. Politicians

If you’re popular for some reason, for example through some general purpose celebrity, don’t make the mistake of turning to politics. People will loathe you and move on to idealizing the police and military.



10. Being successful

The law of Jante has to be one of the most dreadful properties of small Nordic societies – don’t think you’re special or better than us. Or rather, don’t make us think you think you’re better than us. If you have ambitions, leave for whatever passes as cities in Finland.


Now, here’s the thing: if you’re a Finn, our list probably left out some vital object of your annoyance and hate. To tell us just how much you loathe us for missing these important facts, let your rage flow into the comment section below.


Title photo by Title credits.


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For the entirety of last week, Helsinki was flooded with diverse expressions of sexuality and gender thanks to Helsinki Pride. Arranged annually by HeSeta and partners, Helsinki Pride is easily Finland’s largest event for sexual and gender minorities and takes place the week after Midsummer, with an attendance of tens of thousands.

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As we will learn, the present is also far from perfection for LGBT people in Finland. The situation remains deeply flawed for transgender and intersex individuals in particular.

But first, read on for a selection of milestones in Finnish legislation relevant to LGBT issues. We’ve sourced these from Seta, Finland’s main LGBT rights organization.

Demonstrators in Helsinki on Kansalaistori near the Parliamane on 28 November 2014, before and right after the passing vote of the Tahdon 2013 marriage equality bill, based on a citizen initiative.

Demonstrators in Helsinki on Kansalaistori near the Parliament on November 2014, before and right after the passing vote of the Tahdon 2013 marriage equality bill, based on a citizen initiative. Photos by Thomas Nybergh (1 & 2) .


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Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1971, with “promotion of homosexuality or homosexual acts” (similar to the British ‘Section 28’) remaining illegal. The classification of homosexuality as a medical condition was abolished a decade later.

Many older people remember the post-war years of an era when Stockholm was a promised land. Indeed, Finnish tabloids cultivated the idea that all Swedes must be gay, ever since homosexuality was decriminalized in Sweden in 1944.

In Finland, discrimination based on sexuality was prohibited in 1995 and discrimination based on gender identity or expression thereof in 2005.

In legal recognition of life partnership, civil unions, or “registered partnerships”, were introduced in 2002, granting access to limited rights similar to marriage. Rights were amended to include adoption of the other partner’s children (to ensure legal custodianship) in 2009.

The debate over gender-neutral marriage dragged on seemingly forever after the 2011 parliamentary election, with one disappointingly downvoted bill. The new system of citizen initiatives was put into play, resulting in 167.000 citizens signing a petition which resulted in approval of the bill in November 2014.

So, what are the problems then? We’ll explore a couple of them in broad strokes, but we acknowledge that this is merely scraping the surface of systemic discrimination inherent in a binary view of gender.

Tove Jansson and Touko Laaksonen

Two 20th century icons of Finnish culture, Moomin author Tove Jansson and Touko Laaksonen (Tom of Finland) managed to pull through as apparently non-heterosexual people long before it was cool, let alone legal. (Images: Wikipedia (1 & 2)).


The confusion over sexuality vs gender vs anatomy

In itself, the term “gay rights” isn’t a very inclusive affair. While mainstream culture around the western world seems to be increasingly accepting of the presence of homosexual behavior as a fact of life, many issues related to gender minorities are still clouded by ignorance.

As a complicated topic worth exploring further, it’s necessary to point out that the appearance of someone’s body isn’t always very indicative of their gender; especially when many cultures insist on a binary where gender corresponds to, and is determined by, one of two “acceptable” sets of reproductive organs.

But this is simply not the case. Put briefly: each day, intersex babies are born all over the world with visible or invisible ambiguity in their gendered anatomy: reproductive organs, hormones, chromosomes, etc.

Each day, doctors make random choices and, to put it bluntly, mutilate many of these children. The intention is to produce genitalia that conform to the prevailing norms of what boys and girls look like. Oftentimes, these alterations to infants’ bodies cram them into a set of expectations of gender that may end up being wrong at some later point in their life.

Oftentimes, such mutilation is performed in utmost secrecy; in recent history, parents and doctors have kept this information hidden even from the child well into adulthood, denying them the opportunity to explore the actual reality of their gender.

This is by no means a strictly Finnish problem, but some doctors defend this practice. Yet, such a level of guesswork seems amazingly lax for the scientific standards we otherwise expect from the medical profession.

Helsinki Pride 2014 post-parade Park Fest in Sinebrychoff Park.

Helsinki Pride 2014 post-parade Park Fest in Sinebrychoff Park. Photo by Tuomas Puikkonen



Finnish transgender rights are dented by punitive bureaucracy

One alarming omission in Finnish human rights can be found in the treatment of transgender or non-binary persons; individuals who identify as the opposite of the gender they’re assigned at birth, or who find neither of the available categories correct. This also includes intersex individuals whose gender has been misassigned at infancy, often through surgical mutilation.

Some individuals who wish to reassign their legal gender to the other of the two available categories feel comfortable with their options; for others, the other position of the gender binary can be just inoffensive enough to be the less mismatched one. Again: two genders based on reproductive anatomy is far from adequate. (And gender isn’t tied to sexual preference either.)

Here comes the nonsensical part of the Finnish system: the process of reassigning one’s legal gender requires a doctor’s diagnosis. This is more hair-raising than it may sound, because people expressing too much gender non-conformity, or with comorbid conditions such as depression (itself often just a symptom of untreated gender dysphoria), are routinely denied diagnosis and care.

After this diagnosis, the person can apply for a differently gendered name and receive new ID papers. Only, the ID papers are prescribed to the same gender as before. One consequence of this is that people are legally forced to carry ID papers that may involuntarily expose them as transgender for at least an entire year before they may have their gender marker changed; information which may be exposed in countless systems that needlessly file people by gender, causing endless everyday inconvenience, and worse.

Shots from the Helsinki Pride 2016 parade and Park Fest at Kansalaistori.  Photos by Thomas Nybergh.

Shots from the Helsinki Pride 2016 parade and Park Fest at Kansalaistori. Photos by Thomas Nybergh.


How would you feel about being sterilized to get a new passport?

For a transgender person in Finland to be a candidate for the final, actual legal gender reassignment, a second doctor must confirm their ‘diagnosis’. Before 2015 people with one of the two possible diagnoses (which roughly correspond to ‘transgender’ and ‘non-binary’) were even completely ineligible for legal gender reassignment, but recent activism has made it possible, albeit difficult, to choose the “less incorrect” option even with the ‘non-binary’ diagnosis.

Only, that’s not all: the individual must also be proven to be infertile. This usually achieved as a byproduct of hormone replacement therapy, which many transgender people choose to alter their bodies – and brains.

However, not everyone who needs to change their legal gender wants hormonal therapy or is able to access it due to medical concerns. So, in effect, Finland is practicing forced, or coerced sterilization of transgender individuals and other gender minorities. The price of not conforming to certain expectations about fitting into a gender binary is to be bereft of reproductive ability.

Trasek, Transtukipiste and Amnesty International provide more information on transgender and intersex rights in Finland, in Finnish.

Title images (1 and 2) by Alejandro Lorenzo

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