Back to nature Finnish style

Despite industrialization and urbanization, Finland manages to retain its way of life in being close to nature.  There are lessons here for entrepreneurs, young and old, who are engaged every day with the demands of business and living a fast paced life.

Although seasons occur everywhere, in Finland they mark the progress of the year with striking conspicuousness. Extending far beyond the Arctic Circle, Finland enjoys such extremes of temperature and daylight that it would not be too far-fetched to say that there are two cultures in Finland. One is dominated by the almost perpetual daylight of the summer sun and surprisingly high temperatures. The other is characterized by cold winters and Arctic gloom that only briefly gives way to twilight during the day.

Summer is special in Finland

bigstock-Midsummer-44518759Even though summer comes every year, it is considered so important that virtually the entire country ‘shuts down’ for the few weeks that follow Midsummer, which falls in late June. After Midsummer, most Finns move to their vacation homes in the countryside.  Those who do not go to the country enjoy leisurely drinks at city street cafés, sunbathe on the beach or hike in the forest wilderness. And finally in summer the usually taciturn Finns become social, talkative and they feel positive.

Business and personal correspondence may be temporarily shelved, e-mails cheerfully return ‘out of the office’ notifications for a month, and conversations between acquaintances revolve more around how the fish are biting or how the garden is doing than around important issues of international politics or the economy. It is easy for a foreign visitor to observe that in summer Finns are especially proud and happy to be Finns and to live in Finland.

Most of the Finns want to spend their summer vacation in their homeland as this provides an opportunity to be “close to nature”. Whether or not there is running hot water is not such an important issue in our summer cottage; we can always heat up the sauna. And those who do not have a summer cottage often have a sailing boat. The whole family could live 3-4 weeks in the same boat and sail along the Baltic Sea. Summer shows that Finns still have an honest relationship with “mother nature”. Finns know how to survive in the middle of nowhere, which berries and mushrooms are edible and how to catch fish and cook it.

Personal relationship with nature

This close personal relationship with nature is the key reason that Scandinavians generally and Finns in particular take such great care of the environment. Proactive environmental and climate change policies enjoy great support among ordinary people, and thus it is easy for politicians to implement increasingly stricter environmental laws.

Old Town in Helsinki, FinlandWell, how about our relationship with nature in the future? According to recent studies, over 70% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2030. But note that over 60% of Finland’s population is already urbanized. This shows that we can be urban citizens but still have close relationship with nature. I believe that is what enables Nordic people to get through their gloomy winter and to survive in a modern and urbanized society. When our everyday activities are full of hectic business meetings, busy teleconferences and stressful travelling, simple living at summer cottages or sailing boats is the best way to get out of our work-related stress and to recharge our battery.

Man is naturally good

At school Finns learnt about the 18th century philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. His book “Discourse on Inequality” states: “The first man who, having fenced in a piece of land, said “This is mine,” and found people naïve enough to believe him, that man was the true founder of civil society. From how many crimes, wars, and murders, from how many horrors and misfortunes might not any one have saved mankind, by pulling up the stakes, or filling up the ditch, and crying to his fellows: Beware of listening to this impostor; you are undone if you once forget that the fruits of the earth belong to us all, and the earth itself to nobody”.

According to Rousseau, the state of nature is good for all human beings. Man is naturally good, and anything that is not natural has corrupted us from this natural state. We could say that Finns are the true disciples of Rousseau – especially in the summer.


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