On my last entire day in Finland, I am trying to solve one question that has gradually been building up during the past few days. If Finns are always organised and honest, not very fond of giving or compliments, used to seeing people naked, then how do they think about love and passion?
It is not an easy task to find couples in the street. Holding hands seems to be strictly reserved to people who have only just met. Only few kisses are exchanged in public, so it is not easy to find appropriate information suppliers for my article. Kukka-Maaria (24) and Mikko (25, both in photo) are in many ways a rather exceptional couple. They live in two different cities and only get to see each other in the weekend. While many other couples will reserve the weekend for individual activities for both partners, Kukka-Maaria and Mikko do pretty much everything together during the weekends. This weekend, shopping is on the agenda, although Mikko is not a very big fan of that.
Kukka-Maaria (24) and Mikko (25):
`We live in two cities and only see each other during weekends`
Kukka-Maaria and Mikko met in a bar, and they say that going out is on average the best way to find a partner. Beer seems to be the easiest access to other people. Other options, probably involving beer at some point as well, include music festivals, studies or via friends` friends. Digital first encounters, arranged via profile websites like Facebook, are becoming increasingly popular. New couples may possibly hold hands in public and for a short period, they spend lots of time together. `Whatever activities they undertake is up to their own imagination, but Finnish imagination is not the best-known in the world`, complains Susanne (28).
Further on in the relation, and after the couple get to know each other better, a quite clear split arises in what they contribute to the relationship. The division of tasks differs by the couple, with hardly any fixed gender-specific pattern in it. Carolina (18) tells me that her father is doing laundry and `stuff` around the house, while her mother does most of the shopping. Compliments remain rare throughout the relationship, just like declaring your love to the other person. There is even an regular expressions for this phenomenon: Finnish man don't kiss or talk or Don't expect your husband to tell you that he loves you. He WILL tell you if something changes. Rather than in words, affection is shown in mutual reliability and the equal sharing of responsibilities.
Going on holiday with friends rather than your partner is quite common in Finland, especially during autumn and spring. Summer holidays, mostly enjoyed within Finland or neighbouring countries, are enjoyed in the family and so are winter holidays, which tend to be suitable for more tropical destinations like Tenerife. In spring, which is practical for skiing, or autumn, with colourful forests to be discovered, many couples do not spend their free time together. It is quite common to find small groups of only women or only men on trains or in the forest. Each one has his or her own interests and they organise their time accordingly. When one partner leaves, the other one can take care of everything back home, whether or not that includes children.
Things do not get much better outside the holiday season. Carolina and her friend Joanna (17) tell me about the traditional stereotype of a man and a woman living `together`. Men watch ice hockey while women go out together to have a drink. Men work, or have a beer, in their sheds or separate private area, just to be safe from the grumpy wife that awaits them when they are done - so the stereotype runs. Men and wife don`t spend much time together but, instead, they carefully choose which activities to undertake on their own and which ones to share.
The single-sex excursions and multitude of individuality do not imply that homosexuality is generally accepted. It is legally: gay people can register their partnerships with the local authorities, and the only element that is inevitably missing out is marriage in church. In practice, gays or lesbians are even less likely to express their love in public than mixed-sex couples do.
I wonder if, given these conditions, Finnish people do not secretly prefer to live alone. `No`, say Carolina and Joanna. They do not want to be alone for Christmas and being alone can be rather boring too. Carolina and Joanna think that girls select guys that are preferably independent, self-confident and well-educated. For men thinking about women, they think that guys are looking for girls that like them a lot, that look great and that they have a certain charisma.
Altogether, the Finns seem almost as rational about love as they are about life. Straightforward, and with the aim of fulfilling the duties they see themselves faced with. Finns can get very excited about beer, saunas, ice hockey and hardrock. Finnish passion is best compared with the willingness to sacrifice while Finnish love, when seen from the outside, may seem like not much more than a functional solution in the struggle against loneliness.
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