The Finnish Sense of Community

Finland community

It’s no news that Finnish neighbors tend to avoid greeting each other on staircases and in hallways. While this has left most foreigners feeling that Finns are cold and unfriendly, I prefer that you decide for yourself based on my stories. During the three months I lived in Finland, one thing I can’t forget about this nation is its sense of community.

In the building where I lived, there was a common storage area where every apartment had a private compartment in which residents could store personal belongings like grills during the winter and snow skis during the summer; there was also a common sauna at the top of the building. The building next door also had a common laundry room on the ground floor, with laundry machines and clotheslines, and a common garage for the bicycles.

The ultimate expression of this sense of community of Finnish people is obviously the talkoot, an untranslatable word that refers, generally, to a reunion (get-together) of neighbors, to clean up and improve common living spaces and then, share a meal at the end of the work. In a community called ‘The neighborhood’ I noticed this more than anywhere else – picking up trash even in the middle of the streets.

With this short story, I would like you to reflect on the reality in your country and your own attitude; because, since I returned home from Finland, one question has remained stuck in my mind: Portuguese people are known as a warm nation but would we ever get together to voluntarily collect the fallen leaves from the communitarian backyard? … would you?

(First published in DUNIA print Magazine, issue 4)

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