Menu Close

Beautiful Finnish Words

The world is full of magical things, from bewildering nature cycles to human traits that we perceive but can’t really put a name to. Look no further, for the Finnish language has a wondrous array of untranslatable, beautiful words that capture the spirit and worldview of the land of a thousand lakes.

Aloitetaan!

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomiruska (n.)

The transformation of tree leaves and vegetation into different shades of yellow, red, auburn and purple that occur during autumn.

This enthralling scenery can be witnessed throughout Finland during autumn, but the landscape becomes more breathtaking further north, where areas are less populated and forests grow denser. Ruska comes from the Northern Sami ruškat (brown).

··········

 

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomitalkoot (n.)

Traditional form of neighborhood gathering to assist with a major task, such as harvesting, building houses or cleaning garbage.

Talkoot fosters a strong sense of community and volunteers usually have a soup dish and alcoholic beverages together after completing the task.

··········

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomikaamos (n.)

Period of the year north of the Arctic Circle 1 in which the Sun does not rise over the horizon.

Although this period of darkness can last up to two months in the northernmost regions of the Arctic Circle, it is rarely pitch black in Finland because the Sun still rises timidly above the horizon, even during winter solstice. This phenomenon gives way to the blue twilight in regions like Lapland, where the darkness takes different shades of blue, violet and purple, reflected on the snow white ground.

Its summer solstice counterpart is the yötön yö (nightless night, known as the midnight sun).

··········

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomisisu (n.)

The stoic determination, brave resilience and tenacious resoluteness shown in the face of adversity, even in situations where success is against the odds. Sisu is a word that Finns use to describe their national character 2.

··········

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomikantohanki (n.)

Thick layer of snow that is solid enough to support a person’s weight without breaking.

By the end of the winter, the sun starts raising again above the horizon. It melts the top of the snow, creating an even layer of ice. For this reason, kantohanki is associated with the beginning of the spring.

··········

Expat Gone Foreign, language comic, fun, untranslatable, beautiful words, Finnish, Suomirevontulet (n.)

Northern lights.

Finland is not the only country where the aurora can be spotted, but “fox’s fires” 3 is a very poetic word to describe them. According to an ancient Finnish folk tale, an Arctic magical fox would sweep its tail and cast the snow up high, creating the fire-looking shapes in the sky.

··········

Revontulet is one of the first Finnish words that I learnt and it’s still my favorite. What about you? Do you have a special, beautiful word that is not present in other languages?

If you liked this article, discover more language curiosities with Poronkusema & the Finnish Linguistic Landscape as well as cultural aspects of Finland in Finns & Interpersonal Interactions.

Näkemiin!

On Migration, Identity and Colorful Earthlings

If you have moved abroad 4, the following scenario might sound familiar: you are at a social gathering, sipping your drink and having a pleasant time. You meet a bunch of new people and engage in small talk. You talk about the weather, food or common interests. They seem friendly. Everything is going well.

But the locals notice that something is off. Maybe you look different, maybe they sense an accent, maybe your body language deviates from the norm. Then the inevitable question arises.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, cultural identity, colorful, worldly, displaced, dépaysement, adaptation

They are genuinely curious to know more about your background, but you realize that the question is somewhat flawed. They ask “where are you from”, and I wonder if this is what they picture in their minds:Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, expat comics, home country, living abroad

But you are not a tourist from country X in country Y. You are not even a long-term guest. In fact, you’ve been away for so long, that right now you are much closer to Y than X. You are at a loss for words.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, TKC, cultural baggage, background, assimilation, acculturation

In addition, your birthplace, the cultural background of your parents or the country where you grew up might be totally separate variables. For the sake of simplification, let’s say those three elements can be stacked up in one pile. It still feels wrong to say I’m X. Instead, I picture something like this:

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, expat cartoons, comics, living abroad, foreign country

You are in that green area, fluctuating between two worlds, really belonging to neither. Too foreign here, too alien for home.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, migration, inmigración, emigración, inmigrante, existential migrant

The conversational partner seems to be getting impatient. Maybe I could say that I’m both X and Y, and call it a day. It wouldn’t be a lie either, for I am a dual citizen.

I slightly lean back and take a look around. I spot my husband, who happens to be Z, talking to a middle-aged man, fighting the language barrier in order to explain what he does for a living. I know the struggle. We have all been Z at some point. He also puts his cultural luggage on the table, making our household an XYZ home.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, third culture, cultural background, foreign couple

However, there’s more to this equation than X, Y, Z. There’s also A, B, C, D and E. All those places where I have lived, all those people that I have met, all those different world views that I have collected over the years.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, expat comic, comic strip, international relationships, life abroad

The mental diagram keeps growing 2. With every new added circle, the “me” intersection becomes tinier and darker. So tiny that it feels restrictive. You want to break free, yet don’t know how to sew all the pieces together and stitch up a unified self. You are a patchwork of traits without defined identity. A shattered mirror where every fragment reveals one particular reality, and one runs the risk of getting lost between its cracks. You are part of everywhere and nowhere at the same time.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, foreigner, vivir en el extranjero, im Ausland leben, AusländerThen the sudden realization strikes. It’s the question that was wrong all along.

You may be from somewhere, yet feel part of something else. Your identity is a fluid construct, a colorful coalescence. You are all the pieces of the puzzle, and those that are yet to come. You don’t have to settle for X when you can be the whole damn alphabet 3.Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, TCK, patchwork, global awareness, world citizen

So, next time someone asks where you are from, think big.

Expat Gone Foreign, tXc, life abroad comics, global awareness, world citizen, ciudadana del mundo

***

Dedicated to everyone who has ever felt out of place.