Common physical characteristics of Finnish people include ashy blond hair, blue almond-shaped eyes, small round noses, and round faces.
Finnish people are stereotyped as being reserved, honest, modest, humble, polite, and resilient.
These are, of course, just stereotypes. Individuals have their own freewill, personal character traits, and behaviors.
As Finland becomes more diverse and multicultural, we increasingly see a wider range of Finnish identity features (both physical and character stereotypes) that make these stereotypes increasingly outdated.
So, take the stereotypes and dominant characteristics with a grain of salt: these are just concepts that exist in the cultural zeitgeist, and increasingly fail to reflect the lived experiences of people from Finland or identifying as Finnish.
Physical Characteristics of Finnish People
1. Ashy Blond Hair
Finland has one of the highest proportions of people with blond hair in the world, but this is not the full story.
The common hair color in Finland is a sort of ashy blond. This color is overall blond but also looks a little bit muted or desaturated, almost as if it is blond that is going slightly grey or has lost some of its color.
Although this hair color is not at all special within Finland, in other countries, it stands out because it is so distinctive compared to the normal range of hair colors that people in other countries will tend to have.
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2. Blue Eyes
Blue eyes are a quintessentially Finnish trait. Around 90% of Finnish people have blue eyes, and Finland is believed to be the country with the most blue eyes as a proportion of the overall population.
Although someone having blue eyes does not necessarily mean that they are a Finnish person, a Finnish person will be far more likely to have blue eyes than not.
3. Small Round Noses
Even from within Finland, people have noted a type of nose that seems to be very common among Finnish people compared to other populations.
This is a nose that is small and round, with a higher proportion of its mass being in the tip around the nostrils compared to at the bridge.
This type of nose, when supported by the other physical characteristics that are listed here, is one of the most recognizable facial features in Finnish people.
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4. Small Almond Eyes
We have already talked about the color of Finnish people’s eyes, but that is not the only distinctive thing about them. Finnish people will also often have eyes that are quite small and almond-shaped.
These almond shaped eyes will be wider than average. This can give them the appearance of not necessarily being smaller but rather being shorter or more closed as if squinting.
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5. Round Faces
Finnish people will often have rounder face shapes. This is visible on two different levels, manifesting both in the overall shape of the skull as well as in the way that the individual facial features are aligned compared to one another.
The characteristic skull shape will appear widest around the middle, tapering off as it goes up to the top of the head and down toward the chin.
The facial features will also be wider set, contrasting with the more common rectangular alignment of facial features that is seen in a lot of Finland’s neighbors, especially their Nordic neighbors to the West.
Stereotypical Character Traits of Finnish People
1. Finnish People Are Reserved
Finnish people generally are stereotyped as being quite reserved, but this stereotype often extends to more extreme interpretations.
For example, the people of Finland are very often stereotyped as being socially awkward or shy, but this is often just a misunderstanding of Finnish culture and interpersonal dynamics in Finland.
It is true that Finnish people may appear less engaging in social situations – for example, a group of people standing at the same bus stop in Finland are less likely to strike up a conversation than a lot of other countries’ people.
The misunderstanding is that this is from social awkwardness. This scenario would not be awkward in Finland at all, and therein lies the error of the stereotype.
2. Finnish People Are Honest
Finnish people are also stereotyped as being a little bit too honest. This is due to the culture’s propensity toward not mincing words or dancing around topics.
This stereotype veers into the negative when Finnish people are perceived as being excessively blunt or even just rude.
Any perceived rudeness from a Finnish person is often misunderstood, which is another stereotype that we will learn about in a bit.
The stereotype of rudeness is held by people nonetheless, but it has more to do with Finns getting straight to the point and wasting few words than any intent to offend anyone.
3. Finnish People Are Modest and Humble
One of the most common stereotypes of Finnish people is that they are quite modest and humble.
This one, like many of the others, is based on fact and in this case history. Finland spent much of the last thousand years under the thumb of foreign powers and only became an independent country about a century ago.
This history has left little room for the development of a tradition of bragging and bravado, so Finnish people will rarely be loud about their achievements or positive qualities, even though there are many. This stereotype also ties into a similar one of Finnish people being very private.
4. Finnish People Are Polite
Finnish people are stereotyped as being very polite.
This stereotype often seems like it conflicts with the other one of Finns being honest and blunt, but in reality, it is perfectly possible for someone to be direct and polite at the same time, even if it does tend to cause a lot of confusion among foreigners.
5. Finnish People Are Resilient
Partly because of its unforgiving geography in the far north and partly because of its history of dependence on other powers, Finland has been steeped in poverty for much of its existence.
Because of this, Finnish people are perceived as being exceptionally resilient. They can handle the harsh climate and historical poverty.
The string of military conflicts against impossible odds that Finland was involved in during the first half of the 20th century also gave its people the stereotype of being able to persevere through anything.
Finnish people are seen as unique even from among their Scandinavian neighbors.Stereotypes hold that they have have a specific physical appearance and a one-of-a-kind culture. Nevertheless, don’t forget that stereotypes are made to be broken; so take each individual for who they are – a person with a unique personality! There is multiculturalism and diversity in all societies, so these stereotypes increasingly fail to be upheld in reality.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.