We stopped walking to listen to pure nothing. To listen to the serene silence in Finland. Walking through forests in Finland was mesmerizing from the very first moment. No sounds of cars in the distance, no birds chirping or wind whistling through the high trees near the calm lakes. Only us, the stillness and our breaths that stopped for a while in awe. That’s the silence in Finland.
Silence here is considered a common part of communication, and from our short time observing, Finns don’t speak fast, even in their own language. Generally, they are better at listening rather than speaking and interrupting during conversation is considered quite impolite.
When doing business with Finnish representatives, two- or three-minute pauses of silence are common in business meetings and it’s highly recommended to avoid interrupting that silence.
Finns are known also as leaders in international peace initiatives and we believe there is the reason for that.
Now, would it surprise you to hear that many proverbs related to silence are of Finnish origin? For example, “Silence is a person’s best friend, for it remains behind after the rest has gone”, “A silent man is a wise one” and one of the most common ones, “Silence is golden, talking is silver”.
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There is also a joke about silence in Finland that says: “A Finnish guy loved his girlfriend so much that he almost told it to her” and I just like how accurate it is when speaking about the precise use of words and enhancing silence in Finland. It seemed to us that a person in Finland speaks only when he or she truly has something to tell, and if there is something to say, the sentences are spoken thoughtfully and with pauses of silence. Sure, not all people in Finland speak with a meditative tone and a slow pace, but it was rather exceptional to notice that trend during our stay in Finland.
“Entering the forest he moves not the grass; entering the water he makes not a ripple.”
Before visiting Finland for the first time, we were aware of its natural treasures, but nobody ‘warned’ us about Finnish quietness and harmony of the woods. It was amazing to observe how our own perception and expectation changed within a few moments once we entered this green, Zen kingdom of silence.
Imagine you’re walking on mossy earth, not making any sound, surrounded by high trees that do not move, still lakes that mirror the sky, with no airplanes above, no sounds of animal life around, with barely any humans on a walking path.
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We humans are sometimes terrified of silence and we often avoid it rather than appreciate it. To stay relaxed, we prefer CREATING the right environment rather than GETTING RID OF the noise around us. We put on relaxing music rather than switch off all the electronics. We prefer talking about an issue rather than contemplating it or letting it go.
We’ve also been taught that only constant memorization of large amounts of information will help us to develop our intellectual potential. But what if the opposite is the truth?
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“This silence, this moment, every moment, if it’s genuinely inside you, brings what you need.”
Walking through the forest and being embraced by the silence in Finland, we experienced not only an intensive physical and mental recharge, but we also started to feel that there is much more beyond silence that calms you down.
It was also our great guide Johannes Sipponen from Outdoors Finland who pointed out the quietness of the Finnish woods on our hiking tour in the Häme region and mentioned the Finnish Tourist Board’s campaign, “Silence, Please”, a re-branding of the country using silence in Finland as a leading feature to make the country a more popular tourist destination.
Coincidentally, Audrey Scott from Uncornered Market saw our Instagram photo and recommended that we read an article where they answered the questions we were asking ourselves while indulging the peace in the land of thousand lakes.
Up until then, we’d been aware that silence could bring a feeling of ease and we knew that after having a rest in a quiet place, we were usually more productive and could go back to a rushed work rhythm with clear minds. But after reading the article and learning more about the phenomenon of “noise pollution”, we learned that silence has a great positive impact on the human brain’s development and on memory, and that noise, even hidden noise from electrical devices or ambient street noise, can change the quality of your life drastically.
“In silence there is eloquence. Stop weaving and see how the pattern improves.”
The origin of the word silence goes back to Gothic verb anasilan, which means “wind dying down” and the Latin designer, a word meaning “stop”. From the very beginning of history, “silence” has carried the meaning of interrupting the action, rather than only indicating a still condition.
That’s exactly what we felt while exploring the outdoors in Finland. We simply stopped thinking, analysing, planning ahead and just allowed ourselves to be completely present, to listen to the silence while meditating early in the morning in the woods, hiking, sitting on a boat on a quiet lake and looking at the sun rising or canoeing down the clear river water. Suddenly everything had a purpose when quietness let us be fully conscious about our actions.
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“Silence is the universal refuge, the sequel to all dull discourses and all foolish acts, a balm to our every chagrin, as welcome after satiety as after disappointment.”
Finland has approximately 5.4 million inhabitants, with an average of 17 people per square kilometre, while in Arctic Lapland the average is only two people per square kilometre. And if you consider that around 75% of Finland is covered by forests, the chance that you will enjoy the Finnish woods and their Zen atmosphere, still lakes and sweet berries all for yourself for hours is more than high.
There probably won’t be anyone making small talk with you, nobody will ask you why you’re there, how long you plan to stay and where you’re headed next. There will be nothing to disturb your inner silence and tranquility. The serene silence will talk to you in all languages and give you answers or ask you questions you needed to hear.
Because it’s the silence of Finland that makes you want to come back.
A big thank you goes to VisitFinland and Outdoors Finland, who helped us to explore the Häme region in its best.
All opinions, impressions and experiences of silence are our own