Just like every nation has its own culture, traditions, and, ultimately, identity, it’s also natural to think that every nation also has its own personality and quirks when it comes to things that people do or believe in collectively as a nation.
Very Finnish Problems is one of many internet projects dedicated to celebrating cultural and national identity—the Finnish one, to be precise—whilst also having some fun with it in the form of memes.
And it’s not just an Instagram page, as there’s also a “branch” on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and it even has its own website. Heck, there’s even a book with the same theme by Joel Willans, the guy behind all of this.
Bored Panda has collected some of the best memes shared on the Very Finnish Problems Instagram about all of the very Finnish things that may or may not raise an eyebrow outside of Finland. And while you’re scrolling through the list, why not vote and comment on the entries you enjoyed or related to the most!
Very Finnish Problems is the brainchild of Joel Willans, author of the Spellbound and Very Finnish Problems books and Creative Director at Ink Tank Media with whom Bored Panda got in touch for an interview. The VFP book in particular shares amazing insights into the everyday trials and tribulations of life in Finland.
Very appropriately, the Instagram page kind of does the same, except in the form of hilarious internet memes. Speaking of memes, these cover a variety of very Finnish things!
These include taking a jab at Finnish personal space, their natural facial expressions and reactions, their love for hockey, disdain for small talk (and talk in general), linguistic intricacies, and, of course, COVID jokes!
"I’m the Creative Director at a digital marketing agency, Ink Tank Media, and I bet one of my clients that I could create a Facebook page of 10K fans in a month without spending a penny," explained Willans the origins of Very Finnish Problems. "The bet was made during Finnish winter, which was typically dark and very, very cold. The pavements were super slippery and it was taking me ages to walk to work, and I remember thinking how winter is trying to kill me, and what a very Finnish problem that is."
He continued: "Then it struck me that it was one of very many Finnish problems faced by an Englishman in the far north. That was how it all began, and it clearly resonated with lots of people, because I won the bet and got nearly 20K fans in a month."
But it’s not just memes. It’s really anything about Finland. On the various social media that this project is on, you can find Joel Willans himself running his “Working Wonders” series where he talks about innovative Finnish companies.
There are also videos discussing iconic Finnish music, how to do things like a Finn, and videos listing very Finnish things, like stuff that should never be sold in Finland, the happiest Finnish words, the weird things to love about Finland, reasons why Finland is the future of humanity, and many more.
"Just like most observational comedy, Very Finnish Problems are usually observations dramatized or exaggerated for comic effect. Normally, they come from things I’ve experienced or conversations I’ve had, which seem more strange to a foreigner than a native Finn. I’ve now written two best-selling Very Finnish Problems books. 101 Very Finnish Problems: The Foreigner’s Guide to Surviving Finland and More Very Finnish Problems: An Even More Essential Guide, and while doing research for these I got loads of new material for memes and videos. Once I come up with an idea, I either create it myself or if it’s more complicated, our Graphic Designer will work her magic or I’ll work with our filmmaker on a video," explained Willans.
Now, the page has gone a very long way, and it has started looking more like Very Finnish Things rather than Very Finnish Problems. Willans commented on this:
"We always try to craft everything as a “problem” with the copy because literally everything can be a problem if you frame it in the right way. So, if it's a really hot and sunny day, which most people would consider a blessing, we might write, 'When your body is allergic to sunshine' with a comparative meme, 'What you think you’ll look like in summer/What you actually look like'. So, in short, even when it’s Finnish 'things', we try to make them into fun 'problems'."
The Instagram page currently has a little bit over 400 posts, most of which are "problems", and 122,000 people are following the page. Facebook, however, is home to a Very Finnish Problems fan page with nearly 435,000 followers.
Lastly, we've asked Willans about his favorite Finnish problem that he had posted over the span of the page's existence. He had this to say:
"This is a really tough question. Probably my favorites are the ones that highlight the extremes of weather, national character and language. Weather because it really is so beautifully weird and you don’t really appreciate it until you live it and national character because in many ways it’s so different to the British national character. Possibly the best example is how we deal with small talk. Brits love it, Finns typically avoid it at all costs, which can make for some very awkward social situations when they get together. As for language, it’s one of the most challenging in the world for an English speaker to learn, but it has some really happy words, which always put a smile on my face."