Monthly Archives

July 2016

Preface: Finnish Weddings/ Weddings in Finland.

Finland Wedding

A wedding is always a special event, since it marks an important rite of passage in the lives of a couple. Every couple wants to receive blessings and be admired by their families and close friends on their wedding day.

In this Finnish context, a wedding ceremony does not imply the start of a couple living together in the same house—it merely implies making the romantic relationship official. It is not uncommon to have couples in Finland co-habitating for some time before they get married.

Because the wedding day is so precious and one of the few occasions whereby Finnish couples can pamper themselves for a day, it is important to plan well for it.

After all, beautiful memories do last for a lifetime, especially when captured on wedding photographs and videos.

~

Something old, something new

In the 1960s and 1970s, many couples in Finland often strove to portray their wedding ceremonies as modest and simple, since “modesty” is considered an important virtue in the Finnish society. After the economic boom in the 1980s, weddings in Finland began to get a little more extravagant, as people with increased economic power started to plan for more extravagant weddings.

There are many Finnish wedding traditions with a creative modern twist today. Some traditions include the bridal sauna, the throwing of rice over the wedding couple, and the morning gift (“huomenlahja”).

It is worthwhile to note that the intention and purpose behind the items have changed. Different from the past, the morning gift (“huomenlahja”) is now not given as a form of economic reassurance to the bride, but as a form of appreciative and beautiful gesture marking the first day as man and wife.

The involvement of parents in a couple’s wedding preparation process has also greatly decreased over the years. In the early 19th century, it is the norm that parents have a strong influence over their children’s marriage, with the proposal and engagement process being a big deal.

Indeed, we would only expect wedding ceremonies to evolve even further as time passes, and this would be an interesting phenomenon to observe. Intercultural marriages are also on the rise, as Finland gets more and more globalised. Come 2017, gay marriages will be legalized in Finland, and we just cannot wait to see many more happy couples getting married! 🙂

Pre-wedding photography in Finland!

Finland Wedding, Finnish Culture

Yeah, The Bf and I took this set of pre-wedding photography on Sunday as a wedding present for an acquaintance. ^^♡

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What a huge privilege!~ It turned out pretty well! So we’re really grateful~

You guys know my passion towards weddings, but honestly, it isn’t practical to do weddings as a full-time business in Finland.

The reason is simple: Finns tend to minimise the spending on weddings, as they regard having a non-flashy wedding as a virtue. There isn’t even a “pre-wedding photography mentality” in Finland.

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In Asian countries, spendings on pre-wedding photography ranges from 3000Euros~5000euros for a mid-tier photographer.

The difference in spending is completely cultural.

To each of his own. Anyway, I’d be doing this as a hobby for Asian folks who happen to be in Finland then! 😀

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在赫尔辛基首次拍摄的婚纱摄影,其实挺好玩的。整个拍摄过程仅仅需要三个小时,但照片处理的时间的确比较漫长。

在芬兰拍摄婚纱摄影的优点的确是大自然。广阔的草原及梦幻的森林。

祝新人新婚愉快~♡

Explaining parts of Chinese culture to a Finnish person :D

Finnish Culture

Haha, just now I was talking to The Boyfriend about the genius of how wechat/ 微信 discriminates foreign companies from the Chinese mass market. And he got a culture shock LOL.

I found that super interesting! So this post will attempt to illuminate 3 observable cultural differences between the average Finnish and Chinese person.

Am I qualified to write this? I think I am…! I studied Chinese history, philosophy and literature for close to 6 years during my high school and junior college–even burning the midnight oil to memorise old Chinese text (we call them “文言文”). I can play some Chinese instrument relatively well, such as the 榴月琴,扬琴+古筝. And I attended a “Chinese” high-school in Singapore, visited Shanghai on student exchange…so I know intuitively what Chinese folks are after, even though I’m not a China-Chinese person myself.

To be perfectly honest, I would classify myself as “Japanese” in style of communication, “Chinese” in business-thinking but “American” in speech. If that even makes sense LOLOLOL.

“Japanese” in style of communication implies that I don’t communicate in a straightforward manner, even though my words are straightforward (thereby “American”). There’s this term in Japanese called “微妙・意味不明” which roughly translates as vagueness in communication style. I’d been studying Japanese since I was 13, so somehow that communication style became prevalent.

For example, I will never do a show-hand when I am playing poker. I will also never reveal my complete set of domain knowledge, or contacts, or network to anyone, except immediate family and really close friends. I don’t even fully declare language fluency unless I am explicitly asked. I believe in keeping non-verbal actions sincere but vague.

Anyway I deviate.

So here are 3 differences that I spotted so far:

No. 1: Chinese people will seek to go round the problem; Finns will think hard about how to solve the problem.

For example, imagine that there is a hole in the road in front of you. Chinese people will simply walk around the hole to get to the other side. Finns will work hard to fix the hole so that nobody will fall into it.

Why is this so? I attribute this actually to Chinese philosophy, in particular, to the book of change i-ching. If you accept that the hole in the road is part of nature, you will simply accept the situation instead of thinking hard about what it should be.

The average Finnish person however, is motivated by how to make the world a better place. Most Finns I’d met are rather idealistic. So they will think of ways to fix the hole and fix it well so that nobody will hurt themselves by falling inside.

So this implies great opportunity for business. *wink*

No. 2: Chinese people seldom communicate in absolute terms. We call this “中庸” (moderate). Finns can sometimes be rather absolute in speech.

If you talk to a typical Chinese person, you’d realise that the Chinese person is rather zen-like and peaceful. He or she will rarely go to the extremes of doing something. This implies space to negotiate or navigate through vagueness. The key here is balance.

Chinese people know that white is rarely always white, and black is rarely always black. They view things in liquid form: yin interacts with yang, and there is an emergence, giving rise to growth. Yin can have yang within, and Yang can have yin within–it’s really not a problem.

The typical Finn however, will say what he thinks in a straightforward manner. The average Finnish person can feel strongly about a certain area. For the typical Finn, yes means yes and no means no. You either support Perussuomalaiset or you hate their ideologies to the core. There is no vague nonsense.

Of course I AM talking about stereotypes and averages. There are crooked Finns who often use vague words as well, especially in the business world. These are Finns who do not sign contracts and vague their way through. But typically Finns are OK and rather direct, and mean what they say in clear terms. Chinese folks are less direct with their words, and you got to keep in mind the concept of “face” when dealing with groups of Chinese people. Therefore, it is important to read the social context in terms of hierarchy, seniority and power structure.

No. 3: Therefore, if you want to learn how Chinese people really think, you cannot trust the Western media. You simply have to learn to read Chinese, AND even then, you cannot even fully trust the Chinese official press too. 

It actually is very simple. Chinese culture observed through the eyes of any Western person is likely to be extremely biased. Because the West don’t know what they don’t know in terms of Chinese culture and philosophy.

Let us revisit the Wechat example again. The context is this: Nobody in China can access “wechat official accounts”. However, Chinese people can access “微信” official accounts.

“微信” is the Chinese word for “wechat”. So the situation is this: If you are a foreign company wanting an official account on wechat, you can have the account, but you cannot access the Chinese market, because the Chinese masses are on 微信. This is because all wechat official accounts on 微信 are invisible.

Is this not some genius concoction? This implies that all foreign businesses are forced in one way or another to do business with a person based in China, just to get the 微信 official account to access the huge Chinese market.

The average smart Chinese person will never say “No” to you. They will instead smile widely, highlight the limitations of a wechat account and gently recommend that you get a 微信 account. AND THEN point out how you can get the 微信 account only by having a business contact in China.

The Western press, according to my boyfriend, tends to assert that the barrier to entry on the internet is largely due to political reasons, such as crazy activists protesting against the authoritarian regime of the Chinese government. He was thinking that China banned foreign firms from accessing the Chinese masses using 微信 out of fear of foreign influences.

This is obviously not true, because in this wechat case, it is clearly a business-driven reason. China will always put Chinese innovation and businesses first, or force foreigners to eventually contribute to the Chinese economy in some ways. Alibaba and wechat can grow so fast because of this protectionistic measure. Which is great for China!

Actually, if you want to do business in China, you have to have good relationships with the government (but not get too close), and you have to understand what “drinking alcohol/tea” means. Drinking alcohol or tea with your boss is not “for fun” or “to relax”, but “to build trust”. If a Chinese boss even invites you to tea in his office or pours tea for you, most of the time the deal is sealed. (If you even get to that stage).

Having said the above three points, how can a typical Chinese person and a typical Finnish person communicate on a deeper level?

My answer is: I DON”T KNOW HAHAHAHAHA. For a deep relationship to happen on a personal note, the Chinese or Finnish person probably cannot be “typical” Chinese or Finnish.

I get along well with my boyfriend (5+ years already hehe) because I’m rather “Japanese” in my style of communication I think. Like I can appreciate silence very well, I can do vague non-verbal expressions, I tend to do very sweet things for people I like and ignore people I don’t care about. My strengths are in being “lively” and “sincere”. I think Finnish people tend to appreciate these traits about me as well.

But if you think closely about it, it probably is difficult for the typical Finnish and Chinese folks to build really deep personal relationships. This is simply due to culture, philosophy and indoctrination. But for business relationships it should be OK due to point 1.

Again I am talking about the average person in the masses. I won’t even say this is a stereotype because there are philosophical roots to my argument.

Then society comes into play. I feel that Taiwanese/Korean folks can work well with Finnish folks because they tend to prioritize innovation in their societies. Japanese folks can appreciate the same stuffs as Finns because culturally, there are similarities.

But I really don’t see how the typical Chinese folk can understand the typical Finn in a personal capacity, or vice versa, because of certain fundamental clashes in philosophy haha. Furthermore, the China-Chinese person thinks in native Chinese (which implies vagueness already), and the Finnish person thinks in Finnish which is relatively more straightforward and direct.

Anyway these are my thoughts, and they are something for you to chew on. Gg to sleep, good night!