Anyone Heard of “Spiritually Finnish”? It’s Big in China!

4 minutes and absolutely worth watching!

It’s not a new thing, but it is new to me. And since I will be in both China and Finland (again) in May, I’m curious to know more. Especially, as the Finns I met on my last trip to Helsinki were not as stereotypically introverted as the saying below indicates😜

“An introverted Finn looks at his shoes when talking to you; an extroverted Finn looks at your shoes.”

Finnish saying

Before we move on, did you watch the video above? It’s only 4-minutes long and I highly recommend it.

Are you “jingfen”?

I was very intrigued by this Quartz article on the newly coined Chinese buzzword “jingfen” (精芬) which apparently translates to “spiritually Finnish.”

On the off chance that some of you are as intrigued by this as I am, scroll down for more.
It all started with a book

A comic book what’s more. It’s called Finnish Nightmares – A Different Kind of Social Guide to Finland and it’s by graphic designer Karoliina Korhonen. She had created it as a lark for her non-Finnish friends to bring them up to speed on what a Finn is really like.

Karoliina Korhonen in China talking about Matti
It was first published in 2015 on Facebook.

And it has so far garnered more than 188,000 likes from people worldwide.

The comic was originally drawn in English and translated back to Finnish. Now it’s published in Chinese as well as in Japanese and Korean.

I needed to know more.

China Daily recently ran a piece explaining how the social awkwardness and anxieties faced by Matti, the book’s protagonist, has struck a chord with Chinese millennials — who grew up as only children and tend to be more anti-social compared to their parents’ generation. On Douban, a popular Chinese book review website, the comic is rated 7.4 out of 10, with many internet users calling themselves “Spiritually Finnish.”

What it means to be Spiritually Finnish

According to a widely distributed definition on social media, jingfen broadly refers to people who dislike socializing – like the Finns, apparently – and take their personal space “extremely seriously”.

Chinese microblogging platform Weibo posted this photograph of a cobblestone park in Finland with individual seating rather than benches.

Each seat faces in a different direction, making conversation unnecessary and easily avoidable. This image quickly garnered more than 23,000 likes. An oft-upvoted comment calls Finland, “The most desirable migration destination for people with social phobia.”

Bottom Line.

I will be on the lookout for any signs of this behavior in Shenzhen and perhaps Hong Kong if we get there and, of course, in Finland.

And in the meantime, I’ll practice looking at your shoes while I speak to you in proper Finnish extrovert manner.😜

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