On Finnish ‘sisu’

Yesterday, the husband said that summer is over. I read on Finnish news that it seems the cranes have left us. Yes, that’s on the news (it’s my favourite part). So summer is going to take one whole year to return… time to layer up, put the kettle on and admire ruska (autumn colours).

I remember that last winter it got down to -20 deg cel. Yes, it was pretty cold.

Someone asked me once what keeps me going. Well, I don’t know, to be honest. I have my moments. On a bad day, it ain’t pretty. But I know I’m going to be fine, no matter what.

I’d admit that sometimes, I think I’m mad. I’m mad to have married the husband. I’m mad to have moved to Finland. Sometimes I think the husband is mad. He’s mad to have married me. He’s mad to wake up earlier to go to the gym before work.  He’s mad to have done all that skiing, to have completed those endurance races and to do all this climbing he does. He’s mad to have such optimism, patience and sisu. Which is a Finnish thing and it’s difficult to translate, but according to Wikipedia’s page on ‘sisu‘:

Sisu is a Finnish word that cannot be translated metaphrastically into the English language; loosely translated to mean stoic determination, grit, bravery, guts, resilience, perseverance and hardiness; expressing the historic self-identified Finnish national character.

You can read up more on “The Origins of Sisu” on the Sisu Lab blog. I love the Sisu Lab‘s definition of sisu:


So it’s NOT madness. It’s just sisu. Sisu is what keeps you going. It’s the magic of life. It’s your own kind of magic. Maybe it’s the long, cold and dark winters. It builds character. And Finnish sisu.

A long time ago, in 1940, The New York Times published an article about Finnish sisu, it’s called “Sisu – A Word that Explains Finland”. Legend has it that’s how the Finnish army defeated the Soviet army during the Winter War in 1939:

Image source

It’s not just fluff. It’s an attitude. You can apply it in all endeavours in human life. As individuals, families, communities, businesses, and national or global political or social or cultural movements. Sisu has been recently featured on Forbes in this article: “Energizing Our Efforts By Finding Our Second Wind” by Brett Steenbarger.

Also, check out SisuGirls, an inspiring global community of women who are passionate about developing sisu (courage, confidence and strength) in girls. They publish children’s books on sisu stories, organise adventure programmes for girls, and are based in Singapore and Hong Kong. Finns kicking ass in Asia!

In this article from Business Insider, “This Untranslatable Finnish Word takes Perseverance to a Whole New Level”sisu is described as the key to success. According to Emilia Lahti, a doctoral researcher from Aalto University, it is more than just a thought. In order to bring sisu into your life, she suggests: “Give yourself the opportunity to be in a situation to push beyond what you normally can do.”

So, get out of your comfort zone. Go beyond your limits. Push yourself.

You can watch Emilia’s Tedx talk on “Sisu – Transforming barriers into frontiers “. I think she could be the official Finnish mascot for sisu. She’s pretty kickass. In Jan 2017, Emilia will run across the length of New Zealand, averaging 50 marathons in 50 days. Her global campaign ‘Sisu Not Silence’ aims to increase awareness on interpersonal violence, to break the cycle of abuse and to unite survivors of abuse all over the world.

You go, girl. I’m proud of you.

Kudos to Finland for the magic that is sisu, to the Finns trying to change the world and to your character-building winters.