Without a tribe

When they say that a man is a social animal, I am not 100% sure it applies to Finnish folks.

In fact, I have often wondered why the very first settlers ever decided to stay. It is pretty damn obvious that they must have arrived here sometime between July the 15th and the day on which Jaakko throws the cold rock into the lake*), on one of those lucky indian summers where you get more than just the midnight sun and your hair actually dries between the “occasional” showers. They must have dragged their boat ashore and after an awkward silence, one of them must have said …

“[Grunt] eh, this isn’t too bad”.


And that would have been the extent of the conversation.

You see, I think our ancestors were banished from one of those Mediterranean countries where the people are hairy, the coffee is strong, family comes first, village comes second, and it is delightfully warm all the time. So, I’m pretty sure that all the villages over there used to have a village grump or two. You know, some bearded lumbersexuals, a squinty-eyed woman with too many secrets (& herbs), or a hermit that never got the hang of the local language and continued to order the espresso in grunts. Isn’t it quite plausible that at some point the jolly beach people of the future Riviera and Ibiza decided to gather up all these sourpusses, put them on a strong and study boat and … well, then gave the boat a hearty push.

Well, thanks for the all the hair, at least. I’m not sure how useful it is while floating around in the Mediterranean Sea, but it’s probably what kept those poor bastards alive when the first summer turned into a soggy autumn and finally to a blood-curdling white-out of a winter.

Enter SNOW. “[Grunt] What fresh hell is this?”

Finnish people, not the most sociable lot, they say. I’m pretty certain that the village grumps scattered minutes after the boat touched the shores of my homeland and lived on to establish the major towns of my beautiful country, … which is also why the names of our towns often sound like swearwords (Tampere!)

But that’s all imaginary history. Today, there is a thought that has been haunting my waking hours. And the thought is this: without a tribe, I shall perish. Without a herd, I will forever be a lonely nerd. The thought is saying that these imaginary ancestors were dead wrong. Hermitry is not an option. The lone wolf is a dead wolf **) Much like our ancestors, the lone wolf cried at the moon. Alone. (Have you heard any of our popular songs, btw? Very much the same thing.)

For a year or so, I have been involved in a social experiment (of my own devising) in which I retained only my 2 best friends and dropped out of any/all social circles I ever knew, yes, even Facebook. I was not invited to any parties, I attended zero girls’ night outs, I got only 2 happy birthday wishes, nobody liked my posts anywhere (including this blog) and you know what …  it was oddly liberating.

But the thing is … now I miss having a tribe. So, perhaps even a thoroughbred Finnish woman like myself is a social animal at heart. Maybe the sense of belonging and relatedness outweighs all the friction and noise? Maybe being a loner, the one who doesn’t need anyone, was never the choice.

Could it be, that we, the Finnish, have evolved from village grumps to … just “villagers”? Is this why have somehow managed to become less hairy than the tanned & happy folk who sent us on our way? To be more socially presentable 😀 ?

The trick is, you can not really choose a tribe. The tribe will choose you. And if you are lucky, the tribe is filled with people whose eyes sparkle with the same colour as yours. All I can do is move my hut a little bit closer to the village and see what happens.

*) 25.7

**) The legend of the lone wolf is epic, of course (the T-shirts .. not so much), but maybe in real life, the lone wolf wandered around the woodlands and tried to strike up a conversation with the elk and the occasional badger, never really finding kindred spirits with whom to share a toothy laugh and a carcass of two. Also, he was most likely a involuntary vegetarian, settling for moss and bark and pretending it was a tasty rabbit.


6 comments on “Without a tribe

  1. Interesting! I have never been to Finland, and I have not actually met many Finns, so I have no comment on that.
    I find your social experiment interesting. Since this post was written last December, is this experiment still ongoing? Or have you dropped it?

    • Yeah, we Finns are a riddle wrapped in an enigma with a side of bacon 😀

      The experiment is still alive and well, thanks for asking 🙂

      I have a “fake” existence in FB, just because I needed it for my dance class business, but I rarely engage in anything. Twitter is the only digital wave I ride, but it comes and goes like the tide 🙂

      In real world, I keep my 2 friends close, and my stoic principles closer 😀 I still don’t have anything like a tribe. I have now started yoga, so maybe I’ll end up connecting with some of these people and wind up in India (not likely though). Some people already say “hi” to me at the gym, so there’s that!

      What I have learned so far:
      – significant and open relationships (one on one) are more important that the zap and sizzle of a group
      – It is still important to feel like you are part of something. To feel accepted and related to others on some level. Otherwise you will go nuts.
      – It is of crucial importance to find the right tribe. This is hard.
      – Real life trumps SoMe, and everyone should basically toss their phone to the nearest lake 😀

      • Bacon is good, unless you’re a vegetarian, which I’m not 🙂

        And the experiment continues. Of course it is on Twitter where we “met”, although I cannot remember how, and interestingly I know more about you in this one blog reply than I have gleamed from Twitter! This is also interesting!

        For my part I haven’t had any close friends nor been the member of a group of friends for many years now. Moving to live in other countries does that to you! I initially lost contact with my friends from home (Ireland) but formed new ones in the UK. But people move on, or have kids, and suddenly there is no time. Moving to Germany has only compounded that, but myself and my girlfriend are close, so we at least have each other.

        I agree on the points you have made, although it took me a while to figure out what SoMe meant! (“social me”, right?)

        I am involved in the online web development community, and sometimes I feel that I belong there, other times not, such is the swing of things and feelings.

        As for finding the right tribe, I am still looking.

      • Bacon is excellent, esp. if you are a Paleo-person like me 😀

        Yes, taking that leap to another country means you’ll have no safety nets or social circles for some time (for a reeeeally long time in some cultures, haha!). It takes a certain robustness of spirit (or “sisu” as we call it in Finland) to become the master of your own happiness in these circumstances.

        As it happens, I did spent a couple of months in UK and even though it was a fleeting visit, I did feel the effect of solitude quite strongly and ended up listening to Depeche Mode a lot 😀

        I, too, firmly believe that the our romantic ties should be the most significant anchor to what is real, authentic and good about this weird experience called life. Vigilantly protecting that connection is the key to happiness. That’s what I try to do with my fiancé. I think the experiment would have been a huge mistake in other circumstances!

        Yeah, work is a kind of a community. I design customer experiences (i.e. large web stores) for a living, so there’s a team of good people in the office (even as I’m typing).

        It will be interesting to see where this “experiment” will lead eventually. Anyway, I have learned enough to know not to have a lot of expectations, just an open mind.

  2. Now I want bacon…damn you.

    So today (or on the 31st July – when I read your reply) I have learnt a new word and Sisu is now something I must learn more about I suspect.

    So here’s a question, with your experiment, surely it can only work if your fiancé is also taking part? I suspect there are events and invitations that he would be invited to that you would naturally be expected to attend. How does that work? Or am I completely wrong?

    I am not quite interested to hear more about what you do, with regards to designing customer experiences. I am no designer, but of course as a web developer (concentrating more recently on frontend stuff), UX is quite important!

    It will be interesting to hear how your experiment goes, and where it leads you to. I hope you will keep us (or at least me!) updated on your blog.

    • Back from lunch; no creature with gills is safe from me today 😀

      About your question … it so happens that my fiancé finds himself in a similar situation for somewhat different reasons (his tribe is in a state of diaspora, but thank God for Facebook Messenger right?)

      So, there have been no invitations from that direction (at least not of the “avec” variety)! Wait, there was one huge party that I attended this summer … and I kinda owned the dance floor + ate all the lox in that one, so I don’t think there will be any more invites waiting for me in the mailbox 😀

      Ach, work. It is pretty damn interesting, actually. I do concept design, but where I really sparkle is in CX led and Lean inspired product management … In other words, I try to figure out what kind of needs we are really truly addressing and how to exceed customer expectations by a mile. This means a lot of workshopping and analysis. And then I draw wireframes and team up with digital artists while drinking gallons of herbal tea.

      I intend to write about something different next, since it looks to me like my Experiment has become more like a lifestyle. You know, kind of like that prototype you hacked together that suddenly becomes version 1.0 of the product!

      Such is life 🙂

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