Matti is the star of a Finnish comic. FILE PHOTOS
Finland has come under the spotlight on Chinese social media in the past few months – not because it’s the happiest country in the world, but due to Finnish people’s habit of avoiding unnecessary socializing.
在过去的几个月间，芬兰在中国社交媒体上成了热议的话题 —— 并不是因为它是全球幸福感最高的国家，而是由于芬兰人有避免不必要社交的习惯。
The term “jingfen”, which is pronounced the same way as the Chinese word for “schizophrenia”, has been given a new meaning in China. Now, it refers to being “spiritually Finnish”. This usage was inspired by a comic called Finnish Nightmares. Matti, the main character in the comic, is a typical Finn who fears small talk and doesn’t like people entering his personal space.
“Matti tries his best to do to others as he wishes to be done to him: to give space, be polite and not bother with unnecessary conversations,” said Karoliina Korhonen, the comic’s creator.
Chen Si, 26, who studied in Finland for her bachelor’s degree, told Sixth Tone that in Finland, “You don’t expect someone to sit beside you if there are other seats available”.
Why has this seemingly awkward social conduct struck a chord with so many young Chinese people?
This may be because today’s young people seem to need more privacy and space than any previous generations. “It has inspired many of them to silently rebel against unwanted socialization, which makes them feel uncomfortable,” reported website Culture Trip.
The phenomenon has also been attributed to the one-child policy, under which today’s young people were born. As a result, most modern young Chinese people have grown up without siblings and with very few cousins.
“I believe that there are many more cases of jingfen in our generation compared to our parents’ generation … they find they can live alone happily,” Chen said.
“Moreover, modern technology has changed our ways of communication. It estranges us from each other, especially young people. They might become a little anthropophobic, just like Matti,” said Yang Yixin, a professor of Finnish language and culture at Beijing Foreign Studies University.
But living alone and avoiding unnecessary human contact doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. For many people, jingfen doesn’t actually mean refusing to socialize. Instead, living in a busy society that places great pressure on their shoulders, many people just want to keep some personal space for themselves. Indeed, if a person seems as introverted and unapproachable as Matti, they could still very well be warm and friendly on the inside.