Downplaying It

What’s wrong with being proud of yourself?

I have a confession to make, and it’s going to sound silly… Here goes… (dramatic pause!)

I love watching MasterChef Australia. (There, I said it! Phew!)

It’s a show that feels so uplifting to me. It’s addictive in its cheerfulness and camaraderie. The competitors are friendly and helpful towards each other.

Completely unlike its American version, which seems sadly competitive in comparison and at times even mean-spirited (no offense!). And certainly nothing like its Finnish counterpart, where the format has been adjusted so much that you can barely recognize it, and there are only a handful of competitors to start with.

While in the Australian version the competitors are full of life, joy and energy, jumping and screaming because they are so happy to be on the show, the Finnish contestants had to be called several times by the judges to step forward, and only then did they make a slow, unenthusiastic approach. I only watched half of the first episode and it was enough for me.

Tokyo, 2009

You see, it’s not so much about the cooking or the competition for me. (I’m a lazy and reluctant cook, but I do love to eat! Takeaway, mostly. Though I must admit that all the fresh produce in the Australian show’s pantry does look delicious and it makes me wonder what I could do with it. Besides just stuffing it in my mouth. Which is what I probably would do.)

But really, it’s about the energy and passion.

The narration in MasterChef Australia repeatedly emphasizes that all the contestants are going for their ultimate dream, “food dream”, as they keep saying. Many of them had to leave their jobs to compete. I can relate with that because the employers over here rarely let you take personal leave when you want it. I’ve actually quit my job several times in order to travel. (Before it became an embarrassing social media cliché. Three years of blogging and this is the first time I mention it!)

On the show, many of the contestants speak of their heritage, being first or second generation Aussies, and they cook what their grandmother taught them. This is also interesting to me, because looking at all these children of immigrants, I can’t help but wonder how I probably would have been just like them if my family had stayed there, instead of moving back to my parents’ home country. (Except nope, I still wouldn’t be a good cook!)

Tokyo, from Mori Tower

But what I really wanted to write about in this blog post was pride. Is it okay in your part of the world, your culture, to be proud of yourself?

Because here in Finland, it’s frowned upon. Even despised. Being proud of yourself, and openly expressing it, is not something that will make you popular over here.

In MasterChef Australia, every contestant invariably says how proud they are of themselves at some point of the show. It’s only a figure of speech, in some cases, but even that is enough to get people gossiping behind your back around here.

I often wonder why that is. What’s so wrong with feeling proud of yourself? To me, it seems like healthy, balanced behavior. If you have accomplished something – anything – that you are proud of, whether it’s big or small, why is it so wrong to say it out loud or to let it show in your radiantly beaming smile? Why do people here interpret it as smug, egoistic, stuck-up behavior?

As far as I can tell, the national level of self-esteem in Finland is probably way lower than in Australia, just based on how Finns generally speak of themselves. Headlines in a newspaper can, for example, exclaim that Finland was mentioned in a conversation in the US! Or that some famous foreign person had a great-grandparent who was Finnish! Or that someone from another country visited Finland and this is what they thought! (read on to find out!)

People seem to eat those stories up, so I guess they must relate to their inner selves somehow. It might be a small-country-thing.

Nevertheless, the resentment towards people who are happy with themselves (or successful, in which case they are presumably proud) is something that I still haven’t been able to understand, culturally. For me, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of yourself or even just saying something nice about yourself.

Unfortunately, I’ve noticed that even neutral statements can easily be interpreted as the person being too proud, bragging, trying to show off.

For instance, merely the fact that I used to live in another country as a child is something I can usually never tell a Finn. They will always take it the wrong way. When they ask me where I’m from, I just say Helsinki because I don’t want them to hate me. (Though it’s not really true, and it’s a pity they’ll never know the real me, the full version.)

Many of you, my readers, have lived in several countries, so you will understand me, I’m sure. It’s just a neutral statement, a fact. It’s not bragging. But at the same time, it reveals something of who I am. If you want to hear it.

Some of you might think I’m generalizing too hastily, but I’ve been here long enough to know what I’m talking about. Not to sound disrespectful (again, no offense!), but I’ve had this conversation over and over again: every time I start a new job or meet new people. Eventually, after many misunderstandings, I’ve had to try out different answers, until I’ve finally figured out what works. What the answer is that they are looking for. (Downplaying it is important, too.)

This reminds me of a story from one time I had just started a new office job. During my interview I’d said I’d already booked a one week holiday to Japan, so they promised I could go there even though I didn’t have any accumulated holidays and employees weren’t normally given extra time off. But I had negotiated it upon entry, so off to Japan I went. When I came back to work, I brought some sweets from my trip, as is the custom here. They were crazily colorful and had Japanese text all over.

My co-workers were all too happy to gobble up the sweets, but no one – no one – except my closest work buddy, asked me how the trip was! No one was curious about Tokyo, the most curiousest of places on the planet.

Then, the next month, a girl (who never spoke to me or said hi) went to Tokyo for a week, too, and I heard from my buddy that visiting Tokyo had always been her dream and she had been so jealous of my trip that she’d finally booked a trip herself. (Well, I guess I’m just an inspiration, aren’t I!)

What’s funny is that in her place, I would have come to me for tips and just to get into a nice, expecting travel mood. I mean, come on, isn’t it just the best feeling when you are about to travel somewhere and you can talk about the destination with someone else who’s also interested in it?! But no, she was furious with envy and couldn’t even look my way.

That job wasn’t in the travel industry and I didn’t stay there for long. I went back to my roots in aviation, where I could tell colleagues about my travels and they wouldn’t be jealous. But I still couldn’t tell them about living in Australia as a kid, or speaking English as my second native language.

Watching those MasterChef contestants beam with excitement and congratulate each other, as well as themselves, feels so refreshing to me. That’s how it should be. Nothing wrong with being happy with yourself, I say! Let’s all give ourselves a well-deserved pat on the back, right now!

41 replies on “Downplaying It”

Good for you! Brava! Healthy self esteem, I’d say. I’m sorry, but what you describe as being thought of as bragging sounds to me like a place full of oppression…very careful to keep everything and everyone the same. No standing out. No emotion. No expressiveness. Robots do that. I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t last ten minutes for the loneliness. So yes – YAY for us!!! ❤

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Thanks, Pierr! I feel so much better having you on my side! Sometimes I feel like I’m just hallucinating, people behave in the strangest ways and think it’s normal, and I’m the weird one 🤣 I very much agree with what you are saying! It’s exactly like that: everyone must be as miserable as the next person. Or else!! You completely captured it in your comment.

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I’m an old dude and my limbs are stiff, so a pat on my own back is hard to do. But I get what you mean. By the way – I do think it indeed ís a small country thing, because we in the Netherlands tend to do exactly the same. And being not a keen tv watcher, I did watch Master Chef Austaila a couple of times and I totally agree with you. it is a fun show and the contestants are fun and enthousiastic folks, ánd, Australia being an immigrant country, the food is eclectic and mostly yummie (and I dare say I am a rather accomplished cook myself (See! There is the pat after all!). I love the Asian elements in the food culture there as well as the, I find funny, relic of the old English kitchen in the shape of mashed peas 🙂 To pat the Finnish people on the back as well, I have to say the salmon soup served at Helsinki harbour is beyond lovely as is the atmosphere over there.

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Hahah, thanks for the laughs! 😄 Salmon soup can be delicious, if there’s plenty of salmon in it! Definitely a favorite of mine! I don’t watch much tv either, which is why it’s so weird I watch a cooking show! Hubby keeps asking me why I like it!

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Ahhh. This makes me so angry, the feeling you must have, living such existence in which normal behaviour as you describe it is not desirable. Don’t you get a counter-desire to tell everybody that you speak English too? Preferable in English? I’d do just that. You cannot please everybody anyhow, so you might as well make them envious. 😀 This would be my natural response but I don’t live there and work among these people as you do.

I used to live among people with a similar mentality – everything that rises above the average must be stomped on. That’s why so many people move out, including me (plus some other reasons that mostly have to do with suppressing emotions).

In Italy, it’s different again. Here they have different life goals, and knowing a foreign language is not one of them. 😀

I suggest you start to joke about it and don’t worry about coming across as “weird”. But I know, it’s easier said than done… Enjoy your show and start to cook!

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Thanks, MM! 💕 My reaction I guess is to just take a step back and embrace the introvert in me. I shut down, go quiet, retreat. No wonder making friends here seems hard! I often think I have nothing in common with these people. What can I even talk about with them? As for cooking… it’s on my mind all the time, need to learn!! 😄

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You know my friend, I come from a country where culture and positive feelings are in people’s spirit 😄
We are proud of ourselves, of our ancient roots, of every day we can live in our best way 😀
And I must say that I live MasterChef Australia Junior! Those kides are fantastic!

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Yes, it’s a good way to live, isn’t it? Maybe that’s why I always loved Italy! Jealousy is not a pretty sight.
And oh, the Finnish version of MasterChef Junior is quite sympathetic, much better than the grown-up version for sure! 😊
Thanks Sid for your words! Ciao!

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Jealousy is a weird state of mind! And, as a matter of fact, a lost of time 😁
Here, Finnish MS Junior is not on television. Only Spanish and Australian.
Have a wonderful new week!
And a special kiss to the babies 😘

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I understand where you’re coming from, in comparing the shows. I’ve never seen either, but when we did have TV to watch, I felt much the same way about Chopped vs Chopped Canada.

Interesting observations about pride. There is a similar culture in Canada. We may be proud to be Canadian, but it’s uncouth to actually SAY that. Doing so was viewed as boorish, and too much like those very overtly proud of their nation neighbours of ours in the US. *L* Unfortunately, this lack of expressing pride in our nation has, in my observation, lead to a generation of people who don’t actually know what Canada has to be proud of, and actively hate their own country for a laundry list of historical “crimes”.

I think part of the issue about self pride and displays of pride comes down to Pride, as a sin. Pride is a bad thing, the notion goes, due to the arrogance. In English, the word hubris better defines this type of Pride. Which is really quite different from a healthy pride, recognizing ones own accomplishments after perhaps years of hard work and self discipline. This kind of pride is humble, not arrogant. But there’s no word that I know of that adequately fits this type of pride. It’s not just about self esteem, which is a form of self love. I wonder if other languages have separate words for arrogant pride, vs healthy pride?

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Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment! You say so many interesting things here and really made me think. You’re right about there being many types of pride. The only type of pride that is considered ok over here is national pride. I actually have no idea about the younger generations, but people my age and older seem to be very proud of their country and nationality. They even say that living here is like winning the lottery! This seems healthy to me: I mean, it’s good to be happy where you are. But being proud of yourself personally is not really allowed. The only example I can think of is a situation which “everyone” has gone through, like graduating from school or having a child. In those cases it might be ok to say you are happy with yourself, because other people will have experienced the same thing too and can relate, without jealousy. (As long as you downplay it and don’t start talking about your excellent grades! Better say the exams were really, really tough for you.) But talking about your own experiences, they really have to be very mainstream, otherwise it’s better to just keep quiet! 🙂
I’ve also thought about Pride being a sin. Finns aren’t very religious but maybe that is still where it stems from. (Btw, there are many types of arrogance, too, and not all of them are about pride, in my opinion!)
Finnish doesn’t have many words for pride, or I can’t think of them right now, but there are many ways to say that a person is full of themselves. To me, those words seem to have a slight feeling of envy or bitterness in them, the way they are said.
As for Canadians, whenever I’ve seen them travel abroad, there’s often a little Canadian flag on their backpack! Is it about national pride or wanting to distinguish yourself from your neighbor? 🙂

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I agree, just as there are many types of pride, there are many types of arrogance!

As for Canadian flags on travelers, they might not be Canadian at all. For as long as I can remember, it’s been recommended to wear them when traveling in Europe, and people will treat you nicely. But Americans were apparently treated badly, so it’s recommended to wear Canadian flags instead of US flags, to avoid abuse!

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I can’t cook and don’t cook but I love Aussie Masterchef also – love the encouragement the contestants give each other and love seeing what they make. Also I do like this post and I enjoy reading your views. Sad nobody at your previous work asked you about your trip to Japan; here in Australia everyone asks how was your holiday and wants to know what you did and if you are refreshed; its lovely.

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Thanks, Sue! 🙂 I’m a naturally curious person so I always ask people about their travels and holidays. Also, it’s just polite. Especially if you’re eating their candy!!! 🤣But never mind… That type of thing keeps happening to me in every work place and social situation. I just seem to press the wrong buttons somehow and don’t fit in. I don’t know their code or have the correct answers that they want to hear, but I certainly have tried! And yes, I totally agree about MChef! 🙂


Coming from Singapore, a country of immigrants in Asia, it’s kinda hard to understand that a European country can be so introverted. Since most of the Caucasians we meet here are so outspoken and proud of themselves, it’s a trait we associate with them. I guess that people who have lived and worked in another country for some time will feel like you do. We develop a sense of our own personality while trying to adapt to the new country.

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Well said, “We develop a sense of our own personality while trying to adapt”. I so agree with that. I feel I’m maybe more aware of who I am and defining myself is perhaps more important to me, than for those who have always been in one place and know nothing else, want nothing else. The Finns I get along with best are the ones who live abroad or have traveled a lot. Thanks for your comment!

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Sometimes I feel that I don’t think the same way as my fellow countrymen. In fact, some expat friends said they thought I was not a Singaporean because my views and very different from the locals. Weird huh?

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Thanks, Keen! 🙂 You actually pinpointed the very reason I started to blog in the first place! I wanted to talk about my travels and no one wanted to listen! 😁 I am very grateful to have stumbled upon this global community where I finally feel at home! Have a great day! 💕

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Agreed on two levels.
1) Pride. Be proud of who you are (basically what your parents and family did). Of where you come from. Of what you have done. If you can’t be proud of you’ve done, question is: what on earth did you do to be ashamed of. Now, of course, there is a big difference between Pride and arrogance. 🙂
2) Curiosity. Strangely enough, most people have no curiosity about the outside world. Very deeply entrenched in Europe. Zero curiosity. After I “came back” to France, around 16, I soon stopped telling my stories of Africa. No-one seemed to be interested, worse, even, many thought I was inventing. So… until you find those (happy) few who are curious, and there are, keep your stories for yourself. And your E-friends. (Present company included)
A bientôt

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Thanks! (Brieuc, is it, I think I read somewhere? Sorry I haven’t asked your name sooner!) 🙂 Anyway, well said! 1) Pride: I’m definitely proud of everything. Just a shame I need to hide it sometimes if I don’t want enemies at work for instance (I’m sidetracking from the travel industry again and working in a normal office job… the commute is too long. Well right now I’m on maternity leave still, but anyway…) And 2) Curiosity. I’ve noticed that around here, asking questions out of genuine curiosity for how things work (or making small talk with polite questions) will get people thinking you are stupid, silly, not worth taking seriously. It took me a long time to notice, but that is my conclusion. Also, when I ask for some extra info about something, no one even has an answer, leading me to believe that I am the only one asking these questions, the only one curious about things. Whether it’s baby stuff or work stuff. There’s a nurse service that tracks your baby’s growth and you can ask questions that puzzle you there, and they will give you guidelines for nutrition, dental care, etc. But they never know the answers to my questions!! I seem to think too far ahead. Venturing where no man (woman) has previously been, hehee 🤣 Or so it seems. Anyway, also about curiosity. How can you NOT ask someone how their trip was when they tell you they just returned from someplace? I don’t get it! Even if they went someplace where I’ve been a dozen times, I’d still ask. Curiosity and politeness, both. A few years ago, hubby and I returned from 7 weeks in Argentina and Uruguay. Hubby told me that even though he was gone for 2 months, and his co-workers knew he was traveling somewhere, pretty much no one asked him where he was or what it was like! They just continued talking about the weather, what’s on TV, and the gossip headlines, as usual. Coming back from a long, exotic trip feels so surreal when people treat you like you weren’t even gone! So yes, you are right: keep the stories to yourself or blog about them, and people can choose to read or not read. I’ve learned that the hard way, too! And, like you, I’ve also noticed people sometimes seem to think I’m inventing things (or being extremely attention-seeking), even though my stories aren’t even as exotic as yours! (The cook was a spy!!) 😂A bientôt! 🙂

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Well, well. A long comment which I completely adhere to. It is one of the problems of “going back home”. Your supposedly own people have tiny differences in culture. Which is why you will never be a 100% Finn. Nor will I be 100% French. ‘ts all right. We have been exposed to other ways of thinking. And that makes us who we are. So, when I go “back home”, I just “adapt”. And even so, I am very much looking forward to Paris this summer. The French are getting crazier by the minute, but… France remains.
Yes, I am Brieuc 8as in Saint-Brieuc in Bretagne, aka Brian. And I have been wondering for weeks now whether I had already asked you your name (and forgotten it) or hadn’t. 🙂
Comment tu t’appelles?
A +

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Nice to meet you, hahah 😊 I go by the name Snow here on the blog. Love being anonymous when I write, it frees me to express what I want without worrying too much if random acquaintances will find it thru google 😂 (my RL friends are invited to read though, the blog isn’t a secret..!!) Hope you enjoy Paris! A plus, Brian!

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I’m a big sucker for Masterchef too Snow, and I totally understand wanting to share travel stories and tips with others, but I guess we have to realise not everyone shares the same passions, but a little bit of excitement wouldn’t go astray!! At least we can share our excitement with each other 😉

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You’re right, this is the right place to share those travel stories! 😄 I definitely don’t expect everyone to be interested in traveling and I won’t share tips unless I’m asked for them. But, as a naturally curious person, I find it hard to grasp how some people aren’t interested in much more than their own home-work-tv routine! 😳 But to each his own! Thanks for chatting! 💕

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Wow! I would have picked your brain on Japan and learned as much from your experience on travel in that country! There will always be people who just don’t care or whatever! Over the years I’ve come to realize that I tend to get along best with kindred spirits who have traveled and lived abroad. Those are the kinds of experiences not available at the store or on Amazon! Blogging makes that easier!
Also, did you have some good ramen noodles on your trip?

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Thanks Sabine! We seem like kindred spirits for sure 😊 I wanted to have ramen noodles but we were always too hungry by the time we were looking for a place to eat, that unfortunately I missed out on that! But we did have some great sushi! 😁

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I too enjoy Masterchef Aussie .. oh such a great show! And the produce they use is amazing! You are so right is a feel good show, with loads of camaraderie, back patting, enthusiasm and wonderful food! Great post Miss .. I think it’s nice to blow our own trumpet too 😀

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Hahah, glad you agree Julie! 😂💕And yes, it really is a feel good show!! And then they visit those beautiful vineyards every now and then… it makes me want to drop everything and become a farmer or wine producer!!! (I’m a city girl and can barely keep a cactus alive! But I guess I could learn, eh?!)

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So very interested. All about the nuance I guess. The difference between satisfaction and what we would (Australians) call “crowing”. Its a great show I agree, it started out on a more “vote people out” format, but quickly self corrected to my enduring relief.

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Over here you’re not supposed to be satisfied, even. Or at least not show it. People get jealous veeery quickly 🙄 And yes, it’s evolved into something quite different than the other Masterchefs and vote-out shows, which IMO are pretty tedious and repetitive. Thanks for reading!


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