Modest Finland

Today we'll begin what I hope can be daily entries in the Finland Diary. We've been here since Thursday, May 19, long enough to begin to adjust to the time (seven hours ahead of Washington) and to the Finns, who are easy to adjust to -- helpful and easy to talk to, if also just as reserved as their reputation warned us they would be.

We had a wonderful introduction to the often-reserved, even dour Finnish personality in Jyvaskyla, a city famous for its university and its sports facilities that is trying to establish itself as a new high-tech center. I was interviewing Pertti Era, a towering former university researcher who has launched a firm called Metitur. Its first big product is a machine that measures an elderly person's ability to maintain his or her balance, which helps doctors identify those most at risk of falling, in hopes of helping them avoid dangerous falls. It is selling now in the United States and Europe.

So how was business? Here came the instinctive Finnish reaction: his firm did about 750,000 Euros in sales in 2004, he said, "and I can't see how we can't do more than a million this year." Not exactly Texas bravado, but a good introduction to Finnish optimism.

Finland has largely reinvented itself over the last generation. Its educational system, economy, technology and sense of itself have all been transformed. This is change on a scale rarely seen in the world; only China, perhaps, has undergone a similar transformation in such a short period of time. But the Finns have not transformed their national personality, which remains pretty much intact. Sometimes it is helpful to the modernization going on here so intensely. For example, Finnish egalitarianism, a strong force, is ideally suited to a remarkable national education system that fosters what really seems to be equal opportunity for all, not just the lucky or privileged. On the other side of the coin, Finnish honesty and pragmatism combined with a quite profound shyness are ill-suited to the kind of salesmanship that America has made a hallmark of the modern global economy. Finns don't know how to hustle a customer. They don't seem very good at exaggerating their own successes or prospects, either.

I've written a separate dispatch of the entrepreneurs of Jyvaskyla to be published in the The Post's Business section later. It will also appear here. So will another story I've written about a comprehensive school we visited in Helsinki.

Some first impressions from our trip so far:


Kaapo Koivisto, five, makes the most of a spring day in Jyvaskyla. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

Spring arrived virtually with us, a great joy for the Finns (the weather, not the visitors), who have been waiting for it since October. Days are already 20 hours long, and before we leave here on June 8, the sun will never really set. Just in the last week green has appeared on the birch trees that are ubiquitous here. Our host in Kuopio, where we arrived on Sunday night, said the first swallows were seen near here just a week ago. "That means summer has begun," he said. It was 50 degrees here Monday morning.

We're staying here in the comfortable five-room flat of Matti and Ritva Laitinen near the center of this small town of about 95,000. In addition to four bedrooms and a large living-room dining room, the flat has a big kitchen and a built-in, wood-lined sauna. We haven't tried it yet.

Matti is a biochemist responsible for more than 20 medical labs in this region. Ritva describes herself as "a house mother," the Finnish term, who has raised three children, all of them grown. The idea of inviting two visiting Americans, and their young Finnish assistant, into their home seems not to have phased the Laitinens, who have been gracious and helpful hosts.


A group of students from Jyvaskyla enjoy a spring picnic lunch near one of the region's many beautiful lakes. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

Finns eat very well. Ritva Laitinen gave us a splendid supper last night; three kinds of salmon to begin, then a delicious chicken dish flavored with a home-made mushroom sauce. "I picked the mushrooms myself," she said proudly. "They are poisonous when you pick them. You have to cook them three times." She explained this after the first mouthfuls had disappeared. No problem!

Several Finnish newspapers have reported on our trip, so we are hoping to get some Finnish readers here, and hope too that they might post comments or corrections of our reports. We welcome comments from everyone.

And you can send us personal email to finlanddiary@washingtonpost.com.

-- Robert G. Kaiser

By washingtonpost.com |  May 23, 2005; 4:15 PM ET  | Category:  Business
Previous: Introduction to Finland Diary | Next: Focus on Schools Helps Finns Build a Showcase Nation

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Please fix the finlanddiary@washingtonpost.com email address.

Posted by: Franklin | May 23, 2005 06:10 PM

I think you´ve made quite a few excellent observations about what Finland and Finns are really about. Be sure to try out the sauna, because to truely understand Finns you have to understand our relationship to the sauna.

I also recommed talking to historian or a few WWII veterans, because understanding all the sacrifice we had to make as a people during the Winter and Continuation War is essential to understanding what we are all about.

Keep up the good work!

Posted by: Christoffer Masar | May 23, 2005 06:12 PM

If you want to get the Finns talking, see the movie "The Unknown Soldier" (a Finnish movie about the WWII) from 1955. It's a great movie and tells you a lot about Finns and what makes them tick.

Posted by: Kaari Jae | May 23, 2005 11:35 PM

An excellent blog, your observations about Finland and Finns hit the nail in the head.
I'm looking forward to your forthcoming blog entries, it will be interesting to see if your further analyzis of Finns and Finland will be as accurate as the start suggest. Mainiota!

Posted by: K. Maki | May 24, 2005 01:58 AM

You have to spend the winter in Finland to understand why Finns are so euphoric about summer.

Posted by: Kalle | May 24, 2005 02:54 AM


I truly agree with Kalle. From my point of view it's the biggest single influencer on the Finnish mentality: having it from -30 degrees Celcius up to +30 degrees C. It's unbelievable how people wake up and get alive by the nature. So thank you, cruel winter :) ??

Posted by: Aino | May 24, 2005 03:27 AM

One growing issue is how immigrants and cultural diversity are being integrated into Finnish society. If you want to read about multiculturalism in Finnish social and health care services, see these studies:

http://www.uta.fi/laitokset/sospol/courses/welfare.htm

and

http://www.uta.fi/laitokset/sospol/engl/problem.htm

Posted by: Lauri | May 24, 2005 03:43 AM

One thing I like about Finns (actually this is a huge generalization based on an encounter with only a single Finn - so tell me if it's not accurate) is their self-deprecation. He said things like "only a fool or a Finn would be stupid enough to do such-and-such."

I think we Americans might make a better impression on people if we were more self-deprecating.

Posted by: Tim | May 24, 2005 04:27 AM

Oh... you know, A finn may say somethng depreciating about himself, but in his or her mind, they are completely confident that they are completely superior to you. Expecially if they have a university degree.

But they do have a sort of self-confidence problem whenever it comes to a competition against Swedes. I would say they are more prone to be pesimistic. For example, I know many women whose finnish doctors told them they may have breast cancer, only to be told a few days later that it wasn't breast cancer after all. Finns like to give the worst possibility first.

I will try to write more, I am married to a Finn and am from Los Angeles myself. I'm going crazy in this country so we'll be returning to Los Angeles this summer.

One major factor contributing to happiness in finland is NOT KNOW WHAT IS OUT THERE! You see, finns travel, but few have ever lived outside of the country. They think winter lasts 6 months all over the world. They think 25,000 euros per year is a good salary for a engineer with a masters. And since I am paying between 30 to 50 percent in income taxes, then 20 percent sales taxes plus who knows how many other taxes. I wouldn't call my health care or any welfare benefits FREE.

Posted by: Eduardo Hernandez | May 24, 2005 06:35 AM

"They think winter lasts 6 months all over the world."

Hmm... I don't think so. Many of us dream of living in the south so there would be warm throughout the year, but still many never go there. Why? Because ultimately we just think that it's really not so bad. We count the cons and pros and decide on Finland.

Posted by: | May 24, 2005 07:37 AM

And we definitely don't consider 25,000 euros / year a good salary. :)

You are very roughly exaggerating many things. Cool down. :) I've lived outside Finland but I still think there's nothing quite like Finland. You couldn't make me live in LA for a longer period of time.

Posted by: | May 24, 2005 08:24 AM

Finland does have some of the most liberated women in the world. Here, women even work in construction and road crews with the hot asphalt and even doing the grass cutting in the summer and landscape maintenance of the city. But then again, they may also be Russians on guest worker visas. I can't tell the difference between finns and russians when they're dressed in work clothes. Russian women tend to dress up much more than finnish women. Meaning, the Russian women will wear better makeup, nicer clothes and generally show more style. Finnish women like to keep it simple. But please don't make it sound as if Finland is the only country in the world with female leaders. Even Pakistan had a female prime minister. Also India, Latvia (or lithuainia) and a handful of others. Finland was not the first.

It is true, finland is huge, but nobody wants to live in most of it. This past weekend, my friends and I were saying that Finland is becoming a huge park. Compared to the rest of europe, Finland is like one large national park. Everyone is moving to the south, mainly to Helsinki and Espoo. Most of the land seems to be owned by the forest industry for their paper mills. You would think everyone would have a large house with 4 acres of land surrounding them, but the reality is that most people live in Row houses or in apartment buildings.

That is what makes living in finland difficult, its geography. You have sea to the west, sea to the south, Russia to the east so it might as well be a sea because visas are expensive and too much hassel, and the artic to the north. So we really feel like we live on an island very seperated from europe. The long winter nights also drive people mad contributing to the fact that finland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Finns have an extremely short memory that helps them survive in this land. They forget bad memories quickly. If you watch finnish movies and television, they rarely display winter scenes. They convince themselves that it is not really so long. The ones that do not succeed in this attempt suicide. Everyone in this country knows someone who has attempted suicide. That is what makes it such a great place to get away to if you just want to forget about the world.

Finland has been able to clean up their industries by doing something extremely simple. Outsourcing those industries to Russia and eastern europe. The major dirty work that goes into making phones, electronics, forestry products, etc.. those are done in other countries. Finland doesn't even make its own matches anymore.

I know that Finland has been ranked as the most competitive economy in the world, but I really find it hard to believe and so does the Helsinginsanomat which can be read in the article "Seven myths about finland". http://www2.helsinginsanomat.fi/english/archive/news.asp?id=20031111IE1

Unemployment is really high here. And last I heard, Finland is no longer number one in mobil phones per capita. When your land line costs you 20 euros per month, PLUS per minute charges no matter where you call... there really is no reason to have a land line phone when you can have a mobil phone of which an average bill is 20 or 30 euros per month. People in finland, and the rest of europe for that matter, don't realize that in other parts of the world, as in the states, a land line isn't very expensive and local calls are free.
Linux may have been a finnish invention, but it was based completely on UNIX which was an american invention.

Something that is amazing about finns is that even though they don't have a lot of money, they will spend most of it on the latest gadets. Most everyone in Finland makes around 20,000 euros per year, people with masters degrees, engineers make a maximum of 4,000 euros per year, and that's after many years of experience. The cost of living in Finland is probably 30 percent higher than in the US. So, if you walk into a finnish house, you will not feel like you have walked into an american house. A lot of their furniture will be hand me downs or they have just cashed in on a inheritence. Housing costs are the same in Tampere as they are in southern california.

And like I said before, when I am paying 30 to 50 percent income taxes and 20 percent (VAT) sales taxes, I find it difficult to call my health insurance and welfare benefits "free".

Finns and many others kick this word "FREE" around a lot. Free education. No, its not free, our taxes are paying for it. Free university, no, our taxes and industry partnerships are paying for it. If they would charge a little, maybe there would be more interesting research programs as in the states. But to be nice, Finland's university resources are INCREDIBLE compared to France, Spain or any of the other southern european countries. The exchange students from those countries can't believe their eyes. American students think the labs are a little under equipped but satisfactory.

This man, Pekka Himanen, says Finnish society is all inclusive. What a load of c**p. Finnish society is all inclusive of all higher educated finns. Highly educated finns do not mix with lower educated finns. Since they were 14, they divide their society among vocational schooler, high math students and low math students. They rarely mix with each other. And any minorities in the country are completely marginalized. But since it is impossible to not pay taxes, all EU citizens and permanent residents have a right to the welfare benefits. But if you're here on a worker visa and paying 50 percent taxes.. you have no right to welfare.

The biggest factor behind finnish success has been LUCK and excellent workmanship. They found a niche that was being ignored and they have milked it.

It was reported that even most unemployed mothers leave their children in day care centers. A fantastic idea here is the 3 year long maternity leave. But I must admit, for the employer, it is very difficult. They have to provide the first 3 months full salary and they have to find a replacement who after some time, will have to be fired because the mommy will come back to work. I have a friend who was working, then became pregnant. When she was nearing her third year of maternity leave, she became pregnant again, and the whole cycle repeats. How long can something like that be funded? My own family, my finnish wife just had our first child, and we are returning to California soon. SO her first year of maternity leave checks will help us a lot in California where I will be working as an engineer making 60,000 dollars per year (5,000/month). But you would be surprised at how easy it is to become accostumed to paying high taxes. That's just life.

Do you know that if you are self employed, the only pension you are entitled to is the one you create for yourself. You'll get nothing from the state. But its a different story for employees. Is that "all inclusive" finland? A big part of life in scandinavia is "envy". People here envy successful people. They talk about them behind their backs. Everybody guns for the top dog.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying finland is a horrible place to live, it just isn't for me. The snow service is especially horrible. Slippery sidewalks and roads are simply accepted, so falling is accepted as part of life. I just can't live that way. When I slipped and broke my leg, there were people around me and nobody helped me get up. I think that Finns have come to depend so much on their welfare system, that they have forgotton how to help anyone themselves. They simply expect the government to take care of it.

But Pekka is right, you cannot compare contries simply by GDP. It was stated that Finns pay 45% in taxes and americans pay 25%. Does that include VAT(sales tax)? I doubt it. So, using my own situation of $60,000/yr, I will pay $300 per month health insurance. So health insurance is 6%. 7% pension. Higher education, mine cost $3000 per year (I stayed at home with mom and dad like a smart kid). So I finished in 4 years, $12,000. How do I put this into the percentages? My pre-university education was also free.

USA Finland
Income tax 25% 45%
Health ins 6%
Pension 7%
------------------------------
38% 45%

Sales tax 8% 20%
------------------------------
46% 65%

Okay, now it bothers me how much taxes I pay. Especially when I see the number of drunks and free loaders living it up in Finland.

Its true though, most finns do not want to be rich. And I don't think most americans want to be rich either. But our definitions of comfortable and independent are very different. Americans with families do not feel comfortable and independant unless they have a house with over 100 sq meters (1000 sq ft), they must own a suv or minivan to comfortably travel with the kids, and everything else varies. Finns can cram their families into a tiny car and live in a 75 sq meter house comfortably and generally feel they are living a great life. And everything in their house will be very simple and gathered over many years of saving up.

If you have ever watched EUROVISION, it is a wonder that this article states that finland produces many great musicians. Finland has repeatedly failed to even qualify for Eurovision over the years.

The brain washing campaign of the government in Finland has been extremely successful. And Finns are great at supporting their own. They will pay 3 euros for a finnish grown cucumber even though it is next to a 50 cent cucumber from Spain. They buy finnish brands no matter how tasteless they are and will only say great things about anything finnish. It is for these reasons that you must be sceptical of all statistics in finland. They do not like to air their dirty laundry as americans do.

Finns are desperate for respect and recognition, after having been in the shadows of Sweden and Russia for the past 500 years. Finns like to say that their culture is 1000 years old, but.. they refer to the Sami culture, which is a completely different blood line of shorter, darker people. They still show re-runs of the 1995 ice hockey world championship where Finland won top prize. How nostalgic can you be?

A funny thing about religion. They say there is no relgion in school and that no politician says "God Bless Finland", but the fact is that all holidays in finland are from the Lutheran religion, and it has been reported in the helsinginsanomat that the lutheran church is extremely favored by taxes. Other religions were even called second class religions. But generally, finns are not religious and consider people who go to church to be "strange".

Lots of people in finland own hunting guns. I even know of a guy that shot at burglars running away from his house. Hand guns are rare. Which I think is a good thing. That's something I really admire and enjoy in europe. I rather be robbed with a knife than with a gun.

Finns generally do not like or accept immigrants. But they are coming none the less and I predict finland will have a serious civil upheavel in the future as middle europe is currently having with their far right groups.

Posted by: Eduardo Hernandez | May 24, 2005 08:47 AM

"One major factor contributing to happiness in finland is NOT KNOW WHAT IS OUT THERE!"

On the contrary, I think they quite well know what is out there.

"Winter lasts 6 months all over the world."
Winter doesn't last 6 months even in Finland...

"They think 25,000 euros per year is a good salary for a engineer with a masters."

I have never met anybody who thinks so. 30 000 euros would be a satisfactory salary for a graduated MSc (eng) with little or none work experience, but not for one with years of experience.

"And since I am paying between 30 to 50 percent in income taxes, then 20 percent sales taxes plus who knows how many other taxes. I wouldn't call my health care or any welfare benefits FREE."

Finns do complain about their high taxes, but I think that few people would like trade "free" healthcare and education for lower taxes. The Finnish school system is not without problems (teachers in grades 7-9 how sometimes problems with some teenage students etc.), but apparently it works, at least compared to other countries.

Posted by: Tuomo | May 24, 2005 08:54 AM

Hehe, if you put something about Finland to the Internet, you can be sure that everyone in Finland has read it in few hours. We are everywhere.

Posted by: Lemminkäinen | May 24, 2005 08:55 AM

Indeed. Almost every finn has acces to the internet :P

When you guys get to turku BE SURE to check out the archipelago, atleast for a day, perhaps even two. It's amazing! I spend ATLEAST a week of every summer there. Oh yeah, and try a sauna, it's a must!

Posted by: Max | May 24, 2005 09:06 AM

Finland does have some of the most liberated women in the world. Here, women even work in construction and road crews with the hot asphalt and even doing the grass cutting in the summer and landscape maintenance of the city. But then again, they may also be Russians on guest worker visas. I can't tell the difference between finns and russians when they're dressed in work clothes. Russian women tend to dress up much more than finnish women. Meaning, the Russian women will wear better makeup, nicer clothes and generally show more style. Finnish women like to keep it simple. But please don't make it sound as if Finland is the only country in the world with female leaders. Even Pakistan had a female prime minister. Also India, Latvia (or lithuainia) and a handful of others. Finland was not the first.

It is true, finland is huge, but nobody wants to live in most of it. This past weekend, my friends and I were saying that Finland is becoming a huge park. Compared to the rest of europe, Finland is like one large national park. Everyone is moving to the south, mainly to Helsinki and Espoo. Most of the land seems to be owned by the forest industry for their paper mills. You would think everyone would have a large house with 4 acres of land surrounding them, but the reality is that most people live in Row houses or in apartment buildings.

That is what makes living in finland difficult, its geography. You have sea to the west, sea to the south, Russia to the east so it might as well be a sea because visas are expensive and too much hassel, and the artic to the north. So we really feel like we live on an island very seperated from europe. The long winter nights also drive people mad contributing to the fact that finland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Finns have an extremely short memory that helps them survive in this land. They forget bad memories quickly. If you watch finnish movies and television, they rarely display winter scenes. They convince themselves that it is not really so long. The ones that do not succeed in this attempt suicide. Everyone in this country knows someone who has attempted suicide. That is what makes it such a great place to get away to if you just want to forget about the world.

Finland has been able to clean up their industries by doing something extremely simple. Outsourcing those industries to Russia and eastern europe. The major dirty work that goes into making phones, electronics, forestry products, etc.. those are done in other countries. Finland doesn't even make its own matches anymore.

I know that Finland has been ranked as the most competitive economy in the world, but I really find it hard to believe and so does the Helsinginsanomat which can be read in the article "Seven myths about finland". http://www2.helsinginsanomat.fi/english/archive/news.asp?id=20031111IE1

Unemployment is really high here. And last I heard, Finland is no longer number one in mobil phones per capita. When your land line costs you 20 euros per month, PLUS per minute charges no matter where you call... there really is no reason to have a land line phone when you can have a mobil phone of which an average bill is 20 or 30 euros per month. People in finland, and the rest of europe for that matter, don't realize that in other parts of the world, as in the states, a land line isn't very expensive and local calls are free.
Linux may have been a finnish invention, but it was based completely on UNIX which was an american invention.

Something that is amazing about finns is that even though they don't have a lot of money, they will spend most of it on the latest gadets. Most everyone in Finland makes around 20,000 euros per year, people with masters degrees, engineers make a maximum of 4,000 euros per year, and that's after many years of experience. The cost of living in Finland is probably 30 percent higher than in the US. So, if you walk into a finnish house, you will not feel like you have walked into an american house. A lot of their furniture will be hand me downs or they have just cashed in on a inheritence. Housing costs are the same in Tampere as they are in southern california.

And like I said before, when I am paying 30 to 50 percent income taxes and 20 percent (VAT) sales taxes, I find it difficult to call my health insurance and welfare benefits "free".

Finns and many others kick this word "FREE" around a lot. Free education. No, its not free, our taxes are paying for it. Free university, no, our taxes and industry partnerships are paying for it. If they would charge a little, maybe there would be more interesting research programs as in the states. But to be nice, Finland's university resources are INCREDIBLE compared to France, Spain or any of the other southern european countries. The exchange students from those countries can't believe their eyes. American students think the labs are a little under equipped but satisfactory.

This man, Pekka Himanen, says Finnish society is all inclusive. What a load of c**p. Finnish society is all inclusive of all higher educated finns. Highly educated finns do not mix with lower educated finns. Since they were 14, they divide their society among vocational schooler, high math students and low math students. They rarely mix with each other. And any minorities in the country are completely marginalized. But since it is impossible to not pay taxes, all EU citizens and permanent residents have a right to the welfare benefits. But if you're here on a worker visa and paying 50 percent taxes.. you have no right to welfare.

The biggest factor behind finnish success has been LUCK and excellent workmanship. They found a niche that was being ignored and they have milked it.

It was reported that even most unemployed mothers leave their children in day care centers. A fantastic idea here is the 3 year long maternity leave. But I must admit, for the employer, it is very difficult. They have to provide the first 3 months full salary and they have to find a replacement who after some time, will have to be fired because the mommy will come back to work. I have a friend who was working, then became pregnant. When she was nearing her third year of maternity leave, she became pregnant again, and the whole cycle repeats. How long can something like that be funded? My own family, my finnish wife just had our first child, and we are returning to California soon. SO her first year of maternity leave checks will help us a lot in California where I will be working as an engineer making 60,000 dollars per year (5,000/month). But you would be surprised at how easy it is to become accostumed to paying high taxes. That's just life.

Do you know that if you are self employed, the only pension you are entitled to is the one you create for yourself. You'll get nothing from the state. But its a different story for employees. Is that "all inclusive" finland? A big part of life in scandinavia is "envy". People here envy successful people. They talk about them behind their backs. Everybody guns for the top dog.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying finland is a horrible place to live, it just isn't for me. The snow service is especially horrible. Slippery sidewalks and roads are simply accepted, so falling is accepted as part of life. I just can't live that way. When I slipped and broke my leg, there were people around me and nobody helped me get up. I think that Finns have come to depend so much on their welfare system, that they have forgotton how to help anyone themselves. They simply expect the government to take care of it.

But Pekka is right, you cannot compare contries simply by GDP. It was stated that Finns pay 45% in taxes and americans pay 25%. Does that include VAT(sales tax)? I doubt it. So, using my own situation of $60,000/yr, I will pay $300 per month health insurance. So health insurance is 6%. 7% pension. Higher education, mine cost $3000 per year (I stayed at home with mom and dad like a smart kid). So I finished in 4 years, $12,000. How do I put this into the percentages? My pre-university education was also free.

USA Finland
Income tax 25% 45%
Health ins 6%
Pension 7%
------------------------------
38% 45%

Sales tax 8% 20%
------------------------------
46% 65%

Okay, now it bothers me how much taxes I pay. Especially when I see the number of drunks and free loaders living it up in Finland.

Its true though, most finns do not want to be rich. And I don't think most americans want to be rich either. But our definitions of comfortable and independent are very different. Americans with families do not feel comfortable and independant unless they have a house with over 100 sq meters (1000 sq ft), they must own a suv or minivan to comfortably travel with the kids, and everything else varies. Finns can cram their families into a tiny car and live in a 75 sq meter house comfortably and generally feel they are living a great life. And everything in their house will be very simple and gathered over many years of saving up.

If you have ever watched EUROVISION, it is a wonder that this article states that finland produces many great musicians. Finland has repeatedly failed to even qualify for Eurovision over the years.

The brain washing campaign of the government in Finland has been extremely successful. And Finns are great at supporting their own. They will pay 3 euros for a finnish grown cucumber even though it is next to a 50 cent cucumber from Spain. They buy finnish brands no matter how tasteless they are and will only say great things about anything finnish. It is for these reasons that you must be sceptical of all statistics in finland. They do not like to air their dirty laundry as americans do.

Finns are desperate for respect and recognition, after having been in the shadows of Sweden and Russia for the past 500 years. Finns like to say that their culture is 1000 years old, but.. they refer to the Sami culture, which is a completely different blood line of shorter, darker people. They still show re-runs of the 1995 ice hockey world championship where Finland won top prize. How nostalgic can you be?

A funny thing about religion. They say there is no relgion in school and that no politician says "God Bless Finland", but the fact is that all holidays in finland are from the Lutheran religion, and it has been reported in the helsinginsanomat that the lutheran church is extremely favored by taxes. Other religions were even called second class religions. But generally, finns are not religious and consider people who go to church to be "strange". And I'm sure they study religion in school because I have Bahai friends who go to the local school to give classes. I just read that there is 12 years of obligatory religion lessons. Religion lessons are for learning about your religion. That's how it works everywhere in the world. Nobody worships during religion lessons, well, maybe a little.

Lots of people in finland own hunting guns. I even know of a guy that shot at burglars running away from his house. Hand guns are rare. Which I think is a good thing. That's something I really admire and enjoy in europe. I rather be robbed with a knife than with a gun.

Finns generally do not like or accept immigrants. But they are coming none the less and I predict finland will have a serious civil upheavel in the future as middle europe is currently having with their far right groups.
Finland does have some of the most liberated women in the world. Here, women even work in construction and road crews with the hot asphalt and even doing the grass cutting in the summer and landscape maintenance of the city. But then again, they may also be Russians on guest worker visas. I can't tell the difference between finns and russians when they're dressed in work clothes. Russian women tend to dress up much more than finnish women. Meaning, the Russian women will wear better makeup, nicer clothes and generally show more style. Finnish women like to keep it simple. But please don't make it sound as if Finland is the only country in the world with female leaders. Even Pakistan had a female prime minister. Also India, Latvia (or lithuainia) and a handful of others. Finland was not the first.

It is true, finland is huge, but nobody wants to live in most of it. This past weekend, my friends and I were saying that Finland is becoming a huge park. Compared to the rest of europe, Finland is like one large national park. Everyone is moving to the south, mainly to Helsinki and Espoo. Most of the land seems to be owned by the forest industry for their paper mills. You would think everyone would have a large house with 4 acres of land surrounding them, but the reality is that most people live in Row houses or in apartment buildings.

That is what makes living in finland difficult, its geography. You have sea to the west, sea to the south, Russia to the east so it might as well be a sea because visas are expensive and too much hassel, and the artic to the north. So we really feel like we live on an island very seperated from europe. The long winter nights also drive people mad contributing to the fact that finland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world. Finns have an extremely short memory that helps them survive in this land. They forget bad memories quickly. If you watch finnish movies and television, they rarely display winter scenes. They convince themselves that it is not really so long. The ones that do not succeed in this attempt suicide. Everyone in this country knows someone who has attempted suicide. That is what makes it such a great place to get away to if you just want to forget about the world.

Finland has been able to clean up their industries by doing something extremely simple. Outsourcing those industries to Russia and eastern europe. The major dirty work that goes into making phones, electronics, forestry products, etc.. those are done in other countries. Finland doesn't even make its own matches anymore.

I know that Finland has been ranked as the most competitive economy in the world, but I really find it hard to believe and so does the Helsinginsanomat which can be read in the article "Seven myths about finland". http://www2.helsinginsanomat.fi/english/archive/news.asp?id=20031111IE1

Unemployment is really high here. And last I heard, Finland is no longer number one in mobil phones per capita. When your land line costs you 20 euros per month, PLUS per minute charges no matter where you call... there really is no reason to have a land line phone when you can have a mobil phone of which an average bill is 20 or 30 euros per month. People in finland, and the rest of europe for that matter, don't realize that in other parts of the world, as in the states, a land line isn't very expensive and local calls are free.
Linux may have been a finnish invention, but it was based completely on UNIX which was an american invention.

Something that is amazing about finns is that even though they don't have a lot of money, they will spend most of it on the latest gadets. Most everyone in Finland makes around 20,000 euros per year, people with masters degrees, engineers make a maximum of 4,000 euros per year, and that's after many years of experience. The cost of living in Finland is probably 30 percent higher than in the US. So, if you walk into a finnish house, you will not feel like you have walked into an american house. A lot of their furniture will be hand me downs or they have just cashed in on a inheritence. Housing costs are the same in Tampere as they are in southern california.

And like I said before, when I am paying 30 to 50 percent income taxes and 20 percent (VAT) sales taxes, I find it difficult to call my health insurance and welfare benefits "free".

Finns and many others kick this word "FREE" around a lot. Free education. No, its not free, our taxes are paying for it. Free university, no, our taxes and industry partnerships are paying for it. If they would charge a little, maybe there would be more interesting research programs as in the states. But to be nice, Finland's university resources are INCREDIBLE compared to France, Spain or any of the other southern european countries. The exchange students from those countries can't believe their eyes. American students think the labs are a little under equipped but satisfactory.

This man, Pekka Himanen, says Finnish society is all inclusive. What a load of c**p. Finnish society is all inclusive of all higher educated finns. Highly educated finns do not mix with lower educated finns. Since they were 14, they divide their society among vocational schooler, high math students and low math students. They rarely mix with each other. And any minorities in the country are completely marginalized. But since it is impossible to not pay taxes, all EU citizens and permanent residents have a right to the welfare benefits. But if you're here on a worker visa and paying 50 percent taxes.. you have no right to welfare.

The biggest factor behind finnish success has been LUCK and excellent workmanship. They found a niche that was being ignored and they have milked it.

It was reported that even most unemployed mothers leave their children in day care centers. A fantastic idea here is the 3 year long maternity leave. But I must admit, for the employer, it is very difficult. They have to provide the first 3 months full salary and they have to find a replacement who after some time, will have to be fired because the mommy will come back to work. I have a friend who was working, then became pregnant. When she was nearing her third year of maternity leave, she became pregnant again, and the whole cycle repeats. How long can something like that be funded? My own family, my finnish wife just had our first child, and we are returning to California soon. SO her first year of maternity leave checks will help us a lot in California where I will be working as an engineer making 60,000 dollars per year (5,000/month). But you would be surprised at how easy it is to become accostumed to paying high taxes. That's just life.

Do you know that if you are self employed, the only pension you are entitled to is the one you create for yourself. You'll get nothing from the state. But its a different story for employees. Is that "all inclusive" finland? A big part of life in scandinavia is "envy". People here envy successful people. They talk about them behind their backs. Everybody guns for the top dog.

Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying finland is a horrible place to live, it just isn't for me. The snow service is especially horrible. Slippery sidewalks and roads are simply accepted, so falling is accepted as part of life. I just can't live that way. When I slipped and broke my leg, there were people around me and nobody helped me get up. I think that Finns have come to depend so much on their welfare system, that they have forgotton how to help anyone themselves. They simply expect the government to take care of it.

But Pekka is right, you cannot compare contries simply by GDP. It was stated that Finns pay 45% in taxes and americans pay 25%. Does that include VAT(sales tax)? I doubt it. So, using my own situation of $60,000/yr, I will pay $300 per month health insurance. So health insurance is 6%. 7% pension. Higher education, mine cost $3000 per year (I stayed at home with mom and dad like a smart kid). So I finished in 4 years, $12,000. How do I put this into the percentages? My pre-university education was also free.

USA Finland
Income tax 25% 45%
Health ins 6%
Pension 7%
------------------------------
38% 45%

Sales tax 8% 20%
------------------------------
46% 65%

Okay, now it bothers me how much taxes I pay. Especially when I see the number of drunks and free loaders living it up in Finland.

Its true though, most finns do not want to be rich. And I don't think most americans want to be rich either. But our definitions of comfortable and independent are very different. Americans with families do not feel comfortable and independant unless they have a house with over 100 sq meters (1000 sq ft), they must own a suv or minivan to comfortably travel with the kids, and everything else varies. Finns can cram their families into a tiny car and live in a 75 sq meter house comfortably and generally feel they are living a great life. And everything in their house will be very simple and gathered over many years of saving up.

If you have ever watched EUROVISION, it is a wonder that this article states that finland produces many great musicians. Finland has repeatedly failed to even qualify for Eurovision over the years.

The brain washing campaign of the government in Finland has been extremely successful. And Finns are great at supporting their own. They will pay 3 euros for a finnish grown cucumber even though it is next to a 50 cent cucumber from Spain. They buy finnish brands no matter how tasteless they are and will only say great things about anything finnish. It is for these reasons that you must be sceptical of all statistics in finland. They do not like to air their dirty laundry as americans do.

Finns are desperate for respect and recognition, after having been in the shadows of Sweden and Russia for the past 500 years. Finns like to say that their culture is 1000 years old, but.. they refer to the Sami culture, which is a completely different blood line of shorter, darker people. They still show re-runs of the 1995 ice hockey world championship where Finland won top prize. How nostalgic can you be?

A funny thing about religion. They say there is no relgion in school and that no politician says "God Bless Finland", but the fact is that all holidays in finland are from the Lutheran religion, and it has been reported in the helsinginsanomat that the lutheran church is extremely favored by taxes. Other religions were even called second class religions. But generally, finns are not religious and consider people who go to church to be "strange".

Lots of people in finland own hunting guns. I even know of a guy that shot at burglars running away from his house. Hand guns are rare. Which I think is a good thing. That's something I really admire and enjoy in europe. I rather be robbed with a knife than with a gun.

Finns generally do not like or accept immigrants. But they are coming none the less and I predict finland will have a serious civil upheaval in the future as middle europe is currently having with their far right groups.

Hi, I'm a mexican american living in finland for the
past 3 years. As Michel had stated earlier, it is
VERY difficult to find a job in finland, especially if
you are a foreigner. I myself even with a bachelors in
mechanical engineering ended up working in a english
preschool. In this country, if you are a foreigner,
everyone basically assumes that you are a refugee.
Especially if you have dark features. Gypsies aren't
even considered human. I would be surprised if they
are accounted for in the census. They say gypsies
don't go to school, but they don't look like gypsies
until they are married, at that point, they decide
whether or not they will wear their traditional
dresses and from then on, they wear them all the time.

But let me tell you the true reason why finnish
students do so well on tests. Teachers are a small
part of the reason, the big reason is CULTURE. That's
right, there is nothing more important to a finnish
family than the education of their children. The
parents talk about their children's studies all the
time, they help their children study, they proof read,
they make special tests for them, they send them to
extra intensive courses just before the big end of
year exams. You see, in this country, you're either
educated or you are "amatti" un-educated.

Finland has a holiday called Vappu on May 1st. On
this day, everyone who graduated from highschool (not
vocational school) wears a white hat. By law, you
only have to attend school up to the 9th grade.
People begin schooling at the age of 7 years old,
therefore being a bit more mature. At the age of 14,
they are expected to decide if they will do
highschool(who can go on to university) or vocational
school(to learn a trade like plumbing, janitor, road
repair, truck driving,super blue collar work). Then
the kids in highschool need to decide if they will
pursue high math(for engineering and accounting) or
low math(for liberal arts, hotel and tourism, etc..).
At this point, the grand divide begins. Most students
of high math only mingle with other high math
students. Low math only mingle with low math students
and the same with vocational school students. Then,
the students who go off to university rarely would
date or even imagine marrying someone who did not have
a university degree. They call the people who go off
to junior college(vocational school) "AMMIS" and it's
not a compliment.

So this is one big reason for why they do so well in
school. In the schools, there is absolutely no
respect for teachers. They call their teachers by
their first names or they make up degrading nicknames
for them and say it to their face. Many of the
finnish teachers that I know go off and get drunk just
as much as any teachers I know in Los Angeles.
Actually, since getting drunk at a party in finland is
almost "required", I am sure Finnish teachers are
drunk more often.

Another major factor has to be the fact that most
finns only have one child. So this child receives a
lot of attention and investment. The low birth rate
also aids in their low child mortality rate. It's
easier to hit a target with a rifle than with a
machine gun.

I seriously doubt that the finnish teachers deserve
most of the credit. It's like a doctor in Florida
taking credit for the great tan everybody in Florida
has. It's the culture!

At this moment, I have completed my masters of
Material Science in the University of Tampere. This
has to be the easiest system in the world. In all of
my classes, there was only a final exam for each
class. Rarely did most students ever show up to
lectures. Copies of old exams are available in the
department offices. And the new exams tend to repeat
the same questions as the old ones. So it is nearly
IMPOSSIBLE to fail an exam. But it is also VERY VERY
difficult to get a perfect or near perfect score.
Compared to my Bachelors from Cal Poly Pomona where we
had almost weekly quizes, mid-terms, then final exams
plus homework that was a part of your grade. But
maybe at masters level everywhere in the world, life
gets this easy.

They also practice in highschool by using many old
exams.

In Los Angeles, in my schools, that was always
considered cheating. If anyone was caught with old
exams in the university, something bad happened to
them. And teachers were not allowed to make copies of
books of anything. We had to buy them or check them
out of the library. But in europe, it is not illegal
to copy something if it is for educational purposes.
That is why we do not need to buy books in europe for
univeristy courses. The teachers give us copies of
books and notes and handouts to study from.

So these are some of the factors that go into those
high scores. So if you want those high scores for
your children, now you know what you have to do.

Posted by: Eduardo Hernandez | May 24, 2005 09:21 AM

Oh SORRY !!!!!!! I didn't mean to post that twice... too many windows open at the same time.

JOO!! I know everyone in Finland will finally know my awful thoughts, but ah well, my job is ending this week and I'll be in california in a couple of weeks! Hehehe... Ja talvi ei ole hauska!!

Niin, Suomi ei ole paska maan, mutta, ei ole minullle.

And okay, I think I mentioned before, the highest paid engineer I know who has been working for 10 years is paid 4000 euros per month. Still less than 50,000 euros per year. And one dollar can buy a lot more in the states than one euro can buy in finland. This is the main point. As one of your politicians has stated. "If our system is so great, why are people leaving?" But I'm sure Finland and europe will only get better and better. I believe in that.

Posted by: Eddie | May 24, 2005 09:35 AM

Hey Eddie, I don't want to comment on your opinions as they are just your opinions. But I hope you enjoy California once you get back there!

However, I have to mention one thing: Eurovision song contest has nothing to do with the vast and high quality classical music heritage in Finland. Eurovision is, pardon my French, complete BS. It's a show where normal citizens decide which is a good song (or rather a show), it has nothing to do with the real geniouses like Sibelius.

Posted by: Pete | May 24, 2005 09:47 AM

You may think whatever you want about the Finnish way of life. There are many points made here that are quite correct. But the fact that you might not like it doesn't mean that Finns don't know about better. Most do know what OTHERS THINK IS BETTER but they are happy with the little they have. To be rich is not always about a new car or a huge flat. Many Finns are horrified to think about the spreading of American way of life. Do you know how many planet Earths we would need to maintain the American way of life for all of Earth's inhabitants??? If all had the same huge flats and the same use-and-throw-away -culture the planet of ours wouldn't survive.

And yes, the taxes are high especially from the point of view of the better earning citizens. But most people contribute to the common welfare, those who have more give more and those who have less give less and EVERYBODY has the access to it in one way or another, be it borrowing books from library, studying in university or the healthcare system. Can you say this about the people who live in the slums of your country?

As a Finn I don't get depressed because of our cold dark winters or high taxes. I get depressed because of the spreading of American way of life and destroying our planet by always wanting more.

(PS. I'm 26 and I've lived in 6 countries so far, even in the US. And I don't even stand out from the crowd.)

Posted by: Proud to be a Finn | May 24, 2005 09:58 AM

Eduardo Hernandes, I as a finn see your post as such a big troll, that I'm not even able to answer it without the danger of overreacting. (this as a pre-reading warning ;)

At no point did the author claim that we would have been the first ones with a female leader. And finnish women not having style, well that is your opinion completely.

People would very likely still be living in larger houses with more land around them, as they did before. There is however one thing making this difficult: a lot of services are being centralized to bigger cities etc. But still, not _everyone_ is living in Helsinki or Espoo...

You make huge generalizations about people and how "everyone who can't convince themselves that the winter isn't really that long will attempt suicide". Oh please! Winter is something many finns enjoy greatly in forms of outdoor activities like cross-country skiing. I don't see our memory being any shorter than that of our fellow europeans. (And I certainly DO NOT feel that we would be in any way separated from Europe, on the contrary!) (And not every finn knows someone who has attempted suicide)

Outsourcing is certainly not something we seek out to do. Nowadays, however, if it is cheaper to do it elsewhere, many companies will take some of their actions outside our borders. That's something any company striving for success would do. (the internatinal ones, not including smaller family businesses, that don't strive for big winnings) But still, many things are being made in Finland itself.

"People in finland, and the rest of europe for that matter, don't realize that in other parts of the world, as in the states, a land line isn't very expensive and local calls are free."

What makes you think that we are incapable of realizing that? I don't get your point. Don't forget. that local calls using landlines in Finland are very cheap. Mobile phone calls and text messages are among one of the cheapest in the whole Europe (don't know American prices, so can't comment on them.)

Of course Linux works through the principles of Unix, it was based on the idea to create a free minix-like OS. While minix was made to be like unix. As Unix was being sold, Linus needed something free, and Linux as it has been since the beginning (at least version 2, sources vary), has a completerly rewritten code. So on code-level, it isn't based on Unix, while it still works in a same fashion.

The thing about finns using most of their money on the latest gadgets is another huge generalization. A porpotion of the youth maybe doing this, but certainly not all. You seem to want to make it sound like we all live in poor houses where we gather stuff that someone else has thrown away or something. That is generally not the case, and in the situations it is, it's hardly because of us using all our money on the newest gadgets.

Of course we understand that we pay for our "free" welfare system in our taxes. Like it has been pointed out, we do not mind paying taxes when we get services for it. I can't say this any better than has already been said, so please re-read those comments on the issue.

And I hope I do not have to remind you: The economy of the US is ridiculous atm. If China and Japan would suddenly stop wasting money(as that is exactly what they are doing on their point of view, but they have at least until now thought they get enough export in return) on supporting the US economy, it would totally flip. And this would mean a huge depression world-wide. I hope this doesn't happen. This just as a reminder, as you seem to be telling us how everything seems to be better in the US.

"Finnish society is all inclusive of all higher educated finns. Highly educated finns do not mix with lower educated finns. Since they were 14, they divide their society among vocational schooler, high math students and low math students. They rarely mix with each other."

You really made me laugh with this argument! :D
Most problems in mixing vocational schoolers and highschoolers, is that usually these schools are geographically in different places. I've been to high school and still have many friends that haven't. And I see totally no sense in your claim that higher/lower math would separate us in any way! Of course we are in the same classes with certain people, but that's only when it comes to math. I have several many good friends that haven't studied higher math, and we all find your claim totally absurd.

"The biggest factor behind finnish success has been LUCK and excellent workmanship. They found a niche that was being ignored and they have milked it."

You call it luck? Is all innovation luck? As I believe they are "niches" that are being ignored until they are being innovated and "milked" as you say.

I agree with you that maternity leaves present problems for the employers, and that it's wrong that many unemployed mothers take use of the daycare fascilities when they didn't have to. They are still paying taxes and entitled to it.

I feel happy for you that you are soon able to make some big bucks again, good for you! :)

Not everybody here "guns the top dog" Envy is something a portion of people all over the world do often, and sometihng that all humans suffer from time to time. That's a part of what makes us human.

I feel sorry for you, that nobody helped you when you slipped. I have usually been offered help in similiar circumstances. Luckily Finland hasn't gone off-track in these things like some countries. I've heard that in some countries when people slip on slippery ground, they sue someone to get paid for this accident. That can suddenly become a major way to get a lot of money in some countries. ;)

You say that americans must own a suv or a minivan to comfortably travel with their kids. Maybe their cheap gas with this desire is the reason they pollute so much (and haven't signed the Kyoto treatie).

"If you have ever watched EUROVISION"

Do you yourself consider Eurovision as a source of good music? I don't. It's a place where some countries have an unwritten agreement on them voting for each other, and it's mostly about the show they can build around the musical piece. This has nothing do to with the fact that even Finland has produced many internationally-acknowledged artists.

"The brain washing campaign of the government in Finland has been extremely successful."

Good, now I have a tidy brain then. :)

"Finns are desperate for respect and recognition... ...Finns like to say that their culture is 1000 years old, but.. they refer to the Sami culture, which is a completely different blood line of shorter, darker people. They still show re-runs of the 1995 ice hockey world championship where Finland won top prize. How nostalgic can you be?"

I agree that we are somewhat interested in knowing what people think about us, but by no means desperate. I have really never heard anyone (even the teachers) tell me that our culture would be 1000 years old. And if someone claims that, so what?

I hope you can tell me when was the last time they've shown the whole 95 final in TV? Ok, it might have been this year, since it has been 10 years, but it has definitely not been constantly on the air.

The churc-issue has already been commented here, but I'd like to stress, that church-goers aren't held as "strange". I wonder what makes you say that?

"Finns generally do not like or accept immigrants. But they are coming none the less and I predict finland will have a serious civil upheavel in the future as middle europe is currently having with their far right groups."

I disagree partly.

I hope I didn't react too roughly on some of your points. As I told in the beginning, it's hard for me to reply without overreacting, while I consider nearly everything in your post a big troll and an attempt to irritate finns. I still hope everything good for you an dyour family.

Posted by: M | May 24, 2005 10:35 AM

Eduardo makes so many assumptions and generalizes many things that I won't waste my time on that...

What I wanted to say about is about the winter. It's that it is not so unpleasant because it is cold. It's unpleasant more because of the darkness. The darkness is without a doubt very depressing thing about the winter, not the temperature. For me, that's honestly the only really negative thing in Finland. The darkness.

Posted by: a Finn | May 24, 2005 10:44 AM

I'm a polytechnics student from Finland and I'd like to comment on few things mentioned here.

First, everyone seems to be underlining that finnish winter is only a bad thing which inflicts Finland as in high suicide count and melancholia, of course this is true to some degree but I for my self could not live in a place where it's 25C and sunny 24/7/365 (and I think I'm not alone on this one). I like the different seasons and enjoy very much of winter sports, even if it gets a little extreme some times.

Secondly, someone mentioned that in Finland university graduates and other higher educated persons date and are friends only with eachother, it's not the hole truth but I don't think this is a matter that exists only in Finland, can you be friends with someone if s/he is only interested in e.g. gardening and you'd like to discuss nuclear fysics? And usually many longlasting friendships are born in upper secondary school/vocational school so that's one reason why finns are so divided to their own social groups, I think.

And finally, I would welcome something on finnish military because there is mandatory service for men in Finnish Defence Forces and about 80% of each age group goes through the service in military (atleast 6 months).

P.S. I'm sorry for my english, it might be a little hard to understand.

Posted by: Niko | May 24, 2005 11:17 AM

Niko, your english is great.

Yes, I was trying to get some reactions and it seems to have worked. Now this blog feels more balanced between the positives and the negatives.

There was a comment about the spread of the american way of life.

I have been noticing over the past ten years that as salaries in europe have risen, so have their materialism. And as production increases so does pollution. I agree, the world has to strive towards cleaner ways of living and this is researched in california and other states extensively. The Kyoto protocol will have benefited France and Germany and Russia without having any effect of developing countries because they are excluded. It was a political treaty with economics, not the environment, as its basis.

Read this about the future of waste management.
http://www.discover.com/issues/jul-04/features/anything-into-oil/

As for the winter.. slipping on the ice and the darkness. That's the true horror.. not the cold. Maybe I'll miss Finland when I go back to California.. or maybe I'll just stay in a cabin in the mountains during winter.. you do know we have snow in California too. Right? Many places even get all the seasons.. but each season only lasts 3 months. Not like in Finland where winter(snow on the ground) lasts from october until april, isn't that 7 months? Ok.. november to april.. 6 months. Summer is end of may until mid August.. 3 months. So that leaves 1.5 months for Spring and 1.5 months for Fall.

What's not to love??!!??

Posted by: Eduardo Hernandez | May 24, 2005 11:55 AM

Eduardo (and the writers of the blog): Based on the replies Eduardo received on his postings, it's easy to see that the Finns really like what they have (for many parts), and are eager to defend it. This is quite Finnish, and I have to admit that I had the same reaction, even if I currently live nearby Los Angeles Eduardo is so eager to move to. I can see why SoCal is better for someone from Mexico; it's totally understandable. The darkness of winter in Finland can be hard on people, especially if you're not used to it from childhood.

Finns also admire other countries, though, and are eager to travel. What comes to living abroad, many people do it at least for a while these days. I think it's an eye-opener, in many ways. However, I tend to say everyone living abroad (no matter where they are from or where they are living) that comparing your home country (or another place) and the place you're living at in terms of which one is better and which one is worse is very counterproductive. Places are different, that's all, and you should try to enjoy those differences and take it as a lerning expereience. Even if it IS hard sometimes.

Another thing: Finns are very, very eager to hear what foreigners have to say about them. So I'm sure there will be lots of Finns reading this blog, when the word of it travels!

Posted by: Marlene | May 24, 2005 12:10 PM

I realize that this isn't any conversation forum but I feel I must say what I have been thinking about a while.

In many different sources it is said that finns are very interested in what other people think of them and that we as finns like to read what is said about us selves, but what I have been thinking about is that why especially we finns are so interested about what is said of us, aren't other nations like us at all then? Doesn't for example americans or canadians like to hear what other people think of them? I would assume that it would not matter where I'm from, I would be interested in what other people think of me/the likes of me

Posted by: Niko | May 24, 2005 12:46 PM

Thank you for your most wonderful series about Finland. I am a very loyal Washington Post reader and have enjoyed thoroughly what you are doing with this Diary and the story of this amazing country, Finland.

I am a conference organizer by profession and my company selects, plans and organizes conferences all over the world, and in particular in Europe. Last November, I took my then eleven year-old son Michael and traveled to Finland to sit visit Helsinki and a few other cities including JYVÄSKYLÄ for possible future conference bookings. I have traveled throughout most of the world and despite temperatures in the minus 8 degree C throughout our visit and the 15 inches of snow that we had in Helsinki, I consider that trip the most special opportunity of my life.

To begin with, I have never been around people anywhere in the world who were as kind-mannered, as intellectual and as clean as were the Finish citizens that we came in contact with. From the hotel staff, to the people who attended to the railways, to the ticket checker at Finlandia Hall, to the staff and employees of Stockman's department store, to the snow removing crew, and the cleaning staff on the trains and trams, everyone spoke fluent English, Swedish and one or two other languages. My son and I are studying Finnish and with my passion and desire for learning new languages, I am confident we can be semi-fluent by this time next year when we plan to visit Finland again.

Posted by: Nasser Pazirandeh | May 24, 2005 01:16 PM

Answering Niko's question about Finnish national service, I have found it very beneficial as an extension of unifying place for Finns. Regarding the non-mixing of blue- and white-collar Finns, at least we do it in the Army where everyone are treated the same way and you learn responsibility about yourself anf the others around you, a trait I have found so lacking esp. among young Americans. It's actually funny: many Americans I have talked seem to support a national service for those reasons!

Edoardo's opinions were interesting and it's a pity if he feels that way. He displays though a rather shallow view based solely on materialistic comfort so prevalent here in the US. (I live in California)For a middle-class engineer perhaps his life in financial terms is better in the States, but what does he get for the money is another question. Nowehere did he mention about the stability of the Finnish society, with low crime-rate and VERY equal chances for everyone to succeed in life, regardless of their socio-economic background. Also, in contrast to his observations I think Finnish people are happy with what they got, and have time to enjoy life with their long, paid vacations. Unfortunately though we are increasingly being caught in the US style rat-race with an ever growing demand for new goods. The people I know here in the US seem to have a difficult time juggling their life between work and family without the help of Prozac and the other drugs you see advertised all the time, and alcoholism is a major problem in the US too, (only that it is kept under the rug very effectively).

Here's some food for thought Edouardo and the likes of him: how many working class people in the US travel abroad, like Finns do to neighboring countries and Spain?? How many foreign languages does the average American speak?? How many Americans are interested in news beyond their a) own community, B) the state, C) the nation? What do the average American think of people outside their own community?

A system with 40M and over people with no health care is hardly admirable. Also, Edourdo's bashing of the Finnish pension system is strange when compared to the system in the States with a bankrupt national pension system, and failing 401(k) and IRA-accounts. The public sector in the US is a disaster, and the private sector is not up for the job except for the rich.

The only thing I find better in the US over Finland is the independent attitude of people, of "can do", but I think it's changing to that in Finland.

Posted by: AKK | May 24, 2005 01:54 PM

I think the civil tenor of this blog says a lot about Finns. I'm intrigued to see apologies for poor English (when it's actually quite good) and harsh words (that are actually quite mild).

I start studying Finnish this summer before being transferred to Finland with my job. Will I have any chance to use Finnish or will Finns patiently indulge me for a few minutes and switch to English at the first opportunity? I'm really excited about this move, though friends have started passing me their "happy lights."

Can someone explain to me what the deal is with saunas? I like saunas as much as the next person, but I must admit that I'm not really clear on the ritual. Also, anyone besides Eduardo have suggestions on things to read up on before I arrive? Is the WWII history recommendation worthwhile?

What's the best way to make friends? I hear Finns are somewhat reserved.

Also, I'm not a big drinker. Okay, I never drink, mainly because I think it's a waste of calories and I'd rather have chocolate. Do I need to rethink this...I'll have a vodka if that's the thing, it's just not my idea of a good time. (Check back in a year and I'll probably be a vodka-drinking, sauna taking, Finnish speaking convert!)

I will end by saying I am VERY

Posted by: Psyched to Be Going | May 24, 2005 04:21 PM

oops -- hit return too soon.

I will end by saying I am VERY excited to be going and really looking forward to moving to this beautiful country. If Finns are eager to know what others think, my first impression is that they do things better than most!

Posted by: Psyched to Be Going | May 24, 2005 04:23 PM

I've been reading the comments, and the entire blog with some interest, as I'm planning a visit to Helsinki later this year.
The American engineer who pines for California makes a number of mostly negative generalizations about the Finnish culture. It would seem to be a case of "trashing" the place one is departing from and idealizing one's new destination. I lived in San Diego & have visited Los Angeles several times. If you don't mind driving on roads with six to eight lanes of traffic in each direction to get anywhere & everywhere, a permanent haze of smog hanging over the sprawling megacity, high rates of burglaries, car break-ins and violent crime, being judged strictly based on what type of car you drive, which area you live in and how fashionable your clothes/hair are, and a generally impersonal and aloof attitude among the people, then L.A. is a great place to live. See, it's all in how you look at things. The engineer obviously thinks L.A. is something approaching Shangri-La, but I would tend to disagree...
One of the things I might be more concerned about is the issue of Finns' attitude toward foreigners, immigrants and minority groups. However, I don't think this is in any way unique to Finland. Look at the United States, with its history of slavery, oppression and racism. Speaking as an American (albeit just first-generation) I don't think Americans should criticize other cultures for xenophobic attitudes when we have plenty of that problem at home.
The blog itself, especially the photo section, is excellent and has really whet my appetite for visiting Finland. Thanks for a great presentation.

Posted by: Michael | May 24, 2005 04:30 PM

>Doesn't for example americans or canadians like to hear what other people think of them?

Not really, no. Who gives a NY-shi& what others think?

Posted by: NYC | May 24, 2005 04:31 PM

Someone mentioned, "The only thing I find better in the US over Finland is the independent attitude of people, of "can do", but I think it's changing to that in Finland."

I can only hope it is changing. As an American having worked in Finland, I saw firsthand how this can-do attitude is foreign and furthermore not very welcome at all. Process is the name of the game, and following rules. Sometimes you got the sense that rules and process were more important than actual product. There is a lot of what I would call "dead-wood" in Nokia-Finland, for example. A manager for process and procedures, and similar titles. To an American who has worked in start-up computer companies, that experience was very strange.

But I found Finns in general to be nice, just not overly friendly. But I hate to generalize. Although, with some 5.2m people in Finland total, maybe a small sample can be useful for generalizing.

US can learn a lot from taksii (taxi) services: no tipping expected and usually nice, clean BMW/MB/Volvos!!! And drivers who know enough to shut up and just drive (although one senses that is not an effort for them).

Posted by: Can-do US Joe | May 24, 2005 04:40 PM

Mr Eduardo Hernandez, you really should not say that Finns don't know whats out there, it's more like AMERICANS don't know whats out there. I've been staying in States for bit over 9 months now and noticed that eventhough I'm living right next to the capital (DC), the news or newspapers dont' tell anything about other countries unless US troops or someone "important" is visiting there. And after talking to many Americans, I've realized that many of them have NEVER been outside states and actually envy us because we can travel more easier AS WE DO.
So please, quit thinking yourself as a superior because you're American, it makes you look like fool..

Posted by: Maria Rapo | May 24, 2005 04:41 PM

To Can-do US Joe: I think it's in our culture not to give tip. Only when you find that someone is serving you exceptionally well, you tend to give tip.
And if you're trying to make friends here, I'd say you have the initiative. Its not that finns wouldnt like to make friends. We just tend to leave people at peace. This might seem a bit irritating, but (I believe) its the biggest difference between an american and a finn.

Posted by: Another Finn | May 24, 2005 05:43 PM

"One major factor contributing to happiness in finland is NOT KNOW WHAT IS OUT THERE! You see, finns travel, but few have ever lived outside of the country."

To be brutally honest, this could be said about every country I have ever lived in! I'm 21, yet have lived abroad since I was 18, on my own (I lived abroad with my family when I was little, but I won't tell that story here). I hope to return to Finland when I finish my degree, because I believe that it is genuinely a good country to live in. Despite the weather, the taxes and all.

Posted by: Karoliina Harkonen | May 24, 2005 06:15 PM

"Finnish society is all inclusive of all higher educated finns. Highly educated finns do not mix with lower educated finns. Since they were 14, they divide their society among vocational schooler, high math students and low math students. They rarely mix with each other"
I find that hard to believe.. That may be the truth for some people, but personally, I find that hard to believe. It's true that I went to high school and have a lot of friends who went to high school with me, but I also have friends with vocational qualifications, and I don't treat them any differently. Why should I? They are individuals who have chosen a path best suited to them, just like I've chosen mine. And to be brutally honest yet again, the "high math/ low math divide" is even less pronounced. I have the mathematical talent of a small mammal, yet some of my friends are studying engineering or economics. Which, as far as I understand, require a greater knowledge of mathematics.

"Finns generally do not like or accept immigrants. But they are coming none the less and I predict finland will have a serious civil upheavel in the future as middle europe is currently having with their far right groups."
Well Mr. Hernandez... Show me a country that has NEVER faced a "civil upheavel" as you put it! It's true that not all Finns are huge fans of immigrants, but there are a great number of those who would welcome more of them. I am one of them.
If my comments aren't making much sense, my appologies. I'm tired and when I'm tired I can't think straight.

Posted by: Karoliina Harkonen | May 24, 2005 06:35 PM

First of all, I find this blog really interesting, but I'd like to comment some of these "statements" posted by Eduardo.

"Not like in Finland where winter(snow on the ground) lasts from october until april, isn't that 7 months? Ok..
november to april.. 6 months. Summer is end of may until mid August.. 3 months. So that leaves 1.5 months for
Spring and 1.5 months for Fall."

Are you talking about northern or southern Finland? Or western or eastern provinces?
The winters are many months longer in north than south. And winter is a lot milder in west than east. Southern Finland might be all grey and rainy in December (well it was still in January this year, with actually floods instead of snowstorms), when Nortern Finland might have lots of snow and temps below -20 C at the same time. Also, spring starts earlier in south, there's usually still lots of snow in Lapland in April and May, when most of it melts in March in southern parts. You say summer ends in mid August? Well, i've no idea where you've been living and spent your time, but in southern provinces it doesn't end that early. My point is, it varies really a lot depending on province and area, and without more details i'm not going to say whether you're right or wrong.

And one more comment, you said the tax level is 45% here and 65% in Usa? Well if you'd base it on facts instead, ok? Income taxes are much lower for citizens with low income and higher for citizens with high income...Someone with income tax of 45% sure has higher incomes than most citizens. 20% sales tax doesn't exist here. And you said Usa has 8% sales tax, ok so has Finland, but only on a few items, such as books and bus tickets. Food has
high sales tax though, 17% and the 20% sales tax you mentioned is actually 22% which is indeed (too) high.

You also posted comments about houses and apartments. Well it sure is crowded in cities, and the apartments could indeed be larger. But quite many families actually move away from the most urban centers, where old people, students, and singles gather. This is the current trend. You can find more space relatively close larger cities. Just check statistics for Helsinki. It has been growing for many years, but last year the growth was negative. Expensive and small apartments, especially for families.

Anyway, i could comment other statements too, but you seem to generalize way too much. Other readers had already pointed that out.

Posted by: Janne | May 24, 2005 08:22 PM

"It is true, finland is huge, but nobody wants to live in most of it. [...] Everyone is moving to the south, mainly to Helsinki and Espoo."

Yet, quite a bunch of us would never ever in a million years want to live in Helsinki or the surrounding areas.

"And like I said before, when I am paying 30 to 50 percent income taxes and 20 percent (VAT) sales taxes, I find it difficult to call my health insurance and welfare benefits "free". Finns and many others kick this word "FREE" around a lot. Free education. No, its not free, our taxes are paying for it. Free university, no, our taxes and industry partnerships are paying for it."

After spending a couple of years in the States and now back in Finland, after seeing all sorts of things, I'm happy to pay my high taxes. I, like so many others, see it as taking care of my part, making it possible for everyone to have an equal opportunity to have a good quality of life.

"The snow service is especially horrible. Slippery sidewalks and roads are simply accepted, so falling is accepted as part of life."

That's just silly.

"Finns generally do not like or accept immigrants."

That is unfortunately true. It's simply because we're not as used to foreigners as many other nations and because, as you (Eduardo) mentioned earlier, the unemplyment rate is high, people tend to think the foreigners are here to take our jobs.

Posted by: | May 24, 2005 08:44 PM

I'm Finnish-born raised in North America, but a frequent visitor to my relatives there. Eduardo, regarding taxes and your complaint that education and health are therefore not free: Don't you realize that taxes are what gives every country a school system, roads, etc. etc. The whole point of taxes is to provide society as a whole with services that individuals cannot produce or afford one by one. The US doesn't do that very well. High taxes ensure that all Finns have access to education and health regardless of how much money they have in their pockets. We are willing to pay the taxes because we do not believe in an antiquated system that enables only the well-off to to go to school or get health care.

And regarding the size of homes and cars and being happy with less: Is that not how we should all live?

There are many many other things to comment on about your negative post...but really, all that needs to be said is that it's obvious you are unhappy with absolutely everything. I've never used the phrase, but it seems appropriate here: Yankee, go home.

Posted by: Kirsti-liisa | May 24, 2005 08:51 PM

Oh, and btw, I find snow patrol work much poorer in here (DC area) than in Finland and I'm not the only one. I find it ridiculous that the whole state goes crazy when they see the first snow flake..
But that is just my opinion after living 20 years in country where we REALLY get snow!

Posted by: Maria | May 24, 2005 09:59 PM

"I've never used the phrase, but it seems appropriate here: Yankee, go home."

Oh, please. Was I the only person who heard him say he was Mexican? And it doesn't matter anyway, since he is going home. Well, not home, but leaving Finland. You've proven his point about xenophobia though. Congratulations!

Also, Re: Kyoto, the Kyoto Treaty is a fraudulent mess based on fake science. As for global warming, please explain why Mars is also experiencing global warming. There are no suvs on Mars as far as I know. Here's an idea. Global warming might have more to do with the SUN than man's behavior. If you haven't heard about the book The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg, I suggest you purchase it and read it. I don't know if it's available in Finland, but I'm sure you can order it off the internet. If you Google "Kyoto Treaty" and fraud or Kyoto fake you'll find more commentary on this.

The US 40 million uninsured statistic is incorrect as well. The situation is much more complex than that.

As for California, I wouldn't want to live there either. The middle class is fleeing that sinking ship because they can barely afford to live there or buy a home. Taxes and regulation are out of sight, but probably not on a Finland level. Eduardo, you may want to move to Texas or Virginia instead.

Posted by: marie | May 25, 2005 01:00 AM

I'm so mad I just found this site, by this time my comment will be so far down nobody will even read it:(

Alright, I've read through all these comments and just have to laugh. First of all let me congratulate the Post for writing about Finland, its true not so many people even remember its there, and look how much controversy there is over a couple of generlizations!

Living here for 10 months my opinion is that Finland is absolutely insane. And I love it. Its funny because so much of what I have problems with Finland about isn't even mentioned by other readers, and things an 18 year old just doesn't care so much about are talked to death!

Lets start with this stuff comparing America to Finland. Now I just happen to be American so this comes pretty easy... basically everyone who is intelligent knows America is bullshit so it really shouldn't be an issue at all.

things I need to fast touch on:
FREE SCHOOL- okok, the lunches are free but disgusting and not filling, the school is 'free' but you need to buy all your own books and because there are 7 different semesters each year there are a lot of books. You even need to buy your own paper for tests!
Lack of communication between the vocational/regular highschools: ok thats not so true as many of my friends have gone to both, but generally its truer than it should be.
Lack of the Can DO attitude: thats totally true, no offence Finns! Its the way we are brought up.. especially in America there is such a be the best teaching even in kindergarten which is simply not here at all. Its more, moderate is good and acceptable. Horace would agree:)

Sitting in school while writing this I suddenly am struck by the irony of the statement that Church and School are seperate as they just had a priest giving the morning announcments and now there is a god-loving song playing above my head. More about the schools: supposedly this is one of the best systems in the world, but to me it seems dry and easyish to float through. Every thing is the traditional-lecture based classroom. I think the biggest reason for Finnish success in education are the students themselves. Every one who makes it this far WANTS to be here and works for it.

now the things that I think SHOULD be touched on, both by the posters here and in the articles as well.

First of all Finns are extremely nice and friendly, although opening up more than that is a problem (depending on how many drinks) but thats completely fine, the part that drives me crazy is the lack of touching. Hugging is viewed as sexual foreplay and kissing friends is not even imaginable. This is what I think is the cause of so many suicides, the dark winter is only a cover.. opening up your heart and mind can get you through any winter.

Drinking is a major issue in Finland. 11 year old kids are outside drinking openly and IF a cop stops it will be just to pour out the drinks and tell them to go home. By 18 (the legal age) some kids have become so dependant on alcohol that they can't even talk to someone without a drink first. So many adults work through the week and live for the weekend, where they promptly get drunk as hard and fast as they can and pass out on the sidewalks even.

Finland seems to me to be living very much in her history. And I don't mean by watching 1995 icehockey games, I mean by still viewing Russia as a major threat (sorry guys, they are just NOT going to invade!) and flat out telling me, yea I hate Russians. (TOTTA KAI not everyone, but enough) This feeds into Finland's military ("its a defensive military only!!") sorry I just can't agree with ANY army nomatter how defensive or unlikely to be used. And do you know what happens to the small percentage who choose civil service? They are made fun of, looked down on (not being a "real" man) overlooked for job opportunites, plus the actual service is longer. Equality, right? unless you disagree.

One of the major problems with the immigration factor, is Finland's welfare is just so good that many people make more money living off welfare than if they got a job. Which in turn doesn't make Finns so happy about foreigners, helping to feed prejudices and even the radical right (who hasn't seen the swastica painted on walls?)


For that guy studying Finnish, did you know it doesn't have a future tense? Figure that one out and you've got Finland.

Please don't take me the wrong way. I spend most of my time here convincing my Finnish friends why Finland is great and they should love it not want to get to Spain as fast as possible. Because things about Finland ARE great. Not even talking about the tourism stuff which makes finland so attractive nor the nokia stuff which makes it well thought of. I mean mostly being able to walk home from a bar in the middle of the night in pitch darkness (which in the winter means the whole day..) by myself and not be worried about rape/robbings/assualt. Things happen everywhere its true, but Finland is beyond a doubt a dream world. Yea the unemployment may be high, there are bums drinking in the park, but there is not that extreme poor that can be found in all other parts of the world.

Seriously, Finland is a dream, and waking up from it at the end of this year is going to be really hard.

Posted by: exchangestudent | May 25, 2005 02:28 AM

So WHY are Finns so modest and humble? I'm not quite sure, but I think I have a few ideas and wrote about them in my blog...

http://www.finlandforthought.net/index.php?p=607

Posted by: Phil | May 25, 2005 04:04 AM

exchangestudet, you do have many truths in your post, but also some things I find weird.

"FREE SCHOOL- okok, the lunches are free but disgusting and not filling, the school is 'free' but you need to buy all your own books and because there are 7 different semesters each year there are a lot of books. You even need to buy your own paper for tests!"

The lunches being disgusting is your opinion. I found them very fine, and was allowed to take more if one plate wasn't enough. I don't see the problem.

You don't have to buy the books yourself before high school.(That means 9 years of free books and studying, and even in high school we got the test-papers from our school, strange that you didn't)

Even the 7 semesters troubles me, I've ever only had 5 at most. (and even that was before high school)

"Sitting in school while writing this I suddenly am struck by the irony of the statement that Church and School are seperate as they just had a priest giving the morning announcments and now there is a god-loving song playing above my head."

This is somewhat a tradition, but in some places they've already stopped doing that as some pupils are of different religion. And everywhere I know of, you don't have to stay in class and listen to it you find it not-fitting.

"Every thing is the traditional-lecture based classroom."

I have to disagree here, a lot of my chemistry and physics were hands-on learning, and even maths had some out of the ordinary lessons in my high school. (As well as of course biology etc.)

"Drinking is a major issue in Finland."

Unfortunately I have to agree, but only to some extent. I too am extremely worried of the turns it has taken in recent years among the very young ones. However, in my point the problem is smaller in relation when it comes to the working class. If that's a good thing then, no, but we certainly have some work to do on that issue.

"I can't agree with ANY army nomatter how defensive or unlikely to be used."

So I take it you have never watched "The Unknown Soldier" then, have you? :) I once heard a saying, that there will always be an army in a country - if it's not their own, it's someone else's.

The fact is, that the situation nowadays is very calm, and doesn't seem too threatening to the majority of Finns. But we've learned our lesson. Even before the Winter War everyone was certain they weren't going to attack for real. I know this seems very silly, and by no means am I telling you that they're just waiting to get their attack going on us. I'm just saying, that situations can change fast, and you want to be ready for it.

"plus the actual service[civil service] is longer."

Only by a month, and even that's about to change so that they're equal in length.


Thank you for your many good observations and kind words. You listed some very reasons that are among those which make me want to live here, too :)

Posted by: M | May 25, 2005 04:22 AM

"Will I have any chance to use Finnish or will Finns patiently indulge me for a few minutes and switch to English at the first opportunity?"

I'd imagine Finns speak English just as willingly as Finnish. I know I would. I think you might find us speaking English to you most of the time. I've known some exchange students and that has been the case here. Also I think we like to teach you some most often used Finnish terms and phrases and then use them with you at every possible opportunity. You'll probably be hearing 'kippis' more than enough. :P


"Can someone explain to me what the deal is with saunas?"

Well the tradition here is to usually go to the sauna at least once a week. Also there are many more things related to it, depending where and with what company you go to sauna. I think some foreigners are shy of not wearing any clothes in sauna. For us it's really natural tradition.
We often have a 'vihta' in sauna; it's a whisk of birch twigs. We poor it in water while we are in the sauna and we hit ourselves with it. I know that sounds crazy, but it's really relaxing also.
One tradition during winter time is also running out of the sauna (naked of course) and diving in the snow and then running back to the sauna. Very refreshing (and crazy sounding again).
Many Finns have a summer cottage near a lake, so in the summer time it is very traditional to spend time between the sauna and swimming. It is very usual to grill at the cottage also and I think that can be related to the "sauna tradition".


"What's the best way to make friends? I hear Finns are somewhat reserved."

I agree. We are reserved. But you know what... In a way we are also not reserved. I think we are just very hard to approach because we easily seem very distant. I think the key is just talking to us. Start a conversation and break the ice. Once you've broken the ice I'd say we are very talkative (and a drink always helps us ;) ). But in a nutshell we don't like to start converstions with strangers, but if someone starts a conversation with us, we will participate more than willingly.

Hope that answered some of your questions. I hope you'll have a nice time in Finland :)

Posted by: a Finn | May 25, 2005 05:29 AM

Hehh Mr. Eduardo Hernandez,

please do drink a big, big cup of black Finnish-kind-of coffee and try to enjoy of this nice weather we have in Helsinki right now :) You never know if it's the best you'll get this year!

Try to relax, u see you're getting back to your beloved place soon enough, right?

----------

Someone mentioned the Finnish language not having the future tense. That is absolutely correct even though it doesn't mean we couldn't talk about future. We'll just use the present tense (which makes the abstract consept more "real"). We're also taking some influence from Swedish, where it's said that "One _comes_ to do something tomorrow, 'kommer att'". But that's not proper Finnish yet, luckily.

Posted by: | May 25, 2005 06:19 AM

Theres a lot of sides. Finland isn't a "tax paradise", rather a paradise for taxes; then you turn around and look at Sweden, municipal taxes around 30-35% (Finland 15-20%); car tax always gets people irked - go to Denmark = 180% + 25% VAT (as in Sweden); and if Norwegians come to Finland "for the cheap booze"... hmmm... so grass across the border isn't always that green necessarily.

Comparing to big countries is a bit of apples & oranges.

Posted by: Hank W. | May 25, 2005 06:58 AM

exhchangestudent made lots of good points that are not usually mentioned.

"Lets start with this stuff comparing America to Finland..."

I wouldn't compare Finland and the US. Both are great countries and have their moments. It's useless in my opinion to bring any statistics here. In some things, Finland is a better place to be, in some things US is. Even though Eduardo is from California and it would seem appropriate to tackle his comments by using US as comparative nation, it really just makes no sense. But Finns are worried about what people think about them. You find them reserved, and that's part of being worried what is thought of them. They are too self aware. This also projects to the can do-attitude. The old joke goes:
Three men see a cow.
German man thinks "How does that cow work?".
American thinks "How can I make a profit from the cow?".
Finn thinks "What does that cow think about me?".

And it's dead on. Finns are not so open as some other people are, we are modest by nature and humble, and we don't believe it's always desired to be the best. This comes from the good point Eduardo made, people are jealous of others fortune in here. I'd have to write a book about the reasons, it's all interconnected. For example if you have a big house and nice cars and money to spend, it means you had to stole the money or inherit it, since the taxes are so high and salaries are not comparative to most places in the west. It is totally acceptable to bash and gun the top dogs, but it's not necessarily so cool to become one. When American might think, well I need to go for that top position, make my own fortune, a Finn could be afraid that getting that top position only leads to other people bashing you for it. IT's really difficult to explain and I won't make any further efforts because it would take a lot of time.

But let's just say, comparing US and Finland as nations is not a good idea, because Finns are used to the fact that no one really knows them outside Scandinavia so well. In the 80s and even 90s, most people in the US thought Finland is part of Russia and they might be part of the whole communism thing. THis couldn't be further from the truth as you have learned and would know it's totally ridicolous claim for us to accept. And the rest of the people can connect the dots by saying 'weren't you nazis or something?'.

Finns are used to this. And being self aware and afraid what other people think about them, it's just a complex situation to say the least. The difference is, now with the whole internet thing and the world being close to everyone, Finns crawl all over the net and get into heated debates and if it turns to a debate about Finland, it's just not the best idea always. Combine all the things, being afraid what others think (not ashamed though), people having lots of misconceptions and no one knowing that much about us or our nation, combine that with lots of Finns having the internet.. then you will see what is happening in here, you get few small misconceptions and you get 10 Finns to straighten the facts out, and being little offended sometimes, and sometimes countering with bashing. To even suggest we would have some kind of communist dreams is going to lead that person to be judged upon what ever can be grabbed, if his nationality is known.. well you get the point. Let's just say we get on the defensive early on before no accusation have been made ;). We wish to preserve immunity of bashing now that people are getting to know us.

"the lunches are free but disgusting and not filling"

This depends very much where you go to. For example where I go (University) the food is excellent. In my HS, the food was HORRIBLE, plain and simple. And from 1st to 6th grade the food was again great. It just depends where you are. There's no rule to this.

"You even need to buy your own paper for tests! "

I have usually been provided paper for tests and in the Unis, it's required from the Uni because they are official papers. Outside Unis, it varies.

"Sitting in school while writing this I suddenly am struck by the irony of the statement that Church and School are seperate as they just had a priest giving the morning announcments and now there is a god-loving song playing above my head."

I must honestly say I have NEVER seen a priest in my years of studying in the school. The first priest I saw in any kind of place I had to go outside church and their services was the army. So I'd guess this is not a rule either, but depends.

"Drinking is a major issue in Finland."

Seems like you have lived in Finland alright.. the weird thing is, many Finns are somehow proud about this too ;). No, I'm not joking.

"They are made fun of, looked down on (not being a "real" man) overlooked for job opportunites, plus the actual service is longer. Equality, right? unless you disagree."

This one is a major debate and requires major space and time. So I don't go to this one at all. But it is controversial I just leave it at that. For the most parts of civil guys and who went to army, it's just good and fun poking around. It's not like the civil service guys don't make fun about the ones who went to army instead. It's true that there are folks who take it seriously, but most of the times it's not ... of any bad nature.

"One of the major problems with the immigration factor, is Finland's welfare is just so good that many people make more money living off welfare than if they got a job. Which in turn doesn't make Finns so happy about foreigners, helping to feed prejudices and even the radical right (who hasn't seen the swastica painted on walls?)
"

It's an issue, and you got it right, the issue is the welfare issue. And the current unemployment etc. But to be fair, I've never seen swastika painted, except by some kids and no I don't mean neo-nazis, I mean really just kids ;). Then again I don't say there aren't any. Sure there must be. But I wouldn't say if you come to visit Finland, you'll see swastikas painted on walls.

So I know my proposal about not comparing any other nations goes to waste, I just wanted to warn everyone, that we are very ... concerned for even the most little mistake in statistics or what ever you have.. and we get on the defensive fast. Be notified!

And everyone, welcome to Finland and I hope you enjoy your stay!

Posted by: Yet Another Finn | May 25, 2005 08:37 AM

On the lenght of civil service:

Civil service is 13 months. The minimum length of military service is 6 months, and the average is 8 months. So civil service is on average 5 months longer.

Posted by: Simo H. | May 25, 2005 08:40 AM

Theres two seasons in Finland:
1. Winter
2. Roadwork

Theres been a lof of talk of SAD which affects people in the dark winters. To counter it Finns' go MAD in the summer. A silly question "why do people close shops in July" has a s silly an answer: "July".

Posted by: Hank W. | May 25, 2005 08:54 AM

Hey Psyched, Eduardo & others:

There is a registered association IESAF ry (The International English Speakers' Association of Finland) http://www.iesaf.fi that works to try help people cope with life in Finland. We're more geared towards people-in-person action, so for example our BBS doesn't seem quite as active as say Finland Forum (which is a bulletin board you can ask all the silly polar bear questions at and get a scientific explanation of the feral man-eating reindeer) - As an association we "do stuff", we have social stuff - parties you can meet & mingle, pub quizzes etc. , local meets, hold seminars - we had a housing seminar that is going to be a quarterly thing; theres been some calls for education & employment & starting business ones as well. We are not an "incoming service" but we try to explain the stuff "everybody knows" in Finland.

BTW we're multinational so you don't need to be an US or UK expat - we have for example a strong Dutch contingent as members. We have Finns and people from all over the globe as members so we're not an exclusive club either, its just the working language is English.

Posted by: Hank W. | May 25, 2005 09:34 AM

It was mentioned earlier that Finns are eager to know what the others think about them. This might be quite true, I found this "Finland Diary" by linked to a finnish HORSE forum.. ;)

Posted by: Rider | May 25, 2005 10:22 AM

Maybe I'll skip the flaming part and try to throw in a couple of hits for our Psyched friend.

"Can someone explain to me what the deal is with saunas?"

Well, the deal is that the sauna culture is centuries old. They have played several roles from sturdy all-around workrooms to almost holy places. Nowadays there are everywhere and generally meant simply for relaxing. After some hard work (or any other imaginable reason) you can go there, get rid of everything else - including your clothes, stress and other worldly thing - and simply have a total break from everyday routines.

Asian saunas have strong sexual connotations, Finnish ones don't. German saunas have strict rules of conduct, Finnish ones don't. Some politeness is still recommended, of course. You can just be there and enjoy the heat. A word of warning: Finns tend to enjoy way higher temperatures than anyone without practice could possibly take. They may even want to show you, how much tougher guys they are. Well, they probably are, at least in this type of amusement. Don't take it personally and don't try to be tougher. Any sort of extereme activities like 120C heat, heavy drinking and ice hole swimming are optional. The only true purpose is to enjoy just the way you like it. If someone claims anything else to be "mandatory", do not believe. You may also want to read the Wikipedia article at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Finnish_sauna . There's a lot more good stuff about other subjects as well.


"Is the WWII history recommendation worthwhile?"

It may be a good idea to learn the basics, because Finland's situation was quite tricky. In the real world wars there are no good guys and bad guys, only bad and worse guys. Finland was between the bad and worse so there was no good choice. In fact, there was very little choice at all, just trying to survive. There is nothing to hide so you can discuss the history quite freely. Nevertheless, due to the complexity and strong feelings involved you may want to avoid the subject if there is any hint of overheated discussion at sight.


"What's the best way to make friends? I hear Finns are somewhat reserved."

Take the initiative and introduce yourself. Especially young people are usually happy to meet foreign people and hear about their culture. You can also try another approach using some hobby - games or music perhaps. It helps to find a common language (in many meanings). Maybe it's the large distances and low population density why Finns tend to have relatively few but really good friends. You can be one, but it takes some time. Again, younger people are much more used to modern, faster and multicultural lifestyle.


"Also, I'm not a big drinker. Okay, I never drink, mainly because I think it's a waste of calories and I'd rather have chocolate. Do I need to rethink this...I'll have a vodka if that's the thing, it's just not my idea of a good time."

Around here it's a very common idea of a good time... Briefly put, many Finns want to have a strong separation between working hours and free time. This is often carried out by drinking a lot and quickly. The extremely heavy taxation of alcohol has made people to find inventive ways to maximize their intoxication with minimal sum of money. Common tricks include using lots of imported hard liquor before going to a bar or skipping the bar phase altogether. However, we also have our own share of mild drinkers and absolutists. Nobody will probably care much as long as there's something in your glass and you look happy. The quickest way to refuse in a random company is to tell that you're driving that night.

However, there's absolutely no way to avoid coffee. It's black, strong and flows in rivers. There may be better beer drinkers somewhere but Finland is the undisputed number one in coffee consumption. You can find your way around alcohol but coffee is everywhere, always. It is served from birth celebration to funerals, literally.

I hope this helps at least a bit. Welcome!

Posted by: Yet Another Finn | May 25, 2005 10:34 AM

"Will I have any chance to use Finnish or will Finns patiently indulge me for a few minutes and switch to English at the first opportunity?"

Unfortunately for anyone wishing to learn Finnish, nearly everyone here has a pretty good grasp of English. So, unless you pretend you do not speak English, Finns will generally not want to speak Finnish with you.

I have lived here for several years, and consider my Finnish to be pretty good. I can read the Helsingin Sanomat and hold conversations in Finnish. I understand nearly everything, so long as people speak clearly.

However, I cannot count the number of times a Finn has said "Let's speak English instead". Since most of them start learning the language at the age of 9, it makes it nearly impossible to match their language skills, unless you are a total genius.

So, please, you Finns reading this: It is polite and considerate to continue in Finnish if a foreignor is making an effort. If you want to practice your English, leave Finland!

Last words of advice, if you want to learn Finnish, read a lot and watch TV, and find a nice Finn who will speak Finnish with you.

Posted by: Finnish Speaker | May 25, 2005 10:43 AM

"Since most of them start learning the language at the age of 9..."

In schools yes. But unlike many other non-english-speaking countries we don't dup tv-shows or movies here. We only have subtitles and that has always been the case. So I'd say many of us start learning english subconsciously at a very young age. By the time we reach third grade in school and start taking those english lesson, many of us have a pretty good undestanding of the basics.

Posted by: | May 25, 2005 11:04 AM

What Finnish Speaker said is true. Finns are not used to hearing the kind of "bad Finnish" that most foreign learners produce at first. The kinds of errors in pronouncing vowel length or double consonants or messing with the grammar are not understnandable unless you are used to people making such mistakes. This, however, will probably begin to correct itself over time and people will become used to listening with more patience and getting used to typical mistakes. Unfortunately this does not make it any easier for those who are trying to learn Finnish now.

I am interested in the visitors´observations of polite manner rules. Especially when invited to have coffee, it is polite to refuse two times, but on the third call one should definitely get up and accept the invitation. Refusals tend to sound like "oh you should not have", "this is far too much trouble", "oh no, I was about to leave soon" and such. (Causing trouble or disturbance for other people should generally be avoided) This "kursailu" protocol is not observed among immediate family and very close friends but I would be surprised if the visitors have not noticed this. This sort of conduct may be seen in other types of invitation negotiations as well.

Posted by: Manners, Manners! | May 25, 2005 11:12 AM

I won't even bother to comment on the flame-wars of a few here, but one sentence stuck me overtly dubious (apart from the ones that have already been "corrected")

exchangestudent says that "Hugging is viewed as sexual foreplay". This really made me wonder where you've spent your time in Finland. Being a man in Helsinki I always have hugged my female-friends (Not purely girlfriends, mind you) upon meeting and departing - not to do so would be considered strange or even insulting!

But you DO HAVE a point: I never EVER hug my male friends unless on a very special occasion. This however is true only to the younger generations (0-30yrs) but still a sign that not everything you read here can be taken at face-value.

Posted by: MailMan | May 25, 2005 12:14 PM

Also a visitor may be quite surprised my the mix of English in a Finns' vocabulary. Its "stuff from tv" picked up; and as we get a lot of UK tv shows as well as US, not to forget a few odd Australian productions people can come up with a total mismash of language from different eras and regions.

Finns like to practice their English quite a lot, because even one hears it often; speaking it is for some people a rare occasion. Many people also have hangups from school. grammar and spelling was emphasised instead of actually speaking, and you know, you spoke up, made a mistake, not only did you get a minus point but everyone laughed... so learn the grammar and stay quiet = good grades. And if you learn the language after a certain age, you can't necessarily pronounce all the sounds. So you end up with the tankero-English.
(An 1970's minister Karjalainen wasn't renowned for his language skills. He visited a zoo somewhere and was asked what animals he liked. He answered "tö tankeros". It took the reporters some time out to figure out the cages had a "Warning - Animals are Dangerous" sign on them...)

Posted by: Hank W. | May 25, 2005 12:34 PM

My grandfather came from Lapland and my grandmother came from Helsinki many many years ago. They told us that the Finns don't really drink more than other nationalities, they just drink it all at once.

No Finn I ever knew considered suicide. They were always too busy with projects! Constructive and industrious, not suicidal.

The Finnish language is the most difficult language to learn and they say that Hungarian is the only one with any similarities to it. It is a beautiful language. My father spoke Finnish and he had a soft deep voice that made it sound almost musical. A tv station here in DC just ran a miniseries, "Raid" and it was just wonderful to hear the language spoken again. I'd sure like to see more films coming from Finland. I've sent your website out to all the Finns I know and we are looking forward to the rest of this series! Thanks!

Posted by: karen sorvari | May 25, 2005 01:18 PM

For someone with such a knowledge about Finland, Eduardo sure has poor understanding of it, the Eurovision comment being a case to the point!
Have a nice life in LA, ystäväiseni.

Posted by: Vocational | May 25, 2005 01:19 PM

Eduardo hernandez: "I can't tell the difference between finns and russians when they're dressed in work clothes. Russian women tend to dress up much more than finnish women. Meaning, the Russian women will wear better makeup, nicer clothes and generally show more style."

Well, if you like prostitutes, Russian women are for you :D Since you know so much about Finland, I suppose that you know how much we hate Russian drug dealers and hores!

Posted by: Finnatic | May 25, 2005 04:28 PM

Man, you must really hate Finland. When someone is this devoted there's no way to make them change their mind, but I do have just a few points to make...

I guess it's true as someone qualified you'd make more money in the states, even after taxes, but then you'll be spending thousands of dollars extra on health insurance, daycare and education for the kids. You'll probably end up about even, but some people only think of things in terms of money...

And then there's the thing about educational systems. All I have to say is come on! Any Finnish kid who's spent a year going to an American high school knows the standard is lower over there. A Finnish 16 year old is much more educated than an American high school senior. Put shortly, America's public education sucks. The best proof of that is the amount of errors in the posting of the american high school kid earlier on this page. How can you call yourself a superpower when you can't even teach your schoolkids to spell?

To claim that kids in Finland don't mix with each other is just plain outrageous. One example of the contrary is the military service, where you always make friends with people you otherwise might not. Not so in America where rich suburban white kids never even breathe the same air as inner city hispanic or black kids.

Different countries have different ways of making things work. That's something you find out when you travel. But of course, there's no way like the American way.

Posted by: VE | May 25, 2005 04:41 PM

As for the lunches being disgusting, well I have not found that although I do not know about the schools. I worked at Nokia. The cafeteria food is supplied by Sodhexo, the French company. One odd thing: Finns love their milk at lunch as a beverage. Maybe it is just my Italian side, but milk for lunch just doesn't cut it. Another thing - they eat lunch awfully early --- starts at 11AM. Any Finn want to comment - is this common?

Lots of starches. Potatoes and the like. But that is expected with the cold weather in the winters. Some of the best breads I have ever had.

The beers leave a lot to be desired, but the Carlsberg from DM is always a good choice.

Clothes are expensive. Can't beat the cheap American clothes we can get from China. Many ex-pats in the States load up on that before returning to Finland.

Contrary to another post, I always found Finnish women to be extremely stylish.

Posted by: Huckleberry FINN | May 25, 2005 05:12 PM

Just skimming through these comments... Someone mentioned Finland's "disgusting" school lunches. I cannot let this pass. I am a Finnish woman living in Virginia, married to an American and we have three children together.

When you say "disgusting", you must remember that you a foreigner trying out the "cuisine" of a different culture. Just because it is unfamiliar to you, doesn't mean that there is actually something unsavory about it or that the service is bad. Schools in Finland offer traditional, nutritionally wholesome lunches. Most parents are pleased with what schools offer as they can be sure their children will have a good meal during the day.

If you want to talk about disgusting school lunches, let's talk about American schools. My son goes to kindergarten. Here is the cafeteria menu: nacho chips, mozzarella sticks, cheeseburgers, tacos, hot dogs, PB&J, pizza, chicken nuggets.... This maybe be appealing or "tasty" to kids, but it's disgusting in another sense: it's unhealthy, fattening, has poor vitamin content and variety... In Finland this would be considered "party food", not healthy nutritious food that growing children should be eating. Oh, there is "variety fruit" offered with the meal in my son's school, but on most days that means a little pack of raisins. For snacks, the teacher suggested we have our children bring "something healthy such as pretzels or popcorn". That's a healthy snack? What I would give for my child to be able to eat his lunch in a Finnish school!

I don't mean this as a personal attack on you, exchange student, I'm just venting my longtime frustrations...

Posted by: A Finn in VA | May 25, 2005 05:37 PM

I meant Virginia, USA... Just clarifying.

Posted by: A Finn in VA | May 25, 2005 05:41 PM

I am participating a bit late, but still I got three things to say:

1) I wish - though I know my fellow citizens won't agree - Eduardo could stay longer in Finland. Judging by his opinions, it seems guy hasn't met any Finns during his stay. Good luck next time, boy!

2) Finns are not xenophobic. We are reserved towards anyone, including our fellow citizens. But to copy with it: don't try to have small talk with us. Thing is, we don't want to talk about weather or any other bs. Instead, start conversation with something very personal: you'll see, Finns are more open you'd ever expect.

3) Our sense of humor is self-deprecative. It doesn't mean we have poor self-esteem; on the contrary, we can afford to laugh to ourselves. We know who we are, don't even think about to come and try to explain us to ourselves. We already know us, you a-hole.

Posted by: Tipu | May 25, 2005 08:02 PM

School lunches are an interesting topic. The Britons even sent a group of people to study the Finnish lunch system just because the obesity of their kids was becoming a problem. I don't know what they found out but I can comment a bit the quality after eating those lunches for about 16 years at every possible level this far.

There is a huge variation in quality between schools. Some of them are able to cook everything properly at the school and know how to do it. In this case the students are lucky. However, the search of maximum efficiency has caused many cities to centralize their cooking functions. They make everything in one place and then deliver the food to schools and other public restaurants. It may take a long time before the food reaches its destination.

Another problem is that overloaded schools have to stretch their lunch time to several hours because the dining rooms can only take a fraction of pupils at the same time. Therefore some of them have to eat way too early when they are not even hungry yet. Others may be nearly starving before they get their lunch, badly overcooked or cold. As the food is made of relatively cheap ingredients and possibly with even overly healthy recipes (no fat at all), it can be a really unpleasant experience to eat. There are endless stories about second-rate potatoes swimming in warm water for hours. I can confirm that some of them are very true. Not always but occasionally when the city tries to cut their budget too much.

This form of saving is obviously stupid and in some cases almost disastrous to the school lunch system. The food can get really bad and kids run to the nearest store to buy some unhealthy snacks instead. When the parents get worried, the school typically invites them to taste the food. Of course, this time they choose their best dish and do everything to serve it nice and hot. Parents are happy again, but next day they simply return to the normal routine. There is no choice when the budget is too low.

Fortunately the average situation is not this bad. Most of the schools have at least somewhat acceptable facilities and skilled cooks. Only in one of my five schools the food was regularly disappointing. Others were generally good with an occasional miss. The lunch times were usually good enough too. BTW, 11 AM sounds quite early to me as well. It may be fine for younger kids who have only something like five hours from 9 AM to 2 PM, but I eat most of my lunches at university somewhere between 1 and 3 PM. Our restaurants are open for several hours so there's a lot of time to choose from. And no, drinking milk is not compulsory. It is encouraged for younger children but grown-ups are free to drink whatever they wish. I prefer water but milk or juice is OK as well.

And when it comes to beer...the problem is probably the same as in USA. There are many good beers, but the somewhat generic lager is sold so widely that many people don't even think about alternatives. Because it is so popular, supermarkets use it as an attraction and offer it at very low prices (compared to other sorts, that is). People buy it, get used to it and the circle closes. More interesting sorts are quite expensive and they're not available in smaller stores. Also everything above 4.7% can only be sold at special liquor stores which use fixed prices. That includes complete classes of beer. There are, for example, some great Finnish porters. You just have to visit the nearest Alko and pay more than triple price in comparison to sixpack lager. It is painful but still worth it every now and then. Give them a try before your final judgement on Finnish beers. Cheers!

Posted by: Yet Another Finn | May 25, 2005 08:13 PM

Theres a thing come up with Russian & Finnish women's style.

Ok, if you are walking down a street in a sleetstorm and you see 2 women going to the neighbourhood store, the other one in winter boots and a blaclava and the other one in stiletto-heel boots and a silk scarf and make-up; you can guesstimate the "sensible/boring/drab" one is a Finn and the "stylish/dressed up/tarty" is from somewhere else.

It is not a good/bad situation. Its "different". Finnish women generally don't wear makeup, or spend several hours applying it to appear as if not wearing makeup. You need to take a trip down south to Estonia and you already see the difference. Already in Tallinn the women dress up stylishly. It is just a difference in the style/culture.

What causes a misunderstanding is that as the Russian/Italian/Estonian/German women put on their "everyday" makeup; a Finn looks at it like "going out on a hunt". So the "tarty" looking housewife is just wearing her "of course I dress up properly even for the corner store" attire. So as Finnish men have been conditioned by the Finnish women to a drab dress they get confused seeing women actually dressing "Central European style".

So as a hint to the ladies: don't do the war-paint nor put on the boa before checking out what the locals do. I know many exchange students come crying from the disco after been asked "how much" repeatedly... just because they dressed up like "family girl at home" which was here interpreted as "business attire". And then try to explain that really it wasn't your fault but...

Or being in the centre of Tallinn with some less-travelled mate and having him gasp: "look at all those prostitutes"... no, thats *normal* here...

So its a cultural thing, and a cultural miscommunication.

Posted by: Hank W. | May 26, 2005 03:02 AM

Yes, Huckleberry 11 is normal and its far too early for me as well. Then again I had troubles in Spain eating so late in the evening 22-23 as "normal".

Posted by: Hank W. | May 26, 2005 03:06 AM


Finnish summer is most beatiful in the world,

Posted by: Make From South Finland | May 26, 2005 04:00 AM

What has happened during last 50-60 years in Finland? How from rural country became modern, free and democratic?

We lost the WWII, but were never occupied. Only three capitals among those countries, which took part in WWII, were not occupied; London, Moscow and Helsinki.

Because we lost the war, russians make us to pay them whatever we had destroyed during the war and even more.
Russians took 10% from our country and, in practice, all our old machinery, ships and great part of paper mills.
We have to build completly new factories and ships, learn how to make electrical equipments, steel, ships, machinery and at the same time supply this things to Soviet Union.
And we had 450 000 refugees coming from Karelia, which now belonged to Russia.

When the economical part of the peace treaty was completed early 50's, we were ready to start do this things to ourshelfs and learn how to export the products to other countries.
We had new machinery and factories but no more customers.

This was the start for todays Finland.

I was lucky to born couple years after the war, lucky enough to get good education, and I have had possibility to work since mid 60's as a part of our nation to build my home country such as it is today.
I am proud to see what we have created together with our parents and children during these 50-60 years.

There is no paradise in this world and we have also our problems, but Finland is ruled by democratic government and I am more free to do whatever I wish, than huge part of other countries on our earth.
I have been working several years in Europe and Far East and visited during our holidays with my wife all continents exl. Australia, so I know what I am saying.

Posted by: Pekka Kauppinen | May 26, 2005 04:27 AM

"Just say "I don't like snow & ice", and not complain like an old woman!"

Wash your mouth, young man!

An OLD Finnish WOMAN

Posted by: | May 26, 2005 05:23 AM

What an excellent blog!! it's been great to read about the different views people have on Finland. I, for one, love Finland. I have travelled extensively throughout the world for long periods of time and the older I get, the more I appreciate what we have in our country for a number of reasons. While it is true, for example, that the income taxes seem ridiculous, I would not want to lower them and find myself paying ridiculous amounts of money for getting an education, going to the doctor's, etc. And I do not wish that on my children in the future.

of course there are problems, but what nation doesn't? My biggest worry at the moment is what will happen when they close down schools in order to save money and the sizes of classes get bigger and bigger and the number of staff is cut down. those in need of special attention will be denied the help they so desperately need and I think that we will see the consequences some 10 years later, maybe sooner.

the only thing I would love to change is winters. I would love to have proper winters again like we used to have when I was younger. with all the climatic changes and such, our town had virtually no snow this winter and no chance to go skiing.

I would not mind living somewhere else in the world for a while, though, and I am sure that I would be able to make friends anywhere I went as I think that it is more up to the person who is moving some place new to take the initiative and get to know people than those who are already there. I have friends all over the world and have always found new ones even when moving to a new city in Finland. It's all about the attitude you yourself have.

Posted by: Outi | May 26, 2005 05:36 AM

yes, I'd like to change the winters too. Have them dissapear totally. Eternal summer... ahhhh... paradise...

Posted by: Hank W. | May 26, 2005 08:42 AM

"We lost the WWII, but were never occupied. Only three capitals among those countries, which took part in WWII, were not occupied; London, Moscow and Helsinki."

I guess Washington, Ottawa, Canberra etc. were occupied then? ;-)

Posted by: | May 26, 2005 08:51 AM

He ment those who lost

Posted by: mordechai | May 26, 2005 09:04 AM

Of the European capitals which were involved in the war, that list is correct, however.

Posted by: | May 26, 2005 09:06 AM

Such an excellent blog! Thanks. I am from Central Europe, have been living and working here for four years now. There is no such as perfect place or country for sure, but great differences between countries -for sure. In Finland, I really appreciate truly existing Finnish values just as "sisu", but somehow can not internalize or even look up to its culture and harsh style. I am still in state of culture shock after four years, just as most of the foreigners here. So, I decided to leave and leave behind cold minded Finns, harsh never ending winters, distracting view of drink teens on Sat nights, lack of politeness,etc. It looks me so false when people desperately searching arguments "why Finland is just a good place to live"..One-time visitors might be easily flawed by this artificial idea. People here only consider materialistic things when evaluating "which is the best place to live..." Nobody ever calculates factors like easiness, smiling faces, always_sunny_sky, delicious food last, but not least, beautiful women! Sad enough, but true they are all missing from Finland. It is not a "jatti potti" (jack-pot) to live here, despite the saying :). Good bye Suomi.

Posted by: Central European verdict:) | May 26, 2005 10:50 AM

Bye, bye, Central European! (wawes goodbye)

Posted by: | May 26, 2005 11:12 AM

I'm about to embark on a trip to Finland and unexpectantly found myself reading these postings. I remain amused and highly interested in the arguments raised...
To make a long story short, I can't wait to get to Finland during "its most beautiful time" as I've heard, and to experience everything that makes the Finns different, but also so much the same than almost everyone everywhere! I sincerely hope it's a lot different, coz jeez, if places and people were not unique, why would others want to go there? Certainly not coz it reminds them of home!
I sense the Finns are extremely proud of their culture, heritage etc., it may be the same with us. The world can say whatever they want about Arica, it's home and it's my best!

Posted by: Proud African | May 26, 2005 11:45 AM

Unfortunately I don't have the time to read through all the fan mail I have received on this blog.. hehehe.. but thanks to Kari for his email. Hahaha.. you really made my day.

But I did read something written by

Kirsti. - That I am against taxes. Kirsti.. relax.. read my post again. I am against RIDICULOUS taxes. And I am against calling education and health care free. You can go to school for free in the states too. And if you apply for financial aid and qualify, get good grades, apply to scholarships, you can get all of your university fees paid for. It's not that difficult but many people are really lazy to do it.

I was born in East LA California, I love california and I love LA. I don't want to live in downtown LA, but I love that city anyways. I live in the whittier narrows area where you can breath and ride the bike trails for hundreds of kilometers. And Yankees are the americans living in the Northeast. I'm a Dodger man and a chicano. So get it straight. I've calculated my budget.. no problems buying a house in Temecula and living life.

Marie, I have actually thought about living in Oregon or Colorado. I don't think I would survive on the east coast. Too humid during the summer.

I LOVEEE visiting Finland.. I just can't live here.. hehehe Anyways, I'm not the only "negative" poster here as you called me. Actually, I find that I really don't need to post very much.. but I guess my "outburst" is high on the blog so everyone reads it first and reacts to it. How did you feel when you finished reading all the other comments on this blog?


America is bullshit? Oh lord.. wait until you grow older and have kids. Maybe I'm just a conservative guy. No I didnt vote for Bush, but I also don't disagree with everything he says. Hating america is so in fashion now.. its like a mob reaction.

If you go to private school in California, you buy your books and sell them at the end of the year, if you go to public school, books are free and returned at the end of the year.

Hank W.-- thanks for the invite. Sorry if I turned this blog into a mudslinging contest.. it seems to be one of my talents. I heard about your group but since I had been planning to leave finland since.. ohhhh... after the first 6 months. But.. things kept popping up to post-pone that. Someday I'll have to re-read what I wrote up there in the first "negative" post.. it was all done in quiet a hurry and I guess it was a bit blunt.

Marlene.. you're right.. there is no point in saying which country is better or worse.. it's all about what is better or worse for you.

Maria Rapo-- when you live in a small country.. I think its easy to "travel" to another country. Why do people criticize americans for not traveling outside of their country? They have over 5000 square kilometers to travel in. You can drive 120 kilometers per hour, non stop(if you have a big enough gas tank or super efficient hybrid) for 5000 kilometers. When I say non-stop, I mean, no lights, no ferry crossing, no border check.. nothing!

Janne... I'm sorry, but.. I think you have to re-read my post.. you got a lot of what I said backwards.

VE -- aw.. that american kid you are criticizing had nothing but nice things to say about your country. And yes, Finnish high school students are much better prepared for exams than american students.. I never said they were not. The finnish culture in-grains a desire for excellence in school. The american culture in-grains a desire for success in life and excellence in what-ever job you decide to do. If we mix the two (as my family will) we will make SUPER CULTURE!

Ahhhh..... for all the people hating me.. sorry.. but myself and other german friends and other latine americans and brits and chinese and indian friends.. well.. somedays we just go nuts and rant and complain about life here. Then.. it wears off and all if good..its easy to lose social skills while living in Finland.. its so beautiful outside now.. ah.. I have to get out of this office. only 3 months of green trees, so get out and enjoy them! Oh, looked like it just rained...

ok, I think I will just read the responses on "introduction to finland Diary". That's where all the finns are really telling the truth about everything. I am learning A LOT!

Niin.. mun perhelle.. kaikki mä sanoi oli tehdä puhua.. mä rakastan SUOMI!!!! Ok... Suomi KESÄ!

Posted by: Eduardo | May 26, 2005 01:45 PM

To the Post:
A nice piece of writing, albeit perhaps a bit of a generalisation.

To Eduardo and the likes:
Writing is not a skill taught in all American schools, I suppose, So many words - so little message. Just one example: All Eduardo's message boils down to is "Finns, nature and life in general are not nice to me - and me such a perfect, broad-minded guy! - I want my Mama". At least in Europe, writing succinctly is a highly prized virtue. I'm glad there were at least some level-headed, educated (in the Finnish and European sense) Americans giving their opinions, the kind we would prefer to associate with your country.

On education: Finns have great appreciation for education as the great leveller. The States could use some of it, too: just look at some of the scribblings here! I don't think we would even pass school tests with that kind of English (which for most of us is our third or fourth language). One gadget Americans could learn to use is the spell-check (even Microsoft English would be better).

I'm fairly certain that relatively more Finns have lived abroad than Americans.

A few comments:
Our residences may not be castles (mine only 50 sq.m.), but the commuting is fairly easy. At least my humble abode is a choice I've made, the plus point being only one hour of commuting to work and back - from door to door! Lots of time for reading and other hobbies.

Houses/apartments are generally small, BUT most Finns have a summer place. There we spend weekends and part of our holidays! I wish everybody could experience the same clean air and complete, restful silence (bar some birds and other wildlife). Not to mention the total lack of fear of being robbed or murdered.

The salaries here are nothing to write to Americans about, but we get by, especially as our annual holidays are long (up to 36 days (if some of it is taken between Oct. and May). I and my colleagues earn up to 45,000 a year (depending on experience, skills and industriousness). And I'm a humanist (not a highly paid engineer), and a woman to boot! Besides, in comparisons we should always keep in mind that one euro gets us 1.25 dollars! In Finland we do not have hoards of people living permanently on the minimum salary.

What life is life if you have no time to enjoy it? Money has no intrinsic value - well perhaps in the States, where the whole economy would collapse if adults did not spend the short time left after work and commuting on spending, and kids on loitering at the mall- and spending. Sorry, couldn't resist one generalisation à la Eduardo!

Excuse me for not being modest and, more importantly, I hop u can unnerstand my riting even tho I cant rite reel american!

Posted by: What life is life | May 26, 2005 02:44 PM

Just wanted to comment on the Finn bemoaning that Americans don't learn foreign languages (I'm American). Just want to say that I, personally, love studying languages, but I'm tired of Europeans dissing us for our lack of language skills. We are a country bordered by oceans on two sides, an English (for the most part)-speaking country to our north, and of course, Mexico to our south. Spanish is probably the most popular language to take in high-school, but other than that, where is the incentive for learning a foreign-language to the average American? We don't have the advantage of being within shouting distance of multitudinous countries of different languages where we can practice what we learn, or to move to work. Come on, it's geography, people! I'd like to know if Australians have a greater fluency in foreign languages, since they are in the same geographic straits (no pun intended), and if not, why are Americans the only ones picked on? Let's get real, really.
Oh, but I can anticipate what one response to this will probably be: well, look at all the Finns (and Swedes, and French, etc.) who learn English and speak it, they aren't all travelling to English-speaking countries. Well, yes, that's a good point, but English is the lingua franca of our time, so perhaps we'll *all* be learning Chinese in the future. These things change. And I'd really like to see stats on how fluent Europeans are in English. Not everyone needs English in their everyday lives, nor does everyone have a knack for learning foreign languages; just what percentage of the populous of each country can speak the language fluently? Anybody know?

Reading posts from Finns has been a lot of fun and a great learning experience. It's wonderful, the power of technology, sometimes, isn't it? Instant communication with all parts of the globe. Widening my horizons and gaining new perspectives. I love it.

Posted by: Kate | May 26, 2005 03:33 PM

I believe the Finnish welfare state is beginning to dissolve. The government has already cut benefits, not surprisingly, to the ones who pay most into the system. I only see this trend accelerating when Finland's socialist system has to respond to the increased pressures from free trade. Finland only changes when forced to do so by external influences.

Posted by: WhatssogreataboutFinland | May 26, 2005 04:36 PM

>Houses/apartments are generally small, BUT most Finns have a summer place. There we spend weekends and part of our holidays! I wish everybody could experience the same clean air and complete, restful silence (bar some birds and other wildlife). Not to mention the total lack of fear of being robbed or murdered.

This is the part of Finnish society that most intrigues me as an American who has travelled to Finland many times. I have never had the privilege to see a typical Finnish countryside cabin; I sure would have loved to have been invited to one. Could someone post a link to view a typical cabin?

Posted by: cabinfever | May 26, 2005 05:10 PM

Central European, sad to hear you don't seem to understand cultures different than your own.

"Nobody ever calculates factors like easiness, smiling faces, always_sunny_sky, delicious food last, but not least, beautiful women! Sad enough, but true they are all missing from Finland"

That is only your point of view, not the truth.

Posted by: Missa | May 26, 2005 05:26 PM

Being from Argentina, what caught my eye was the headline about tangoing in Finland. It was a very fortunate pick, the whole article and the provocative comments it incited were very enlightening. Congrats

Posted by: Rafael | May 26, 2005 06:04 PM

I know my english is a bit rusty,sorry!Im an ordinary finnish guy.Im a factory worker and im 25 years old.Had to reply to some of Eduardos comments. "Oh... you know, A finn may say somethng depreciating about himself, but in his or her mind, they are completely confident that they are completely superior to you. Expecially if they have a university degree." And even if they dont;)

"I will try to write more, I am married to a Finn and am from Los Angeles myself." Flexible and understanding those finnish women=) "One major factor contributing to happiness in finland is NOT KNOW WHAT IS OUT THERE!" I have lived in three foreign countries,how many have you? "They think 25,000 euros per year is a good salary for a engineer with a masters." I dont believe anybody would think that.I get 30,000e and im an industrial worker.. "Meaning, the Russian women will wear better makeup, nicer clothes and generally show more style. Finnish women like to keep it simple" My girlfriend is so beautiful she doesnt even need makeup and when she applies it she looks like model=D "It is true, finland is huge, but nobody wants to live in most of it" I was born in Helsinki but live in a rural area,i like the the peace and quiet. "You would think everyone would have a large house with 4 acres of land surrounding them, but the reality is that most people live in Row houses or in apartment buildings." Planning to build a house on my 6 acres next summer=D
"The long winter nights also drive people mad contributing to the fact that finland has one of the highest suicide rates in the world." No,the madness just comes from being a finn;) "Everyone in this country knows someone who has attempted suicide" Dont know anyone,everybody i know have had an succesfull go at it.. "And like I said before, when I am paying 30 to 50 percent income taxes and 20 percent (VAT) sales taxes, I find it difficult to call my health insurance and welfare benefits "free"." You could call them the "free from getting shot at the traffic lights taxes"..

This man, Pekka Himanen, says Finnish society is all inclusive. What a load of c**p. Finnish society is all inclusive of all higher educated finns. Highly educated finns do not mix with lower educated finns. Since they were 14, they divide their society among vocational schooler, high math students and low math students. They rarely mix with each other

You must be kidding!!!!My best friends include engineers,craftsman,small business owners and civil cervants.A good point was made by some of the guys about the military.It is the place in Finland were it doesnt count what you are outside its how you perform there with your peers.362 days,love those guys!=D "Please don't get me wrong, I'm not saying finland is a horrible place to live, it just isn't for me. The snow service is especially horrible. Slippery sidewalks and roads are simply accepted, so falling is accepted as part of life. I just can't live that way" Yes,we accept that in the winter it might get slippery.We have solved this by using different types of shoes and tires in the winter.. "They do not like to air their dirty laundry as americans do."

Really,with this you have to be kidding!!!The finnish society is as transparent as it can be.Your the ones with your black ops and Guantanamos. "Lots of people in finland own hunting guns. I even know of a guy that shot at burglars running away from his house. Hand guns are rare. Which I think is a good thing. That's something I really admire and enjoy in europe. I rather be robbed with a knife than with a gun."

I have a shotgun,hunting rifle and im gettin a 9mm pistol next year.There are actually over 1,2 million guns in finland.We just dont go to schools or work places to fire them.. "In this country, if you are a foreigner,
everyone basically assumes that you are a refugee.
Especially if you have dark features. Gypsies aren't
even considered human. I would be surprised if they
are accounted for in the census" Take your surprised face,they are counted for..And so is every other inside these borders.We don have people swimming and diggin in to our country either.. "Finns generally do not like or accept immigrants. But they are coming none the less and I predict finland will have a serious civil upheavel in the future as middle europe is currently having with their far right groups" I predict US will have SERIOUS civil upheavel before finns are even thinkin about it.. "But I'm sure Finland and europe will only get better and better. I believe in that." Nice to agree on something=D

Posted by: John Doe | May 26, 2005 10:03 PM

Heres for you cabinfever
http://www.nullwave.net/huussi1.jpg
http://www.nullwave.net/huussi2.jpg
- still longing for the visit?

Posted by: Hank W. | May 27, 2005 04:49 AM

I know an American man who has immigrated to my home-town since c. 12 years ago. He has been during the entire time unemployed,out of work.

The municipality arranged for him a flat after his wife took diverce from him. The police forces had to move him away from the home of his mother-in-law where he stubbornly stayed with the wife and 2 kids. He did not believe that the honey-moon as an American son-in-law was over.

He wanted to hire a private detective in order to find his x-wife and 2 kids, because they went underground as a result of his violent behavior. The detective had no interest to have a customer who has no money.

The guy has a very arrogant attitude towards the Finns and Finnish life style.
The employment agency who is in the charge of organizing language courses for the immigrants ordered also him to a language course. He complained all the time about it,bacause the guy has an attitude that he is not an immigrant in Finland.

There were other immigrants from Russia, Kurdistan,Yugoslavia in the language course which irritated the American immigrant speacially.

He spent on the langauge course several months,on the tax-payers cost,and learned nothing. Now he lives on tax-payers cost in a flat given by a municipality to him and dates a married woman. It is still stylish among some Finnish ladies to date American?

Posted by: Lauri | May 27, 2005 04:49 AM

Dear All,

I´m just one of those Finns curious of whether this blog interests any non-Finns. Heaven help us all! In reading all you opnnions I have had to laugh and cry... well almost!
I don't have the time to comment on all I have red but I'll tell you this much:

While many of us might not have much respect for those Finns, who perhaps through lack of education, have hate-all attitudes, and harbour opinions based on generalizations and other c**p promoted by our fellow men/women and other vegetables, we high-educated most certainly do associate with those of different backgrounds. One of my best friends is a stone mason, and a female at that. She is one of those people, you see at the side of the road laying in stones for the sidewalk etc.

While I can get really patriotic sometimes (which can be a bad thing if you know about the romantic idea of the nation state that has affected the world since the 19th century, with horrific results) I do feel that all foreigners that come here are welcome, and should be treated as citizens, and Finns, if they want to get nationality, and yes they are entitled to all the benefits we get.

I do agree that there are not so many people of different backgrouns, as to really challenge us as individuals and society. But it would be false to say that there are none outside Helsinki. By Finnish standards Tampere is relatively multicultural.

I have lived and worked in England and The States (for short periods), and feel more free in here than in the country that claims to lead the free world. Still the concept of freedom is cultural. I consider it freedom that I do not have to pay myself sick for services that grant me human dignity. And no, we do NOT need to discuss freedom of speech etc. They are all an integral part of life in all western nations.

There is no need to give a too rosy picture of Finland. We can take some critique! On the other hand, no Finn-Bashing either!

P.S. The Spanish American guy would do well to look into the different stages of culture shock! The cyckle can take years, and he seems to be closer to the first steps than the last. Or are you just having too much fun with it! As in: "Found something, and am now running w/it!!"

Posted by: female, 26 years and counting | May 27, 2005 07:57 AM

Hank W: interesting idea to have winters disappear altogether =), hmmm, but then I would not probably appreciate summers as much as I do. (even with the lousy excuse for a winter this year)

stylish to date Americans?!?

Posted by: Outi | May 27, 2005 08:07 AM

cabinfever, since people spend time also outside loos, here is a site you can check for cabins that are rented: www.lomarengas.fi (there is an English language option)

Posted by: E | May 27, 2005 10:55 AM

>Heres for you cabinfever
>http://www.nullwave.net/huussi1.jpg
http://www.nullwave.net/huussi2.jpg
- still longing for the visit?

Uh, no. Not any more. Jeezaloo! Thanks for shooting the romance with the idea all to hell.

Posted by: cabinfever | May 27, 2005 11:23 AM

cabinfever: Those links that Hank W. pointed out were in reality completely different thing. That little building really isn't sauna, but actually sort of toilet. Sort of practical joke I suppose. ;)

You can get more information about sauna culture for example from there sites:
http://cankar.org/sauna/
http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=26074
http://images.google.com/images?q=sauna+lake

Anyway, welcome to Finland again.

Posted by: d2s | May 27, 2005 09:03 PM

Winter in Finland.

Cold? Yes. Dark? Yes. Lots of snow? Yes. BUT I LOVE IT SO MUCH. You can breath allmost burning gold fresh air. You can see amazing blue sky with full of BRIGHT stars and northern Lights. Threes are covered with snow and ice, looking like statues made by nature.

Especially in countryside and lapland, it's a time for ultimate peace. Silence and darkness compined with indescribable&unbelievable beaty of nature. Like magic. Even the Beckhams have spend chrismastime in Lapland, lol:)

You can also ski, make snowcastles (check Kemi at wintertime, the have huge area build from ice and snow, even small hotel and church?), ride snowmobiles, motorcycles etc. Go ice-fishing, or just walk somewhere with bottle of hot coco and do blenty of things foreigners can't even imagine.

http://users.tkk.fi/~masinon/kaamosaurinko7.jpg
http://users.tkk.fi/~masinon/lumihanki%20kuutamolla1.jpg
http://www.helenankievari.com/KuvatMB/Talvi.jpg
http://www.kittila.fi/yritykset/tykkylumi.jpg

People say darkness is the reason, but i don't think so. Actually, most of the suecides are taken place at spring! Wonder why, it is time for sun again and everybody should be happy and gettin' things rock'n roll.

Posted by: Huckleberry "Finn" | May 29, 2005 04:43 PM

Yeah, well like this winter it was +5 and drizzling still in January and the grass started greening, when in February then all of the snow came down and there were bus-sized piles on the side of the road.

Helsinki weather, is totally different from even 30km inland where you can get "real winter"- the coast affects so much.

And as you guys have seen the facilities at my cottage, you reckon I enjoy "doing outdoors stuff" in the winter? ;)

Posted by: Hank W. | May 30, 2005 03:44 AM

Actually, most of the suecides are taken place at spring! Wonder why, it is time f
--
Because soon its winter again and they cant take the thought ? Personally, I really do not like winter. Below 10 centigrade, I get trouble breathing if I am out too much.
About 15 percent of people are not adapted to winter and cannot go out at all. That is not talked about but is considered a fact nonetheless.

Posted by: | May 30, 2005 08:05 AM

Hei Robert ja Lucian!!

This diary of Finland is just awesome and I really hope you both enjoy your remaining time in our beatiful country and I also hope that you will also visit Lapland, the northern Finland, too...???.
And I really recommend you both to try the sauna; you really can't understand finns well before that:).YES,I KNOW...WE ARE JUST CRAZY:)!!!
Crazy little people from a crazy little counry...;)
Well, have to go now:
Greetings to all but especially to finns:
SIIS SUOMALAISILLE:
LAKAKKAA TAPPELEMASTA TÄÄLÄKI!!!
(ps.that means:stop fighting in here!)

Posted by: ANNIKA :) | May 30, 2005 09:58 AM

Dear Robert,

A link in English about history of Finland to start with:

http://www.suomalaisuudenliitto.fi/history.htm

and

http://www.suomalaisuudenliitto.fi/case.htm

Still the Finns have managed and survived...

Posted by: | May 31, 2005 11:12 AM

Dear Robert,

A link in English about history of Finland to start with:

http://www.suomalaisuudenliitto.fi/history.htm

and

http://www.suomalaisuudenliitto.fi/case.htm

Still the Finns have managed and survived...

Posted by: Pro Finland | May 31, 2005 11:12 AM

I am currently studying my degree in english just because i am really willing to emigrate from finland. ok. people really have this funny attitude towards my ultimate goal, which is australia, they think it's a treason to emigrate. Immigrating is not the easiest goal, I know, but getting my self out of here
to sunny australia is something to work for.
I have relatives there, as I have in Sweden also, but moving to sweden wouldn't make too much difference though. What is true about Finland is that people here may get less money, but my motives aren't financially-related at all. The reason I do not fit into this place is much more about the Finnish attitude itself. I am totally fed up with it, which is all about bragging how good we are in local newspapers. I do not know why, but it really irritates me. I really do not want to be among people considering themselves to be all above you what ever you do if you're not a university-degree local. Finns tend to *know* all about everything, you name it! but have they really been there&seen that?
the might travel once in 5 years to spain or bulgaria, but that doesn't make much difference. I really do not see *us* superior. And what comes to xenophoby, 38% of finns think that allowing outlanders(literally), meaning people from abroad living here is a threat to our racial purity. That's Xenophobic!!!

Posted by: BBA-student | May 31, 2005 04:54 PM

"I am currently studying my degree in english just because i am really willing to emigrate from finland. ok. people really have this funny attitude towards my ultimate goal, which is australia, they think it's a treason to emigrate. Immigrating is not the easiest goal, I know, but getting my self out of here
to sunny australia is something to work for."

You should have selected some other degree. Australians already know how to speak English, you see ? (BBA student & studying english ?)

"I am totally fed up with it, which is all about bragging how good we are in local newspapers."

Well somehow they bought -or someone did- the PISA study and now the teachers are claiming they are, in fact, great. Nobody talking about such that I had. No reason to tell here but half of them were quite the opposite from great, probably in any other country would not have been allowed in the profession. Usually local newspapers claim the "own" town is great and the stories are often quite ridiculous.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:33 AM

Dear Robert

Suomalaisuuden Liitto is a fascist-organisation with some 800 members. Some of them has started this debate. They behave in Finland like newnazis. Their only goal is to throwe the swedish-speaking minority out of the country. No politicans or political party in Finland take this gruop very seriously.

Posted by: Swede-Finn | June 3, 2005 09:32 AM

"38% of finns think that allowing outlanders(literally), meaning people from abroad living here is a threat to our racial purity."

Huh? When claiming something so utterly thick usually one at least mentions the source. And ulkomaalainen is foregner in English. There is the word "maa" (= land) in Finnish in both foreign and domestic.

Posted by: A Finn | June 3, 2005 10:43 AM

I love Finland! I believe I have been to Finland 50 times and when I retire, I want to move to Lappeenranta, drink Lapin Kulta, and give the finger to the Russian border guards.

One thing about a Finn is when he drinks, he drinks to get drunk. The motto of the Finns is half drunk is a waste of good money.

Posted by: Bill | June 3, 2005 12:56 PM

Every new land I visit teaches me something different. Finland taught me to appreciate and enjoy the summer to the fullest. It is brief and precious, at least in Finland, and where I live too (Boston).

Posted by: US-flag | June 3, 2005 04:14 PM

The geography of Finland as seen in your pictures looks a lot like the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, where many Finnish immigrants settled. There are more Pikkas and Makis than Smiths or Jones in the local phone books. My in-laws live there. Though they're not Finnish, they've built a sauna (pronounced "SOW-nah") in their basement. WLUC TV 6 in Marquette, MI, has aired "Suomi Kutsuu," "Finland Calling," since 1962. Thank you for your diary from Finland.

Posted by: Yooper's spouse | June 3, 2005 09:58 PM


To the Post; thanks for an interesting blog, at least in the opinion of a Finn ;)

Many interesting points have been raised in the discussion here. As noted earlier it is very very difficult to compare a nation to another, which one is better or worse, it is always a subjective opinion.. and what would we know if someone hadn't invented the WWW.

Myself having worked internationally for most of my short career (I am 31 yrs old) in science, which is a very international undertaking nowadays not in least in my field. I have to say that, regardless of the disgrunts Finns have about their society (ask a Finn and he likely doesn't consider Finland a paradise although Finns are very patriotic, and it might take some time to get negative responses), it will be hard to find a better place to live than back home (at the moment I am living in North America, and have lived earlier in Japan, Norway and other European countries for extended periods). For many reasons I am willing to pay high income taxes, despite my high education and possibility to earn big bucks in America (and live the American dream, which is not a dream to me, perhaps a nightmare in a sense..)

What most strikes me in North America is the awareness of americans (US and Canadians, I know Canadians are NOT americans) about the rest of the world. Nevertheless they (US) feel warranted that they can act as "world police' basically to secure their oil (whatever their excuses are), which they spend in the SUVs and trucks in amounts that I am just terrified about.. the only thing that seems to matter is the materialistic benefit you gain in life, at whatever cost.. and Canadians should be aware that they have large oil reserves that americans are interested to make use of..

Even if Finns are reserved, that doesn't mean that they dislike other people. It is just a feature of our culture, as is the american way of small talk and superficial gibberish. Nevermind that.
Start a discussion with a Finn and you'll most likely never get superficial gibberish about this and that, that is something I find annoying about North Americans, not everybody though. I would say if a Finn shows interest he's truly wholeheartedly excited. The reserveness of Finns is partly of us being very sincere about what we say, and to be sincere you cant talk 110% of the time. I would like to see other opinions about this, as said I don't have a very objective view on things..

It was an interesting remark someone made earlier, even if Finns look like having a big-brother complex to other nations, especially Sweden, Finns know their place (usually superiority so to say), but don't boast about it unecessarily as some people often do, its not in our character, to better or worse.

But as said, we can't list nations (countries) in order, every experience I have had in different countries and with different people have teached me something new. Every place have their pros and cons. For most Finns Finland is paradise, perhaps because we have quite a different culture than other nearby countries.

Posted by: Masa | June 5, 2005 01:14 AM

For a Swede-Finn some comments:

How persons who want freedom of choice in the language education can be "nazis"!?

How market economy in the language education is "nazism"!!

If freedom of choice and the right of the individuals to decide themselves what is good for them is nazism for the Swedish speaking people,it is a proof that there is really big difference in the Swedish speakind and Finnish speaking cultures!

Present situation is more "nazism" because it is forbidden to study in stead of a Germanic language any other language. The state dictates that every Finn have to take lectures in Swedish. For me it is more "nazism." A Finn cannot hold a vacancy as a civil servant in his own home-country if he/she cannot show a certificate that he/she knows Swedish!


Mandatory Swedish is a relic of old Intra-European colonialism. The Finns have to have a right to get rid of it.

Posted by: For freedom | June 5, 2005 10:47 AM

Finland has never been a colony. It was an equal part as all the other provinces in Sweden in that time. In Finland it is still areas with swedish-speaking people in majority. The number of swedish-speaking finns with swedish as their mothertongue is no longer decreasing. The nativity is nowadays higher among the swedishspeaking-finns than among the finnish-speaking finns.

For the whriter "For freedom alias Language Warrior, as we call him" above is this fact one of the reasons why he hates everything, which have to do with "swedish"

The main goal for him and this small group (Suomalaisuuden Liitto), who doesn´t except Finland as a billingual country is the same as Hitler´s "Ein Reich Ein Volk"

Posted by: Swede-Finn | June 5, 2005 01:38 PM

"Dear Robert

Suomalaisuuden Liitto is a fascist-organisation with some 800 members. Some of them has started this debate. "
Personally I only joined the debate after noticing some Swede (living in finland and calling themselves 'finlandswedes' to finns, but 'swedes' to each other) calling for other Swedes to notice the talk here.
Do you maybe also consider this 'federation' a fascist organisation ?
http://www.shalomdc.org/

"Finland has never been a colony. It was an equal part as all the other provinces in Sweden in that time."
For example, Finns were "drafted" into Kings army. They had to pay taxes and die for the king they never saw. Same did not happen in Sweden, some Swedes were taken into the army which tried to invade most of Europe but failed, but not nearly in the same numbers as Finns.

"The main goal for him and this small group (Suomalaisuuden Liitto), who doesn´t except Finland as a billingual country is the same as Hitler´s "Ein Reich Ein Volk""
*************************

"For information, when this mistake originally was made, Microsoft had a Swede as their PR officer for Finland, today the Swedish GM of Finnish Broadcsting Company YLE. YLE uses 20% for Swedishness, when the share of Swedes in Finland is 5%."

It is not only the media that "decides" or in reality is not allowed to talk about certain matters. Finnish schools too teach history in a totally false manner. It is achieved by political corruption on a massive scale.
,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,
haavanlehti 09:22


Suomen presidentti allekirjoitti Suomen kielilain Ruotsin kansallispäivänä 6.6.2003.
Kielilakikomitean pj. Pekka Hallberg sai ansioistaan Ruotsin kielen hyväksi korkean ruotsalaisen kunniamerkin.
Kielilakikomitean sihteeri Sten Palmgren,OM, palkittiin 10 000 euron kulttuuripalkinnolla ansioistaan kielilakikomitean sihteerinä.
Kulttuuripalkinnon antoi Svenska folkskolan vänner ry. Palmgrenille. Eli edunsaajataho.

"Suomessa ei ole korruptiota" hhehheh.
Kun päättäjät sanoo niin niin alamaisuskollinen suomalainen on samaa mieltä tietenkin mitään kyseenalaistamatta.
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
http://www.google.fi/search?q=uppsala+racial+biology&hl=fi
About the racial biology in Sweden and Uppsala university, from 20s to 60s.
Although racial biology was common elsewhere too, what is notable to Finns is that Finns were considered to be a lower race in Sweden. In the same manner as the Germans considered some races but not including Finns lower in Germany, eventually deciding to wipe out the lower races. Finns had luck the Swedes were not believed by the Germans and been taken to the ovens and gas chambers.
Germany was occupied and nazism ceased to exist. In Sweden the same regime continued and still continues to rule.
http://www.google.fi/search?hl=fi&q=racial+biology+oslo&meta=
For example:
"Mjoen, an active member of the governing Liberal Party, found considerable support for his eugenic ideas among government officials. By 1915, the party platform included a call for the study of practical methods for treating folk-disease - "fokesykdommer." Mjoen was also able to convince the Parliament to create the Institute for Genetics at the University of Oslo in 1916. Ragnar Vogt, founder of Norwegian psychiatry, was placed in charge of it. "

Finnish and not only Finnnish school children should be taught the truth about Nordic countries instead of the rosy and totally false picture they now are given.

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 06:39 AM

"I mean by still viewing Russia as a major threat (sorry guys, they are just NOT going to invade!) "
Mostly people dont actually like that much talking about the military but someone always starts..
Sure there will. Everyone hopes not but to hope is not enough. Maybe not today or in 10 years but both Russia and Sweden will invade Finland in years to come. Read a bit of history. There are wars around the world all the time. That there is no war here and now does not mean that there never will be one. To dismantle the army would mean a war much faster than to improve the army.

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 06:46 AM

One thing about a Finn is when he drinks, he drinks to get drunk. The motto of the Finns is half drunk is a waste of good money.
-
For most: more often just one beer to six beers after work or while watching sports. Really.
Not many people go to bars to get drunk. Most of those who get drunk are such who buy a perjantaipullo home "friday bottle" or a 12-pack as the weekend comes, as it is a habit to do so.

Personally I think it is a waste of good money to drink and not go out.

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 06:51 AM

"him and this small group (Suomalaisuuden Liitto)"

Happily the goals of the svensk ungdom (Swedish Youth) are so much better and more civilized.
Not talking about the languages as those are obvious. But for example the selling snus in EU countries. It is forbidden by law to sell it as is dangerous to your health. They want to change the law.
http://66.102.9.104/search?q=cache:ePAqqpBDgskJ:www.stormfront.org/archive/t-176923NORTHERN_EUROPE_-_NON_SMOKING_AREA%3F!%3F.html+snus+forbidden+in+eu&hl=fi
http://www.svenskungdom.fi/nyhet.php?id=201&pid=
Motion 15 - Legalisera snus!

Kongressen beslöt:

- att SU skall arbeta för att förbudet mot försäljning av snus inom EU hävs

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 07:53 AM

"Speak Swedish or leave the shool".

http://195.255.83.67/cgi-bin/mediaweb?Newsp=hbl&Date=020406&Depa=inrikes&Model=ajuttusivu.html&Story=05172899.txt#toppen

Swedish schools got worse results than Finnish schools in PISA survey in Finland.

The staff of Swedish schools should become more liberal,tolerant and they should modernize their teaching methods.

If you want a good start for your kid in life don't put her/him in a Swedish school.

The aforementioned article reveals more about Swedish culture than any pr-campaigns for Swedishness. Swedish culture is intolerant and narrowminded.

Swedish People's Party members as thoise of SU should shame themselves and their political party.

Posted by: Lahden Ahkera | June 17, 2005 04:45 AM

SU represents Swedish People's Party whose member rector of Abo Akademi is.

Abo Akademi has less flattering verdict having discriminated students because of their mother-tongue.

"27 years of discrimination"W

Read what is Finland deep south like:
http://www.turunsanomat.fi/verkkolehti/?ts=1,4:2:0:0,4:2:1:1:1999-12-30,4:39076,1:0:0:0:0:

Posted by: the truth hurts | June 20, 2005 08:03 AM

To Tipu/Tipulle

Way to go Tipu!

I definetely agree with you - I think finns are one of the few nations who actually can laugh at themselves and make fun of themselves - for instant a spaniard can never do that. And I also think that is a large part of our identity - I'm actually surprised to see that there hasn't been so much talk about this earlier.

Being able to laugh at oneself helps quite a lot in life :D

And I also agree that most of us knows where we come from. I for one definetely know my roots and my country's history and don't need an exchange student to tell me what's good and what's bad in this country and what to do with our army (preserve it of course! Like General Ehrnrooth said, one always have to be prepared) - I think I know since I've almost always lived here.

But it's true that living abroad for a while broadens your horizon, I noticed it my self when they treated me like crap when I was living abroad. So I can understand that being a foreigner in this country is tough, since everything is written in English (in public places and offices etc.) and nobody seems to give a damn. But here's a hint: stay away from Helsinki and try the countryside, no matter where in Finland. People are quite different in there.

(I lived in Iceland for a year, and man, I can tell you that the icelanders are something. Talking about racists and homogenous nation. Jeezuz. Even though I looked like an icelander, then still treated me like a leper when they noticed than I'm a foreigner, even though I came from "fellow Nordic Country". Huh. And still I fell in love with that country...)

Posted by: I know who I am | June 23, 2005 10:18 AM

"Psyched to be going" was asking if he should learn something about WW2 when going to Finland. My opinion is that if you are interested in discussing about WW2 and Finland in it with finns then it could be good to have some correct information on the subject. Few examples:

http://www.winterwar.com/
http://www.kaiku.com/winterwar.html
http://www.mannerheim-line.com/
http://virtual.finland.fi/netcomm/news/showarticle.asp?intNWSAID=25937
http://www.winterwar.com/Links.htm

Winter War was a pyrrhic "victory" for Soviet Union, if you call a draw a victory. For example, SU lost 2229 tank during those 105 five day, not bad from finns who had about 20 obsolite light tanks and less than hundred 40mm AT-guns. It is a very patriotic subject for finns so be carefull how you give your information or opinions on the subject if they differ from finnish ones ;).

The Continuation War -41 to -44 is a bit more gray area for some, still, most people think that it was just a extention of Winter War in our struggle for survival. Here´s some info on it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Continuation_War
http://hkkk.fi/~yrjola/war/finland/summary.html

Here is also a site for the "finnish Gerge Washington", marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim:

http://www.mannerheim.fi/

This guy is a "must" if you want to discuss WW2 with finns.

Also what is important to remember is that Finland did not surrender/capitulate, but it made peace with Allies and her army was not beaten in combat. Just keep that in mind and you´ll be fine ;).

Posted by: Honor, Duty, Will | July 14, 2005 09:36 AM

I must admit I wish I'd discovered this earlier. Oh well.

There are a few things I'd want to comment on, and some of these have already been mentioned, but I'm going to participate anyway, dammit.

I have been to school in a couple of different countries, and if I have the chance to have my future children educated in Finland I will jump at it.

There are good things and bad things about all schools and all education systems, but like the mother who vented her frustration earlier, I feel that the Finnish school lunch system is far superior to, say, the Australian one, of which I have the most recent experience.

Here (AUS) the school has a little kiosk that sells sandwiches and cake slices, but most people bring their own lunches - generally sandwiches and packets of crisps - and sit outside munching on them. You might bring a water bottle along or you might help yourself to the coke machine.

This culture of course makes Australian supermarkets sell vastly different things to the Finnish ones - like family packs (20 or so) of 50-gram packets of Twisties, crisps etc, lunch-box sized fruit bars - there's even an ad about a little girl attentively eating a "fruit-flavoured" jelly while the playground around her is engaged is a viscious foodfight, throwing ripe mangoes and other lovely things around. Tagline: "fruit that doesn't go to waste"('cause real fruit is sooo '50s...).

Give me the risottos, meatballs and chicken soups any time.

On another note, I can't understand why people here don't seem to drink milk. It's just something added to tea. To me it's the most natural drink to have with breakfast, lunch or dinner (unless we're talking with pizzas or other "party foods"). Why do people need caramel-flavoured Nesquiks to "make milk fun"? I just don't get it.

As to the idea that Finns are academic snobs and lukiofolk don't mingle with amis:ers, or that there's some sort of chasm between short and long maths - *insert astonished smiley here*.

Like someone mentioned, of course you can't spend as much time as people who don't study at the same place as you, simply because you're not physically at the same place. If you're best friends with someone that's not going to change suddenly if one wants to become a chef and the other a primary school teacher.

As for the maths divide - it's very difficult to look down your nose at someone just because you don't have the same maths textbook - especially if you still share classes in, say, philosophy, French and geography.

For those who want to get "in" with Finns, here are a few tips:

-never say how much you earn, what something you own cost (if you have to, make sure you say it was on sale or it doesn't work properly or -- you get the idea) or anything that could be interpreted as boasting about how well you're doing in life

-don't small talk. The moment you do that, your average Finn will clutch his wallet and back away slowly

-learn to consume ridiculous amounts of either alcohol or coffee, intravenously if necessary

-wear a tracksuit

-recycle

-bake from scratch (no pre-mix cake packs!)

-ditch the white bread for wholemeal and rye

-have an opinion on compulsory Swedish language education and the Finnish athlete/sport du jour - but generally speaking refrain from expressing strong opinions for fear of offending anyone

-learn to appreciate ski jumping

-know that it is perfectly normal to sit around completely naked, sweating with complete strangers - or your in-laws, boss, parents, friends...

-pick berries and mushrooms from the wild by yourself, then painstakingly preserve them and make jams, juices, soups... Buying them from the market is just showing off (see the first point).

-eat salmiakki.

That's all for me for now. I'm sure I'll think of something else as soon as I send this off...

Posted by: Sanna | July 21, 2005 03:52 AM

Talking to Finns:
World war: say what you think. No need to learn the stuff Finns are made to believe. If some Finns is too stupid to believe it all, it is not your fault and you are better off talking to less stupid ones anyway. It is totally okay to talk about politics or anything with Finns (men, that is) and disagree, someone who cannot take that is considered uncivilised and simple and people avoid such (women, on the other hand, tend to agree about everything)

"I feel that the Finnish school lunch system is far superior to, say, the Australian one, of which I have the most recent experience"

Very communist it is. The radio has a program series, old reruns "näin naapurissa" about how life is like in the soviet union. They had to pay for their food too. They also had a system of giving money to students in university where the applicants' wealth was taken into account: In Finland it does not matter. The rich get the same as the poor: for the rich it is a little extra money, for the poor not enough to study with.

The school food costs about the same as giving "lounasseteli" to pupils (employers give/sell to workers notes with which workers can buy food with) to eat lunch at a pizzeria or salad bar: they would get a lot better food, with the market system, instead of the inefficient government one, for the same money.

"anything that could be interpreted as boasting about how well you're doing in life"

Listen to men at a pub when they are talking to women. A man's worth is exactly what he owns.
Such a man is considered simple BUT it does not matter as for women the main interest in any man is how much money there is.

But to make friends, people usually do not try to be with others who are of other social standing, so money matters are not discussed with people of other social standing: about the same, they surely are.
Finns do small talk in most of the country. The reason people think that does not happen is that the western Finnish culture is dominant. It is not all of Finns or even most of Finns, in the east, people talk, eat well and love to dance, too.
Remember to watch the TV2 series about Karelian life: small part of last episode: western finlanders forbade dancing during war: eastern finlanders did not comply, had to have secret dances as the military police was controlling even that.

In towns, people do not wear tracksuits, I have never recycled even though there is control about that.

"but generally speaking refrain from expressing strong opinions for fear of offending anyone"

That advice is ok for women, other women can be enemies for life if one does that. Men can say things exactly as they think they are like. Not to do that is considered a pussy.

Posted by: | July 21, 2005 05:23 AM

"As to the idea that Finns are academic snobs and lukiofolk don't mingle with amis:ers, or that there's some sort of chasm between short and long maths - *insert astonished smiley here*."

Not all Finns are academic snobs.
Only the academic ones are. See adverts for housing or personal ads: "academic couple wants to buy...", "seeking an academic.."
Academic = those who went to university but were incredibly stupid and studied a subject that gives prestige but no money.

Lukio and amis do not mix. That is a problem in society as well: women do not want a man who is less educated than they are themselves. It is okay to take a foreign man who is not educated but not a finnish man as not to go to lukio (most men) is to most women, who went to lukio, something to stay far away from. So comes no babies.

Posted by: | July 21, 2005 05:45 AM

The academics also talk like women do.
They agree until they find a common enemy - then it is okay to use terms otherwise not used (should be noted that words such as viha (finnish for hate) tappaa (kill) or vihainen (angry) are very rarely used, foreigners should avoid them even in English as to use such would probably be considered inconsiderate by Finns, also worth noting is that even people of low social standing can often consider swearing etc. to be a sign of someone very stupid, simple, etc., things can be said directly but not with strong words, even the word stupid would better be avoided as describing other personal traits with "strong" words, better say "not too clever" or something similar but finer)

Posted by: | July 21, 2005 06:38 AM

All you foreign people write about finnish culture and customs like there was something wrong with them, and as if they were sort of the primitive versions of the "correct" ones.If you hug a finn and they think you're flirting...well...LIVE WITH IT! You people just can't go to a foreign country with you're cocky west-coast or whatever attitude and tell the locals what they're doing wrong.In a certain place, you might get killed for doing so plus it will surely give a bad name to the whole nation you represent.So beware when on my hood!

Posted by: keltanen äpis | August 19, 2005 06:20 PM

All you foreign people write about finnish culture and customs like there was something wrong with them, and as if they were sort of the primitive versions of the "correct" ones.If you hug a finn and they think you're flirting...well...LIVE WITH IT! You people just can't go to a foreign country with you're cocky west-coast or whatever attitude and tell the locals what they're doing wrong.In a certain place, you might get killed for doing so plus it will surely give a bad name to the whole nation you represent.So beware when on my hood!

Posted by: keltanen äpis | August 19, 2005 06:21 PM

woops,didn't mean to post it twice, sorry.

Posted by: same as above | August 19, 2005 06:23 PM

You people just can't go to a foreign country with you're cocky west-coast or whatever attitude and tell the locals what they're doing wrong.
--
why you think the finns are _that_ stupid ?

Posted by: | August 29, 2005 06:57 AM

Eduardo i salut you! You have posted alot of my sentiments about Finland. I'm not going to compare my country with Finalnd, every foreigner, including those from third world countries have something to object to when it comes to living in Finnish society. (if you don't believe me go find one and ask him what he finds difficult about living in Finalnd). Firstly i think all immigrants can agree that the overly-patriotic mentality is very odd to us all and makes us feel uncomfatable (feeling similar to jewish people in nazi germany..(ok an overstatement but it makes a point in the right direction)). Learn to laugh at yourselves and people will in turn laugh back and there would be a more relaxed multicultural atmosphere throughout the lands of suomi.
Oh and i have been told by various Finnish teachers that suomen culture has been around for 10,000 years!!!! and that includes the Finnish language!!!!
There is alot of strange attitudes in Finland, and there does appear to be alot of people that believe certain things without the right facts to back it up. Noone asks any questions and assumes that they are always told the truth about all things. I for one know that it is impossible for this to be true. If the Finnish language is thousands of years old, how come it was written only one hundred and so years ago? By a guy that knew several european langauges and it curiously resembles all of which Agricola knew. This to me implies that Finnish language is just a rip off of other languages. Hence the lack of logic and regulations to the rules of a language. Lets take the word for chair..'tuoli' just so happens to be a Swedish word, right? does that mean that there were no chair in existence before the more evolved swedes came over to bring you guys civilisation? Did you all sit on rocks? (all i'm saying is think of the logic of the reality before claiming or accepting certain so called truths) Like this logic to support my wild speculation that Finnish language is just a quickily put together invention of a language, one that has not evolved from the hungarian family of languages at all...Fins rip off everything from everywhere in the world (music...him=british influence....erasmus=american influence......various tv programs.....linux=unix....) Given a few exceptions most rip offs are done badly without much perspective or respect to the original idea and often appear stale and shallow. As all of you Brainwashed Fins have mentioned there are many fantasic concepts in Finland and the way of life there. I only managed to experience Helsinki, so my experiences may not be totally accurate for generalisation, but this is the point of this forum, for us foreigners to comment on Finland so that other people thinking of migrating there might have a better perspective on what they are getting themselves into. Its not a personal attack on Fins so please don't get so defensive, your enfuelled reactions only gives our comments strength to be true.
To comment on taxes...ask yourselves why? why and good old british common sense are two things which do not exist in finland.
WHY? why do you LIKE to pay taxes?
Statisics show that these taxes that increasingly get higher with inflation and other factors do not go into your welfare/healthcare/education systems.
Ask yourselves where is this money going?
perhaps push someone to investigate this?
I'm sure there will be some interesting discoveries.
Healthcare? what is healthcare in Finland?
Dispense of medication and a sick note for work?
Its easy to live in Finland, i think. Being that there is absolute security that you will never be in a poverish state. That for sure is a good thing. However there is also a force that sucks the life out of men in Finland....Finnish women.
Equality? compare the sucide rates between men and women in Finland.
Why is this?
Women have every advantage in Finalnd. Finnish men have let themselves been dominated by the amazonian women so much that i'm sure they are the one's to get F**k'd in the darkness of the night.
Finnish men worship their women, and their women generally accept this with cold ignorance, using their admiration from their man to its potential, only to discard him when his uses are done. Divorce rate is also one of the highest in europe, along with mental illness.
A finnish man has no power to his children, a single Finnish man has little status in society(try being a 35 year old single finnish man and find a good apartment to rent).
So my ideas are not completely right, its my perspective and experiences, but they must be true at least to me, otherwise i wouldn't have said them. So no matter what your defensive little minds might say there is definately a problem in Finnish society and people should try to do something about it rather than just splash the people that try to open your eyes.
(men of finland, ask WHY do Finnish women go and bring foreign men back to your country..? we all treat your women like s**t and they love it! try it yourselves, be a man and stand up for yourselves, regain the respect and admiration of your women..take back your country and get a male president for heaven's sake! Its just embarrassing to be represented by that mutant ginger ninja! At least thatcher made a difference, what does Tarja do? except look like conon o'brian, giving you international recognision) Oh and please don't bother commenting on my spelling as a means of verbally attacking me and my comments..i know my spelling is pretty bad, i don't really care, and its a pathetic statagey....so don't bother, (two years in a finnish chatroom ).
Anyways theres so much more to comment on but i'm bored, i have left Finland after two and a half years of residence. I would recomend Finland to anyone who wants to study...apart from that theres nothing much else but bad tasteless food, bad weather(2 weeks of sunny summer, over 6months of cold dark winter), Cold and distant robotic like people with no common sense and a logic all to their own, there is the beautiful nature side also, staying in a cabin in the forest by the lake is an unbvelievable experience, but not a unique one...try sweden, norway, the states, canada, romania..just to name afew. And whats so amasing about inventing a wooden hut with a fire inside? didn't native indians have that with their teepees?, don't both russia and sweden claim to have invented the same thing?

Posted by: LondonMc | April 18, 2006 12:02 AM

LondonMc, can you imagine that I really thought
finns had a low self-esteem? But you are something else.

Overly patriotic? Finland? Hmm... not the one I'm living in.

Women? We'll if you're not man enough for some woman, is that really a general problem?

Unbelievable ignorant bs about the language, but what the heck. Sure, the language has a lot of loan words. So does almost every other language. Big deal.

You know, if you're that feeling depressed, you should get professional help for that. It could also help more than ranting here. You might offend someone, but does that really help?

Posted by: Teemu | April 27, 2006 09:09 AM

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