A New Baby Is Coming

LEMPAALA -- Paavo and Elina Suikki, both medical doctors, are about to have their first baby. Elina, 31, is an obstetrician, so it's been easy to watch her baby grow with the sonogram in her office. "It looks like a girl!" she told us. She is due on July 4.

A few days ago she received a notice from the post office here in Lempaala, a small town on the outskirts of Tampere, one of Finland's most important cities (population 200,000) in the country's southwest. "Your box is here," the post office told her. When they brought it home, the new baby suddenly seemed a lot more real.

Elina Suikki, like every expecting new mother in Finland, was entitled to this box, a sort of starter kit for a new life. She showed it off to us here after stuffing us with a wonderful Finnish lunch of reindeer goulash (not tender, but tasty), mashed potatoes, salad and strawberry-rhubarb pie. (We probably haven't written enough about how well the Finns eat -- both heartily and healthily.)


Paavo and Elina review the contents of a package provided by the Finnish government to all expectant parents. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo.

She and Paavo unpacked the box and covered most of the living room floor with its contents, which included a bassinet, a first batch of disposable diapers, a hair brush, a snowsuit, a blanket, booties, towels, a bib, socks, leggings, tights, shirts -- two dozen garments in all, including some basics in three sizes, to allow for the baby's growth. And that's not all; for reasons not explicitly explained, the box also contains a package of five condoms and some personal lubricant. And there's a sort of owner's manual on childcare, and a first reading book for the baby. It's a picture book printed on thick cardboard, "thick enough to chew," as Paavo put it. You can see the contents of the box here.

And the sturdy box itself, about three feet long by 20 inches wide and 20 inches deep, is designed to serve as baby's first bed. It is lined with a foam rubber pad.

Elina had a choice; take these goodies, or take a cash payment of about $175 instead. When she saw how good the quality was of the items in the box, it was easy to decide. They were clearly worth a lot more than $175. She said she didn't mind the fact that her baby might look a lot like other Finnish babies for the first months of her life -- this box was a good deal.

It is also a good introduction to a level of public services that far exceeds anything available to Americans. The Suikkis provide some of those services themselves in the Finnish medical system.


Sirpa Lampimaki holds Antii, 7, and Ida, 8, as her 3-year-old, Matti, has his finger bandaged at the Lempaala Health Center. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

It has both public and private elements, but the public health service handles most problems for most Finns for very little money. Under the national scheme, Finns are charged modest amounts for services from the public system ($15 for an office visit, for example) until they have paid $750 in one calendar year for any kind of medical assistance, from surgery to medications. After they have spent that $750, everything else is free.

The Suikkis live in a house that looks like others all over the country, a two-story wooden structure built to a plan designed right after World War II by the famous Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, for refugees from Karelia, the province of eastern Finland that the Finns lost to the Soviet Union after the war (despite fighting heroically to a standoff with the Soviets). The government gave refugees a piece of land and Aalto's blueprints for the house. Fifty years later, the Suikkis bought this edition of it for about $175,000. It is a comfortable house with five good-sized rooms, including two bedrooms upstairs, and a separate outbuilding containing the almost inevitable sauna. Even modern Finnish apartments are built with their own saunas.


Doctors Paavo and Elina Suikki bicycle almost everywhere, even during the cold Finnish winter. (Lucian Perkins - The Washington Post)
View Enlarged Photo

They borrowed bicycles from neighbors so we could all pedal into town (about 15 minutes at a leisurely pace) to visit the health center where Paavo sees patients from a list of about 1,600 people assigned to him. He enjoys the job, but is frustrated by the press of duties that limits his time with each patient. How much time can he spend? "I've done a calculation," he replied. He spends 25 minutes on average with each person he sees, "32 minutes if it's a diabetic." Such precision seems to be a part of Paavvo Suikki's personality. If he realizes how long a 25-minute office visit sounds to an American, he doesn't show it. Paavo works eight to nine hours five days a week, never on weekends or at night, when other doctors cover the health center.

The health center was another spacious, well-equipped, neat and clean Finnish institution -- just like every one we have seen here. Efficiency is not a strong point in the Finnish system. Paavo said that Sweden, a country twice as large, has a fraction of the number of X-ray machines that Finland has.

Elina has been delivering babies in the Tampere University Hospital in town, one of the country's busiest. She said the work is good, and that Finland's prenatal care makes obstetrics a pleasure. Finland's infant morality rate, three deaths per 1,000 births, is third best in the world and less than half the rate of the United States. One reason for the higher American rate is the fact that too many American women, particularly young and poor women, don't see a doctor early or ever during their pregnancy. "That's not a problem in Finland," Elina said.

New mothers get two days in the hospital after a routine birth (a standard that Congress imposed in the United States some years ago), but there are far fewer cesarean sections here -- about 15 percent of all births, Elina said. And after one cesarean delivery, mothers are still encouraged to have a vaginal birth for a second or third child.

But Friday was her last day of work for a long time -- how long she hasn't decided yet. She can get nearly all her salary for 158 weekdays, or Paavo could share the benefit if he were to stay home with the baby. She can get partial salary beyond that time and preserve her job for three years if she chooses. Elina said she planned now to stay home for about a year.

By Robert G. Kaiser |  June 1, 2005; 10:06 AM ET  | Category:  Culture
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Comments

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That pretty much sums up welfare statism right there - the government thinks you're too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn (you've only had 9 months after all!), so they send you a padded box to stick the kid in at night. How thoughtful. Call me crazy but I have a bit more faith in the Finnish people.

Then the government gets the newborns ready for collectivism right out of the womb by dressing them all the same way. They're all the same so why not dress them the same...

But, like Kaiser said, the box means much more to Finnish women than the contents inside. It's a very joyous occasion and milestone in the Finnish family's birth process - now *THAT* is what is worth more than the $175.

- Phil
http://www.finlandforthought.net

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 03:23 PM

"That pretty much sums up welfare statism right there - the government thinks you're too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn"

The box first saw daylight just after WWII, and there was a very good reason for it. The country was full of war widows and very poor people, and the baby-boomers started to come to this world. Too many too poor mothers. So the state wanted to make sure that the new babies at least have some basic things.

And nowadays it is tradition, and a very liked one.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 03:38 PM

In the matter of fact the link to Tampere University Hospital is http://www.pshp.fi. Your link is to the Tampere University Medical Faculty which it the very different institution.

- Nurse Tuija
http://www.pshp.fi

Posted by: Nurse Tuija | June 1, 2005 03:40 PM

"And nowadays it is tradition, and a very liked one."

Exactly. I still have my box from seventies.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 03:45 PM

So no one ever uses it as a bed anymore?

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 03:54 PM

And not all new parents are natural born baby care-takers. Though Phil may think all women instinctively realize what kind of stuff they need to have at hand when the newborn arrives. The box shows what's essential and gives a good head-start, also ensuring that even the poorest mothers have most of the essential things for their child. This box may not be materially that essential for the sound two-parent upper-class family shown here but it will still really make a difference for single-moms, refugees, unemployed and for anybody who doesn't live a perfect life. The box is designed to ensure adequate care of children and it sounds weird that somebody can oppose that.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 03:55 PM

"And nowadays it is tradition, and a very liked one."

"So no one ever uses it as a bed anymore?"

No, of course babies have normal beds. But in an emergency situation, it's usable as a temporary solution.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 03:59 PM

When I was born 24 years ago and my parents really began to build a house of their own, which basicly ate all the money, I slept in the box. My mother still treasures the box and some of the stuff that was in it.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:17 PM

"But in an emergency situation, it's usable as a temporary solution."

Emergency? Like the mother has nine months to find a crib but neglects to get one?

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:17 PM

"And nowadays it is tradition, and a very liked one."

Yes, the government spending lots of money is certainly tradition in Finland.

"Though Phil may think all women instinctively realize what kind of stuff they need to have at hand when the newborn arrives. "

I wonder what the feminists would think of that. Women are supposed to be equals and just as smart as men...yet women are too dumb to buy diapers and clothes for their babies? Err...

"but it will still really make a difference for single-moms, refugees, unemployed and for anybody who doesn't live a perfect life."

So what happens what the diapers and stuff run out after the first few weeks? Why doesn't the government keep sending them these things? I mean, they could just as easily go without diapers on the first few weeks as they could during the next few weeks.

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 04:21 PM

"Emergency? Like the mother has nine months to find a crib but neglects to get one?"

Ever thought that the mother might be a foreign refugee, a teenager, a full time student at that moment or in another life situation like that?

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:22 PM

"I wonder what the feminists would think of that. Women are supposed to be equals and just as smart as men...yet women are too dumb to buy diapers and clothes for their babies? Err..."
"So what happens what the diapers and stuff run out after the first few weeks? Why doesn't the government keep sending them these things? I mean, they could just as easily go without diapers on the first few weeks as they could during the next few weeks."

What's with that attitude?

I'm sure the whole world has noticed already a long time ago how bitter and jealous you are about everything. Absolutely nothing is good in your opinion, because this is not your country. It's plain old jealousy.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:26 PM

The "baby box" should not anymore be considered just a plain financial aid which aims at putting all the babies in equal position with their equal shirts and trousers. Instead, being provided for all pregnant women, it could be regarded as a sign of encouragement to have babies, a kind of "thank you" on the part of the state to the mother of the newborn. In this aging Europe all efforts to raise birth rate are of importance. However, the role of the "baby box" in this is for sure only symbolic and in the key position are the daycare system, maternity leave and maternity allowances, to name but a few.

Posted by: KJP | June 1, 2005 04:26 PM

It's not always a matter of neglecting to make a purchase; often parents in the US struggle financially, and a solution like this--a safe and comfortable place for the baby to sleep--would likely be welcomed by many. I'm not sure why that seems to trigger anger in some posters. As for "not free", I'd welcome medical services for my own and all families in the States, paid for by taxes--the social benefits of increased health and lessened anxiety about paying (or not) high bills in the event of illness would make those higher taxes seem well spent, to me, at least. Health connects to so much--as a teacher I know that children with aching teeth, for instance, makes learning very difficult. From teeth, to education, to future life possibilities. I'm willing to pay more, toward better possibilities all around.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:33 PM

"I'm not sure why that seems to trigger anger in some posters."

There's a term for people like Phil. They're called trolls.

When someone posts a positive comment or article, the troll tries to nullify it by absurd, angry and rude comments.

I recommend people to just ignore him. Do not feed the trolls!

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:42 PM

"the government thinks you're too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn (you've only had 9 months after all!), so they send you a padded box to stick the kid in at night. How thoughtful. Call me crazy but I have a bit more faith in the Finnish people.Then the government gets the newborns ready for collectivism right out of the womb by dressing them all the same way. They're all the same so why not dress them the same..."

I am an American and I used the bed for my daughter. Not because I was stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for my newborn. When I got it I honestly thought I wouldn't use the box after all I did have a crib etc. The thought raised my eyebrows a bit. :-) But I tried it and found the box was cozy, convenient and could fit next to my bed at night. And my daughter liked it much to my surprise.:-) It was perfectly safe even though it wasn't a crib (or your "idea" of what is the right thing to do for that matter). When she got older I moved her to the crib and I don't think she has suffered from this arrangement. My putting her in the box didn't traumatize her or mean I loved her any less or that she wasn't well cared for.

I have a problem with the idea that there is only one right way to do things. That if something is different than their own way it must be wrong or bad. That the people must be "stupid/lazy/careless" because they don't do it in the way you think is right.

I think it is thoughtful of the government to care enough to make sure that all children have access to the basics. And does it really matter if a newborn has the same outfit as another newborn? What an outfit looks like is quite superficial. I wonder isn't the important thing that the child has clothing to wear?

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:46 PM

.."I wonder what the feminists would think of that. Women are supposed to be equals and just as smart as men...yet women are too dumb to buy diapers and clothes for their babies? Err..."
"So what happens what the diapers and stuff run out after the first few weeks? Why doesn't the government keep sending them these things? I mean, they could just as easily go without diapers on the first few weeks as they could during the next few weeks."..

I believe (want to believe) Phil is just playing dumb. As a hard-core feminist I can say that the myth of women automatically knowing what to do with a baby and men being by nature the helpless ones with kids is the one that should be dumped as soon as possible. Yes, women have traditionally ended up responsible for the well-being of babies, but they really don't know all the right procedures because they have been biologically programmed so but because older generations and surrounding community have shared their knowledge with the fresh parents. That kind of support networks are often missing in modern, urbanized society.
And men can learn the same skills just as fine. (Well, I'm not so sure about Phil, but I trust the intellectual capabilities of men on average.)

And to the latter smart-ass comment, I would say that generally speaking starting any new project and getting it running is the hard part, during which you most benefit from offered help. Also, it shouldn't have to be a shameful act to ask help at any stage, knowing that post-birth depression is a common symptom among mothers and probably at some extent due to heavy expectations that mothers will cope with it all with no problems.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 04:58 PM

By the way Finland has one of the lowest infant mortality rates. They must be doing something right!

The boxes can't be too bad! ;-)

And about the emergency situation for using the box, one could easily see a situation where a child is born prematurely. Among many other situations.

I don't see what the big deal is about that. They are functionally the same as a crib. I find it a bit snobbish of you to be so critical. I saw your blog and it says you are "a strong advocate of liberty, individuality, equality, and tolerance." Unfortunately I don't see you advocating, for example, individuality or tolerance.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:09 PM

"I'm sure the whole world has noticed already a long time ago how bitter and jealous you are about everything. Absolutely nothing is good in your opinion, because this is not your country. It's plain old jealousy."

Finland *IS* my country, this is why I enjoy these spirited discussions with you all. Not everything is all rosey about the welfare state and not everything is perfect about Finland like the Robert Kaiser my like everyone to believe. And that's perfectly fine! It's good that we discuss both the good *and* the bad. And when everyone concentrates on the good, I play devil's advocate and discuss the not-so-good.

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 05:11 PM

"When someone posts a positive comment or article, the troll tries to nullify it by absurd, angry and rude comments."

Guys, we're talking politics here. It would be different if Robert talked about the sauna and someone start talking ill. But we're discussing government, politics, society - there's going to be both positive and negative comments. And if people start calling each other "trolls" when someone has a negative comment, then we'll get nowhere.

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 05:13 PM

"Not everything is all rosey about the welfare state and not everything is perfect about Finland like the Robert Kaiser my like everyone to believe. And that's perfectly fine! It's good that we discuss both the good *and* the bad. And when everyone concentrates on the good, I play devil's advocate and discuss the not-so-good."

I agree that one should look at both the positive and negative sides of an issue. Absolutely. Without question.

I think your criticisms were more value judgements than looking at the "negative" side of things. It's very positive to provide the possibility of having those basic things especially to families who might not be able to afford them. Finland is taking care of it's children.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:22 PM

But c'mon guys, diapers? Surely people know to get diapers. Do I just have too much faith in the Finnish people? Or are you going to say some racist comment and tell me that those dark-skinned refugees will forget to get diapers? Would any of you forget to get your newborn diapers?

And clothes? Are Finns so poor that they can't afford to buy their newborn clothes? I thought Finland had no poor and there was no class-system etc.. - so how could that be possible?

And seriously - what happens after a few weeks when the box supplies run out? What should be done with the families who don't cloth and diaper their babies?

Do I just have too much blind faith in the Finnish people?

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 05:29 PM

"It's very positive to provide the possibility of having those basic things especially to families who might not be able to afford them. Finland is taking care of it's children."

Right, but that box runs out quite quickly. I go through 5 condoms and a bottle of lube in one night! ;-) So what should be done when the box runs out? Is Finland not "taking care of it's children" at that point?

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 05:32 PM

Phil, the point isn't about forgetting to get diapers. It's about providing the basic needs for a child in the beginning.

I wonder if you have any kids because you don't seem to understand how expensive it is to buy all kinds of baby stuff. And how even a little bit of help is appreciated. After the baby stuff runs out you go out and buy stuff or borrow things from a friend.

The point isn't that people can't go out and buy things or plan. When a baby is born there are lots of expenses and the package helps out. Simple as that. The government cares enough about the families to provide help at a critical time in a child's life. It doesn't mean that it has to clothe the child for the rest of it's life just because there is help provided at the beginning.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:42 PM

"there's going to be both positive and negative comments. And if people start calling each other "trolls" when someone has a negative comment, then we'll get nowhere."

You have had a certain tone all the time. Maybe people would actually bother to read your comments if they were seriously written instead of those insulting rantings.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:43 PM

"Not everything is all rosey about the welfare state and not everything is perfect about Finland like the Robert Kaiser my like everyone to believe. And that's perfectly fine!"

You are also very eager to post bitter comments about things that have a background or history that you're not aware of.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:45 PM

The maternity box is a nice gesture from the government.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 05:46 PM

Well, Phil -here is a feminist who thinks it's a great idea to give the "baby box" to women. As someone mentioned above, "mothering" doesn't come naturally to all, if any women -it is a learned behavior. The origins of the "baby box" were well explained above, and these days they are especially helpful for young, single, etc. mothers. The fact that every mother receives the "baby box" reduces the stigma that would automatically come if they were based on financial need. (I.e. compare food stamps or section 8 housing in your native country.) I am surprised to hear you wonder what happens to babies of young, single, etc. mothers once the "baby box" runs out -you claim to know so much about Finland, yet don't know that there are governmental programs that help such mothers in multiple ways. For example, single mothers are usually put at the top of the lists for governmental housing.

You seem to loathe collectivism -which of course makes sense considering that you are a U.S. citizen... Please leave Finland as soon as possible -perhaps you could go to another more collectivist country like China, rant about it, and leave the Finns alone?

Posted by: Tired of Phil's rants... | June 1, 2005 05:47 PM

"Maybe people would actually bother to read your comments if they were seriously written instead of those insulting rantings."

Insulting!! Who am I insulting? I hope no one is insulting one another on this blog. We shouldn't let our emotions get too wrapped up in political issues.

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 05:55 PM

Oh shucks... Finland has a very different history than the United States. There are very good historical reasons behind this "maternity-starter-kit". The war, scarcity of resources after it, poor material conditions, lot's of kids, you name it.

Today, with our living standards on par with the rest of northern-Europe the box might be an archaism, but if one wishes one can dig out far more destructive and unnecessary and archaic traditions from the U.S contemporary culture. Particulary a specific amendment in the constitution that a certain three letter organisation is happy to defend until someone pries it from "their dead, cold hands" comes into mind.

But let's not get into that. What I'm trying to point out is that in foreign cultures there is always something one won't get regardless of how much one tries and thus there will be things there that can be just as incrompehensible to you as an outsider as they are natural to the insiders. Or to me as an outsider and you as insider.

If Finland needs some adjustment in the welfare systems, then it's certainly not by scrapping the maternity-package which is both highly popular and costwise pretty trivial.

Posted by: -N- | June 1, 2005 06:02 PM

"Insulting!! Who am I insulting? I hope no one is insulting one another on this blog. We shouldn't let our emotions get too wrapped up in political issues."

Your tone seems insulting and sprinkled with your own value judgements rather than presenting your arguments objectively.

If you think that it's not the government's responsibility to provide the basics for kids then say so and give your arguments why. For example, if you said something like "each person should be able to and has a responsibility to provide for their kids instead of the government doing so" it probably wouldn't seem so offensive. Or if you think it is inefficient to provide clothing for people who can obviously afford to buy clothing on their own.

In comparison, think about how the following sounds and how it might be considered insulting when you say "the government thinks you're too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn (you've only had 9 months after all!), so they send you a padded box to stick the kid in at night. How thoughtful."

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:05 PM

"Please leave Finland as soon as possible -perhaps you could go to another more collectivist country like China, rant about it, and leave the Finns alone?"

Ooops, I was just about to say that everyone has been real good about the insults and name-calling, then I read the feminist's post who won't even dare to put their name behind their flames.

Why do you types always let your emotions take hold of you? Having political conversations with you types always turns into the name calling and the insults and the "why don't you go home" rhetoric. So if I question the welfare state and want to approve it, I should leave the country? Great.

"You seem to loathe collectivism"

Yes, I'm an individualist who think adults should be treated like adults and who have a lot of faith in the Finnish people. Power to the people! :-)

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:06 PM

First of all, I do consider myself to be a feminist--but rather an individaul feminist. I believe I am equal to men and free to the degree that I am a human being and all human beings are free. Having said that, I do not think that women need Baby Boxes because they are too stupid to get the proper items unless they have them--I think that by now, they are so used to getting the baby box, they might forget to if the program were immediately discontinued, but that's what happens when you take away responsibilty from individuals--they stop being responsible.

While I think the baby box is a nice tradition and I understand its origins being the aftermath of world war II and that sort of thing, I don't see the reason for keeping around an outmoded tradition simply because it is a tradition, especially since the taxpayers are paying for it. It's not after WW2 anymore and Finland is considerably better off now than it was.
Furthermore, everyone who has stated that it's a good way to make sure everyone gets the basics that they need to get a baby through the first months of life, have they considered the amount of money and wealth that has been lost by the Finnish people putting those together? The tax money used to pay for boxes doesn't go straight to The Baby Box Store--first it goes to the government, then it sits around somewhere for a while until it's allocated--but you have to hire someone to allocate it and someone to collect the money, so that's taken out of the amount as well...
Quite frankly, I don't see any reason why the government couldn't just discontinue The Baby Box Program and just have privately run stores, which would not only be able to offer some sort of variety, but also provide the boxes cheaper for those who need it since money wouldn't have to be taken away from productive citizens and go through the government as well.
Also, it's a little ironic that these boxes are used to promote having babies, but they include condoms as well. Do they poke holes in the condoms or something?

Posted by: Rea | June 1, 2005 06:07 PM

"If you think that it's not the government's responsibility to provide the basics for kids then say so and give your arguments why."

Well I have been commenting often on here and have been mentioning my own blog, so, I think I've given lots of arguments. I can't make every blog comment into a 4 page article.

"In comparison, think about how the following sounds and how it might be considered insulting"

So I'm insulting the GOVERNMENT?!? Imagine how George Bush feels, he gets insulted all the freakin' time!! Poor guy. When people talk bad about him, do you come to his defense?

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:12 PM

Ah...the maternity kit. Apparently it came in very handy when I was born more than one month prematurely - though the clothes were too big! :)
I think that the kit is a very nice gesture and it has historic value too. Besides, new parents are often so overwhelmed by everything that is going on around them that it's not such a bad idea to remind them of the basics!

Posted by: childless | June 1, 2005 06:15 PM

"Also, it's a little ironic that these boxes are used to promote having babies, but they include condoms as well."

I think it's a little subconscious reminder from the government, "Here's a few condoms so maybe you won't make THAT same mistake again..." ;-)

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:17 PM

"And that's not all; for reasons not explicitly explained, the box also contains a package of five condoms and some personal lubricant."

Did you mean that the box did not tell why the condoms and lubricant were included, or was that a convenient way to avoid covering issues considering the genital area...?

The condoms are there for many reasons. Many couples have used hormonal conraception before pregnancy and after giving birth many of these couples do not use hormonal contraception for a while. Condoms are there for sexual health reasons: an easy method of contraception, allowing the new parents a reason to discuss contraception, intercourse etc. issues. Also, having the first packet of condoms at hand when the desire hits is a good way to prevent "unplanned" pregnancies at the time when the first baby is just a few months old.

Condoms should be used for hygiene reasons if the couple wants to have intercourse soon after the birth. This minimizes the risks of infections. Using a lubricated condom will also ease the "gliding" at a time when there can be dryness, stitches, soreness etc. This is why the lubricant (water-based, suitable to use with a condom) is needed.

The lubricant is also important when the woman checks herself during the healing process. Anyone who has given birth knows that it is not a nice idea to stick dry fingers inside and prod around... Lubricant may also be needed because of the dryness breast-feeding can cause. Thus, the lubricant can be essential in restoring/supporting the normal elements of living as a couple.

I am extremely proud and pleased that the "baby box" is used as a tool in supporting parenthood and promoting health issues and healty sexuality.

As a mother I must add that we _did_ buy a bed for the child but still used the box as a bed. It is warm, small enough and much cosier for the baby than the "big" crib. After a month or so the box was used as a storage box and nowadays our child tends to sit in it and pretend it is a boat, car, a space shuttle... Not bad for a singe cardboard box?

Posted by: Mother | June 1, 2005 06:17 PM

Rea, sometimes the government is much more efficient than the private enterprise in doing such things. For instance, the baby box makers will certainly have to take a cut in their margins to get the government contract. So instead of feeding fat CEOs we actually help children. The horror!
Private enterprise is no panacea to everything. And, dude, we know about private enterprise -- you buy our cell phones, don't you?

Posted by: Martin | June 1, 2005 06:20 PM

So I'm insulting the GOVERNMENT?!?

Your tone is insulting and condescending rather than presenting an argument. The government is representative of the ideas of it's people. You don't have to make every comment into a 4 page article if you want to present an argument or make a point or to be objective.

"Imagine how George Bush feels, he gets insulted all the freakin' time!! Poor guy. When people talk bad about him, do you come to his defense?"

Actually I do if he deserves it. I give him credit when credit is due whatever I think of him personally. If I don't like someone it doesn't mean that I can't act objectively.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:21 PM

Totally agree with Martin. The republicans here are so buying into the 'government is not the solution it is the problem' mythology that it makes me sick.

Posted by: Brandy | June 1, 2005 06:24 PM

"So I'm insulting the GOVERNMENT?!?"

According to you, people who use the box, need the maternity package or who are not instant mothers/fathes are:

"too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn"

You're nothing but a troll. Your comments absolutely has nothing to do with politics.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:25 PM

"Your tone is insulting and condescending rather than presenting an argument."

So I'm insulting and condescending for accusing the government of being both insulting and condescending to the Finnish people? Heavy!

"I give him credit when credit is due whatever I think of him personally."

So when was the last time you gave Mr. Bush any credit? :-)

If you think I give the Finnish government a hard time, you should hear me rant and rave about the U.S. government!! It got so bad some years ago that my fellow Americans told me that if I dont' like it here, get out of the country! ...so I migrated to Finland.

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:30 PM

"The republicans here are so buying into the 'government is not the solution it is the problem' mythology that it makes me sick."

We have Republicans on this blog?? Where..?! Who..?!

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:32 PM

Phil, in the story it says that you have the option not to choose the box and instead opt for a financial donation the equivalent of what it costs the government to buy the products (bought in bulk these are cheaper).

What is your opnion about that? It hasn't been mentioned here yet.

I am a father and I would definately choose the box.

About the infant mortality rate:

It hasn't been mentioned that there is a finnish habit to let their babies sleep on the balcony or outside, warmly tucked away in their crib, even at temperatures below zero.

They claim it is very healthy for the baby.

Now I have no young baby, and I have no experience with this practice, but I thought it would be interesting to add to the discussion since I have heard of this more than once.

Posted by: a father | June 1, 2005 06:37 PM

"According to you, people who use the box, need the maternity package or who are not instant mothers/fathes are:
"too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn""

Well I think you've managed to comletely misunderstand me!! I've said, "Call me crazy but I have a bit more faith in the Finnish people." and "Do I just have too much blind faith in the Finnish people?" and "adults should be treated like adults and who have a lot of faith in the Finnish people. "

I think Finns are responsible and adult enough to get diapers and clothes for their babies! It's the government who doesn't think this. And when I have kids someday, I'll get that care package and will use those diapers too!! I'd be a fool to waste them. So people most definitely not stupid/lazy/etc for using the box!

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:38 PM

"Your tone is insulting and condescending rather than presenting an argument."

-"So I'm insulting and condescending for accusing the government of being both insulting and condescending to the Finnish people? Heavy!"

no, your tone is insulting and condescending rather than presenting an argument. You use value judgements rather than arguments. "They must be stupid if they don't do it this way." "How stupid is the government if they think that people can't buy diapers" It's not objective that's the point.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:41 PM

Dear Rea,

we are all taxpayers in Finland.

Think it like this, high tax-payers get something back for the money they've put into the system while the kids of the poorest population segment get the most essential stuff that their parents couldn't necessarily otherwise afford.

In the long run this is cheaper for the "taxpayers" as well, as the kids don't have to be treated later on for certain ailments caused by the lack of the most important essentials in their early childhood.

Everybody wins, everybody is treated fairly and everbody is happy. Is this wrong in some other sense than the idealistic? If it isn't, then what's the problem? If you don't want the goods the government has bought for you, you can always take the money instead and carry it to your favourite privately run Baby Clothes Store and buy what you want with it.

There really is a lot that is funny, retarded and even downright fishy in the Finnish welfare systems, but the box is not essential to that discussion. It's really one of the unarguably good, sensible and fair things the system has been able to produce and offer.

Posted by: -N- | June 1, 2005 06:41 PM

"It got so bad some years ago that my fellow Americans told me that if I dont' like it here, get out of the country! ...so I migrated to Finland."

Guess you have to migrate again and create your own independet state. Without the US government, without Finland's taxes, but with services and benefits Finland offers.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:44 PM

"the story it says that you have the option not to choose the box and instead opt for a financial donation the equivalent of what it costs the government to buy the products. What is your opnion about that? It hasn't been mentioned here yet."

Finns have it glued into their minds that it's better to take the box than the $$. It seems to be common knowledge that if you were to add up all the diapers, condoms, lube etc.. that they give you, it totals more than $175.

But like I said it my first post, the box is more about the "tradition" than the stuff inside. I'd bet that if the government just started giving out empty boxes with only the lube inside, people would still continue to take that instead.

"finnish habit to let their babies sleep on the balcony or outside - They claim it is very healthy for the baby."

In the U.S. that would be considered child abuse, but in Finland people look at you weird if you don't leave your kid out on the balcony for hours at a time. Although spanking your child in the U.S. is perfectly okay but here it's illegal. Interesting contrasts to say the least.

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:47 PM

"Everybody wins, everybody is treated fairly and everbody is happy."

LOL! Good one!! Wait...you're not serious are you?

Posted by: Phil | June 1, 2005 06:50 PM

"I think Finns are responsible and adult enough to get diapers and clothes for their babies! It's the government who doesn't think this."

"The government" knows that having a kid is overwhelming and during the first weeks with a new born it can be VERY hard.

"And when I have kids someday, I'll get that care package and will use those diapers too!!"

Maybe you'll then finally find out that you have more than enough to do with the newborn, and you will be very grateful that "the government" knew that long before you. Or, you can try running around in stores buying diapers with a crying baby.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:51 PM

"I think Finns are responsible and adult enough to get diapers and clothes for their babies! It's the government who doesn't think this."

If giving out the boxes ensures that all the kids have clothes to wear and a place to sleep isn't it worth it? Even if most people are responsible adults? In the US there are plenty of people who are supposed to be responsible adults who really aren't. Look what kind of problems that brings to American society. The government trusts in their ability to be responsible and adult. Then the children suffer and society as a whole suffers too. I'd much rather have a system that gives some basic support, however condescending it may seem, and ensures some level of care for it's children. I don't think that's condescending. I don't think the Finns see getting the baby package as something they get because they can't care for their kids or because the government thinks they can't manage.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:53 PM

"It seems to be common knowledge that if you were to add up all the diapers, condoms, lube etc.. that they give you, it totals more than $175."

You can buy the box for 274.15 euros:

http://193.209.217.5/in/internet/suomi.nsf/NET/200303114529HN?openDocument

As far as I know, they alse sell very well.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 06:54 PM

I am very critical of Finland and its socialist system, but I think the baby care package is a good idea. In my opinion, the only ones who deserve the government aid are kids.

Posted by: WhatssogreataboutFinland | June 1, 2005 07:45 PM

"In my opinion, the only ones who deserve the government aid are kids."

Everyone deserves equal possibilities for education, health care, pensions etc. It's very hard to believe that anyone could oppose that. Especially when highly educated and healthy population ensures good productivity and competitiviness as well as safe streets.

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 07:51 PM

"Everyone deserves equal possibilities for education, health care, pensions etc."

And it's called nordic welfare state, not "socialist system". Maybe it's tiem for you to educate yourself a bit? Or are you that ignorant because you can't afford to buy yourself an education?

Posted by: | June 1, 2005 07:53 PM

So Phil, let me follow your logic... You don't like the "big government" in the U.S., so you move to Finland???

Why don't you try doing something about all of the faults of the U.S. government instead of running away? Now that would make you the true libertarian you claim to be... You could follow in the proud footsteps of Ross Perot, Jesse Ventura, etc.

Posted by: Tired of Phil's rants... | June 1, 2005 08:00 PM

"Yes, I'm an individualist who think adults should be treated like adults"

You conviniently missed the fact that the maternity kit is a CHOICE these responsible adults make for themselves. Yes, these stupid/lazy/careless new parents can choose whether to get the maternity kit or $175 in cash. Yet the majority choose the kit.

How in the hell is that treating adults like children? Seems more like someone is not really seeing the whole picture and is passing judgment based on their preconceived ideals. Given that you were raised in the Mecca of free market driven society, it's not surprising that you would see things this way.

I am 100% certain that if the US had a similar arrangement, it would be just as popular. That will, of course, never happen, as the people, who are long past their reproductive stage in their lives, get to decide how the US Government spends money.

Posted by: Tero Paananen | June 1, 2005 08:01 PM

Phil,

Your comment "the government thinks you're too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn" is really cold and harsh.

The "babybox" is really a treasured and wonderful thing to get for new parents. We pay for this in taxes of course, but it is one really great thing to pay for! It is one of thise really useful creative genius ideas that shows that a goivernment can "think out of the box". It is also a great deal for new parents who already have high expenses due to the arrival of a new baby.

The stuff needs to arrive in a box, so what's so bad about forming the box so that it can be functional for something else than throwing into a dumpster? I think it is genius!

Of all he things one could pick to criticize finland for, the wonderful Baby Box is probably the last thing one can find fault in!!!!

And BTW, Finland is not a SOCIALIST system. We do very much have a free market economy. Argh.

Posted by: Marjo Aho | June 1, 2005 08:41 PM

"...then I read the feminist's post who won't even dare to put their name behind their flames."

Phil? Phil who?

Hey, Phil, you haven't exactly put out your name either!

Posted by: Marjo Aho | June 1, 2005 08:50 PM

Government's role in people's lives should be limited to providing a safe environment in which healthy competition can bring out the best of everyone's talents and hard work. It does not work out exactly that way anywhere.

Posted by: WhatssogreataboutFinland | June 1, 2005 09:23 PM


People need to travel and learn about other cultures... many of which we are descended from..
Americans didn't invent the world...

Posted by: jwalker | June 1, 2005 10:55 PM

To put this discussion in the proper context could someone reveal the tax burden for Finnish taxpayers?

Posted by: Jim | June 1, 2005 10:57 PM

I think The Baby Box sounds lovely. It's like a collective welcome to the new baby.

A sort of "baby shower". Do you have that in Finland? It's a party for family and friends to give gifts to the expecting mother and includes many of the same kinds of things in The Box (excluding the condoms!)

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) | June 1, 2005 11:27 PM

PS -- I'm an American and I spent my first few months sleeping in a pulled-out dresser drawer! My mother sure could have used The Box.

Posted by: Tilli (Mojave Desert) | June 1, 2005 11:30 PM

I've only just read this lively conversation and I must say I'm gobsmacked. I honestly wouldn't have believed there are people who think the Maternity Kit is a bad thing to be strongly opposed. Well, I am a Finn.

There's one thing I'd like to add to this conversation and I hope it demonstrates that this society I live in cares for its smallest.

Robert G. Kaiser lets Elina Suikki say in his lovely article (about yet one Finnish peculiarity?) that not seeing a doctor during pregnancy is not a problem in Finland (as a matter of fact, it is a prerequisite for having this Maternity Kit amongst many other benefits). Almost every pregnant woman here visits a nurse and/or a doctor in a Maternity Health Center during her pregnancy - first monthly, in the end weekly. After the baby is born, the baby and parent(s) visit the Child Health Center first weekly, then monthly, then yearly. The child has for example all the required vaccinations there (if the parent's don't oppose, about 99 % of Finnish parents don't) These check-ups are one explanation to the mentioned low infant mortality rate.

This is, of course, free of charge - meaning we all paid for it in our taxes. Things like this are the reason why I am proud and happy to be a Finn and pay my high taxes.

From the discussion above I've now learned there are people who believe this is probably bad too. Finns in general don't believe in "leaving one's pal behind", as the saying goes. Most of us, I dare say, don't believe in letting people struggle on their own - mind you, in this climate our ancestors would have never survived with that attitude. I can not see anything wrong in helping the ones who couldn't fight for themselves - like babies.

Posted by: a Finnish mom | June 2, 2005 12:48 AM

To put this discussion in the proper context could someone reveal the tax burden for Finnish taxpayers?

I second that, and I have another question. I have a friend, a Finnish citizen, who needs surgery. She can have it done privately in a couple of weeks or wait a year to have it done throught the government system. How does the medical system work?

Posted by: dt | June 2, 2005 01:05 AM

Please, people. It's not a competition. What's the harm in giving parents a box with baby stuff in it? Or is it that the evil government provides it that is too much for some of you to handle?

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 01:07 AM

Hi Jim

Tax burden in OECD countries can be found in.

http://www.oecd.org/document/21/0,2340,en_2649_201185_33808789_1_1_1_1,00.html

Click "tables" at the end of the page. You can see that taxes in Finland are higher than in U.S, but compared to several European countries they are on the same level.

As always, the table is a summary of all taxes and you cannot directly compare income taxes, VAT (different on food, transportation, culture, book etc in most countries).

I can reveal my figures here. My incomes in 2004 were 41000 Euros and I paid 12000 income tax + 2000 compulsory "Pension and unemploymend insurance". This makes about 35% income tax.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 01:17 AM

Phil - Once you use up your condoms - in one night, the State (not the government, which is merely a political grouping) will send you another box.
In about 9 months time. Your local post office will notify you as soon as it arrives.

As for the Government thing, this isn't the workings of Matti Vanhanen & co, this is the workings of the State. Government refers to the current coalition of Keskusta & SDP.
The State - an internally autonomous territorial or political unit. This is why we call it a Welfare State, and not a Welfare Government. The State is the entity that looks after its people and taxes them and gives them Maternity kits.


Baby boxes - not about stupidity. Sometimes the stress and excitement of a first pregnancy can just leave you with a newborn and the realisation that in your excitement you forgot to pick up a few necessities beforehand. Especially a great solution as theres so many places, towns, villages, in the middle of nowhere where running to Stockmann and stocking up isn't a solution.

Privately made boxes cheaper? One would think that the purchasing power of buying 100,000 identical boxes a year results in a cheaper product than any made by a small private company.

As for how a similar set up would be done in the US, I'm quite sure it'd be easier to do on a state level. As they're all big enough to have strong purchasing power. Besides, it'd be a great marketing stunt to have a Texan box include the Texas flag or something =p

DT - about the queues, right now basically like that. For non life threatening medical procedures/surgeries there can be long queues. Dental checkups for example are long queues, but get a sore tooth and its fixed the same day. It depends on what kind of surgery as to how fast you can get it done, some are more available than others. That'll probably change as theres some EU law now giving you the right to go have essentially surgery done for you in any member state in which you can bill your own state for. Or somethign like that, but nobody seems to know about it or use it, yet. Maybe its seen as too much trouble to go abroad to get surgery and then come back and fight with bureacrats?

As for why there are queues, well, many reasons. But the doctor's Union having a say on how many medical student places are available per year is the primary reason for it. Which is probably the most insane thing in the world. But thats what we get for having the biggest political party run by the unions. The way I see it, if you're smart enough and work hard enough and want to be a doctor. Nothing on earth should limit you from beign able to get the training required. And in this sense the Doctors Union deserves to get a big kick up the behind.

Posted by: Harri | June 2, 2005 01:47 AM

"And it's called nordic welfare state, not "socialist system"."

"And BTW, Finland is not a SOCIALIST system. We do very much have a free market economy. Argh."

I don't think I've said Finland is a socialist system, are we putting words in people's mouths?

Oh, and Finland is NOT a free market economy, maybe compared to North Korea it is, but Finland has long way to go to achieve a true free market.

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 01:57 AM

"You conviniently missed the fact that the maternity kit is a CHOICE these responsible adults make for themselves."

Tero's point is the best thing I've heard yet. It is a choice, you could just take $175 of your tax money back from the government instead.

But doesn't a box full of diapers and stuff, or $175 - don't they seem like empty gestures from the government? Couldn't the government do MORE? Why not double, or triple the contents of the box? Want to give new families some REAL help? Why not give them $1,000 instead of a lousy $175? Let's face it, the box is peanuts, can't the government do better?? Or are the contents provided the EXACT, PERFECT amount of items to give?

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 02:02 AM

"Phil? Phil who?

Hey, Phil, you haven't exactly put out your name either! "

I've been plastering my blog URL all around these pages, I'm surprised someone hasn't complained yet. Should I post it again?

http://www.finlandforthought.net

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 02:03 AM

most americans associate the welfare system of nordic countries with russian style socialism. from day one, they are indoctrinated with the notion that socialism exists in one form and that is the russian form. even college educated individuals are ignorant of the many benefits collectivism brings. individualism reigns in america - you cannot convince them otherwise. i am just glad to be leaving in 2 months. this is truly an insane culture.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 02:09 AM

i hear there is an opening for a techie in washington d.c.

Posted by: hey phil | June 2, 2005 02:13 AM

i hear there is an opening in my pants ;-)

Posted by: hey you | June 2, 2005 02:15 AM

Typo in the caption of the 2nd photo? The boy's name should probably be "Antti" (quite common Finnish first name), not "Antii".

Posted by: Jayel | June 2, 2005 02:26 AM

"Sometimes the stress and excitement of a first pregnancy can just leave you with a newborn and the realisation that in your excitement you forgot to pick up a few necessities beforehand"

The government, err, state, should apply the same for holidays. I'm always so stressed and excited before vacation, I'm *always* forgetting things, things that sometimes I can't find in the destination I'm going. The state should send everyone a box before holidays and we'll never have to brush our teeth with our index finger ever again in the Canary Islands!

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 02:26 AM


Now I believe in you Washington Post people,

forget music! Forget sauna! Forget Nordic Walking!

The thing that really sums Finland up is the care package. It's a clear message from the state to mothers- and fathers-to-be: we want to help you at least this much. It's the funniest thing when the whole generation of babies use the same kind of playsuit :) Equal? Yes. Homogenous? Without any doubt.

And by the way, for some time ago there was a mom complaining on letters to the editor -page in leading daily paper: the clothes were terrible coloured this year! Only green and yellow! This is how much people _really_ have to complain :)

Posted by: Miss F | June 2, 2005 02:29 AM

"As for how a similar set up would be done in the US, I'm quite sure it'd be easier to do on a state level."

It would be an interesting program in the states. In my hometown of Baltimore, I can't guess if people would just take the $175 -or- get the box and try and sell off everything individually to make more $$ - They already sold their food stamps, methodone treatments, bus passes...

Handing out the boxes will remind everyone of the times when the government used to give out rollerskates to all the poor innercity kids, or give out nice big blocks of government cheese!! Yeah, I can already hear them crying "racism" if the box program were ever to start in the U.S.

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 02:31 AM

There indeed are some pretty long queues in hospitals for larger, non life theatening surgeries, but you can also choose a private institution to do the job and still get something back from Kela if you're in a hurry.

The long queues are also actively being worked at. I believe that a (small) part of the problem stems from doctors' strike some time ago. But it's true that medical care isn't working as well as it could or should.

Something called "Hoitotakuu" is meant to ensure that in the future there shoudn't be queues which are too long.

Regarding the discussion in general, I think that most Finns are quite happy with the role of the State. That is, we are willing to pay taxes because we think we get something useful and valuable back and don't want to leave our fellow citizens behind. There aren't that many believers in pure neoliberalist economics or conservative/religious policies here.

Posted by: VM | June 2, 2005 02:31 AM

Harri, thanks.
I have been in several health facilities (not hospitals) in Finland and they are spotless and obviously well managed. Another question about the costs of health care. I know a woman who was in a health facility for a week and got a bill for over 2000 Euros. How does that happen, what is "free" and what is not?

My wife had to wait 3 weeks for a dental appointment when she lost a crown, I guess if it was painful we could have gotten a quicker appointment.

Posted by: dt | June 2, 2005 02:34 AM


Yes I really love to pay the huge taxes because of them I was able to get e.g. free books, healthcare and meals during my comprehensive education: now I am able to get my loved ones the same.

Progressive taxes are -- after all -- a good showing of people wanting to take care of each other.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 02:35 AM

"Oh, and Finland is NOT a free market economy, maybe compared to North Korea it is, but Finland has long way to go to achieve a true free market."

Nothing on this planet is truly a free market economy. There are goverments and different institutions everywhere! Maybe Russia come close right after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anyway, not everything needs to be privatized for the economy and services to work well.

"Why not double, or triple the contents of the box? Or are the contents provided the EXACT, PERFECT amount of items to give?"

Oh please, slippery slope arguments such as this one are silly. You have to draw the line somewhere and of course it's always a matter of judgment.

"Treating grown up people as babies" argument is silly, too. People can always vote if the current representatives go crazy or in this particular case take the money instead if they think they don't need the package.

I think Finns are rational enough to understand that sometimes it's better to pay up front a smaller amount instead of
ending up with all kinds of other problems. It can be called enlightened self-interest.

Posted by: VM | June 2, 2005 02:44 AM

Phil,

the idea with the box is just that. A "standardized" set of the most important basics. No bureaucratic hassles, due to that you get the box (or the money) regardless of your level of income, thus the gov't doesn't need to employ (yet another) bureaucrat to figure out what your actual level of income really is and what you are entitled to if to anything at all.

Simple and yet efficient, which is not the case for all gov't programs.

For the really needy cases, there exists other forms of support as well but that is not part of this discussion nor do I intend to bring them up. Technically the true welfare programs intended for the lower social strata in Finland is completely different discussion.

And yes, I was serious about the previous comment I made. If there are disputes in Finlad about our welfare programs, then the box really isn't one of them. The box can be considered just as much welfare as free school lunches. Everbody gets them regardless of their background, and in the long run it's better for the country as a whole that the kids have been fed properly so they can grow up and become healthy and productive taxpayers as well.

Think of this as long term investment on behalf of the gov't. A well taken care of, a well fed and a well educated kid will in the long run grow up to produce more tax euros than has been "invested" in him or her than an adult who has been fed poorly, who is continously in bad health with meager education or none at all.

It might ease the pain to think of this in terms of future return-of-investment rather than current-day-cost.

Posted by: -N- | June 2, 2005 02:48 AM

"No bureaucratic hassles, due to that you get the box (or the money) regardless of your level of income, thus the gov't doesn't need to employ (yet another) bureaucrat to figure out what your actual level of income really is and what you are entitled to if to anything at al"

-N- brings up a good point: Do the wealthier Finns really need these boxes at all? And more importantly, don't the poorer Finns need "bigger" boxes? Most other social services are given out on an income basis, why not something as essential as these boxes?

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 02:59 AM

DT- That spotlessness comes with a price, hospitals that are too clean are rife with hospital bacteria or whatever its called. Then the one bacteria that isnt killed by the common detergent or whatever they use is rife as theres no other bacteria to kill it.

As for her 2,000 euro bill. Was it one of those you're supposed to take to Kela and get money back for?
Even if unsure, its always wise to take the bill there and see what the bureacrat on duty thinks of it. Beware though, KELA is nothing but bureacrats, so bring along a big pair of scissors to fight through that red tape.

Posted by: Harri | June 2, 2005 03:08 AM

I think the box is a nice "gift" from the government. You get loads of important things you would normally spend lots of money on. You could also take that 175 instead if you wanted to buy different kinds of clothes etc. In Finland the parents also receive a monthly "allowance" to take care of the children.

I guess we believe that the government should support people in their lives. It's not that people are too stupid(or considered to be) to go to work and make lots of money so that they could take care of their children. It's a perk. Many people probably could live without the box or the allowances, but they help, ofcourse. If you are one of the unfortunate ones, it helps a lot. Some might prefer the way things are done in the U.S. But in Finland our system works for the most of us.

Personally, I think it's nice that you are not left alone in your life. I don't find it patronizing at all. In my opinion it's not weird that the government is in a way a part of peoples lives. After all it's there for the purpose of serving people.

I think there are things that are wrong or in a need of an approvement in Finland (Although helping people is not one of those things). That's why we have elections and democracy.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:21 AM

The name of municipality is Lempäälä.

Posted by: to notice | June 2, 2005 03:42 AM

About the tax burden in Finland: my taxable salary income (after deductions) last year was 141000€ and income tax 61000€ (~45%). Although I am a big tax payer, I feel this kind of contribution is justified. I am certainly not the only one thinking in this manner.

Fairly often I hear the younger guys ranting about the tax burden, not realizing that their tax contributions so far have not even covered the costs of their university educations. At the same time these guys complain about the minor fees for the treatment of their sports injuries.

I have lived in several countries, including France, Sweden, Mexico, and five years in the USA (more than twenty years ago), and returned to Finland to provide for a safe place for our kids to grow and study.

Posted by: Soon retired | June 2, 2005 03:44 AM

In Finland the most important thing isn't the market or the economy. The country is there for the people to live in. Totally free market wouldn't really serve ordinary people as well as the current system. Purpose of life to me is to live it full, not to make the most money I can.

Free market and a country run by companies (who have their own intrest in mind, not the customers) sounds and feels very cold and inhumane to me and to many finns.

We have tried privatizing. In a result of privatizing school rides the new drivers from the company that won the offer yelled to the kids and forgot one of the kids into the car for 6 hours. Private firms are there to make profit, not just for charity.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:52 AM

Phil

"Oh, and Finland is NOT a free market economy, maybe compared to North Korea it is, but Finland has long way to go to achieve a true free market."

Phil, where you can find a true free market economy? And more important, if everything works on free market basis, it is bound to cause problems in the society.

Huge differences in living conditions, powerty and priviledges of the elite class causes disorder in the society and has been a major cause for crisis in several countries from the French revolution to the civil war in U.S. These events could even be called yesterdays terrorism.

If you don't have money to pay on private schools, private hospitals, private something else, it is your problem, who cares. Is that kind of free market society a dream society? Not for me anyway.

I am not saying that all people should be equal. But maybe Finland has found a balance between egalitarianism and completely free market economy.

Phil I have a feeling that you sometimes are deliberately a bit provocative.

Besides, in a totally free market the state would not support even war industry like U.S. is doing (e.g. a warship must be build from U.S steel on U.S. shipyard by U.S workers) and eveyone would be responsible for their own defence. Completely free markets would not have any state or any authority to control anything.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:56 AM

I'd like to add that I prefer the government providing services for a lot cheaper and with a lot more quality than private firms!

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:57 AM

"I don't think I've said Finland is a socialist system, are we putting words in people's mouths?"

That obviously wasn't a reply to your post, Phil. You're loosing it.. Go and get some sleep already.

--

"healthy competition can bring out the best of everyone's talents and hard work."

Nordic countries are western democracies with right wing majority. On the other hand, you probably don't have enought education to know anything that happens outside of your little red-neck village where the laws of the jungle are the only ones that exist. Cut throat competition and eye for an eye mentality? Is that why you're walking on earth?

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:59 AM

"DT- That spotlessness comes with a price, hospitals that are too clean are rife with hospital bacteria or whatever its called. Then the one bacteria that isnt killed by the common detergent or whatever they use is rife as theres no other bacteria to kill it."

You conveniently twisted the fact that actually hospitals know very well what detergents to use in different situations so that hospital bacteria doesn't grow uncontrolled. There is always a certain amount of hospital bacteria in every hospital on Earth.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:03 AM

"But doesn't a box full of diapers and stuff, or $175 - don't they seem like empty gestures from the government? Couldn't the government do MORE? Why not double, or triple the contents of the box? Want to give new families some REAL help? Why not give them $1,000 instead of a lousy $175? Let's face it, the box is peanuts, can't the government do better?? Or are the contents provided the EXACT, PERFECT amount of items to give?"

This is just greed. System doesn't work if everybody keeps asking more. Maybe I'm just being a typical Finn but I can be grateful with what I'm getting.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:15 AM

Phil said:
"But doesn't a box full of diapers and stuff, or $175 - don't they seem like empty gestures from the government? Couldn't the government do MORE? Why not double, or triple the contents of the box? Want to give new families some REAL help? Why not give them $1,000 instead of a lousy $175? Let's face it, the box is peanuts, can't the government do better?? Or are the contents provided the EXACT, PERFECT amount of items to give?"

Well,

The goverment,is doing more constantly. The goverment backed, well paid for maternity/paternity leaves from work are a central point in the help for families with young children.

I mean as far as I know it isn't all that common in this world that a mother can leave her job up to three years and is guaranteed to have it back when she wishes to.

This maternity leave isn't unpaid either. You get about 32 weeks of normal pay and then fractional pay for up tp three years. If that isn't a huge monetary support for families from the goverment then I don't know what is.

The downside is that tese leaves sometimes hinder the hiring of young freshly married women. The costs of these leaves should be squarely put on the shoulders of BOTH parent's employers.

Posted by: Tuomo | June 2, 2005 04:19 AM

Phil:
I am getting tired of your provocative cynicism.

Do you see the baby care box as an instrument of indoctrination, babies being dressed in uniforms?

Phoah! Shape up, Phil.

Posted by: Jyri | June 2, 2005 04:31 AM

Re: "Free Market" vs. Finnish system

"· Finland is number one in the Growth Competitiveness Index (GCI) rankings and holds this position for the third time in the last four years. The country is very well managed at the macroeconomic level, but it also scores very high in those measures that assess the quality of its public institutions. Furthermore, the private sector shows a high proclivity for adopting new technologies and nurturing a culture of innovation. The United States, as last year, is ranked second: overall technological supremacy is partly offset by a weaker performance in those areas that capture the quality of its public institutions and the stability of the macroeconomic environment.
"
From World Economic Forum's website. http://www.weforum.org/site/homepublic.nsf/Content/Nordic+Countries+Lead+the+Way+in+the+World+Economic+Forum%E2%80%99s+2004+Competitiveness+Rankings

It seems that Finland is doing something right.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:48 AM

I am very critical of Finland and its socialist system...
Finland is a welfare society which is based on market economy. The father of welfare society is Otto von Bismark who made social reforms in Germany (1881) to prevent rise of socialism. Beveridge adapted idea to UK after WW II. We started to build our welfare society in early 60's. A strong market economy helps to build a strong welfare society!
If we look at the results, all other options are worse.

Posted by: Peccavi | June 2, 2005 04:48 AM

I have read this discussion with big interest and to me it sound ridiculous. Why would a gift from the government be a bad thing??

But why I decided to write is that there is also a box for fathers (see:http://www.lapsi2000.fi/isyyspakkaus.php, unfortunately only in Finnish). It includes a book for fathers, a CD with "sleeping songs" for the baby, a bedding for the baby that can also be used as a bag, a Father -T-shirt and a Baby T-shirt, a bib for the baby, ear plugs, number stickers, lotion, a luminous badge, xylitol chewing gum etc. The cost is 44 eur and it has to be ordered separately.

So how about that then?

Posted by: Tiina | June 2, 2005 05:01 AM

Yo Phhilll!

Consider the average NEW Dad... A NEW Mom is likely to know about kids, just as much as the Dad.

Women do not have some magical instinct just as men DO NOT!!

Posted by: single and not a mom at 27 | June 2, 2005 05:02 AM

"i hear there is an opening for a techie in washington d.c"

Phil, if you take that offer, I will add a few dollars to you salary.

Posted by: Mooses | June 2, 2005 05:13 AM

In Finland they don't have baby showers like they do in the US. The parents typically buy everything themselves or borrow things from friends. Gifts are given when the baby is born too.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:17 AM

If you'd like to see for yourself what kind of support state provides in Finland, visit http://www.kela.fi/in/internet/english.nsf

The pages are available in English.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:24 AM

"I am very critical of Finland and its socialist system...

Finland beats US competitiveness with the highest competitiveness and growth indexes:

http://www.caltradereport.com/eWebPages/page-two-1067773814.html

http://news.bbc.co

http://edition.cnn.com/2003/BUSINESS/10/30/global.competition/.uk/2/hi/business/3225223.stm

"Finland is a welfare society which is based on market economy."

Don't bother explaining. You have to remember that the commend comes from an american. And americans notoriously lack education. He most likely couldn't find the US from a world map, so how can you except him to know anything about Nordic countries and the welfare model. To him, the whole world is his own town or city, and everything else is a great and dangerous unknown. As far as he is concerned, Finland could be in Africa, inhabitated by 200 million eskimos with russian of chinese "socialism".

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:27 AM

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:29 AM

The maternitybox isn't everything what parents of a baby get. They also get money(about 270euros a month)from the goverment until the child is 17 years old.
And they get the amount for every child they have-2childs=540euros and so on.

Posted by: Justrememberthis | June 2, 2005 05:36 AM

Meeting the needs of and providing basic care for Finnish children is a smart and practical solution for society and I applaud the Finns. Children are the future of the country.

Society runs more smoothly when it's citizens are taken care of on the basic level. When they don't have to worry if they have enough money to take their child to the doctor. Where they have access to daycare if they need to work. Every child deserves to have equal access to healthcare and education. The Finnish system works much better than the American system in this respect.

When you pay taxes you are paying for yourself and in most cases you get it back in healthcare, baby benefits, retirement and care for the elderly. Even if I didn't have children I wouldn't feel upset about giving those extra tax dollars of mine to people who have children. This is because I feel that the welfare of children is more important. And it's good for society. It makes for a more orderly society when children and all citizens are cared for and have their basic needs met.

Finland treats it's citizens with dignity and respect.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 06:09 AM

Dear Rea,

Its hard to pinpoint exactly why I object your ideas about privatising The Maternity Box, but I do. Maybe its just being raised here in Finland, and the family that raised me.

Essentially, we are not a nation of foodstamps and such. In good and bad the government does take care of us citizens in many ways, some of them more questionable than others. Believe you and me we can and have discussed the power of the system to potentially make and individual a passive drifter.

Still, most of us think there is nothing strange about govenment run services, while at the same time believing that the model your proposition was an example of, is not desirable.

That is to say taxes are "good"! Well, kind of! What you pay for is what you get.

Yes we are socialists, and if someone thinks that is the same as communists, I suggest you find a dictionary!

Posted by: single w/no kiddies | June 2, 2005 06:09 AM

Oh,
and please do not start talking about our inability to buy our own condoms!

As a matter of fact, we have had a few laughs about the condoms ourself, they were just recently added.

Perhaps, its becuse it would not be good for your health to have a new baby too soon after the existing one. Just to remind the parents! 8:-)

Posted by: single w/no kiddies | June 2, 2005 06:17 AM

No Phillie Boy,

you are not insulting the government! Or are you seriously claiming that you do not see that

you are insulting us -the people for wanting a socially responsible government.(no government is ever perfect, and can be insulted to your heart's contentment)

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 06:23 AM

Justrememberthis:

the money is 100 euros per month for the first child. Then it raises from there up to the fifth child.

A single parent gets a bit more.

Posted by: Elsa | June 2, 2005 06:46 AM

"you are not insulting the government! Or are you seriously claiming that you do not see that"

So should I feel insulted everytime Finns criticize George Bush and the War in Iraq? My fellow Americans voted for Bush, so I guess if you speak ill of Bush, then you're indirectly insulting me?!

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 06:47 AM

Such ranting about such an innocent little thing. I had my children in 1970´s when I was a VERY POOR student, and I really needed it. But even in that need I had the audacity to complain about the colors: at that time they were dark brown, orange and ugly bright green. Now I see that there has been real improvement, even the box is padded. I padded it myself and sew a cotton cover on top of it so it looked better. And yes, my babies slept in the box, it is way more suitable for a tiny newborn than any bed or crib. It is good size, the baby is not used to space, and the box must feel "more safe" than a crib.

Those diapers and condoms: those are the compliments of manufacturers, an advertisement!

Babies sleeping outside in -10 degrees: Go and touch the baby´s cheek, it is very warm.

Posted by: E | June 2, 2005 06:48 AM

"In Finland they don't have baby showers like they do in the US. The parents typically buy everything themselves or borrow things from friends. Gifts are given when the baby is born too."

Interesting point about baby showers. Could this be why Americans don't have/need "the box", because they have such lavish baby showers? I've seen these babyshowers, Americans go abit overboard with the gifts.

If had to choose between $175, the box, or an American-style babyshower - I'd no doubt take the shower. Although I don't think condoms and lube are traditional gifts, so you might have to get those yourself.

Interesting how one society relies on kinda the "free market" for this issue whole another relies on "the state" to accomplish the same thing. And when you compare a babyshower and the box - the "free market" side wins out.

- Phil
http://www.finlandforthought.net

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 06:54 AM

In America not everybody has wealthy friends, who can afford gifts for the baby.

Posted by: M.A. | June 2, 2005 06:59 AM

Actually for the first child it is 230euros.
At least thats what i get being the first child myself(my mom gives me the money)

Posted by: Justrememberthis | June 2, 2005 06:59 AM

"Interesting how one society relies on kinda the "free market" for this issue whole another relies on "the state" to accomplish the same thing. And when you compare a babyshower and the box - the "free market" side wins out."

The free market side wins out in that it has more "stuff" for the baby. However, it loses when it comes to overall health and well being of the children in it's society. Many children don't have access to health care or basic necessities. It loses out when it comes to ensuring health care. Many parents have a hard time affording doctor visits. The people in the "free market" who can afford to give a lavish baby shower win out while the poor people most certainly lose.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:02 AM

"Interesting how one society relies on kinda the "free market" for this issue whole another relies on "the state" to accomplish the same thing. And when you compare a babyshower and the box - the "free market" side wins out."

And many of the people in the US who can afford lavish baby showers spend all their time at work and never see their kids. They work to buy all the "stuff" and if you have all the "stuff", according to you, you win. The more stuff the better, right?

Somehow I think having a little less stuff and more time with your kids is much more important. And having what you need is important. The rest is just icing on the cake. The baby box that is provided in Finland is what you need.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:07 AM

"My fellow Americans voted for Bush"

Just like they "voted" for Bush when Bush was against Gore and when Bush was declared winner in court? Really funny democracy I'd say, reminds me about other high quality democracies such as Iraq, ex-Soviet Union, current Russia, China etc...

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:09 AM

Phil,

You say this govenment/state provides stupid services.

We say we want them.

Conclusion: We are stupid!
Don´t you know anything about forming deductions? "Men are mortal. Socrates is a man. -Therefore Socrates is mortal."

So, yes, you are calling us stupid. As before mentioned you insult the people because we have repeatedly stated here that we want these services, and do not think they are stupid anymore than we are.

Posted by: rock on mate | June 2, 2005 07:33 AM

"when you compare a babyshower and the box - the "free market" side wins out."

Do poor/homeless people also get lavish baby showers? Or the ones with few friends or no family? The "free market" side only wins if you meet the conditions.

I think the baby shower is a good tradition too and they are getting more common in Finland too btw. Still I find it hard to believe that anyone could oppose the baby box. Some people need it more than others but everyone welcomes the help at that time.

Posted by: A | June 2, 2005 07:36 AM

"Interesting point about baby showers. Could this be why Americans don't have/need "the box", because they have such lavish baby showers? I've seen these babyshowers, Americans go abit overboard with the gifts.

If had to choose between $175, the box, or an American-style babyshower - I'd no doubt take the shower. Although I don't think condoms and lube are traditional gifts, so you might have to get those yourself."

Phil: Didn't you notice that this was only your opinion. I think I'd go with the baby box.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:39 AM

"And many of the people in the US who can afford lavish baby showers spend all their time at work and never see their kids."

I don't know about that. True, Americans do work "more" than Finns. However, Americans have a higher rate of stay-at-home parents (if you're not counting the unemployed in either country). Plus part-time work is more often a "choice" in the U.S. while in Finland part-time work is taken because full-time work isn't available.

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 07:48 AM

"Still I find it hard to believe that anyone could oppose the baby box. "

It's no much that I oppose it as I think it's an empty gesture from the government. I believe the government could do a lot more to help out new families.

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 07:55 AM

"I believe the government could do a lot more to help out new families."

What could the government do then?

Posted by: M.A. | June 2, 2005 08:03 AM

Phil, stop making such a fool out yourself.

Comparing the maternity-box with U.S. style baby-showers is like a christian claiming Christmas to be far more sensible celebration than the jewish Hannukah because you get so much more gifts in the former. They are just different animals, and shouldn't be confused with each other.

Your comments so far are not so much insulting as they are widely off the mark in regard to the reasoning behind the current issue (the maternity-box). The only reasonable conclusion I can draw from this is that this is just another aspect of Finnish, or more generally Nordic/Scandinavian culture that you have difficulties in grasping. This just happens to be the way we do things, and most people are quite happy with the end result. In a democracy, that's usually reason enough.

No offense meant, and hopefully none taken.

Posted by: -N- | June 2, 2005 08:07 AM

Dearest Phil,

"It's no much that I oppose it as I think it's an empty gesture from the government. I believe the government could do a lot more to help out new families."

And it does. There are:
- cash benefits for parents
- adoption grant
- family allowance
- child care subsidies
- child care leave
- part time child care leave
- temporary child care leave
- partial care allowance
- special care allowance
- child disability allowance

http://www.kela.fi/in/internet/english.nsf/NET/081101123937EH?openDocument

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 08:07 AM

"I believe the government could do a lot more to help out new families."

Phil, there is that 230 euro "lapsilisä" that comes in regular intervals, there is the possibility to stay at home for three years and get payed "kotihoidontuki", there are maternal and paternal leaves, there is the permission to stay home with a sick child, there is special health care ("neuvola") system for mothers and infants and so on. I think government cannot do much more.

Posted by: E | June 2, 2005 08:12 AM

Dear justrememberthis,

it's getting ridiculous but let's not give wrong information to the US. citizens, ok?

Your mummy is giving you some extras - the amount of child allowance for the first child _IS_ 100 euros per month. Single parents have € 36,60 more. For the second child one gets € 110,50; third would be € 131,00; fourth € 141,50 and each after that € 172. Until the kid is seventeen, that is.

The link, in English:
http://www.kela.fi/in/internet/english.nsf/NET/231101154958EH?openDocument

The link, in Finnish:
http://www.kela.fi/in/internet/suomi.nsf/NET/260302085034EH?openDocument

Posted by: a Finnish mom | June 2, 2005 08:12 AM

Phil, maybe you just don't KNOW everything about Finland and the people who live here. Perhaps you just need more time... :-)

Have a nice life here in Finland!

Posted by: Merja | June 2, 2005 08:13 AM

Someone talking about the war industry and u.s. :
The whole point is governmental subsidies, too many of them in Finland, too. (In u.s. ask Gm and ford what they think about the oil prices)

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 08:15 AM

"And many of the people in the US who can afford lavish baby showers spend all their time at work and never see their kids."

I don't know about that.True, Americans do work "more" than Finns.

When I compare my workplaces in Finland to workplaces in the US it was a huge difference. Parents went home at 4 o'clock to be with their kids. They worked hard all day, did their job and it was ok to go home and be with your kids. In the US you are seen as not being committed to your job in a similar scenario. If you want to make the big bucks many times you have to sacrifice the time with your family.

"However, Americans have a higher rate of stay-at-home parents"

It's good if parents can stay at home, provided they are capable caregivers. The Finnish daycare is very high quality and the teachers are well educated. Ideally I am sure most families would want to have their children at home if that were a possibility.

But in Finland you don't have to choose between a career and parenthood. You can stay at home with your child until they are 3 and still be guaranteed your job. For those in America who do work they often go back soon after the baby is born. Many of my friends there are in this situation and are heartbroken about it. Fathers have this possibility in Finland to stay home too (instead of the mother)! Or even the parents could split the time. Father's get a four week leave after the baby is born as well. By virtue of the fact that more parents stay home doesn't mean that it is a better system. I think it's the overall quality of care that really counts.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 08:15 AM

The comment about the babybox being an empty gesture and complaining that the state could/should do more just goes to show how little the writer knows about the Finnish system. The state gives family allowances for families with children under the age of 17.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 08:19 AM

After taking a quick look at Phils own blog I kind of understand that he's definitely not an ordinary american and definitely not living in a some small village in Idaho (no insults on anyone from Idaho intended)... Probably he is not so ignorant either. At least not about Finland. So I guess he just loves to start up fights. Or flamewars, as the case may be.

Funnily enough, one thing he has probably yet not learned is the fact that Finns are a very conformist bunch and are quite eager to leap into defence of their own values and systems. Especially if they can do it anonymously. A great part of the people commenting here are finns after all...

Oh, and make no mistake about it, I'm a native finn and proud of it. I'd perhaps like to, but I won't bother myself with fighting with Phil over this baby box thing. Maybe that is the "lazy" part, eh?

Posted by: M Mustajärvi | June 2, 2005 08:25 AM

"Funnily enough, one thing he has probably yet not learned is the fact that Finns are a very conformist bunch and are quite eager to leap into defence of their own values and systems. Especially if they can do it anonymously. A great part of the people commenting here are finns after all..."

Actually, I am an American living in Finland and have commented quite a bit about this because I have been able to compare the systems. :-) I feel the Finnish system has a lot to offer. I love my home country but admire the Finnish system for being so sensible. I also admire Finns willingness to look at the good of society over their own personal interests and desire for an excess of money.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 08:41 AM

Regarding tax rates...

The US is not exactly the tax heaven people tend to make it look like, unless you live in Nevada or some other state that have removed state income taxes and/or value added taxes.

Comparing US and Finnish taxes are further complicated, as mentioned before, by the differences in costs of healthcare, childcare, education and retirement saving, namely that in Finland you pay MUCH less for these things than in the US.

I live in New York City, so my taxes are most definitely way up there. Exactly 40% (well, 39.6%) of my paycheck goes to taxes, social security and retirement savings, and that's low because my company pays 100% of my health insurance premiums. Most people are not that lucky.

Posted by: Tero Paananen | June 2, 2005 08:50 AM

Finns dont want to make babies, we would need an immigration policy similar to canada or australia.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 08:58 AM

Lots of women think world (=finland) is too bad a place to make kids into.
Yet, its women who are safe here, men can be beaten up, never women (I used to work in a pub weekends, every day, men fought and were attacked, not once a woman, despite working there almost a year)

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 09:00 AM

Hi Guys,

Let's not bee tyo hard on Phil. He is just waking up to the fact that there are places more wonderful on earth than the US.It's obviously painful, as he has all his life been told that Good blesses America in particular, and that the country he was born in the "greatest" in the world and every time he went abroad and saw something he liked he thought that that was because those foreigners had "beccome Americanized". It's a rude awakening to notice that there is indeed a world outside that functions well, and has no ambition to model itself after the US and indeed do not desire to be anything like the US.

I stayed in Baltimore, Phil's hometown. It's a lovely city, has a pretty harbor and a nice Aquarium, a nice baseball stadium and a football field. I have family there and they are good honest people, I love them and am proud of them. I am sure all of them would have loved to having baby boxes for their tax dollars when their children were born!
However, there is also an inner city full of drug dealers and homeless people. There is a high rate of crime and murder. According to the local news when I was there was that some of those inner city babies are sleeping in metal bathtubs to keep hem safer from stray bullets from driveby shootings. In light of this is is kind of hard to take Phil seriously when he criticizes the Finnish cardboard boxes. At least we don't need to make the bullet proof... And i'd say it is a lot more sensible to have our tax dollars to go to baby care products than to enormous sports fields and a military that's sent out to bomb the crap out of foreign lands in breach of international law.

Phil for your own sanity, take that D.C. job. It's a partiularily lovely city to be in when you like the "everyone fend for themselves" mentality, because the testimonies of how successful that approach is sleeps lies allover the pavements. You will fit right in.

Posted by: Proud Forest Troll | June 2, 2005 09:02 AM

"Funnily enough, one thing he has probably yet not learned is the fact that Finns are a very conformist bunch and are quite eager to leap into defence of their own values and systems."

Heh!! No, I know this all too well. Finns defending the welfare state is IDENTICAL to American Christians defending Christianity.

They can't think "beyond" Christianity. And if anyone dares question their beliefs, they let their emotions get ahold of them and lots of swear words proceed. There's no grey area for them either, it's an all or nothing thing, no compromise.

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 09:17 AM

"Just like they "voted" for Bush when Bush was against Gore and when Bush was declared winner in court? Really funny democracy I'd say, reminds me about other high quality democracies such as Iraq, ex-Soviet Union, current Russia, China etc..."

Isn't that a sign of a country that has a sound judicial system? The differences are settled in the court of law instead of either side resorting to force. Bush won and most democrats including Al Gore conceded victory. Moreover, it seems that most Americans did not want to switch to a democrat in last elections. This despite the fact that the American mainstream media monstly leans towards the democrats and European media does not even consider the republicans human. A comment like this reflects how biased Finnish media is when reporting American issues: the US is the home of crime, poverty, scandals, stupid and greedy politicians - the view is very negative. How very differently they treat us in their media...

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 09:22 AM

"And i'd say it is a lot more sensible to have our tax dollars to go to baby care products than to enormous sports fields and a military that's sent out to bomb the crap out of foreign lands in breach of international law."

I couldn't agree more!! What many of you don't realize is that I criticize the United States a hell of alot more than I do Finland. I may not agree with the welfare state, but I definitely don't agree with the way things are handled in the U.S. - it's one of the many reasons why I left and one of the many many reasons why I love Finland so much!

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 09:23 AM

"Heh!! No, I know this all too well. Finns defending the welfare state is IDENTICAL to American Christians defending Christianity."

As an American I can say that is not true. I find Finns to be very open minded. I just wonder if something works well it deserves to be defended.

"There's no grey area for them either, it's an all or nothing thing, no compromise."

Finns are very flexible and openminded in my opinion. And very willing to compromise if there is value in it.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 09:25 AM

"Finns defending the welfare state"

I find it extremely strange that someone can oppose equal chances for education, health care etc. for everyone. How does it hurt you if your neighbour has an university education and healthcare just like you? It doesn't. Instead, it lowers that chance that some day you're robbed and stabbed to death by your neighbour, forced to live in poverty because he can't afford to educate himself.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 09:39 AM

Couple of comments with respect to the Finnish vs. Americn state "systems"

1. It seems obvious that the Finnish system is preferred in Finland; otherwise it would be changed via their democratic process.

2. I don't think such a system would work well in the U.S. because a) our population is too large, and b) we would have to "fit" the new processes into an existing governmental structure, one that is NOT conducive to new things/ideas. It is my understanding that most of the welfare state systems in Finland were "built into" the Government, and not forced into it.

Please correct me if I am mistaken.

Posted by: MM | June 2, 2005 09:39 AM

"It seems obvious that the Finnish system is preferred in Finland; otherwise it would be changed via their democratic process."

"It is my understanding that most of the welfare state systems in Finland were "built into" the Government, and not forced into it."

Exactly. It's a result of hard work, not forcing.

"I don't think such a system would work well in the U.S."

I agree. The US is too multicultural, too big and the situation is already gotten out of hands. Building a welfare society should have started already a century or two ago, now it's too late.
And even then, it most likely wouldn't have worked since the US isn't a small homogenous nation whose ancestors learnt to cooperate already millenniums ago or otherwise they wouldn't have survived in the arctic climate.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 09:50 AM

"I don't think such a system would work well in the U.S."

That's true. But I don't think that the problem is necessarily that it wouldn't work in a multicultural society.

Look what happened when Hillary Clinton tried to change healthcare. Too many powerful interests who want to keep things as they are for their own selfish, monetary reasons rather than doing something good for the nation.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 10:19 AM

"But I don't think that the problem is necessarily that it wouldn't work in a multicultural society."

Multiculturality itself might not be the problem, but most of those different cultures would probably lack the evolutionary built-in cooperation and "nobody is left behind" spirit that the finns have. And then, the majority of people would be blinded by the notorius "me first, everything for me and screw others" attitude.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 10:36 AM

"It is my understanding that most of the welfare state systems in Finland were "built into" the Government, and not forced into it."

Maybe they were built into the system, but they are new, the "building" just started to take place 30 years ago. I don´t know what multiculturalism has to do with things like day care or education. I mean, in US all the multicultural people go through US system, and they all speak English.

In eastern Helsinki and some areas around Turku the majority of children are from immigrant families that have come to Finland during past 10-15 years. The system in those municipalities is the same as in monocultural parts of the country. Also in Sweden some areas around Malmö and many parts of Stockholm the majority of children come from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Their system works just like the system in all-Swedish places.

Posted by: ArandomFinn | June 2, 2005 10:41 AM

I am looking right now at the statistics for client requests at a walk-in charitable organization, one of those that gives pregnancy tests and help to expectant mothers. This is from St. Paul, MN, USA. Most requested service: diapers -- 44% of requests are for diapers. Next: layette -- 20% of requests. Next: baby clothes -- 14%. If in Minnesota, one of the better-off states in the US, hundreds of women are coming to this office every month to ask for diapers, what is the need in the rest of the US?

Clearly these women are all stupid/lazy/etc... and women in the US are stupider/lazier/etc.er than women in Finland, because they have more need... at least, that's the logic some posters here seem to endorse. Doesn't ring true to me.

Posted by: Kaisa | June 2, 2005 10:42 AM

Another thought: In the U.S., we have multiple levels of government (town/city, county, state and Federal), thus increasing the inherent bureacracy of implementing new requirements. In theory, most requirements are generated/managed by the smallest portion of government (city or county), and the Federal requirments are derived from our Constitution (basic rights of citizens and interstate regulation). Unfortunately (in my opinion), this theory is not in fact in practice to a large degree.

I'm not that familiar with the overall Government structure in Finland, but I assume, given the (relative to US) small population and size of Suomi, there are fewer levels of government (and thus less bureacracy).

Again, please feel free to comment. Also, do the Finns foresee any additional requirements on the welfare state by the EU?

BTW - nice point on the homogenous society. If everyone has much the same views (a big generalization on my part), it seems more likely to get the Governmental/state system taht everyone wants.

Posted by: MM | June 2, 2005 10:49 AM

Whether it's a multicultural society or not I would think that everyone would want to have affordable access to healthcare and education. Who wouldn't? If you are african american or irish or italian or jewish.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 11:07 AM

Finland is not multicultural at all and the need for new blood is huge. Yet, because most of the neighboring counntries are not so nice , estonians are nice but others are not, foreigners are feared by some. I dont think there is any foreigners in the parliament (?) and even ethnical minorities are not much represented (expect the rulers, the swedes) there is only one that I can think of who even has family that came from elsewhere, ben zyscowitz (that name went wrong i am sure) (and maybe tarja filatov - name sounds quite unfinish)


"Clearly these women are all stupid/lazy/etc... and women in the US are stupider/lazier/etc.er than women in Finland, because they have more need... at least, that's the logic some posters here seem to endorse. Doesn't ring true to me."

Well, in finland, many of the poor women decide not to have children at all. As a man with no money, I am all for the catholic religion(am atheist myself) as they have no killing of not-yet-born-babies and are against prophylactics. Maybe I too could get a child if there was no pills for women.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 11:20 AM

"Plus part-time work is more often a "choice" in the U.S. while in Finland part-time work is taken because full-time work isn't available."

I can't speak to the state of part-time work in Finland, but let me say that Phil's assertion that part-time work in the US is most often a "choice" is absurd. More & more people here are taking whatever part-time work they can get because they CAN'T get full-time work & are trying to cobble together a living wage in whichever way they can. To state otherwise is truly ignorant.

Posted by: johanna | June 2, 2005 11:24 AM

I'm not that familiar with the overall Government structure in Finland, but I assume, given the (relative to US) small population and size of Suomi, there are fewer levels of government (and thus less bureacracy).
*************
Probably there is more bureacracy here. Not in something you do, forms are simple and easy to understand.
But there is lots of useless layers of people who do unneeded paperwork.
I for one would like there to be more welfare state but still am against it because the money stays in the system.

"government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem" (ronald reagan)

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 11:28 AM

"Multiculturality itself might not be the problem, but most of those different cultures would probably lack the evolutionary built-in cooperation and "nobody is left behind" spirit that the finns have."

So multiculturality is going to kill the welfare state?

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 11:31 AM

"No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!"
(Ronald Reagan)
"The most terrifying words in the English langauge are: I'm from the government and I'm here to help."
(Ronald Reagan)

...The elite of Finnish society would not agree.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 11:31 AM

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 11:32 AM

"Look what happened when Hillary Clinton tried to change healthcare. Too many powerful interests who want to keep things as they are for their own selfish, monetary reasons rather than doing something good for the nation."

HA!! No, people didn't want crooks like George Bush and Bill Clinton running their healthcare. The American people may be dumb, but they're no stupid.

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 11:33 AM

"Phil's assertion that part-time work in the US is most often a "choice" is absurd. "

I didn't say that, I was comparing it to Finland. Part-time work is more often a choice in the U.S. than in Finland. In fact I was just reading about this, want me to dig for the URL?

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 11:35 AM

Phil, please take a break! Don't you have anything to do? My attempts to check in on how readers are reacting to the Diary have turned into skimming over way, way too many comments from Phil. Please back off for a while. Thanks in advance.

Posted by: Bob Kaiser | June 2, 2005 11:54 AM

Let's all take a break and do good for the planet instead of arguing. Here's a cause that every person on the planet should agree on -> http://www.therainforestsite.com

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 12:02 PM

Kaiser, you've actually made a comment!! (assuming that is really you of course)

Well I'm just trying to keep this blog interesting, sorry about that. Your one-sided american-liberal rhetoric is so typical from the washington post, I thought I'd just give the other side of the story because I know you won't.

But point taken, I'll hang back...but only if you promise to finally test out the Finnish sauna! Cool?

Posted by: Phil | June 2, 2005 12:09 PM

Historically speaking, I remember reading that there was one man who was responsible for a lot of the reforms regarding children in Finland. He must have been in your senate, or have been very persuasive. I forget his name. Does anybody know his name? I think there is often one enlightened individual who can do a lot to change a country. One person can change everything singlehandedly if they are the right person and can find words that make sense to both the hearts and brains of those around them.

It was an enormous surprise in Finland when our daughter was born. The box! It was delightful. I believe that there was a snowsuit in the box, among many other things, and everything had a very high quality to it. Maybe I should be ashamed of this but I think our daughter slept in the box for the first thirty days. It had a pleasant color and odor to it and seemed perfect! Some person had to have thought this out. It can't be a "country" that did this. It has to be one person, or a small committee.

I just would like to say in regards to America that it is not a completely dog eat dog world over here. We do get tax breaks for each child, schooling is free, and if you have a catastrophic medical situation hospitals have to take you whether you have insurance or not. That is to say they must treat you -- it's the law -- and the hospitals are reimbursed by the government.

I had a kidney stone shortly after returning from Finland and my insurance from my new position had not yet kicked in (it often takes thirty days!). I had an operation to remove the stone and it cost 8000 dollars. However, I didn't pay it. The government paid it. It's true that the hospital tried to get me to pay it, but I kept telling them I was too poor to pay it, as I had two small children. So finally one woman made the decision that the government would pay it.

Also in America the businessmen are not completely psychotic. My brother is president of a bank and he works a good twenty hours a week for volunteer causes such as the American Heart association. He;s always helping to make money for some volunteer association. Many retired businessmen stay very busy and work for the Kiwanis club that helps to get indigent businessmen whose businesses have failed back on their feet. No good society could exist without these things. In the areas of America where there is a higher ratio of Scandinavian Lutherans such as in Minnesota it is more like Scandinavia -- much cleaner, more of the socialist feeling, but throughout America there is a good spirit. If your car breaks down anywhere from Alabam to Alaska it is most likely that someone will pull over, take you to a gas station, and bring you back to your car. I am ashamed to say that my car has broken down and twice people helped me. Once it was a black man and once it was a Mexican man. A Greek man just two months ago helped me find the hidden exit ramp to a hotel I had booked. the people behind the desk laughed and said no one can find this hotel! It was in Newark, NJ next to the airport and you had to take three quick exits and then go down a back alley to find the darned place. The Greek man drove his car as a guide for about 45 minutes to help me find it. He could barely speak English, but he helped out.

I think the big worry of many businessmen over here is that without the incentive of becoming wealthy many people will stop working. Isn't it true that at least some people in Finland prefer to live off Kela?

There's no big worry about that in a country like Finland where it seemed to me that almost everybody wanted to work and liked to work. Perhaps in some places where the Protestant work ethic (as somebody put it yesterday) doesn't exist then this would not be the case.

This spirit exists in America and in Finland. It's what makes both our countries strong and I think is what makes us likely to last as friends and allies for as long as that spirit is still the predominant one in both of our countries.

But even outside of the Protestant Work Ethic I think that most people around the world have a conscience and have brains. The world is mostly at peace and is mostly pleasant.

I'm enjoying the series, though, because I do think America and the world have a lot to learn from Finland.

Posted by: kirby olson | June 2, 2005 12:12 PM

Kirby Olson asked:
"Historically speaking, I remember reading that there was one man who was responsible for a lot of the reforms regarding children in Finland. He must have been in your senate, or have been very persuasive. I forget his name. Does anybody know his name?"

You're talking about Arvo Ylppö, (1887-1992): Archiatre, M.D.; originator of pre- and post-natal care in specialist clinics.

For further information:

http://encyclopedia.thefreedictionary.com/Arvo%20Ylpp%F6

http://www.biography.ms/Arvo_Ylpp%F6.html

Posted by: a finnish mom | June 2, 2005 12:39 PM

Kirby, You must mean Arvo Ylppö.

http://www.explore-biography.com/scientists_and_engineers/A/Arvo_Ylpp%F6.html

And you are right, we should not argue whetre Finland or America is better. Most people here don't know enough about the other country. We all have something to learn from ewach other.

Though, I prefer Finland :)

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 12:48 PM

"Well, in finland, many of the poor women decide not to have children at all. As a man with no money, I am all for the catholic religion(am atheist myself) as they have no killing of not-yet-born-babies and are against prophylactics. Maybe I too could get a child if there was no pills for women."

Whatever does contraception and family planning have to do with any man's ability to have children? Poor and rich women alike might wish to have a loving and respectful relationship to start with and not just function as a hatching device for semen of some random guy. If you out of desperation to have someone knocked up, oppose planned parenthood and women's right to decide over their bodies you truly are poor, but mainly mentally.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 12:50 PM

"I remember reading that there was one man who was responsible for a lot of the reforms regarding children in Finland."

Could it be Arvo Ylppö? He was just nominated one of the top ten great finns. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arvo_Ylpp%F6

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 12:51 PM

"Most people here don't know enough about the other country. We all have something to learn from ewach other.

Though, I prefer Finland :)"

I happen to know a lot about the US and many other countries, and that makes me even more sure that I prefer Finland.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 01:02 PM

I think that one thing about finnish spirit has not been handled here. We are a small nations that has suffered under foreign rule for centuries. First we were a part of Sweden and later part of Russia from 1809 till 1917.

Soon after we got our independence we had to fight 5 year against Stalin's red army. First 90 days Winter War from november 1939 to March 1940. Later same year we were fighting against the russians again till 1944.

Thank's to Finnish men and women of that time we were able to keep our independence.

These events may explain why Finland is so homogenous country. We would not have survided inless we would not have supported each other.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 01:06 PM

"Isn't that a sign of a country that has a sound judicial system? The differences are settled in the court of law instead of either side resorting to force. Bush won and most democrats including Al Gore conceded victory."

Sound judicial system, hmm. Wouldn't it be even better if the voting system would work as required? The end result showed that there is still some civilization left, but what was damaging was exactly the nation having to go to court to decide whether the elections had proceeded in an acceptable way. Reliable voting system is the cornerstone of every democracy, and that event really cast a shadow over it in US. Besides, US legislature has over the years (amendment after amendment) evolved to a very complicated system within which a cunning lawyer can really stretch the initial meaning of justice.

Posted by: judge | June 2, 2005 01:39 PM

Arvo Ylppo. I will remember the name, or try to do it even if my monocultural keyboard doesn't add in the umlauts. What motivated Ylppo? I wonder who the other top ten Finns are. There are so many -- the Kaurismaki brothers haven't been mentioned, or the other Finnish film makers who have made it in Hollywood. Aki Kaurismaki is for my money the best film maker in the world. Then there are the other people working in media that is harder for outsiders to understand. The writers, the poets. Difficult to translate, but very good. The singers. I loved this one sad singer who lived in the Ostrobothnia area named Topi Sorsakoski. He is so great! I bought all his CDs.

Somehow the landscape this time of year needs to be mentioned -- the endless marigold fields of Ostrobothnia. Whenever I want to think about heaven I think of them. I think they are used to make a cholesterol-reducing butter. Which makes me think of Xylitol -- the cavity-reducing bubble-gum. There are a lot of articles for these guys to write on the technical expertise and inventiveness aside from the Nokia company which is well-known even in America (they are underwriting the National Basketball Association series just now) -- which reminds me -- what has happened to Hanno Mottola? he played well in Atlanta but the team itself was so bad those years.

Kiitos paljon for the name of Arvo Ylppo --centenarian no less. Living so long must have helped him make good connections so that he could then use them to make the changes he felt were needed? Is he the one that came up with the idea of the baby box? Remind me to put flowers on his grave next time I am in Finland.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 2, 2005 02:26 PM

Many times now multiculturalism has popped up as a reason why the welfare state model wouldn't work in places like the US. No offense to anyone, but I think that Finns who have made these comments don't really know what they are talking about. Finns who have lived in Finland for all their life don't really KNOW what it's like to live in a multicultural society, so they wouldn't know if the Nordic system could work in such societies. (Of course no one really knows!) It's flippant of people to mention multiculturalism as a barrier without thinking about it more carefully. I'm not saying that the system would work...but please think more carefully about what you say and what your arguments are. I'm a Finn too and love that country + its people! But having lived in the UK for more than 10yrs I've learned that there are more differences within groups than between groups. So let's not build barriers where there need to be none.

Someone said earlier that US gets bad press coverage in Finland. I think that the Finnish media is very professional - dry rather than overly sensational - and I really don't think that it reports US in such bad light. Besides Finns are quite inquisitive and look up news on foreign websites/TV/radio. So the Finnish media has to be relatively objective - otherwise the Finns would attack it like a bunch of terriers!

Thanks to Kaiser & Perkins. Keep up the good work! And thanks to everyone for their posts. Really enjoying this! :)

Posted by: rainbow | June 2, 2005 02:54 PM

I see Phil's comments nothing but refreshing. Many of the interesting things would have not been said without his claims, true or not. I don't see him having bad intentions. The man has been in Finland only for two years, so you can't expect him to know everything. Besides, the Finnish women seem quite capable to defend themselves.

Posted by: RA | June 2, 2005 02:55 PM

Hanno Mottola is playing in Europe. He was let go by Atlanta after his first season and his contract wasn't picked up by any other NBA team.

I went to see his first NBA game against the Knicks in New York during his first season. He got schooled by Patrick Ewing multiple times, but did manage to get one dunk in. It was a great experience to see Mottola play in the highest level!

Posted by: Tero Paananen | June 2, 2005 03:00 PM

Kirby, do you mean Pohjanmaa? or Österobotten in Swedish?

Posted by: Max | June 2, 2005 03:04 PM

It's obvious Phil doesn't have kids of his own. He doesn't seem to know the first thing about what it's like to have a newborn in the house. Of course it's much easier to have a lot of provocative opinions if you have no personal experience (of parenting, in this case) to temper them.

Phil also seems to wish the Finnish government would do *more* for us parents. I believe an earlier poster presented quite a long list of all the benefits and allowances parents of small children are entitled to. Makes me wonder what Phil means by *more*...

I spent several years at home caring for my children before I returned to work. Meanwhile, some of my American friends were obliged to return to work only weeks after the baby's birth. Most people here would shake their heads at the thought of leaving their baby to be cared for by others at the ripe old age of four to six weeks.

Posted by: theory and practice | June 2, 2005 03:55 PM

Yeap, Phil is probably smarter than we think, but his style of writing really didn't do justice to his skills(?). Taking a break is definitely a good idea.

Multiculturalism has been named as a barrier for the social welfare improvements mainly by the american commentators. It would be nice to know what exactly do they have in mind when making that statement? Since I've been living most of my life in homogeneous Finland, I really don't know how existence of many different cultures hinders development. Could somebody with experience give practical examples?

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 03:56 PM

Max, yes -- Pohjanmaa. North of Seinajoki in a village called Kitinoja (half-way to Lapua) is where I spent one delightful summer riding my bicycle at 3 am among marigold fields. It was still daylight. I thought the name was Ostrobothnia.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 2, 2005 04:01 PM

"Could somebody with experience give practical examples?"

This is my guess. People in Nordic countries have learned to cooperate and support each other because they've developed in a hard environment. Some other cultures tend to be more competitive and cut throatish (clan vs. clan?). If a multicultural society has more of those dog-eat-dog people than cooperators, they're more prone to try and make the system collapse if their people start to be more succesful and thus independent from the system ("Why should WE pay higher taxes so that those [insert any group here] can study/have health care?"). Just a thought.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:04 PM

"("Why should WE pay higher taxes so that those [insert any group here] can study/have health care?"). "

I would answer that question like this: because you too are entitled to those things, those benefits. And if you think about it what you pay would mostly go to provide those services for yourself. It wouldn't be any one particular group that would benefit but everybody. The US system of healthcare now is VERY inefficient. And if workers at all levels have access to healthcare I would think that society would be more productive.

Yes, there are some people who live off the system in Finland. There are also some people who make a lot of money and contribute a whole lot. And then there are the many, many people inbetween who work and earn a normal living. Yes, the people who work do give some of their money to unemployed people or people who live off the system, or people who can't work for whatever reason. But by giving that money they ensure that overall people in society are taken care of. And somehow giving that little bit extra somehow is worth it considering the benefits.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:30 PM

"But by giving that money they ensure that overall people in society are taken care of. And somehow giving that little bit extra somehow is worth it considering the benefits."

I agree and support the nordic welfare system fully. But would each and every culture think the benefit of the whole (multicultural) population if their own group some how would manage to get in a better position? Or would they start short sightedly to demand lower taxes etc. for their own benefit (even though, in a long term it would mean poverty to everyone, rise in the crime level, corruption and so forth, and turn against them)? Are people in all cultures readily cooperative and reasonable in the nordic way (a result of evolution in a hard environment?), or if not, would they turn that way if a nordic style welfare system would be started in a multiculture country? Just thoughts (I don't even know if I agree or disagree in that myself, don't lynch me).

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:46 PM

So, is it a sort of envy and fear of others' success between the members of different groups that prevents people in general from trying to share benefits more equally? Those who are successful fear that those who have been less so may benefit too much if they help keeping up better public services in the form of higher taxes? Since not everyone can be the top dog that kind of self-protective behavior makes sense. Especially, if individualism and competing are the main ideals in the society. Too bad that it contributes to growing fragmentation and instability.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 04:52 PM

"But would each and every culture think the benefit of the whole (multicultural) population if their own group some how would manage to get in a better position?"

No, probably not. People want to be better than other people. But somehow at the same time I hope that people would not want to be better at the expense of others. If my having the best possible of everything means that someone else has nothing or very little then it's not worth it to me. I'm sure that many people don't feel that way. I'm not sure though it's a cultural thing so much as a personal thing.

"Or would they start short sightedly to demand lower taxes etc. for their own benefit (even though, in a long term it would mean poverty to everyone, rise in the crime level, corruption and so forth, and turn against them)?"

I definitely think people, especially in America, are often shortsighted. They think about instant gratification rather than long term benefits for the most part. Look at the deficit. For me as an American it is horrifying. But not too many people seem to care that much because things are going ok now. Scary.

"Are people in all cultures readily cooperative and reasonable in the nordic way (a result of evolution in a hard environment?),"

I would think each culture is different of course.

"or if not, would they turn that way if a nordic style welfare system would be started in a multiculture country? Just thoughts (I don't even know if I agree or disagree in that myself, don't lynch me)."

I think that people have lots of misconceptions about the nordic style welfare system. And this taints the openness to it. When I first arrived in Finland I was very sceptical. But after living here and seeing how it works I beleive in it. It is by no means perfect but it works very well. If people could see and really understand the benefits (rather than beleiving the misconceptiosn) maybe they would cooperate to acheive something. In a multicultural society like the US I beleive much has been acheived in spite of cultural differences.

Americans work together on all kinds of things to help others when in need. Look at the outpouring during the tsunami or when there are other catastrophic events. Why couldn't they work together to create a system that would help it's citizens in need to make a better country?

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 05:10 PM

I probably can't answer such huge questions having to do with multiculturalism but can perhaps point to a few differences in our systems that might make for provocative discussion. One is that the rich people in this country are so rich that it is hard to fathom. For example, one of the candidates in our last election had 25 mansions, and in his Boston townhouse had a two-story kitchen. And he was the DEMOCRATIC candidate -- the liberal. Why on earth he needs all this money and housing is beyond me. It wouldn't happen in Finland.

Isn't it true that in Finland there aren't any maids or butlers or personal servants? Wouldn't most Finns feel embarrassed to have such a person? I guess I thought it was the Lutheran background. We have a literary comedian here named Garrison Keillor who writes about Lutheran Scandinavians in Minnesota. He had a funny bit about a maid in a hotel tidying up around a Lutheran couple who were shocked and in horror that somebody else was serving them.

Lutherans are supposed to serve others, but not in a hierarchical way. I think on the other hand there are a lot of people in American society who are not only used to being served hand and foot, but come to expect it. I don't really understand it.

But think about our university systems again. Not only do we have religious and public universities but we have private universities such as Harvard University. It costs about 40 thousand dollars a year just in tuition to go there. Then on top of that there is housing and food and incidentals. It's very difficult to attend such an institution without a personal fortune. If people gave up their personal fortunes then they would also give up all their access to better jobs and exclusivity. It is still true that many of our most successful authors, lawyers, presidents, and so on, come from such institutions.

Is there something similar in Finland? Are you better off if you went to Helsinki University?

I just want to ask one more thing. One of the ways that people try to strike it rich in this country is to sue a large company or to sue a hospital. You can make 20 million dollars this way if you get lucky with a personal injury lawsuit. Last week a woman pretended to find a finger in her soup (I can't remember the exact details). It was proven however that she was lying.

I don't think many Finnish people would feel comfortable lying like this to make a living. For some reason we accept it more and more. It's a difference in culture. The only tihng that I see holding the Finnish people together is the Lutheran background -- the idea that you must be peaceful and serve God.

That idea is breaking down to some extent in America. The idea more is to help yourself even if it is at the expense of the public. You see it in the music videos. There are a lot of people across the races who are interested in sex, but you don't see music videos about love or commitment.

Perhaps that's part of some general change. I'm not so sure.

But there remain deep pockets of faithful people who do try to serve others. I just think in Finland that that percentage is much higher. But also don't you have a law that puts a cap on personal injury lawsuits?

I'm going to try and shut up because I think the journalists would rather hear from Finns. I'm married to a Finn though so I hear her disgust and her disbelief quite a lot and can relay that.

Perhaps it's the weather that pulls Finns together. But just next door in Russia you have a completely dysfunctional country. When you go to St. Petersburg and stay in an apt. there are umpteen locks on every door and bars on windows and the buildings are falling apart. When the train crosses the border back into Finland everything is in perfect condition. So it's not just the weather. It's the culture.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 2, 2005 06:26 PM

I think the essence of this series of articles about Finland is to give new perspectives about two successfull societies - USA and Finland. The benefit for this is to check our own beliefs about societies - this can't be a bad thing? I'm quite sure us Finns have a lot more to learn from the USA than we usually dare to think off.

I have lived in Canada about 15 years ago, and in addition I think I know a lot about the USA. I see good and bad sides in both systems and societies. Apples and oranges. There are also some ignorant and stubborn people in both countries, who rather hold on their stereotype "enemy" pictures, than openess to learn. I really don't like anti-Americanism over here. IMO it's based on ignorance.

(It's getting really late, just a few comments here before going to bed. Sorry about typos.)

It's a pleasure to read well though comments from Kirby Olsson. About Phil - don't be too harsh to him, I think he's writing "a tongue on a cheek".

I have been following these articles from the beginning - Bob Keiser, I see you met and interviewed my brother in Kuhmo! What a small world!

Wellcome to Helsinki.

Thanks, and good night,

Markku

Posted by: Markku | June 2, 2005 06:38 PM

"But think about our university systems again. Not only do we have religious and public universities but we have private universities such as Harvard University. It costs about 40 thousand dollars a year just in tuition to go there. Then on top of that there is housing and food and incidentals. It's very difficult to attend such an institution without a personal fortune. If people gave up their personal fortunes then they would also give up all their access to better jobs and exclusivity. It is still true that many of our most successful authors, lawyers, presidents, and so on, come from such institutions.

Is there something similar in Finland? Are you better off if you went to Helsinki University?"

Hi Kirby,

I'm not sure if there are drastic differences between Finnish universities in the sense of later success. I think people are slightly better off graduating from University of Helsinki, but that's not as much due to the better quality of courses or old reputation but simply the close location to best work markets. Since Helsinki is the capital, most state offices and other hot shot working opportunities are there. Being at the moment enrolled, though not actively present at Hki U, I have noticed that we receive regular information especially about state work positions whereas in my previous place I hardly heard of those openings. Studying and living in Helsinki, you are more likely to get involved with "important" people and that way you have better chances yourself ending up as one of them.

Even if there may exist a slight advantage like that, we are lucky to all have nearly equal chance to apply and get in to all universities, without old money and old connections. I was born to a very small place, far from Helsinki, and my parents don't have much formal education nor money. They would not have been able to pay $10000 a year for education of their children and I would never have asked them to even try. Just using my brain I have been able to go anywhere I wished. I like Finnish system because it favors the talented despite their background and financial situation.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:10 PM

"Wouldn't most Finns feel embarrassed to have such a person?" (servant)

Many people might feel that servants are inappropriate, but the majority of people I know thinks they're only for disabled people. In other words, get a maid or servant, and people will believe you're handicapped or otherwise unable to take care of your self. All you get is pity. I personally think that there's something wrong with a person who isn't capable of e.g. cooking his own meals (and, who isn't capable of enjoying doing it as well) if his life situation is otherwise normal and stable. Lack of time is no excuse, if making more and more money is the only thing the person cares for, then it's really sad.

"Is there something similar in Finland? Are you better off if you went to Helsinki University?"

Universities and schools are equal.

"(in the US) You can make 20 million dollars this way if you get lucky with a personal injury lawsuit."

It's not possible to demand absurd sums in any nordic court (of course you can try but it will not get you anywhere). Only actual losses will be compensated, and there are certain upper limits for e.g. injuries. And of course, handicapped people get free assistance and care in addition to other health care, so it's not an excuse for absurd sums.

"I don't think many Finnish people would feel comfortable lying like this to make a living."

The whole culture is built on honesty and mutual trust.

"The only tihng that I see holding the Finnish people together is the Lutheran background -- the idea that you must be peaceful and serve God."

Drop the god. It's evolution and natural selection. Humans evolving in an arctic climate has be trustworthy, hard working, reasonable and ready to help each other, otherwise nobody is going to survive.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:19 PM

"Humans evolving in an arctic climate"

And I'm of course talking about ancient times, a couple of thousand years back in time, at least.

Posted by: | June 2, 2005 07:24 PM

There was a study some time ago about the real benefits of going to an Ivy League school.

The study concluded the biggest benefit was that people who go Ivy League schools develop better Old Boy networks and benefit in the future because of that, not because of superior education.

The universities in Helsinki do have a better reputation than schools outside. Sibelius Academy is #1 in performing arts, Helsinki University is definitely #1 in liberal arts and Helsinki University of Technology most definitely has a better reputation than the Lappeen-ranta University of Technology. Certain schools excel in specific programs (e.g. Tampere University of Technology has a great DSP program largely due to influence and cooperation with Nokia), but overall the schools in Helsinki do, in fact, have a better reputation and it's usually harder to get in them than to Universities outside of Helsinki.

Posted by: Tero Paananen | June 2, 2005 07:54 PM

Phil -- you claim Finland as your country while you refer to Finnish people as third person plural. Why is that? Obviously you are not Finnish, and on top of that you seem to have poor understanding or knowledge of historical, both social and cultural background of Finns and Finland.

Posted by: tei | June 2, 2005 11:57 PM

Some researcher suggested that americans are what they are because when the continent was first discovered only certain types of people immigrated there (the rest stayed in Europe). It was like separating certain characters from a society who then developed their own country with their values.

Dunno about that.

About the homogeneous Finland. Many finns today oppose refugees coming into Finland. In their opinion we have created this country with hard work and people from other countries just shouldn't come here to take advantage on us. I think these people suspect that refugees are lazy and don't want to work and when they see this land with good social benefits they come here instead of improving their own country.

There's only the fact that finns today haven't really deserved to live here any more than the refugees. Nobody can choose where they are born and we can't take the credit for the things that our fathers or grandmothers have created.

But it's true that we can't take care of every person in need of help on the planet. We should encourage countries to help their own poor. That's not always an option, I know. I just hope that whenever people immigrate to a new society they adapt to it and to it's manners. You should have the right to practise your own religion and all that but you should also honor the countries laws and norms. In Sweden some minorities still practise "honormurders" where a teenage girl who is well adapted to the society goes out with a swedish boy. Nothing weird about that in the swedish society but for the minorities the girl has disgraced the familys honor and must therefore be killed. These things are really hard because it's hard to put lines where people should be let to be who they are and do what they believe in. It's not right to force people to turn into finns(or whatever) when they're not, but it causes various problems if they won't change a bit from what they were in their homeland. (I guess something in the finnish society should also change in order for things to work)

Sometimes I see refugees(there are some finns that way too) that really don't appreciate the finns working hard on the social welfare that also many of them receive. It's sad that many finns are racist partially because of these few people.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 03:22 AM

"Not only do we have religious and public universities but we have private universities such as Harvard University. It's very difficult to attend such an institution without a personal fortune. If people gave up their personal fortunes then they would also give up all their access to better jobs and exclusivity. It is still true that many of our most successful authors, lawyers, presidents, and so on, come from such institutions.Are you better off if you went to Helsinki University?"

My husband, a Finnish man, attended one of those private Ivy League universities in one of the most competitive programs offered. He didn't get there by personal fortune or due to his connections. He was well educated in Finland.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 03:24 AM

What I mean, I guess, is that if you come to Finland you should be prepared to participate in making this country what it is, just like any other finn, to be a part of the system.

Does this make any sense?

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 03:25 AM

A short note to all the nameless participants here. Could you please invent yourself some kind of nick, if you are going to write more than once? It would make following discussions much, much easier. When there are two or several nameless participants discussing some matter, it becomes rather hard to make out who says what to whom.

Posted by: Observer | June 3, 2005 03:32 AM

When I´m reading what PHIL writes, it´s obvious that he is a man and he is a nerd, who has nothing else to do but sit beside his computer and just trying to insult people.
And if we add the fact that he might be young, we get the picture of someone with growing mental illness.
He has not get enough hugs when he was child, now he do everything to get others attentions.

Go out to see the world Phil, there is more in world than just the internet.
It´s not the stuff you read, you can enjoy more of the life when you are with real people.

Born in Finland is like winning in lotto, but you might need another winning to live in Finland :o)

Posted by: Tommi Pihlaisto | June 3, 2005 03:49 AM

Well, I missed that www page of Phil, now I´m sure he is ill. Or something else, much worse.

Posted by: Tommi Pihlaisto | June 3, 2005 04:13 AM

"Well, I missed that www page of Phil, now I´m sure he is ill. Or something else, much worse."

Or maybe he took that techie job in the states and is busy packing.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 04:27 AM

I wish I had a box like it when I had a child here in the U.S.! I could see the box itself as a great portable bed for traveling with the baby to visit family, too. The clothes and things in it were wonderfully cute and seem high quality! Even here, where we have to buy all of our own baby togs, they all end up looking the same anyway (Baby GAP, generally).

Posted by: Ruut | June 3, 2005 04:31 AM

Here in the states, hospitals usually send a new parent home with some basics, usually diapers, some samples of cremes and ointments, some formula and a hat or two. Often insurance companies and doctors' offices send baby care books to the expecting parents. These things are donated by the companies that manufacture these things. Sometimes the hats are knit by some group or club that benefits the hospital. Beds, car seats and clothes are up to the family.

Posted by: American | June 3, 2005 04:35 AM

We Finns are taught and pick up various positive steretypes of ourselves. Luckuly I have not seen so many of them, though I live in constant fear of...

There are cultures that are more collective and others that are more individualistic.

Ours is collective and individualistic.

However, purleaaashe remember that our culture is not defined by biology. If you must talk of harsh conditions in the past, say that the conditions may have influenced the culture that the biological units -people- taught to the following generations.

YES! Culture is always learnt.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 04:37 AM

Hei Tommi!

You must be talking about that green card lotto, they advertise in Ilta Sanomat (Evening newspaper).

The media in Finland is very critical of the U.S. and I like reading different their viewpoints so I can share those views with the classes I teach. But it is tough, when a person (myself) reads five years of Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki`s Newspaper) and not one article is positive about the United States.

I am proud to be a Finnish American. I have many relatives and friends in Finland. I love Finland and Finnish culture but I also love the U.S.and wish more Finns could read about the positive things that go on in the United States. I think it is sad to read only one viewpoint about the U.S. within Finland.

Kirby, check out the book "100 Faces From Finland". Ithink it is a good one and would answer many of your questions.

Posted by: Finnish American | June 3, 2005 04:50 AM

"If you must talk of harsh conditions in the past, say that the conditions may have influenced the culture that the biological units -people- taught to the following generations.

YES! Culture is always learnt."

I think the evolution meant precisely cultural evolution, not necessarily biological evolution.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 05:19 AM

The bit about the Lotto, I do not think it had anything to do with the green card!

It is just one of the silly Finnish proverbs the writer was messing with:

"It is like winning the Lottery to be born in Finland"

... and it would not hurt to win the actual money one to live here!

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 05:40 AM

I have lived half my life abroad, both rich and poor countries. I've visited about 40 countries and studied under the U.S. school system in South America among other systems. I recently returned to my hometown, Helsinki, from living in the U.S. with my American husband and two young children. I have to say that this 'nordic welfare' of ours is exceptional -both rare and good. I love the fact that most finns are realistic and know that if you want services, you have to pay for them. It is morally the right option. I think more Americans than expected would probably support this system if they were educated about it.

Posted by: JenniP. | June 3, 2005 07:44 AM

""I don't think many Finnish people would feel comfortable lying like this to make a living."

The whole culture is built on honesty and mutual trust."

No it is not. The poor must tell the truth, the rich are allowed to lie. The poor are told they are lying even (and often when) they are telling the truth. Just go visit a social office to get the idea.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 07:52 AM

"The media in Finland is very critical of the U.S. and I like reading different their viewpoints so I can share those views with the classes I teach. But it is tough, when a person (myself) reads five years of Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki`s Newspaper) and not one article is positive about the United States."

Well they are not allowed to critisize other countries but U.S. and Russia. Frustrations must be put somewhere. Also the americans tend to be at constant war with someone and that naturally gives negative publicity, not only in Finland.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 07:55 AM

"Just go visit a social office to get the idea."

You're generalizing a small minority's behavior over the whole culture and population, as if behavior like that would be generally accepted. You can find honest and not so honest people everywhere, but I suggest you to go visit any other country to really learn the differencies between honesty and dishonesty.

A quote from from Virtual Finlands expat article
summarises the attitude very well:

"The positive side of straightforwardness is trust. There is no need to try and interpret hidden meanings or connotations from what Finns say as they don't waste time saying things they don't mean."

Finland has the highest corruption freenes index in the world. It's not full 10 points (9.7 or 9.8 if I remember correctly), but it's the highest on this planet.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:00 AM

"Well they are not allowed to critisize other countries but U.S. and Russia."

Allowed by who? Finland has the highest press freedom index as well (shared with Iceland etc., or maybe nowadays with some other Nordics, couldn't find the latest list):

http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=4116

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:02 AM

"She showed it off to us here after stuffing us with a wonderful Finnish lunch of reindeer goulash (not tender, but tasty), mashed potatoes, salad and strawberry-rhubarb pie. (We probably haven't written enough about how well the Finns eat -- both heartily and healthily.)"
http://www.hk-ruokatalo.fi/portal/suomi/tuotteet/lihavalmisteet/sininen_lenkki/

"Finland has the highest corruption freenes"

They have a yearly _questionnaire_ to company leaders. Finns seem to lie the most.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:02 AM

"They have a yearly _questionnaire_ to company leaders. Finns seem to lie the most."

And at the same the authorities enjoy trust from the public, Finland has the highest comptetiveness ranking, and the chances that you get bull-shitted by a Finn (in a country where the spoken words has been a binding agreement for centuries) is extremely low compared to any other country? And of course, the next countries on the list (other Nordic countries) are also the biggest liars, and because of that they're considered almost as straightforward and honest by foreigner business people etc.?

Interesting theory, especially when you conveniently omitted the fact that the questionnaire is targeted especially to non-residents.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:18 AM

"Finns seem to lie the most."

Welcome back, Phil, what nick are you going to use this time?

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 08:19 AM

"They have a yearly _questionnaire_ to company leaders. Finns seem to lie the most."

There is one weak point in that statement: Those company leaders that answer the questionnaire are not Finns.

Posted by: EP | June 3, 2005 08:59 AM

"I wonder who the other top ten Finns are."

To Kirby Olsson:

Top Ten

1.C.G.E. Mannerheim (president of Finland, 1944-1946, Marshal of Finland)
2.Risto Ryti (president of Finland, 1940-1944)
3.Urho Kekkonen (president of Finland, 1956-1981)
4.Adolf Ehrnrooth (infantry general)
5.Tarja Halonen (current president of Finland, 2000-, and her being on the list I don´t understand)
6.Arvo Ylppö (pediatrician)
7.Mikael Agricola (creator of the
written Finnish language)
8.Jean Sibelius (composer)
9.Aleksis Kivi (author of the first significant Finnish novel)
10.Elias Lönnrot (creator of the Finnish national epic Kalevala)

Posted by: EP | June 3, 2005 09:08 AM

I never knew, that fresh air could be considered as child abuse... Oh, well, seems logical in a country that allows children to be beaten.

Posted by: What? | June 3, 2005 09:18 AM

Thanks for the answers to some of my questions. I was wondering -- a woman said that her husband got into a private elite American institution. Getting in isn't so hard. It's paying for it. Who paid?

There are some scholarships of course, or perhaps the Finnish government, or his job paid for his schooling? You say that he "attended," which could mean that he spent a summer session there?

Hard to know what this means. It IS very possible to get into Harvard. Even I got in. However, the question was paying for it. I ended up going through a state school, and doing a lot of work through community colleges, etc. Entirely because it was more affordable. I am not unhappy with my education at all, but one does realize after some time that the people you meet in institutions tend to be the real resource that one gains. When you attend a school very far from any center of power with similarly powerless people from powerless families, you remain powerless. In this country at least a lot of power is concentrated in the northeast and in institutions like Harvard.

I suppose the same would be true of Helsinki University, as at least some of the posters are saying. Of the list of ten most influential people in Finland, I would guess that all or almost all of them have spent their productive lives in Helsinki. With the exception of Agricola, who spent his life in Turku back when that was the capital of Swedish Finland.

It's probably pretty much the same everywhere. If you want to get something done in France you go to Paris, etc. You have to go to the capital.

But then there are other satisfactions in life besides power. And perhaps if you want happiness, the countryside of Finland and the smaller towns are at least more peaceful and less pretentious. At least some Finns have complained to me of the pretentiousness of Helsinki.

It's a matter of personal values, and many Finns obviously prefer a quieter existence.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 3, 2005 09:41 AM

"In the U.S. that would be considered child abuse, but in Finland people look at you weird if you don't leave your kid out on the balcony for hours at a time. Although spanking your child in the U.S. is perfectly okay but here it's illegal. Interesting contrasts to say the least."

That is funny, Phil has really entertained us. Arvo Ylppö has been mentioned here, the pioneer of pediatrics in Finland. Babies sleep outside even in sub zero temperatures because he adviced to do so already eighty years ago. He targeted malnutrition and tubercolosis, and created a suberb pre- and postnatal care that quickly reduced infant mortality. Finnish child care has followed Ylppö´s teachings already 80 years, and now infant mortality is third lowest in the world (= lower in Sweden and Japan).

"I'm going to try and shut up because I think the journalists would rather hear from Finns."

I don´t think so, that would not be much of a conversation.

Posted by: EP | June 3, 2005 09:50 AM

About the baby box

The mother receives the box a few months before the baby is due. It gives the new parents an idea of what to get and what they will need.
And about using the box as a bed..my friend used it in the living room. This way her baby didn't have to lay on the floor or on the couch (from where it fall off).

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 09:51 AM

"Thanks for the answers to some of my questions. I was wondering -- a woman said that her husband got into a private elite American institution. Getting in isn't so hard. It's paying for it. Who paid? You say that he "attended," which could mean that he spent a summer session there?"


I'm not sure getting in is that easy! ;-) He got his masters and PhD. He had some scholarships from Finland, he worked as a teaching assistant,and used some of his own money.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 11:06 AM

It was quite amusing to read about "the finnish lunch", reindeer goulash. Personally, I've never even tasted reindeer meat, and I was born here. In fact, finns are NOT used to eating reindeer - far from it! Reindeer food is mainly eaten in expensive restaurants by rich tourists. It's a common mistake abroad to think this is a customary food here. Even those who eat it, buy it in very special occasion, that is, once a year or so. Maybe it's more common in Lappland. The reason it's so rare to eat reindeer, is that it's by far one of the most expensive food we have here - and y'all know that food sure ain't cheap around here.

So you all foreign kids, don't worry. We do not usually eat Rudolph the Reindeer and it's friends. No, it's just your parents and relatives who visit here in Finnland. :D

Posted by: MA | June 3, 2005 11:15 AM

"The media in Finland is very critical of the U.S. and I like reading different their viewpoints so I can share those views with the classes I teach. But it is tough, when a person (myself) reads five years of Helsingin Sanomat (Helsinki`s Newspaper) and not one article is positive about the United States."

There are plenty of newspapers to read in the US if you only want positive news! :-)

As an American living abroad I think the US has done A LOT in the past 5 years to create a negative image of itself around the world. Much of the negative press is well deserved unfortunately.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 11:15 AM

Sorry about the typo - I meant Finland. :D

Posted by: MA | June 3, 2005 11:18 AM

The first time I visited Finland I had reindeer pizza. :-)

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 11:19 AM

"The reason it's so rare to eat reindeer, is that it's by far one of the most expensive food we have here - and y'all know that food sure ain't cheap around here."

I take that you don´t cook? Next time in the supermarket take a peek into the freezer, and Voilá! there you see "poronkäristys", and that certaily is not expensive. And that is what they ate. Reindeer is very lean meat so it is also healthy, and that gulash is very quick and simple to make. I eat reindeer gulash quite often, with mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam.

Posted by: A Finn | June 3, 2005 11:46 AM

"That pretty much sums up welfare statism right there - the government thinks you're too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever to get a crib for your newborn (you've only had 9 months after all!), so they send you a padded box to stick the kid in at night. How thoughtful. Call me crazy but I have a bit more faith in the Finnish people.

Then the government gets the newborns ready for collectivism right out of the womb by dressing them all the same way. They're all the same so why not dress them the same..."

Ever heard of a concept called "economies of scale", Phil? When the government makes a mass purchase from the manufacturers of the identical items for the "äitiyspakkaus", the can negotiate much better prices than the individual families could. That's why this benefit makes so much sense.

I can guarantee you that there's no concept of "the government thinks you're too stupid/lazy/careless/whatever" or "the government gets the newborns ready for collectivism right out of the womb" behind it.

Posted by: Kaija | June 3, 2005 01:15 PM

"In fact, finns are NOT used to eating reindeer - far from it!"

True, I'm not used to eating any animal at all. Some of us are vegetarians.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 01:51 PM

In the south we don't usually buy other than the frozen reindeer meat. But many people also eat wild moose, which is also dark, lean and tasty. A lot of the meat is given by the hunters to family and friends. I think the amount of hunted moose is equivalent to 10% of the beef produced here!

Posted by: Windy | June 3, 2005 02:34 PM

Still not sure what department your husband attended or at what university, but yes, there is a hidden secret at many universities. That is to say that graduate students who get "teaching assistantships" which usually means that you teach one class per semester, get free tuition and some stipend -- about a thousand dollars a month (it varies tremendously). I thought you meant that he went to undergraduate school.

All the big universities offer teaching assistantships but they are very different. For instance at Harvard you find out every semester whether your teaching assistantship has been renewed which makes study precarious and crazy. At the University of Washington in Seattle where I went for my Ph.D. teaching assistantships were guaranteed for six straight years, which gave everyone plenty of time (well, not everyone -- some people couldn't write their dissertation and now work at computer companies or in computer cafes) to get the doctorate and find a job.

At Stanford it was even better. Out of three semesters you only had to teach one, and they had lots of free travel money to attend conferences. It was very plush, but I had the feeling that the department there was very narrow in its thinking and anyone who ventured out of the indoctrination that they offered was barely tolerated.

These teaching assistantships didn't seem to depend on having a green card. So people from Europe (lots of Germans, even one Finn, several French women, etc.) had positions in the Comparative Literature department at the University of Washington.

After 9/11 these positions might have tightened up somewhat?

For people looking to study in the United States there are lots of windows if you know how to find them! It's a huge mess because there isn't any guide that explains this sort of thing. It's almost a word of mouth phenomenon.

It's not easy I suppose to get into some departments. I was always ok at writing so found it easy to get in anywhere that I applied. I suppose that's an unusual skill in this illiterate country (quite honestly the farmers that I met in Finland were much better read than some of our teachers in the USA -- but at the very top level at the very best universities we do have some excellent faculty -- a few of whom were even born in the USA).

At Tampere University there were many foreign students who had made their way to the department. Some were from places like Iran or Turkey and there were a lot of foreign exchange students from Spain, etc. It made the experience quite lively and interesting. There were even some Swedish-speaking Finns who it seemed to me were treated exactly like the other Finns, even though there were a lot of jokes about the Swedish-speakers (never to their faces).

One of the most interesting things is I once asked how many of the students would go to war for Finland and they universally held up their hands. It was quite surprising. Militant patriotism is frowned upon in the university milieux in America.

I believe that a disproportionately large portion of our military comes from the southern part of the US. Are people in some areas of Finland less likely to be patriotic, or more likely to be? Will Swedish-speaking Finns stand up for Finland right alongside the Finnish-speakers?

Do gypsies have to spend time in the Finnish army, too?

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 3, 2005 03:16 PM

Well I for one would like to hear some good news about USA for a change, instead I keep runnning into sites like http://oldamericancentury.org/ which sure don't give much hope for the future of the currently most important country of the world. As a finn I've noticed this certain bias against USA in finnish press (It's not flat out bashing, but a bias none the less.) so I'd be very interested to learn more what's _really_ going on overseas. It's not a flat out facist dictatorship yet, is it?

Well, that said, the diary has been a good read as have most of the comments, including Phil's. He's doing a somewhat good job in bringing out the darker shades of Finland that might not be otherwise mentioned. Though perhaps a little less confrontational attitude might serve better in getting yourself heard, currently most people have probably written you off as a troll and ignore what you say.

As for the language activists, grab a can of cold beer and have a nice relaxing hour at the sauna, it'll do miracles to your overheated emotions. :)
Containing all the language discussion on one thread is also a great idea, even though I personally despise having to do learn a useless language it's still pointless to annoy all the foreigners and finns alike reading this article with the constant flames. I believe the point has been made a hundred times over that there are finns that do not consider bilinguanism to be a good idea.

Posted by: Matti | June 3, 2005 03:18 PM

Hi Kirby,

"Of the list of ten most influential people in Finland, I would guess that all or almost all of them have spent their productive lives in Helsinki."
This is hardly the case, if you weigh down the presidents a bit. They naturally spend their productive time in the capital :)
You can seek info on the people on the list
http://www.yle.fi/suuretsuomalaiset/in_english/ if you want to know more, but at least Sibelius and the writers worked a lot in the countryside.

"Are people in some areas of Finland less likely to be patriotic, or more likely to be?" I guess, (Pohjanmaa for ex.?) but not big differences in the US, because the majority goes to service anyway.
"Will Swedish-speaking Finns stand up for Finland right alongside the Finnish-speakers?" Hope so :) Well, they did in the last war, there's no difference. But Aland is demilitarized, so they would not be trained!
"Do gypsies have to spend time in the Finnish army, too?" Yes. The men have their traditional costume as well, but I guess they agree to wear the uniform there.

PS. We maybe get the wrong impression on your universities, because on movies and tv almost everyone goes/went to Harvard :) I mean, how big is that place really??

Posted by: Windy | June 3, 2005 03:43 PM

There aren't many neo-Nazis in Finland. But let's say there is one for every thousand citizens. In a city the size of Helsinki that means there are about 500 skinheads who will beat your head in, or your mother's head in, if she happens to be dark.

It's a fact of life.

That's why the black American basketball players have to leave the smaller cities. There might be only 25 such skinheads in such a city. But that's a lot of people who are hunting for your skin every day. Probably everybody who's been to Finland who doesn't look like a Finn has met up with this phenomenon.

I myself was nearly knifed in a small park in Turku and told "Go home Pakistan," even though I am a white person from Australia. My hair is jet black, and I was tanned at the time (just back from Italy). You learn to stay in at night and not go too close to bars. Cross the street and stay away from crowds milling around outside of bars. Otherwise you will spend a lot of time in the free hospitals having your head and teeth fixed if you survive the event.

Posted by: Australian | June 3, 2005 03:52 PM

Maybe I wrote a bit sloppily above, to clarify: the Aland islanders (mostly swedish-speaking) are not required to serve in the army. Other swedish-speakers are.

Posted by: Windy | June 3, 2005 03:54 PM

Did we make a "Julkis" out of Phil, one that everyone here loves to hate, or did he do it himself? That is the question.
I wasn't going to comment on him, but now I would like to know if he left America because he did not like President Bush winning over Gore and Kerry. Also why he chose Finland? Was it because of the free condoms (5 a night, hugh! )and maybe free Viagara too? Watch out Phil, that you don't go blind!

Posted by: ei julkis | June 3, 2005 04:04 PM

I'll have to get off here for today then as I have to mow the lawn as my Finnish father-in-law is here and I want to keep the lawn looking nice for him.

Oh, Harvard has I think about 20,000 students. It takes up a lot of Cambridge (separate city right next to Boston) and is filled with very picturesque buildings.

There are 8,000 other universities and community colleges in America. The University of Washington in Seattle has about 40,000 students. And many of the big public schools have about that many. Maybe a lot of our movies and books take place at Harvard because it is so famous (it's the oldest, and until the early 1800s was almost entirely for the creation of Congregational -- or Puritan -- priests). Now it's most famous for letters, but in fact their medical school is enormous. Also, very rich kids tend to go there and I guess we think that rich people are interesting? At any rate, it's not very big.

It's just the most beautiful, and it's famous for its wealth and its famousness. Stunning campus.

But it too has a darker side. There is a book called The Darker Side of Crimson by a black female lawyer -- it's a novel -- about a black woman who gets killed at Harvard. It gives you some of the local feeling of the place but it is a bit wooden in terms of characterization and plot.

Also, I just read the bit from the Australian. I think a lot of people get killed or at least harassed in bars everywhere. I don't know the statistics or if they are worse in Finland. Drinking tends to shrink the IQ and leave people stripped down to their most basic aspects. Also, staying out late anywhere is discouraged, especially in big cities at night. I was also yelled at a few times in Finland -- but it happens here too in the little village I live in -- cars full of rednecks will drive by in broad daylight and throw a Coke bottle at me or something -- for no particular reason except that I guess they see a pedestrian -- somehow it is just a lot scarier in another country because you don't know the parameters or what it means. You're much more vulnerable in a foreign place than you are at home. I just duck the Coke bottle and shrug my shoulders. It only happens once a year at most.

I'm quite comfortable in America and I don't think it is a bad place at all. Tervetuloa, as they say. It feels quite right here. I am American. I don't want to leave. I understand the food here and like it. I even like the president. His wife is pleasant and I think he's just a little hasty to spread democracy or something. Reagan was the same way and it did help Eastern Europe, right? Maybe Bush will help in the Middle East. Already the Syrians are demanding fair elections, and the Egyptians want in on the act. Pretty soon they might start demanding freedom of the press, too.

It's very hard to tell what's good and what's evil in the short run. Time will tell us more.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 3, 2005 04:20 PM

"It hasn't been mentioned that there is a finnish habit to let their babies sleep on the balcony or outside,"

Well, its nothing peculiar at all. Someone mentioned Arvo Ylppö and tuberculosis. Well, in the 1910's when Ylppöhot his training in Germany the treatment for tuberculosis was "clean mountain air". Now as poor people lived in squalor, tuberculosis was rampant, a family to a one-stove room the best place to sleep the baby wasn't next to the wheezing and coughing grandma. So the idea got through and now it is quite the standard thing to do. Now walking by a store you'll see prams parked outside... with the baby in them. We're that kind of an odd society.

Maybe Kaiser & Perkins should go find a few babies parked outside in prams and interview the mothers.

Posted by: Hank W. | June 3, 2005 05:26 PM

It never ceases to amaze me that American women continue to have so many more children than women in Scandinavia despite the horrific anti-family policies of the government. One would assume that Nordic women would have more children than their American counterparts since these countries have some the best policies in the world.

I presume Americans have a love affair with being embedded and burdened.

Posted by: sophie | June 3, 2005 05:42 PM

>>There are 8,000 other universities and community colleges in America.

I am adjunct professor at the nation's second largest community college. The vast majority of students have fifth grade writing skills, and no analytical or critical thinking abilities. They are unable to go beyond established ways of thinking. In my first semester, I failed half the class - then promptly received a note from the department implicitly stating that I inflate the grades. And that is precisely what I did for 7 long years.

Posted by: sophie | June 3, 2005 05:50 PM

>It's not a flat out facist dictatorship yet, is it?

Worse, it is increasingly becoming a theocracy. I spent part of my adolescence in Saudi Arabia, and see many similarities between the two countries.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 05:56 PM

"one neo nazi for every thousand citizens"

Sorry that you got hurt, but no. I would quess the total amount in the whole country might be that, or less.

And to the discussion of letting babies sleep outside in sub-zero temperatures, they are dressed warmly (always). And even adults sleep well in cool and fresh air, if they are warm at the same time, why not the babies. I believe that in many other countries the point is really the safety of the children from kidnappers and such. Thank god for our little remote "island" of a country where they still can sleep in fresh air.

I tend to remember that it was recommended that the kids be allowed to sleep their daytime naps out if the weather was warmer that minus 10 C from when they were about one month old.

Posted by: petteri | June 3, 2005 06:15 PM

"one neo nazi for every thousand citizens"

On some other thread, there's a link to an interview of a black person who've lived in Finland for +40 years and has experienced racism only once during that time.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 07:50 PM

"I tend to remember that it was recommended that the kids be allowed to sleep their daytime naps out if the weather was warmer that minus 10 C from when they were about one month old."

Finns have done that for a few thousand years at least. Shocking, isn't it? And the population is one of the healthiest in the world.

Posted by: | June 3, 2005 07:52 PM

Kirby Olson wrote:

"One of the most interesting things is I once asked how many of the students would go to war for Finland and they universally held up their hands. It was quite surprising. Militant patriotism is frowned upon in the university milieux in America.

I believe that a disproportionately large portion of our military comes from the southern part of the US. Are people in some areas of Finland less likely to be patriotic, or more likely to be? Will Swedish-speaking Finns stand up for Finland right alongside the Finnish-speakers?

Do gypsies have to spend time in the Finnish army, too?"

Dear Kirby,

You have to to remember that if you ask a bunch of finns whether they would go to war for Finland they hear:"Would you defend Finland with arms if it were invaded"? The thought of the Finnish Defence Forces fighting in another country is simply ridiculous to us. Frankly I think that it would be VERY hard to mobilize the reserves for that kind of a mission. To finns the picture of a possible war is always a war for the survival of our society and culture.

Also for many of us it is a question of responsible democracy. If we elect a parliament that makes a desicion that leads to war, we are partly responsible for that war and therefore we must carry our responsibility the hard way if necessary. (In Finland only the parliament has the power to decide upon peace and war and the mobilization and use of the armed forces.)

Further, most finns still take pride in our consciption system and a recent study shows that 75% of the males would serve even if it were voluntary. Through the conscription system the FDF is quite integrated into the society. The wartime force after all consists of about 15 to 25 percent of the male population. (Depending on the amoun of replacements needed.)The conscription is also a rite of passage for men in our culture and it serves other societal functions.

Despite all this real militant patriotism is frowned upon Finland. (In my experience at least.) It is something that ignorant, marginalized neo-nazis practice. Such "hihhuli"'s are usually quickly ignored and silenced even, or perhaps especially, among active reservists during voluntary training. War is too serious a business to be left to such loonies.

If you wan't a good look into the finnish mindset on this field you should read "The Unknown Soldier" by Väinö Linna. Linna's North star trilogy is also a priceless introduction to understanding finns, still today.

As to the Romani, or gypsies as you call them, serving: they are citizens like the everybody else. Also other citizens with foreign ancestry serve. I recently met a fellow, an american finn, who had come from the States to serve.

I myself consider this mostly a democratis issue of carrying the responsibility over your own desicions.

Posted by: Tuomo | June 4, 2005 08:01 AM

Sophie, the crisis in teaching here in America is extremely vexing. The students don't read much, so when you ask them to write the spelling is atrocious, the sentences are barely functional, and the ideas are cardboard. It's true. However, when you get third year or fourth year students they are working at a very high rate.

The problem in community colleges is that you see the general population as there are no admissions requirements. Some of the people in those colleges are excellent but I would say that it is about five percent. The rest or most of the rest are marginally literate at best and there is nothing you can do about it for the most part. Well, you can try to remind them that they have a soul, and try to work with them, and you can get good results, but it is very taxing work and the caps on classes are set so high as to make it almost impossible to give personal attention.

At Tampere our writing classes had a maximum of ten students. In America it is often thirty.

Thanks again for all of your responses. I have a copy of Vaino Linna's book in English and intend to read it this summer. It has appeared in a new translation from a Canadian publisher whose name I can't recall. I think the whole trilogy is going to be published in English. It's very exciting. My wife says it's Finland's greatest book.

I'll be out of touch for a couple days -- I'm taking the Finns sight-seeing -- Niagara Falls today. But first I want to see one more thing, but I am going to do it in a separate post.

Posted by: Kirby Olson | June 4, 2005 09:10 AM

Mr. Olson, read the trilogy but leave The Unknown Soldier. The book is great but the translation is horrible.

"but now I would like to know if he left America because he did not like President Bush winning over Gore and Kerry. Also why he chose Finland?"

Somebody asked the above concerning our Phil. He moved to Finland for the most common reason all foreigners living here did: He married a Finn. (but not me)

What comes to militant patriotism, it is a little different for US. Nobody imagines that Canadians or Mexicans suddenly start invading the country. A war in Finland always means a war on our own soil.

Posted by: A Finn | June 4, 2005 10:53 AM

Kirby Olsen asked about the swedish speaking finns in finland and about theyr serving in the army.
I am a swedishspeaking finn myself and therefor can tell you with utmost certainty that all swedesspeaking finns would defend theyr country to the same extent as the majority of the finnish population.
Many peaple, also many finns, dont understand the fact that the swedishspeaking finns consider themselves finnish to theyr nationality. We do not for example support the swedish hockey team in the world championship and would always take offence if referd to as swedes (allthough not as swedishspeaking).
The swedishspeaking people in Finland are never referd to as imigrants as this is not the case. The swedes in finland can be compared to the frensh people in canada as we and our familys have been living here for centurys. :)

Posted by: Fredrik | June 5, 2005 07:47 AM

all swedesspeaking finns would defend theyr country to the same extent as the majority of the finnish population.
***
Except the ones living in Ahvenanmaa. They have no army.

especially in big cities at night. I was also yelled at a few times in Finland
***
Totally safe for women in Finland during night. Not for men.

Are people in some areas of Finland less likely to be patriotic, or more likely to be?
***
Helsinki = least patriotic, some there go to civil service to smoke pot, unthinkable in smaller towns to do that.

Posted by: | June 5, 2005 02:12 PM

Hello everyone,

I would like to make a quick general comment.
I don't understand why so many, especially foreigners, feel the need to criticize the Finns for everything that is mentioned in the articles? Sure, the system is not perfect, but seems to work quite well after all for the majority of the Finnish people.
Most complaints seems to be against the social services, but what would then be the option? Most people who write to this forum are well off, so perhaps they don't have a similar need for the communal services, but for most poor people, me included, the services are essential and very much needed, and I have benefited immensely throughout my life from these services. I seriously don't know if my parents and I would have been able to afford all the healthcare, daycare, college education etc. I have received throughout the years.
Sure, I don't like paying taxes (who does) but I am happy that the money circulates rather well in the Finnish society for the benefit of all.
I really fear for the day if we would go to a libertarian system like the US which puts all the responsibility on the private sector, which at the end of the day is not interested in one's well-being but the money.

In conclusion it would seem like that the curmudgeons are secretly jealous of the Finnish system, but disguises it in contempt for it...

Posted by: A Finn in Santa Cruz,Ca | June 5, 2005 05:16 PM

One more thing I forgot to ad to my previous posting is that I find it actually rather hilarious that foreigners (and some Finnish libertarians) complain about the lavishness of the Finnish Social Services, when many Finns think they still fall short of what is needed. (for example recent discussion in Finland about education, child care etc.) Go figure...

Posted by: A Finn in Santa Cruz, Ca | June 5, 2005 05:38 PM

I myself was nearly knifed in a small park in Turku and told "Go home Pakistan," even though I am a white person from Australia.
--
Dont worry. Finns too are accustomed to the violence. That is why some carry guns with them despite it being illegal. Some join gun clubs only for the reason they want to carry a piece as if it is a hobby it is allowed to own one and some do not bother the paperwork and buy an illegal gun instead. They are about the same price either way.
I dont recommend you get one. Shoot one and be shot back it is.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 06:58 AM

Most complaints seems to be against the social services, but what would then be the option? Most people who write to this forum are well off, so perhaps they don't have a similar need for the communal services, but for most poor people, me included, the services are essential and very much needed, and I have benefited immensely throughout my life from these services.
--
Option: give the money to those who need it instead of all. Now happens so that many of those who would need money get nothing.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 06:59 AM

"Dont worry. Finns too are accustomed to the violence. That is why some carry guns"

Nice straw man argument.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 07:15 AM

What's this talk about guns? I don't know anyone who has even seen one, guns are not a part of our culture in the manner of the U.S.
I think part of the reason why people are happy with our progressive tax system is that everybody gets something back. That's what makes it possible. If the wealthier people didn't benefit from it in any way many of them might object to paying high taxes. Also, I think having to go around with a begging bowl is demeaning. Here everyone gets a free school meal instead of the poor embarrassingly having to show meal tickets like in the U.S. Certain things should be a natural right like health and education. Nobody should have to beg for these.

Posted by: JenniP. | June 6, 2005 07:53 AM

>>I really fear for the day if we would go to a libertarian system like the US which puts all the responsibility on the private sector, which at the end of the day is not interested in one's well-being but the money.

You have an interesting, but I think antiquated, Dickensonian view of private business, be it American or any other. I am surprised you did not mention smokestacks, slaughterhouses, and whips, which as anyone knows defines "Big business."

Your implication is that central govt bureaucrats are truly concerned with your well-being. Doesn't it worry you that this system obviously cannot continue forever with your low birth rates and high taxes? Then what?

Posted by: Oliver Twist | June 6, 2005 11:28 AM

I'm not the same person who wrote that, but..

"Your implication is that central govt bureaucrats are truly concerned with your well-being."

Obviously you haven't visited any Nordic country if you have to ask that. It's typical that foreigners look the whole system through their point of view, from a country with tens or hundreds of millions of inhabitants, from different cultures and backgrounds. Nordic countries are very different and have their own history.

"Doesn't it worry you that this system obviously cannot continue forever with your low birth rates and high taxes? Then what?"

I has existed a lot longer in other Nordic countries and keeps working very well.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 11:56 AM

""Doesn't it worry you that this system obviously cannot continue forever with your low birth rates and high taxes? Then what?"

I has existed a lot longer in other Nordic countries and keeps working very well."

And Nordic countries remain the most competitive countries, Finland in no. 1. position (also in growth).

http://www.weforum.org/site/homepublic.nsf/Content/Nordic+Countries+Lead+the+Way+in+the+World+Economic+Forum%E2%80%99s+2004+Competitiveness+Rankings

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 12:13 PM

Hark! I hear the whistler walking past the graveyard now.

Posted by: Oliver Twist | June 6, 2005 01:16 PM

Hearking back to a distant thread, I wanted to say that as a new parent I would appreciate the opportunity to know what sort of products to buy. If the government were to send me a free package of diapers they approved, that would help me make future decisions, even if that first package didn't last forever.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 01:44 PM

>If the government were to send me a free package of diapers they approved, that would help me make future decisions, even if that first package didn't ..

If that is not the classic definition of nanny-state thinking, I don't know what is. What do you mean, diapers that the "government approved?" Sounds like old Soviet Union.

Live Free or Die.

Posted by: rockribbed | June 6, 2005 01:59 PM

">If the government were to send me a free package of diapers they approved, that would help me make future decisions, even if that first package didn't ..

If that is not the classic definition of nanny-state thinking, I don't know what is. What do you mean, diapers that the "government approved?" Sounds like old Soviet Union. "

Ummmm.. More like product samples from companies. Are you really that stupid and ignorant, or are you just acting? Either alternative shows how immature your society is.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:08 PM

"Live Free or Die."

Says a person living (most likely) in one of the worst western non-democracies and police states, the US.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:09 PM

>Progressive taxes are -- after all -- a good showing of people wanting to take care of each other.

I have a question, what about the role of families? Shouldn't families be vested with the respons. for caring for their family members? Maybe policies that promoted individual autonomy and caretaking - like, say, lower taxes to begin with - should be fostered.

Another thing about the Baby Box: don't you Finns give baby showers? This is where relatives give the couple gifts far exceeding the monotonous government-provided Baby Box.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:11 PM

>>Ummmm.. More like product samples from companies. Are you really that stupid and ignorant, or are you just acting? Either alternative shows how immature your society is.

So if I start a private baby-clothes business in Finland and want to get my product included in the government-sponsored Baby Box, how would I go about doing it?

Another alt. question: What if I wanted to compete with the govt. and start a company that builds and markets bigger and better Baby Boxes (Super Baby Box) that is superior in quality and quantity. Would my competition be welcome?

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:15 PM

"bigger and better Baby Boxes"

Sound very american, is "bigger & better" and money all that you love? Sound also very infantile.

"(Super Baby Box) that is superior in quality and quantity. Would my competition be welcome?"

Just start selling them. Nobody is going to stop you. This is a free market economy, democracy, and the most competitive country in the world.

http://www.weforum.org/site/homepublic.nsf/Content/Nordic+Countries+Lead+the+Way+in+the+World+Economic+Forum%E2%80%99s+2004+Competitiveness+Rankings

(Finland leads the way in global competitiveness and growth, sorry!)

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:20 PM

Whenever a new article appears on the site and someone makes the mistake to post a positive comment, it seems to infuriate certain people. I think all civilized people around the world can see what's really going on here, and don't fall into those blatant and demeaning fabrications of "government approved diapers" etc.

Obviously the fact that things work pretty good in some country (although no place is perfect), and one small country seems to have most of the number 1 positions in international comparisons and rankings (from education and competitiveness to low level of corruption and crime, healthy population and pure nature) is a bit too much to some people. Sad but true (and their childish comments don't certainly give a positive image of their own country and level of maturity).

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:26 PM

Sound very american, is "bigger & better" and money all that you love? Sound also very infantile.

You know, this statement is to me infantile, not my statement. Do I sound American because I have an idea to provide a better mousetrap then? We are such silly Americans for trying to find a market.

As for what I love, well I love my family. Is that good enough? Did I say I loved money? You seem to think that. Is it because I have an entrpreneurial idea. You see, my fellow Finn, it is you who are immature. You have an immature view toward business, both small business (my fictitious Super Baby Box company) and big business. You are a product of collectivism. Enjoy your Baby Box.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:34 PM

"You have an immature view toward business, both small business (my fictitious Super Baby Box company) and big business. You are a product of collectivism. Enjoy your Baby Box."

I wonder how well that goes with the fact that Finland is the most competitive economy, not the US? And could you explain by your own words how the Nordic model (free markets, democracy, free basic services, e.g. health care and education) are "collectivism" or "against competition"? Especially when Nordic countries lead the way as the most competitive economies? I think it's time for you to educate yourself a bit.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:40 PM

>>The "babybox" is really a treasured and wonderful thing to get for new parents.

I have never heard anyone in the US call anything they got from the government "treasured." The two words, government and treasured, just don't go. It was a little creepy to hear one guy above saying that he/she still has their treasured baby box in the attic. My Lord. I can see treasuring Mom's old wedding locket or something like that, but treasuring something as impersonal as a goverment-sent baby box! Ah well.
God Bless Ronald Reagan and Margie Thatcher.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:52 PM

"And could you explain by your own words"

S/he can't. How could the person explain anything when s/he lacks even the most basic education and can't tell the difference between the Nordics and something else.

And the person doesn't seem to have a clue that highly educated and healthy population is also productive, competitive and relatively crime/corruption free. Which keeps things running quite smoothly and you can afford to be fair, responsible, mature and reasonable. But the good thing is that those aggressive rantings (in addition to travelling around the world in dog eat dog / eye for an eye countries) really make me appreciate the Nordics even more.

"The two words, government and treasured"

Sound really american, looking things through the concepts in his country. Not a single though to the fact that Nordic countries have small populations of a few million, the lowest corruption levels in the world and public trust towards the government and authorities (who actually are "people", and not some sinister conspiracy "The Government" like it seems to be in the US. You can pick up a phone book in Finland and find the home phone numbers for most ministers and politicians.)

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 02:58 PM

"bigger and better Baby Boxes"

You are so welcome to compete with the official baby box.
Just send it to all pregnant women for free...

If you wish to have your clothes included into the box and somebody to actually pay you, you need a solid history as a reliable producer with high quality products, which you are then willing to mass sell to the government at considerable discount.

I believe that many companies are actually not really making any profit in their sales to the baby box, but consider it as a marketing tool. The winter clothes have their maker logo on them. A year or two later the young child will need a bigger snow-suit. Parents unconsciously accept that the company which has such high quality clothes that they can be included in the box, can be trusted to produce also clothes that they would pay with their own money to acquire for their kids.

Diapers and such for example I trust are totally free for the government as well. Government checks the quality and if good enough, they can include some in. Nice for the parents to get some to start with, and also a good marketing move by the manufacturer. They will be buying lots of diapers for the next year!

Posted by: petteri | June 6, 2005 03:41 PM

Wow - I think "the box" is a great concept and something that should be given to American babies as well. I feel like it's the Finnish Governments way of embracing an addition to their society. It's the thought that counts, right?

Posted by: Rachel M. | June 6, 2005 04:54 PM

I don't know what baby showers are like. But in Finland the baby gets presents when s/he is christened/name given. (Maybe when s/he is 2 months old.) There is a party and the baby gets clothes, toys, books etc. Or jewellery and collectables, something that they might like when they get older. (Their name is engraved.)

Babies and parents also get presents whenever friends and and family visit. It's customary to bring flowers to people who you visit. And if there is a baby in the house, people often feel like giving presents to the family and the baby when they visit. Again clothes, toys etc. But it's all very informal and the gifts are given spontaneously when people feel like giving them.

Posted by: | June 6, 2005 06:04 PM

I think when someone is not present, comments (specially malicious one) about this person should not be written.

Posted by: swissfin | June 7, 2005 05:01 AM

Not a single though to the fact that Nordic countries have small populations of a few million, the lowest corruption levels in the world and public trust towards the government and authorities (who actually are "people", and not some sinister conspiracy "The Government" like it seems to be in the US. You can pick up a phone book in Finland and find the home phone numbers for most ministers and politicians.
-
Does not mean its not corrupted. For example it is really usual that when your town decides to build something, the constructions go to the friends of those who decide. There are small towns where honesty is valued but no big ones.

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 05:51 AM

Also, I think having to go around with a begging bowl is demeaning. Here everyone gets a free school meal instead of the poor embarrassingly having to show meal tickets like in the U.S. Certain things should be a natural right like health and education. Nobody should have to beg for these.
-
Does not help to beg, you still dont get them if the government does not like you.

Posted by: | June 7, 2005 05:55 AM

"Women are supposed to be equals and just as smart as men... yet women are too dumb to buy diapers and clothes for their babies?"

Yeah, _just as smart as men_! Just as you said. I didn't get the point.

Posted by: hakkipakki | June 7, 2005 07:45 PM

"For example it is really usual that when your town decides to build something, the constructions go to the friends of those who decide."

The construction goes to that company that wins the open price competition and offers the lowest price.

Posted by: | June 8, 2005 06:56 AM

"The construction goes to that company that wins the open price competition and offers the lowest price."

There is usually no open competition.

Posted by: | June 14, 2005 07:37 AM

"But c'mon guys, diapers? Surely people know to get diapers."

Perhaps so. But what kinds of diapers? Besides, I doubt many first-time mothers or fathers have the faintest idea of the sheer volume of diapers (nappies to the English) a little baby can go through. Having a couple extra from the government when the first pack of Pampers runs out late one night.

The pack provides a temporary measure, nothing more. Everyone accepts that. Winning the lottery doesn't mean you're automatically entitled to more money once you've spent your first lot.

I would love to have the maternity pack one day when I have a baby. It gives some guidance as to what kinds of diapers, clothes etc. a baby needs. There is so much choice out there, and having a baby - especially a first one - is such an overwhelming experience.

It would make life a lot easier if someone just handed a mother a pack saying: "here you go, use this, you'll get by for a few months with this and as you go and become more comfortable with your understanding of your baby's individual needs, you can add and substitute other products, toys, clothes etc".

Hey wait, that *is* what they do!

"And seriously - what happens after a few weeks when the box supplies run out?"

Well, typically people tend to wash their clothes after use - most people adopt this custom with the garments of their offspring as well. And the diapers aren't disposable ones, so as long as you wash them (and given the alternative, I can't see who wouldn't) - they won't run out.

But as someone mentioned, the pack has a huge psychological impact. It makes the baby "real". Many mothers prepare a "fatherhood pack" in secret so they can give a special activity pack for their partners when the maternity pack arrives. Playing with the contents of the maternity pack is as close as you can get to actually holding the baby before the dear thing is born.

"I am extremely proud and pleased that the "baby box" is used as a tool in supporting parenthood and promoting health issues and healty sexuality."

I must say I completely agree. Well said.

"Why not give them $1,000 instead of a lousy $175? Let's face it, the box is peanuts, can't the government do better??"

I can detect sarcasm (Dear God, I hope I can...) but for the uninitiated: there is the child benefit, or lapsilisa. Can't remember how much it is, but it's a monthly "allowance" to help in the cost of bringing up a child.

Posted by: Sanna | July 21, 2005 06:53 AM

Thank God I´m Finnish, not American...

Posted by: Jutta from Finland | August 20, 2005 06:49 AM

And the American would propably say the opposite. Everyone thanks God, they're from where ever they are, it's called patriotism. Comments like yours are totally pointless.

Posted by: Tasku | August 21, 2005 04:43 AM

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