Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Living in Finland

Right, so I guess it's quite obvious that since I'm Finnish and have lived in Finland all my life, I have some things to say about it and the people that live there.

What comes to your mind when you think of Finland (if you've ever heard of it)? Vodka, ever-lasting winter, forests, lakes, complex language, stubborn people; the country that was (still is) reluctant to loan money to Greece, or, wait for it... Talvisota! (Winter War during WWII when Finland was attacked by The Soviet Union, Finns love to talk about it, along with the compulsory military service) No? What about The Moomins? These are the most common ones. For myself it is the overall greyness (including the people and the landscape), hostility and bitter coldness. It's just so... boring. The nature is beautiful during summer (which only lasts 2-3 months, the rest of the year is just... meh), but I've seen much better.

I've been accused of giving a bad image of Finland to foreigners, and while that may more or less be true, does that not sound very North Korean? The one thing those two countries have in common is nationalism, so no wonder. I'm obviously generalizing a lot, but this is how I feel. It's quite easy to get the idea that you're not supposed to speak badly of Finland, or anything that's wrong with it. From a certain point of view, anyway. Finns love to complain about politics, unemployment and whatnot (mostly money-related), but when it comes to actually doing something about them (ask someone why they aren't doing anything to change things and they'll give you "the look" - see SATW for reference, it's quite accurate lol), it mostly consist of getting drunk at the closest bar where you can get the cheapest beer, ranting loudly, and beating up someone (or getting beaten).

That being said, Finland, like every other place, has its ups, too. It's easy and almost completely free to get an education here (the government even pays you up to 500 euros per month if you study in a higher level institute, and loans up to 3000 euros per year with a minimal interest rate to students, so, yeah...), the public healthcare is cheap and usually of good quality, we have the most forests and lakes in the world per sq feet, the nature and food is relatively pure (the use of GM crops and highly processed foods is almost nonexistent compared to the US, for instance), and we don't often get natural disasters. Almost solely nature-related - weird, huh? Not so, if you consider that Finland used to get most of its living from its farms and forests just a few decades ago, which many people living here have either forgotten or never heard of.

That's one thing that bugs me a lot: Finns complain an awful lot about being poor (and they envy each other like Stallone and Schwarzenegger in a body-building contest...) and how foreigners (discrimination is quite strong here, too) are only a burden and here to steal their money made by hard(ly) working. They have all but forgotten that if it wasn't for other countries (services sector accounts for 68% of the economy and agriculture less than 3%), they'd still pretty much live in those forests that they hold so dear yet rarely set foot in.

Need evidence? Look up "PerusSuomalaiset" ("True Finns" - a political party in Finland
which almost won the presidency) and their reputation.
Does he not look just like the kind of guy you'd vote for the president? I betcha!
You might also want to see the Per-Looks-gallery for a list of their representatives. While I admit that judging people by their looks is generally unacceptable, I feel that it serves them right to get a taste of their own medicine (regarding discrimination), and, well, it does give you a pretty good idea of what kind of people they are...

What about the average Finn, what's he or she like? Well, they're very strict about their personal space. It's kinda hard to make valid generalizations as everyone's different, but one of the most common ones would be that Finns tend to be rather shy, quiet and (seemingly) hard to approach. Alcoholism is generally widely accepted, while doing other drugs or even speaking of them (including weed) is usually a taboo. (Smoking is rather restricted, too, but not nearly as expensive (about 4-5 euros per pack) as in countries such as the US and Australia.) Finns are also forced to learn Swedish (and English) at school, and many of them dislike Sweden (our neighbour and a former ruler) for the sake of general attitude towards it (I feel that the Swedish are much more easy-going and open, especially when it comes to talking, and wouldn't mind living there - at least for a while - the landscape and climate are very alike). "Sullen" would be the word to describe the majority ("juro" in Finnish).

Uh-oh, I think I promised to at least try to maintain a friendlier tone and attitude... Well, I promise to do better next time! I just had to get this Finland-rant out of the picture so I can focus on more important things that I've been going through in my head.

Here's some things that I love about Finland, to make up for general negativeness of the post...
A Finnish lake view in summer - wonderful!

Thought football was rough? Try ice hockey! Good times...

Sauna, no big surprise there. Ours doesn't look quite as nice, and doesn't come with the girl. Dang.

"Avantouinti" aka ice-swimming. Does that count as doing extreme sports?
"Mökki", a Finnish summer cottage - "everyone" here wants one, preferably near water, including me.

Vi ses! (Swedish for "see you")

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