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Thursday, August 25, 2011

On Finland, now and then.

I've always considered myself an unofficial ambassador to a less-known country called Finland. And proudly so. What's not to love about Finland? People just don't know, so being a Finn expat, I enlighten them.

  1.  It's the Land of Thousand Lakes. 187'888 lakes, in fact.
  2.  It's where Nokia phones and technology is from. Originally. The city of Nokia (Nokia meaning a small rodent, like a mink) is some 180km from Helsinki, the capital, that incidentally is NOT spelled 'Helsinsky' or 'Hellsinky'.
  3.  It's the home of the sauna. Sauna is a Finnish word that means... well... sauna.
  4.  It's the Land of the Midnight Sun. The Nightless Night, a nightmare for those with sleeping problems. And also, the Dayless Day, The Midday Sunlessness that lasts all winter. And that winter, my friends, is long.
  5.  It's the Land of Drinking People. Do not drink alcohol with a Finn, or you become like them - an alcohol person with a finnish problem.

It's also a land with many top rankings when measured worldwide. Literacy, school system, technological achievements, female suffrage (women voted already in 1906, as opposed to, say, Cyprus in 1960, France in 1944, Italy in 1946 or Liechtenstein, anybody? in whooping 1984). Total spirit consumption per capita, too. (See list, point 5.)

It has lots of other top rankings also worth mentioning. The world suicide ratings, for example, for the ages of 25-34, 35-44, 45-54 and 55-64. But hey, we're only the 2nd ranking in suicides of the 15-24 year-olds! (No idea about those over 64 years old.) We're also swinging near to the top ranking in family violence and unemployment. (See list, point 5.)

But we do have some of the world's lowest rankings as well. People that believe Finland to be an undesirable neighbor country are scarce. Our foreign population inflow is the world's 2nd lowest (just look at our winters and you'll know why). Our number of immigrants per capita is a bit less than 3%. 

But when I ask around about what people know Finland for, it isn't known for any of these stats. Nowadays, Finland is very well known for its hankering of right-wing extremist politicians. Its biggest party, the 'True Finns', whose rise to fame was swift and steep. The French know Finland to be a willing buyer of French nuclear power technology. (In the USA, Finland was unheard of. 'Whereabouts in Minnesota is that? Finland? Who's the king of Finland? Isn't that the country with a lesbian communist president? The land where they have no refrigerators?)

The longer I stay away from Finland, the less I know about it. I am a relic of the days of old, for I am no longer able to answer questions about the state Finland is (in) today. So I just keep talking about the Finland I grew up in. The one that was known for its lakes, and saunas, and honest, hardworking, quietly hospitable people. I still go there every summer to enjoy that magnificent nature, my family, those lakes and saunas. The people I no longer recognize. Or maybe, probably, it's me who is changed.

Oh yes, and the stats, the stats? They can be viewed, for example, at BBC for True Finns. Go to Olkiluoto 2 for French Areva nuclear tech. (There is, unfortunately, nothing but my say-so on the comments I have received in the USA. Believe who will...)

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