Thursday, 6 August 2009

the first rule of "finland club" is

Just like "fight club, the first rule of discussing problems in Finland is don't talk about "Fight Club".

I found it similar in Japan that while locals can discuss what it is that shits them about their own country that nationalism seems to well up and prevent any discussion or any reasonable conversation which does not involve the recitation of the "Finnish Laws of Reality".

This is of course partially an issue relating to social or group consciousness. Every society has one to some extent. So if you discuss anything which tends to challenge the 'accepted thought' you'll find yourself up against the wall pretty quickly.

Currently I work for a major University, so (based on my experience in working for and with major Universities in other countries) I would say that this exposes me more to the educated and thoughtful Finns than the one's I'd perhaps meet on building sites (where I've also worked in the past).

Despite this bias towards the more philosophically inclined portion of the population I still find that Finns react poorly to anything other than "oh gosh, isn't this a lovely country, its so pretty here". [of course the stange part of that is when you say something like this a Finn may be quite likely to start pointing out "what's wrong with this country" ... but don't be tempted to join in ... at any cost]

For example ... yesterday ... I was at the train station and I had not filled my water bottle before leaving the office. I looked about the train station and there was not a single place where I could fill my bottle up without paying a euro (this was the cheapest option, and it involved going into the public toilet which costs a euro) or resorting to begging.

Sure I could buy bottled water, but this is the first country which I have been to in the world were I was unable to find a public water fountain.

I mentioned this to my fellow workers at morning tea and was offered the following advices:
  • Finland is a cold country, so we don't need to drink water [strangely its summer here now and quite warm and sweaty weather ...]
  • If you asked nicely at a shop they may have filled your bottle up for you [but that's begging]
  • There is pure water everywhere around in Finland, so we don't need to provide taps [sorry, but bullshit, even more so here in Helsinki]
  • "well, so we have one thing which is not perfect here in Finland ...

This is just typical of the sort of blinkered responses you get from Finns if you start to observe or question. Finns aren't noted usually for their Patriotic Nationalism, but for a country which wasn't even aware of itself as a country more than 200 years ago (and declared itself as a nation less than 100 years ago) they've caught on fast.

I am really interested to see how well or otherwise Australians respond to this sort of thing when I get home ... I'm sure there is a Social Science PhD topic in this!

Anyway, not being a believer in repressing my feelings and thoughts I publish here.


  1. We Finns love to pat ourselves in the back because we still have the complex of being of lower grade than our 'masters' in the past. First we were under swedish rule for various hundreds of years, then we were under russian rule for almost another hundred years so people here always need to compliment themselves because nobody else does :P

  2. As for the water issue, I think you would need to heat up the public water tap in the winter to prevent the water from freezing and blowing the pipe. That would cost tax payers money so they won't put such taps up.

  3. Arto

    nice point about the taps ... speaking of tax payers money, I guess you've seen the muck in the subways after the burst pipes?

  4. I thought I should add here that as an Aussie I come from a place that perhaps is only just waking up to being a country and not a colony ... but then I have a blog about that too.