Friday, 21 August 2009

opinions: fine as long as you agree with me

Finland seems to be quite an open place, with few of the 'reservations' so common in countries like England or Japan. As an Australian we like to call "a spade a spade" and you discover quickly here that such behavior is not popular. Acutally I'm finding that there are some interesting comparisons between England Japan Australia and Finland.

The relationship it not exactly straight forward or even the same in each comparison type.

For instance in my diagram I have England and Japan on opposite sides of the circle, but they could equally be on opposite sides of a mirror looking at each other.

Both are densely populated island 'Nation States' with a long history and a monarchy in their history.

Both have quite distinct and observable ceremony in their culture (for example tea culture is strong in both although quite different).

Australia and Finland are both places where 'strong observable culture' seems absent, but if you compare a Finn to (say) a German or an Australian to a Pommie there are enough differences to make it clear that despite similarities we're quite different.

Finns like Australians seem to be "no nonsense" down to business people. We both have recent Agrarian histories and seem to like straight to the point talking in business.

But despite an exterior of "no bullshit" in Finland it seems that the Japanese concept of "WA" is really quite significant here. Finns (it seems to me) actually dislike discussions which look like they may involve any kind of difference of opinion and will quickly truncate them. Finns are certainly well know for being blunt and abrupt, perhaps even devoid of notions of courtesy. I've even had a Finn tell me that courtsey is just "wanking" and people should just get to the point.

Well, the interesting thing is that if you do "just get to the point" you'll likely find people take discussions of abstract ideas as being personal attacks. Sure we all do this ... Australian, Japanese, English ... but the level of it seems more elevated here ... as in a country which was bound by etiquette and culture, like Japan.

So much for courtesy being irrelevant ...

This can be confusing for a foreigner trying to understand what's happening. Perhaps a Japanese would fare better in comprehending this concept.

Bottom line seems to be that your opinion is valued as long as it is mine. I wonder how much this will seem like a mirror to me when I go home and can compare Australians under the same lens.


  1. the word you asked for is "itsetunto" ~ self-esteem

  2. and being a bit unsure of what you have to do, fearing the social contacts and having low self-esteem is a typical Finnish curse. "Itsesyytös" ~ self punishment. Finns to a certain degree love to dwell on the feeling that nobody loves us and that's how we allow ourselves to be such tools we are :)

  3. That's why we also like melancholic music, heavy metal and everything in minor key. Apathetic minds love to lull on more apathy :)