Tuesday, 10 November 2009

elevators in Finland

One of the funny things about being a foreigner is created by that fact that you make assumptions on how life should be based your previous experiences in life.

As an Australian I was born and grew up in Australia and lived in the buildings we have there. In Australia we have this view that we are somehow still a "far flung colony" of England and look to the "civilized world" (such as Europe) for inspiration. Reading the magazines and watching TV in Australia images and advertising seems to support this idea.

However when you come to live in Europe you find that we've got it all wrong, and about the only area I can find which is not simply inferior or antiquated in Europe is perhaps that of policy. In areas of infrastructure we seem to be quite advanced while the Europeans seem to be simply smug in their own belief of their advancement.

Take elevators as an example. At home we have sleek well designed elevators which are fast, programmable and safe.

I have been consistently stunned by the museum pieces which still seem to be pushed into service here in Finland.

This is the 'bank of elevators' at my place of work. When you call one, you have to be paying attention as the door does not open to cue you in on its arrival, you have to grab the handle and pull it open. They only hold between 3 and 4 people each and in many you can't press the button to go somewhere till the door has closed ... you can't press more than one floor, so if you are going to floor 3 and the person who presses first presses 6, well you have to come back down again ... as long as noone called it from 7.

Quaint. I thought this was a developed country? Clearly in Australia we have different standards of what a developing and what a developed country is ...

In my own building at home (and in almost every building I've been in) the wall of the elevator shaft is directly visible and you have some quaint little door to open and close when you get in.

Some are like this one (which is from my building in a major University in Finland). It really belongs to something from "Castle Wolfenstein"

it would be funny if it was just a joke.

However the real joke is how (because they grew up here) Finns seem to think this sort of early 50's sort of ex-soviet machinery is somehow "normal" ... and can't see my point.

Like I said above if you're born in a place and grow up there you think its normal ...

I'm sure that refugees from Somalia and other 3rd world countries who come to Finland are entranced by the wonderfully modern place, certainly the Finns are all quietly smug about how good things are in Finland ... I get quite tired of hearing gibber on the train from passengers who have been 'abroad' for two weeks going on about
  • "how much better it is compared to XXX" or
  • "the quality of ZZZ in YYY was just so poor"

well folks wake up and look at things here a little more objectively. If I saw elevators above while I was in "developing countrys" like this one in India it was 'normal' ... but in Finland?

Well clearly this shows that being a developed or developing country is a state of mind, not a state of how things are.

Its clearly a cultural thing as in Japan the attitude was "look abroad to how they do things, so we can learn to do things better" while in Finland its "pick the things we do better than abroad so we can pat our selves on the backs and nod in agreement with how good things are in Finland"

To Australians I say .. stop knocking your selves, keep working at making Australia a better place and keep looking overseas, but not just for what we're not doing well, but for what we do well. We need to learn how to pat ourselves on the back a little.


  1. :)
    That video reminded me so much of the lifts in the buildings in Lisbon, when I lived there in the 70s...

  2. Tehtaankatu 20 lifts! That brings back fond memories taking the stairs or being stuck in the lift. This one time, the I was going with a bunch of other people down to the first floor. The lift didn't stop, but kept going to the basement level... and there it slid past the door to the bottom of the shaft.

    I do like the wire-cage lifts, on the other hand. They seem less claustrophobic than the fully-enclosed ones.

  3. Hi there viivaviivaviiva

    close with your address ... but not quite right :-)