tiistai 17. syyskuuta 2013

What is it like to live in Finland

This is asked every now and then.
Do we have polar bears walking among us on sidewalks? No. Are we nomads living in tee-pees? No. We have the best schools in the world. We are also very low with corruption. Well-educated uncorrupted no-nomads were obviously too much for polar bears, they all moved to Iceland.

Let me tell you some facts.
1. Our cakes are moist.

I have eaten lot of cakes that are told to be soooo delicious and moist. That have not been. They may look good but the taste is dry and boring. Everyone who has baked cakes knows that in order to make a moist cake, you have to go lower with some attributes the cakes are tagged with. Like the look.

In Finland we prefer the taste, not the look.

In a symbolic way Finland is the land of moist cakes. ‘You can’t judge a book of its cover’ is in Finnish ‘many cakes look good but taste bad’. Typical to Finland is that things are what they look like. We don’t do things on purpose to make them to look good but to taste/ function/work good.
We make the best mobile phones in the world, but we are not that famous in film industry.

2. We have a lot of sea borders


Some hundred of years ago the Germany based Hanseatic League was looking for new market areas. Up north they saw the sea and estimated there would be a rich country beyond that. There were, Finland. The Hanseatic came over, we bought their products, they implemented their business style; agreement society. Ever since German has been our dear partner in business.

Thanks to Hanseatic business models, we became very good sellers of wood products. Tar to Great Britain, cellulose and paper machines all over the world.

The Swedes from other corner of the Baltic Sea got also interested of our existence. They sailed over. With them the trade was not that good; they took our manpower and horsepower and established some minor cities like Turku. There were discussions of own University (just one!) and finally we got that. Only to notice that the University was a good reason to start to collect taxes. So men, horses and money sailed to Stockholm. Kings in Sweden didn’t use this property wisely; they attached to Europe. At that time Sweden was very famous of its long and expensive military expeditions.
But the question of taxation is interesting. Queen Kristina did good on that. To maximise government revenue she needed a peaceful society. To keep the society peaceful and patient, there had to be schools, public health care and prisons. In Finland all these were established some 400 years ago. And still schools are free, medical care is free, and there are a lot of other free public services. On the other hand taxation is high. It is higher now than at the time of Queen Kristina. She failed badly as a queen, her empire run out of money. Back then there were no IMF so she moved to Italy and a new king came in.

3. We love ice hockey


We love it and every second year we have national mourning because we don’t normally win the world championship goblet. The reason is described above. The Swedes. They took our best men. And when they stopped doing so, our other neighbor Russia came over and killed what was left. No wonder the winner of those games is often Russia or Sweden. I do wonder why Canada is so good in ice hockey….

4. Maybe it is the forests

We both have a lot of forests. Our green-gold. We love the forests. For long industry meant the forest cluster. And industry meant welfare. Stinking factories were tolerated because they paid the huge bill of public health care and schools.

Now factories get seldom and the chimneystacks stay clean. Demand of rare paper is decreasing. Content of the papers is increasing   (So far cellulose business has not demanded added content to cellulose…).

The content business is a bright rising star. Thinking Rovio (Angry birds), Fiskars (iittala) or Marimekko. And we are very good in design!


Finland is a great place to visit! As New York Times put it: second best in the world right after Panama.

So when booking your holiday trip, you may come to Finland after leaving Panama. Or before.
When here, I recommend to visit design museums (all over), forests (just outside the cities), Suomenlinna (just outside Helsinki, a lovely island) and enjoy!