By Kira Vikman
The results of our informal Facebook survey about what is the best thing about Finland are in. The overwhelming winner: Air Guitar Championships. Very funny! Shows that Finns have a quirky sense of humor. How come nobody mentioned the wife carrying contests, cell-phone throwing contests, swamp wrestling…
Among the more serious responses: Sibelius, pine trees and birch trees, Marimekko, granite, lakes, reindeer, cloudberries, and the good and honest people who live there (several people mentioned this last one).
Thank you to everyone who participated!
It is clear we Finns are a rather special species. Some of us have a love/hate relationship with our country and our peers. Many love our wonderful country from a distance. Moreover, over 5 million people live in Finland regardless of the months of darkness and a short Summer (okay, let’s admit it, not everyone has to love Summer but still!) so there has to be a great number of pros!
Keep reading, and familiarize yourself with a few more perks and characteristics that Finland is known for from a perspective of a Finnish student…
Sometimes being a Finn is hard! Sayings like “to hide one’s light under a bushel” and “he who has happiness, should hide it” embedded in Finnish culture shape our attitudes. As probably most Finns know, desire to do somethings differently is not as positively looked upon in our country, and people often let it show instead of celebrating the success of others. Here are some idioms many Finns know by heart, just so you can understand us a little better. A silver lining here is that many of them reflect the Finnish sisu, right (check out Sisu by Business Insider)?
When Finns go abroad, they oftentimes notice how different the social interaction is. In general, Finns don’t do small talk (at least very well) which is why we are often seen as cold or unwelcoming. At first, it might be difficult to break the ice when trying to get to know a Finn but when this happens, you can go deep very fast. Often friendships are formed around the table or a couch with a glass containing an alcoholic beverage because Finns are known to get a little less inhibited when consuming some liquid courage.
Sometimes we also have difficulty understanding the nature of compliments and white lies. We don’t really give compliments. And if we do, you know we are for real. We also don’t really know how to take compliments. If you give us one, the first thing you hear might just be a complex explanation of irrelevant facts behind this success that you are complimenting us for. Regardless of our somewhat reserved demeanor, we are exceptionally honest. And usually you can count on the word of a Finn. And you know, we Finns get each others weird ways!
The Finnish education system, and the fact that getting even a university degree is free, always seem to amaze people. Even more so, when they hear that Finnish students actually get paid for studying! University students in Finland get around 250 euros per month (9 months out of 12) in exchange for completing at least 45 credits during these months. They also get a small amount of financial support to cover living costs, and student loans are mostly used for covering living expenses and enjoying life (the main goal of many Finnish students is to not eat macaroni and ketchup every day and if it’s important to prevent exhaustion in work life, why not among students as well?). Fortunately, our university cafeterias offer students a full meal usually for 2.60 euros which is a good effort to make sure the youth gets at least some of the healthy nutritions needed. And back to the money because that seems to run the world: students that have started their studies in 2014 or later actually don’t have to pay 40% of their loan back if they graduate on time, which means… free money does exist! By doing this, the Finnish government encourages students to graduate as soon as they can and also trying to eliminate the need to work while studying, which can essentially delay their graduation.
Some of the newest political decisions are based on the fact that Finnish students seem to graduate later than students in many other countries. Unfortunately, however, what is often overlooked is the fact that most Finnish students get their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in a row: we apply for university after we decide our major, and usually when accepted, we are accepted for both programs. So, while Finnish students seem to graduate later in life, one must notice that the comparison is made between Finnish students that have finished their master’s degree and students from other countries that have only acquired their bachelor’s. Also, Finns graduate from high school a year later than for example, the American youth does. And because we have to decide our major, therefor, what we want to do with our lives and future, it is common to take gap years to work or travel. Being sure about your decision on “what you want to be when you grow up” is important, because applying still often requires to succeed in an entrance examination over other applicants, so it might take even a few years to eventually get in. In addition to that, there are tokens for first time students (thus, every year there is a token for applicants that have never studied anything before) which makes changing fields more difficult. A gap year is of course a great way to get some work experience and save some money for the upcoming studying years as well. You can read more about the success of Finnish education system from an article by BBC News.
Next on our list is the free health care. Of course we have to pay high taxes and even then, we pay small amounts for our health care and visits to the doctor (although often private health care covered by your work place). This often raises eyebrows; “I pay so much taxes, and my health care still isn’t free!”. But here’s the catch: my 24-year-old friend was diagnosed with MS-disease earlier this year. She has to be medicated twice a month to control the disease but gladly, her medication is covered in full. And, when you battle a serious illness that commands medication, you see the worth of the Finnish system and where it really makes a difference. Her medication for three months is 2 588.84 euros but because of the Finnish public health care system she only pays 4 euros. That’s amazing! And this is a life savisor. It is hard enough to be ill for the rest of your life but to think: who 24-year-old would have the resources to stay well with this kind of cost? So thank you for that, Finland and its tax payers!
Here is a beautiful picture of me a few years back when I had to be admitted to a hospital in Jyväskylä because we were suspecting that I got bitten by the only poisonouss snake species in Finland (okay we have like three different snakes), a (baby) viper. I had to stay there for about 5 hours and it cost me a few dozens of euros. Which was ultimately covered by my travel insurance. Pretty lucky, I’d say! And an interesting experience as such.
For many of us Finns, we realize we are privileged to live in this kind of a country – but this is also the only way things work in our society and we want to protect the systems that stand for equity and equal opportunities. Your background doesn’t fully determine if you can get top education or not. And in fact, Finnish women are not essentially dependent on men in their life. In fact, we are a top country to be a woman and in Finland, over 82% of the gender gap is closed.
According to State of the World’s Mothers report 2013 Finland is the best country to be a mother (read CNN’s summary). It is a great country to be a child as well: child care is basically free and good quality. Your parents have time to spend with you as well. They get maternity leave of 105 days which typically begins a little over a month before the expected date of birth, and then there’s also parental leave of a maximum of 158 after birth that can be devided between the parents. If a Finnish parent makes the decision to take care of their child at home until they’re three years old, they are provided an allowance. In addition, Finns usually get five weeks of paid annual holiday from their jobs. And if they or even their children get sick, they’re still entitled for pay during illness (see more: Employment and employee benefits in Finland: overview))!
So as a Finnish woman, I think I won the lottery…? And that’s why marrying an independent Finnish girl is a jackpot! … Wink.
Finns are also pretty good at speaking English! In fact, from 80 countries, Finland placed 6th on the proficiency of English skills (and 5th in Europe!). The reason? I myself started taking English classes at school when I was 9 years old, and today I believe English is mandatory even from earlier on. Another reason for our skills in English is that our television shows are usually subtitled so we are accustomed to hear English. Unfortunately, our urge to be perfect and not fail often prevents us from speaking and practicing out loud in the real world if we feel like we don’t quite master that skill yet. Also, the Finnish modesty might just be kicking in if someone ever dares to give us a compliment…
Briefly, a few other great things about Finland:
Nightless nights! … and the never ending darkness… Don’t believe us? See for yourself!
Finnish food was the cleanest in the world in 2015 according to European Food Safety Authority’s resport on pesticide residues in food.
In 2012, Finland shared the first place with New Zealand and Denmark as the least corrupt country (measured by its citizens perceptions).
And recently, Finland rose to fourth place in the Good Country Index.
Finland is also filled with heavy metal bands…
Moreover, Helsinki is the most honest city in the world! (Okay, there were 16 cities and they compared in which one a dropped wallet was returned the most times, but sounds valid though!)
Lastly, recently The Telegraph listed a vast number of things Finland is the best at!
Adolf Ehrnrooth: “Finland is a good country. The best country for us Finns.” It is a nice caption, and because there are over 5 million opinions on this topic, we can all agree to disagree with each other! But no one can deny that Finland is doing very well on the global scale.
This funny picture is from DOGHOUSEDIARIES ! Check out what the rest of the world looks like.