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Finland for Thought » 2007 » June | Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & the United States | Blog of an American living in Finland

Finland for Thought
             Politics, current events, culture - In Finland & United States

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Finns have been singled out as the most difficult soldiers to work with

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 4:05 pm

You force most of your country’s boys into the military fresh out of high school, then you give them guns, beer, and little money – and out pops a bunch of bigoted homophobes, what a shocker…

The Finnish Defence Forces have been raised as an example of anti-gay bias by a Swedish organisation promoting sexual equality in the Swedish military. According to the group, attitudes within the Finnish military make it difficult for Swedish soldiers to take part in joint Nordic combat forces.

[...]Finns have been singled out as the most difficult soldiers to work with. According to HOF, the Swedish organisation promoting the rights of gays, bisexuals, and transsexuals in the Swedish military, the attitudes of Finns are making it more difficult for Swedish soldiers to take part in the EU’s new Nordic battle group.

Clearly this Finnish brigade has no problem with homosexuality…


Does salary affect burn out?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 10:07 pm

Most Finns say that the pressure of high demands and the fast pace of work are the biggest problems in their professional lives. A study by the Finnish Pension Alliance TELA shows that in addition, people in the job market are most affected by job insecurity, income worries and job-related psychological factors such as depression.

You see a lot of this “burn out” in the Finnish workplace. People work so hard, for so many hours a day, the work piles up and they just kinda “give up” then go on sick leave for a few weeks, leaving their near-burned out colleagues with all that they couldn’t handle – And all of this seems quite accepted in Finnish society, you’re not really allowed to question what’s up with your co-workers.

So here’s what I’m wondering – Does your salary affect burn out? Would a person working insane hours be more likely to burn out if they were making 30K/year instead of 60K/year? I think so.


Why Finns buy boats

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:19 am

I always wondered why anyone in their right mind would buy a boat in Finland considering the country’s very short boating season…then I went boating for the first time through the Turku archipelago. Wow, it’s amazing, so beautiful. I’m adding that to the things I need to do before I die: 1) Buy a boat 2) Buy a kickass summer cottage on the archipelago.

And if a foreigner hears that Finns keep to themselves and never wave or say hello, then visits Finland for the first time and goes boating on Juhannus like I did, they’d be totally confused – Every boat waved to one another, even the people on the shore waved. Of course they were all drunk, like whomever would think to build a boat like this…




Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 8:45 pm

So Michael Moore’s “Sicko”, a film (I won’t use the word “documentary”) about the need for universal healthcare coverage in the U.S., is already available online in DVD quality, rumor has it that Moore leaked it himself (though I seriously doubt that).

I break ranks from fellow libertarians when I say that every American has a right to good healthcare. Libertarians argue that healthcare is so expensive in the states due heavy state restrictions (the same healthcare in one state costs 5x that of another state) to high court settlements (patients sue and win millions so doctors need expensive insurance). These are both true but even with reform, it still wouldn’t guarantee everyone full healthcare coverage. Only the most hardcore libertarians believe that the state should completely stay out of education, so why should the state completely stay out of healthcare?

Most of you probably think that universal healthcare in the states is the obvious solution, but here’s the big problem – Everything the U.S. government touches, turns to shit. The Iraq War, Katrina foreign policy, social security, education, War on Drugs… (I could go on all day). The majority of Americans are smart enough to know that they’d rather take their chances with the crazy private health insurance companies than with the government. Would you really want George Bush taking care of your health?!?

I honestly don’t have an answer to the U.S.’s healthcare crisis, fortunately we’ll learn more as it’ll most likely be the second or third most important issue this Presidential election (Iraq is #1, environment is #2 or #3). Finland has serious healthcare problems of their own, so you know a much larger country like the states will have even more. What do you think should be done with healthcare system in the states?


Jante’s Law

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 9:56 pm

I have been talking now and then about Jante’s Law. Some may be wondering what it is. It comes from a book by Aksel Sandemose, who is a Norwegian-Danish author that lived mostly in the first half of last century. He wrote the book En Flyktning Krysser Sitt Spor or A Refugee Crosses His Tracks in 1933, where he developed the idea of Jante’s Law, which is said to be about the town he grew up in, Nyköbing Mors. The ten rules of the Jante Law are:

1. Don’t think that you are special.
2. Don’t think that you are of the same standing as us.
3. Don’t think that you are smarter than us.
4. Don’t fancy yourself as being better than us.
5. Don’t think that you know more than us.
6. Don’t think that you are more important than us.
7. Don’t think that you are good at anything.
8. Don’t laugh at us.
9. Don’t think that anyone cares about you.
10. Don’t think that you can teach us anything.

These are symbolic of a cultural code that permeates the modern day Nordic countries. Anybody who breaks these rules is treated with suspicion and coldness. Sandemose himself said “By means of the Law of Jante people stamp out each other’s chances in life.” When Finnish people read these they often say “Ahaaa”, when it dawns on them how familiar they sound.

This is said to be a relic from a past agricultural society, left over because of rather recent modernization and in industrialization. People had to work together in order to get things done. Community harmony was the rule and anyone who was perceived to be out of harmony was punished. The Jante Law rears its head in other societies as well, and you can see it in the sayings, such as “Hammer down the nail that sticks out” or “cut the heads off the tall poppies.”

Breaking the Jante’s Law will make your neighbours hate you, for example when you are too different, too wealthy or too individual.

This can also be seen in the herd mentality, where everyone does the same thing, and noone dares doing something that the rest of the herd is not doing.

The Jante Law can even show its head in a situation like telling about the holiday you had. Some people can get angry and defensive and perceive it as you bragging or showing off your financial ability to travel. People who have experiences of coming from other countries or of living in other countries are often treated indifferently or ignored, since it is hard to relate to them through the context of the Jante Law. They are, in a way, outside the law or “outlaws”.

In other ways you can see it when trying to give someone a compliment, they shrug it off and say “anyone could have done it”. Or if someone gives you a compliment and if you say, “Thank you, I appreciate that”, then that is perceived as you being arrogant, when you admit you did something well. So it is a no-win situation. Noone benefits.

In Finland, it shows through some of the legislation. If you find some strange laws that you don’t understand, think of them in the context of this law, and they may start make a lot more sense. The steeply progressive taxation, the public tax records, the overtaxation of the price of new cars, the day fines, and various invasions of privacy intended to leave successful people feeling very exposed. They don’t let anyone feel very comfortable or experience a sense of enjoyment with being financially successful while living in Finland.

In the modern day EU, Jante Legislation really has no place. Finland may find its capital-owning people leaving as “privacy refugees”, in order to be left alone to live in peace and quiet in the quiet mountains of Slovakia or on the lively islands of Greece, for example.

The Jante Law is based on envy and jealousy. When being envious of what one perceives to be a successful person, may be in fact a person who is very lonely and unhappy, someone more worth pitying. and the Jante Law treatment doesn’t make the person feel any better or any less lonely.

Libertarians especially hate the Jante Law mentality. Libertarians want to be left to live in peace and not be interfered with by nosy neighbours or an intrusive government.

Right here in the municipality where I live, one neighbour told me about a conversation she was having with another neighbour, who is on the municipal Building Board. This neighbour who is on the Building Board was telling about a guy who had just bought a lot and was planning to build on it. The Building Board member told how he was planning to reject this person’s building permit application because he earns so much money. He had gone and checked in Veropörssi how much this guy was earning when deciding on granting a building permit. The other neighbour told me how she “barked him right down into the ground” about how his envy has nothing to do with granting building permits. If this were ever to come to light with the authorities, that person could loose his job, be criminally charged with discrimination, be fined, etc. And it is totally illogical to keep someone from having money move here. What do we want, only poor people in our municipality? A guy with money at least has money to build with. A poor person might afford the lot, but can he or she afford to build on it afterward and move there and pay taxes to the municipality?

Already in Estonia from the very beginning, they have rejected Jante legislation. They have a flat tax, and the same taxation for corporations as for people – no discrimination. And privacy protection laws are in place, like in the rest of the EU.

As we can start to see, Jante legislation really doesn’t have much of a place in the European Union, and we will start seeing less and less of those strange laws that can only be understood in the context of the 10 rules listed above.

Wikipedia article about Jante Law.

So much for “Safe Finland”

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 9:46 pm

The other day a Dutch pensioner on his honeymoon chose a very bad time to go to the Citymarket in Porvoo. Out came a shirtless man wielding a kitchen knife who stabbed him dead, just as a random gesture in front of his wife. The police who had been called on the scene as the man had been causing a racket in the Citymarket had to shoot him with rubber bullets before he would let go of the knife. The killer of the random tourist was also randomly in Porvoo, he was a drifter with no permanent residence, “known to the police” for petty theft and such but had arrived the very day from Helsinki on a bus.

Of course, the assailant was drunk.

My condolences to the family of the unfortunate Dutch tourist.


Sweden stopped companies selling private peoples’ salary data, but …

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 10:15 pm

I went to the website www.ratsit.se, which is provided by Eniro, and out of curiosity tried to find out what an anonymous person could search for. This website used to sell personal economic data about private people, but they were forced to stop on June 16 this year.

I thought up a common sounding Swedish name. I put “Karin” in the förnamn field and “Blomqvist” in the efternamn field and “Stockholm” in the postort field and hit the green “gratis” button to see what it would give me. Soon, I got a list of names, birthdates, and street addresses. The list started with the oldest and ended with the youngest. The youngest person there was a 17 year old. If I tried another name, I wonder if I would I find even younger people?

It makes me wonder what the use case for this kind of thing is. I can’t really think of a useful purpose for something like this, unless it is for middle-age Internet chatroom perverts.

Come on government of Sweden, if you are going to start protecting your peoples’ privacy, do it right. Don’t let them put the name, birthdate and street address of underage people in the Internet. Sheesh.


Helsinki 22nd most expensive city, 30th best city

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:24 pm

Mercer’s annual cost and quality of living surveys are out. Congrats, we’re 30th!! :-/ But that #3 ranking for “health and sanitation” is impressive. Here’s how some other cities perform…

City Name / Cost Rank / Quality Rank

London / 2 / 39
Copenhagen / 6 / 11
Stockholm / 23 / 20
Oslo / 10 / 26
New York / 15 / 48
Helsinki / 22 / 30

Hat Tip to Martin-Eric R. and Chris K. for the links!

Low expectations in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:48 pm

This is quite disturbing for Finns, from Helsingin Sanomat…

Whereas the average expectation [in Finland] for annual pay for graduates of both genders was EUR 28,700 last year, this year it is an average EUR 29,400.

[...]Pay expectations are also at a higher level than in Finland. Danish students expect about EUR 46,500 a year, while the Norwegians hope to get EUR 42,600 and the Swedes want more than EUR 32,000.

Good luck attracting the world’s top young people and professionals with salaries like that. I think Kristian is really on to something in his recent article, something in Finnish society is keeping wages way too low.

Finns just don’t have a culture of demanding for more, they’re very content with what they have (Americans are the complete opposite, they’re constantly demanding) – I think it has something to do with Finland’s recent economic history and Lutheranism. I’m not Lutheran, but the religion seems to have instilled a fear into Finnish culture (even the non-religious), that bad things will happen to them if their wants exceed their needs. Humbleness isn’t a bad thing, salaries is one exception however.

And Finland has only recently seen economic prosperity. It’s like telling the former communist countries that “Hey, your 10k/year salaries suck!!” and they reply “Are you kidding? A few years ago we weren’t making even 1k/year!” It’s all relative. And of course let’s forget Finland’s extremely high youth unemployment of 21.6% surely translates into low salaries.


What makes Finland’s drinking problem different from everyone else

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 8:57 pm

Many times on here we’ve asked the question, “Why does Finland have a drinking problem?”, and there’s certainly more than one answer. Some say it’s the darkness and cold weather, although there’s other cold dark countries nearby without the same big problem. Others blame it on high unemployment rates, but there’s other countries with even higher unemployment without a big drinking problem. And others blame it on Finland’s “only drinking on Friday & Saturday night” culture, unlike the “glass of wine with your meal” culture found in Southern Europe. And of course you can’t mention Finn’s drinking problem without mentioning the high prices, high taxes, and monopoly on alcohol – but again, look to our neighbors.

I’ve said in the past that Finland’s drinking problem has to due with the safety of this country, you can pass out drunk on the street and wake up with your clothes, wallet, and not a bruise on your body, so people know it’s safe to get wasted in public – but again, there’s plenty of safe places without a drinking problem. All of these are valid answers and together formulate Finland’s drinking problem, but I was trying to figure out what specific to Finland makes alcohol problematic, and I think I found something…

A few days ago Kristian was writing about Finns aren’t the most talkative people in the world. In fact, most Finns and foreigners will tell you that Finns are the quietest people on the planet! Finns in general are shy, nervous, introverted, reserved, self-conscious, unassured and unsocial. Not necessarily bad traits, in fact Finns are quite proud of these traits. A lot of good comes from a society who share these attributes.

But seriously, which individual really wants to be shy, nervous, introverted, reserved, self-conscious, unassured and unsocial..? Not many. It doesn’t help you during your interview, it doesn’t help when you demand a raise, it doesn’t help you when you’re out on the town, it doesn’t help when you’re trying to pick up girls or guys, and it doesn’t help around the house with your spouse.

So what cures shyness, ends nervousness, transforms you to an extrovert, removes your reservations, clears your self-conscious, makes you more assured and turns you into a social person?? Alcohol!! “Drink this bottle, wait five minutes, and be cured of your worst fears and problems.” After a few drinks you’re suddenly peppy, happy, relaxed, and chatting with the opposite sex – which is especially relevant for young people, which gets Finns drinking at an early age.

Of course that magic elixir doesn’t last forever, it eventually wears off and you’re back to your normal shy/nervous/introverted/etc self. So you need to drink more and more, and problems materialize. This is what I think makes Finland’s drinking habits so different, Finns are the most introverted people on the Earth and need alcohol to open up, cause no one really like being so bottled up.

Thoughts anyone?

Creationist evolution

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 8:02 pm

Does believing in evolution automatically mean that you don’t believe in a higher existence, afterlife, or God? To most creationists it seems that way. The creationist/evolutionist debate has found new light thanks to the internet, and I can’t understand why the two theories can’t live closer in harmony.

Can’t one believe that humans evolved from lower life forms like monkeys, as well as the big bang theory…while also believing in a higher power? (but not necessarily a “God”) For me personally, I believe there’s much more to the universe, and I wouldn’t rule out that a “higher power” is somehow responsible for the big bang. So does that make me a creationist or evolutionist? The Evangelical Christians have decided that all creationists must be Christians and all Christians must creationists, and I just don’t see it that way.


Carrier pidgeons and personal checques

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 7:19 pm

*rant* eBay and Internet shopping, what a novel idea. If you could pay that is. This is for all of you who live in the medieval ages – go to your bank and tell them to bloody wake up! It is a novelty called an IBAN number and BIC/Swift in Europe. Now give your bloody account number and recieve a payment – as easy as that. Or is it? “payment by Personal Check”. A Check? We do not live in the dark ages, when you had a personal check and strung it to a carrier pidgeon to recieve your money off a moneylender. Those days were past in the 1960′s when you got a giro system already. In Finland banks stopped issuing personal cheques in about 1993 – do you wish me to go to a bloody museum to get one???

This is just a rant for the people with retarded banking systems – if you can not take PayPal for religious reasons or give an IBAN and BIC/SWIFT, then do not sell you crap off eBay internationally. Like I would be going to stuff gold bullion in a carrier pidgeons arse for your benefit. *end rant*

Now this Europe-wide banking system really is nice, but the advancement has then killed everything else like International Postal Money Orders. Well, there are services like Auctionchecks that seem to have filled in the niche. Fair enough, its a big world. In some countries it may be a problem to pay in the internet trying to stuff goats into the modem…

BTW anyone interested in a Zenit-3 reflex camera?


Staggered car taxation on environmental basis

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:49 pm

Finland has plans to raise taxes on heavier polluting cars, possibly by 2010…

The Ministry of Finance is preparing a bill that would increase the taxation of cars on the basis of the amount of carbon dioxide that they emit. A proposal on the matter is to be put forward to Parliament later this year. The change would mean that the amount of the annual vehicle tax would be determined on the basis of the carbon dioxide emissions that a vehicle produces. The more emissions, the higher the tax.

So that means less polluting cars will see decreased taxes? I seriously doubt that…

“If the car tax goes down, car prices will go down, and more cars will be bought. Studies show that the more households have cars, the more they will be driven, and the less public transport will be used. So if it is implemented in a bad way, the change in car taxation could lead to an increase in emissions from driving rather than reducing them”, Tynkkynen points out.

Decreases in car taxes will mean that those pesky poor people will be able to afford uber-polluting, uber-unsafe tiny old rust buckets (which still cost them “an arm and a leg”), instead of having to schlep their grocery bags and IKEA purchases on the bus like normal.

So I’m betting Finland simply raises taxes on SUV’s, mini vans, and family station wagons, while ignoring the cleaner, smaller automobiles. And I’m also betting that SUV drivers don’t give a damn and drive around their SUV’s regardless, and the extra tax revenues go to some frivolous state program and not towards improving the environment.


All you do is talk, talk

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 5:44 pm

A line from one of my favorite ’80′s synthpop bands, appropriately named Talk Talk.

In my many years of living-in and traveling-through eastern Europe, one thing I noticed is that people who’d lived in Socialism don’t talk, talk. Language is used sparingly and in the most low-context form imaginable. That means, when people actually say something, it’s to-the-point, and you won’t need to consider ambiguities like what their raised eyebrow means—in relation to what they said, of course.

My Swedish family, who recently visited the US, remarked about the friendly and open demeanor of Americans. Conversations seemed to materialize during otherwise mundane activities like riding the escalator. They compared it with Sweden, where, according to them, people just stand around like sad horses—you know, with long faces.

Actually, all of my Finnish family members have visited the US, and they conclude the same. So maybe there’s some truth to it. But, having been raised in a Finnish family, I find the efficient, Finnish form of non-communication very familiar and easy to interpret; I even find it comforting. But, according to some researchers, there’s a downside…

The workplace is probably the only place where talk isn’t cheap. A study at the University of Jyväskylä suggests that talkative, outgoing people capable of taking initiative get paid more than those who are considered quiet or shy.

This all makes me wonder: The author of the study discusses individuals in the workplace. But do you think there’s a correlation between the amount of talkativeness and outgoingness in society and salaries in the general economy? But even more fundamentally, do you think there’s a correlation between the amount of talkativeness/outgoingness and the economic system of a country?

Cancer research funded by private money

Tags: Uncategorized — Author:   @ 5:27 pm

It makes me feel good to know that Finland is striding forward in the realm of cancer research. Finland is a country with some of the smartest researchers in the world. And now they’re getting some private financing to bring that talent to fruition…

“The K. Albin Johansson Research Professor at the Finnish Cancer Institute”. Such is the soon-to-be title of cancer researcher Akseli Hemminki.
The title is not just a mouthful, but also historic: it is the first cancer research title in Finland that carries the name of the sponsor.
Shipowner K. Albin Johansson’s Foundation donated a five-year research professorship to the Finnish Cancer Institute in conjunction with the Institute’s 20th anniversary last year.
The beginning of the new research professorship may also witness the launch of a new form a cancer treatment. The first treatment developed by Hemminki’s CGTG research team may become available to patients towards the end of the year.

What would be new is the team’s way of constructing treatments for patients suffering from spread cancers, for which there are no effective treatments: no sponsoring from drug plants, trading licence, patent, or profit seeking, just individually tailored treatment combinations by using viruses produced by the team.

All with private money. I wonder how many little Finn-salaries would otherwise be needed to finance such an endeavor. Would it even be possible?

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