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Finland for Thought » 2009 » August | 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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Most polarizing Finnish song ever? “Baden Baden” by Chisu

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 2:11 pm

Wow, I’ve never heard such a polarizing Finnish song before. Released over the summer, people either absolutely adore this or loathe this. Check out “Baden Baden” by Chisu… (then let us know if you love it or hate it!)


How to make a Finn laugh

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:47 am

Can I tickle them?


Anyone with a good sense of humor know that Finns have an great sense of humor. It’s dark, dry, sarcastic, blunt, deadpan, and often immature. Finns’ upbringing is a recipe for superb comedic taste: little religious influence, everyone grew up broke, it’s dark and cold much of the year, people love to drink…all the elements are there.

Humor is very important to the Finns. It’s their defense mechanism for coping with the darkness, cold weather, and their own low self-esteem. A funny person is valued immensely. With all the long, awkward pauses in conversations with Finns, a good joke to lighten the mood is always appreciated.

But I’m Swedish or German, I have no sense of humor.

Nations with long lavish histories tend not to have good senses of humor. (With that logic, Ethiopians should be the funniest people in the world. And they are! Think about how many Ethiopian jokes you’ve heard.) But fear not, Sven – Finns are very polite and will laugh at almost anything out of politeness, especially if you’re a foreigner. Here’s a few topics to mention that’ll surely get Finns laughing…

Sweden – This is an easy one. Any lame joke about Sweden will KILL. Bonus: Add something about the Swedish army in there.
Finnish Cities – These jokes will never be understood by foreigners. But jokes about the nearly-identical town 50 kilometers away are a staple in Finnish comedy.
Well, anything Finland – Anyone with a good sense of humor knows all about self-deprecation, so the Finns love to make fun of themselves.
Russia and Estonia – See Sweden.
Race and sexual orientation – Go for it. Drop a racist joke in front of the CEO or on national television. No one cares. (with exception to all the foreigners in the room)
Poo and pee – Finns don’t consider themselves sophisticated people, so why not laugh at a good poop joke?

Any topics I should avoid?

Religion – Finns are the least religious people in the world, but religion is no laughing matter. Obviously God is Swedish or German.
Politics – Finns take politics very seriously, and with a dozen active political parties, chances are the person you’re talking to won’t agree with your political views. Plus high taxes aren’t funny.
Physical comedy – Finnish humor comes from within.
Swedish Finns – Especially if they’re around.
War and Independence – One of the few things Finns hold sacred.

…which topics am I missing?


How to “fit in” in Finland

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 7:18 pm

Be white.

There’s got to be more to it than that!?

Not really.


Really. Even people with a sun tan are looked at suspiciously. Finns experience this when returning from a winter holiday to Thailand, and upon their arrival back in Finland, they spend a little extra time at border control than normal. Foreigners have been known to master the Finnish language VERY fast, so customs officers can never be too sure.

Well how do I dress like a Finn?

Depends on the persona you’re going for. There are essentially six kinds of Finns.

The Engineer

Finnish engineers have no idea what clothes to buy, because their wives do all their shopping for them. They wear whichever short-sleeved plaid shirt Ms. Suomalainen bought him from Dressmann. The color of the shirt need not matter, as long as it’s made of a material that does not need ironing. (btw, all shirts need ironing) Brown loafers are required, belts are not. Khaki pants must ride high on the waist. In the summer time it’s brown sandals (with socks) and capri-pants riding high. The most popular haircut is “balding, with a inner-tube of sand-colored hair around the head”. Face should be clean shaven, however most engineers cannot grow facial hair, and if they can, it comes in patchy. Glasses must be at least 10-years old. Jewelry should be wedding ring and meaningless gold chain around the neck.

The Businessman
See “Engineer”, just add wrinkled sport coat (drycleaning is insanely expensive in Finland), black belt (yes, even with brown loafers) and trendy-but-not-so-trendy glasses.

The Middle Aged Mommy
Start with short hair. You’ve been hassling with long hair all your life – you’re just sitting home everyday on maternity leave for the next few years, why bother looking attractive? And if you’re in the male-dominated business world, the short hair will make you blend in easier with your male colleagues. Make sure you buy thick “trendy” eyeglasses that hide what, if any, good looks you have left. Bonus points if the color of your glasses match the color of your dyed hair. Don’t wear heels, that’s a dead giveaway you’re a foreigner. And don’t have eyebrows, again, you must be a foreigner.

The Country Bumpkin
Comfort is key here. The classiest place you’ll visit during the week is Alko, so “dress to depress” as they say. Men, a 20-year old track suit is appropriate (cause who knows when you’ll have the urge to go cross-country skiing). Women, an aging Marimekko shirt, jeans, old white sneakers. If you want to dye your hair, dye it some shade of red, orange, or purple. Men, if there’s a situation where you need to dress up, like for instance, taking a trip to the next town over, wear a tie – just so long as it’s the same one you wore in high school. Jewelry should be the Finnish Lion dangling from a cheap gold-colored chain.

The Teenager
Teenage fashion changes so often, by the time I publish this, it will have changed. Want to know what the current teenage fashion is? Visit Sweden, have a look around, then wait five years…that’s what Finland will look like. All Finnish fashion is taken from Sweden…five years later. At the moment – Guys, wear an American baseball cap with a team you’ve never heard of. Girls, pile on lots and lots of makeup.

The Child
This one is simple: For boys, blue jumpsuit. For girls, red jumpsuit. Finnish children are like penguins, it’s impossible to tell them apart, they all wear the exact same jumpsuits year round. It’s a regular occurrence for Finnish parents to take home the wrong child from daycare – but no worries, this mistake quickly corrects itself months later when the real parent, again, accidently takes home the “wrong” kid from daycare. “Even jumpsuits in the summer time?” you ask. Yes. It doesn’t matter if it’s +20C or -20C, all Finnish children must wear hats and gloves.

How do I walk down the street like a Finn?

Walk briskly with a lack of confidence. Don’t look ANYONE directly in the eye, ever. If someone looks directly at you, be careful, they’re drunk. If a stranger approaches you, pretend to be talking on your mobile phone. Stop and wait at all red crosswalk signs, even if all the common sense in the world says it’s okay to cross. Don’t do anything to stand out from the crowd, like dress a unique way or be any other race than white.

…what else am I missing?


VAT rising to 23% next July

Tags: Everything — Author:   @ 9:33 pm

The government just managed to get the budget negotiations through. A blast from the past will be the re-introduction of the “candy tax” on sweets and soda. Some fractionally good news is that as of this October the VAT on food is dropping from 17% to 12%. In 2010 however all the VAT will take a 1% hike, so the general VAT is rising to 23%… Could have “gone Nordic” like Sweden where the VAT is 25%. Also in June 2010 the restaurant food VAT will be dropping to 13% being then equal to the percent-added food VAT.


Finland’s infamous immigrant-hater in court

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 9:58 pm

Finland’s infamous immigrant-hater, Helsinki city councilman Jussi Halla-Aho, a member of Finland’s racist, nationalist political party, the True Finns, is court for, you guessed it…racism…

The Helsinki District Court read charges against Helsinki City councilman, Jussi Halla-Aho, on breach of the peace and agitating against an ethnic group.

According to the prosecutor, Simo Kolehmainen, Halla-aho has publicly defamed matters Islam deem holy. Halla-Aho has written in his internet writings that islam is a pedophile religion. In addition he has written that robbing passers-by and living off wellfare are national and or genetic features of the Somali Muslim people.

According to the Prosecutor, Halla-aho’s writings insult the Muslims living in Finland and endanger the country’s religious peace.

Representing himself, Halla-Aho admitted writing the articles in question. However, Halla-Aho denied the defamation charges. Halla-Aho claims that the prosecutor has taken the writings out of context. He plead not guilty.

A lot of Halla-Aho’s supporters were present and they laughed out loud when the prosecutor read excerps from Halla-Aho’s Islam writings.

Here’s a translation of the text that got Halla-Aho in trouble. Although my guess is that this was just “the straw that broke the camel’s back”, as he’s been writing this kind of stuff for years.

Halla-Aho goes after a lot of things in his post: “Politicians”, who create the laws Hallo-Aho loathes. “Free speech”, which there’s a severe lack of in Finland (very true). The “Muslim religion”, all religions are equally silly IMO. And “Immigrants”, oops, this is where Halla-Aho gets racist and retarded…

Somalis who constitute 0.2 per cent of Finland’s total population commit 12 per cent of robberies reported to the Police. One in ten Somalis living in Finland has a job. Committing robberies and living at taxpayers’ expense are a lot more common among Somalis related to their share of the population than killing while intoxicated among the ethnic Finns. Therefore, I present my assumption (that I do not regard as fact):

Robbing bypassers and living at taxpayers’ expense as a parasite is a national, possibly genetic characteristic of Somalis.

Robbing bypassers and living at taxpayers’ expense as a parasite is a national, possibly genetic characteristic of Somalis.

Ughh. This is where I quickly lose sympathy for the guy. Ignorant people like Halla-Aho should be ignored, yet court cases like these only further incite racial hatred in the country and bring more members to the True Finns party.


Vartti.fi: Molly Malone’s not paying salaries, abusing foreigners

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 1:38 pm

Wow, what a coincidence. Just a few weeks after I mentioned how Molly Malone’s wouldn’t pay me for work I did there, there’s an article on Vartti.fi about other foreigners having the exact same problem. (Sorry, in Finnish, translate here)

Helsingin keskustassa sijaitsevan Molly Malone’s -ravintolan ympärillä vellovat syytökset ulottuvat myös johtoon. Ravintolan epäillään jättäneen maksamatta lain edellyttämiä lisiä työtekijöilleen sekä käyttäneen hyväksi ulkomaalaisten työntekijöiden tietämättömyyttä Suomen lainsäädännöstä.

Ravintolan entisten työntekijöiden mukaan ravintolapäällikkö ei ole maksanut työntekijöille sunnuntai-, yö- tai iltalisiä. Myös juhlapyhistä ansaittavat vapaapäivät ovat työntekijöiden mukaan jääneet korvaamatta.

- Suuri osa työntekijöistä on joko hyvin nuoria tai ulkomaalaisia. Heillä ei ollut tietoa oikeuksistaan, kun aloimme keskustella aiheesta. Lähes kaikki työskentelivät paikassa ilman kirjallisia sopimuksia, ravintolan entinen työntekijä kertoo.

Paul Westlake and myself performing tonight at Manala

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 1:22 pm

top_21_films_2008Paul Westlake’s Wednesday evening stand-up show sold out and many people were unfortunately turned away – so if you missed him, be sure to visit Manala tonight at 19.30.

I’ll be sharing the stage with host, Tommi Mujunen and of course the headliner, Paul. Paul and I perform in English, Tommi in Finnish. Tickets are 8e from the door.

Abducted from Britain in 1977, Paul suffers terribly from Finlanditis – an incurable cultural disease that has rendered him silly in both Finnish and English. His CV stretches from radio, TV and amateur dramatics, to language books, CD-ROMs and communications training. His basic format is in English but he changes to Finnish when he’s making a point. The combination makes him suitable for international audiences as well as for Finns who have a curious desire to know what it’s really like to live here. His hobbies include standing too close to the mike and avoiding the occasional tomato. Ideal for occasions involving English-speaking guests or other loonies.


Finland for Sale?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 8:32 pm

Ismo Leikkola stars in a great new YLE1 show called “Finland for Sale” where each episode they take a piece of Finnish culture to see if foreigners could use it abroad.

On this past week’s show, they performed impersonations of old Finnish comedy heroes…in English. Jump to 17:00 in the clip below to see what happened… (in English) (sorry, no YouTube embeds unfortunately)



The show was taped back in May during a comedy show I was hosting. Myself and some others were interviewed.

Depeche Mode coming to Finland!!

Tags: Everything — Author: @ 12:56 pm

Anyone who knows me knows I’ve been crazy about Depeche Mode since the womb.

When Depeche Mode announced their latest tour, Helsinki wasn’t on their list. (boo!) The closest city was Riga, Latvia. So we got tickets, flew to Riga, only to find out the show canceled as the lead singer got sick. (boooo!)

Then a month later I’m on holiday in Copenhagen. Throughout my first day there I pass all these people wearing Depeche Mode t-shirts and I’m like, “Hell yeah, this is a cool town!” After like the the sixth t-shirt, I knew something was up. I went online and sure enough, Depeche Mode was performing that night in Copenhagen to a sold out crowd…and I didn’t have tickets. (BOOOO!!)

But after many months through their tour, they announced a show at the Helsinki Arena on February 2, 2010. Tickets go on sale August 24th. YAY!



English Comedy Night at Art Goes Kapakka on Wednesday!!

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 6:14 pm

Holiday season is over and English stand-up comedy is back on! Part of Helsinki’s “Art Goes Kapakka” festivities, I’ll be hosting the FREE English Open Mic on Wednesday August 19th at 8pm @ Manala in downtown Helsinki. (yes, FREE!!) Finland for Thought guestblogger, Hank W., will be performing as well.

The comics have been busy writing new material all summer long and we’re eager to try out our new jokes! Appearing on the stage are a mix of men and women, Finns and foreigners, professionals and amateurs, funny people and …me. :-P I promise it’s going to be a fantastic show!! (did I mention it’s FREE!?)

Why not come a little early and check out funnyman Paul Westlake’s (UK) one man show, “Finntrospective: A seriously funny look at the Finnish condition (yes, he’s the guy who wrote your childhood textbooks). Or stay a little later and experience comedian Rich Lyons (USA) in 3D!! Paul’s show start at 7pm, tickets are 8e. Rich’s show starts immediately following the open mic at 9:30pm, tickets are also 8e.

It’s going to be an awesome night of comedy. Visit the Facebook event page for more details. And be sure to add me as a Fan on Facebook, so I look a real comic and not the desperate loser that I really am. :-D

Hope to see you gals & guys there!




Why the fuck are we all standing here!?

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 11:59 am

Every foreigner has inadvertently tried this experiment during their first day visiting Finland: Stand with a dozen others at a crosswalk. The light is red. Not a car in sight. You wonder, “why the fuck are we all standing here!?” You cross on red. Immediately the entire crowd follows your lead.

Supposedly it’s dangerous. But even more dangerous, is a lack of common sense

One in eight Finnish pedestrians ignore the signs on light-operated crossings, according to a report published on Friday by Liikenneturva, the country’s central organisation for traffic safety work. Regional differences are large, to say the least. In the capital Helsinki, as many as 42% of pedestrians will cross the road even when no green light is showing.

In Mikkeli, meanwhile, they are conspicuously more careful: there 99% allegedly only cross on green. Similar figures of over 90% were recorded in Kouvola, Vaasa, Joensuu, and Rovaniemi.

Copenhagen city officials have launched a program to combat red light ignorance: Double red lights. It’s proved to be twice as effective as single red lights…



The Finns must be Crazy

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 3:49 pm

God damn we’re pathetic in Finland sometimes. First we have an American astronaut who received a phone call in space from Finnish President Tarja Halonen, simply because one set of grandparents were Finnish..!?

President Tarja Halonen spoke on the phone on Monday with astronaut Timothy L. Kopra, at his post on the International Space Station. The 46-year-old Texan’s grandparents moved from Finland almost a century ago.

(Presidents of Germany & Poland: I’m still awaiting my phone call)

Then we have the authorities shutting down airspace and waterspace while ignoring noise disturbance violations to surrounding neighborhoods – and the news media goes apeshit over the past few days because of a pop concert!!

Who does this girl think she is, some sort of prima-donna? (-OR- Who does this girl think she is, Jesus’s mother!?)

“We are out here out of principle. It annoys me that the sea area is closed off just like that. In my opinion noone can say that the waters are now a no-go area or exclusion zone just because some gig promoter so requests”, Lehtinen says sharply.

Sometimes I feel like I’m living in an African village and a Coke bottle just dropped from the sky. Thank God I didn’t meet an Icelandic girl instead.


Snagged from mayamai26 on Flickr


Finnish found in the English language

Tags: Uncategorized — Author: @ 12:04 pm

Below is an excerpt about usage of foreign words in the English language, from Arthur Plotnik’s “Spunk & Bite: A writer’s guide to bold, contemporary style”…

What other Finnish words have English-speaking authors adopted? (I would like to take credit for first penning, ‘nowheremäki’. Translation: “That podunk Finnish town you’re from, that most natives haven’t even heard of.”)


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