10 years in Finland. What have I learned?

In the middle of August I will have been in Finland for a decade.  It’s been a blast and the years have flown by.  Looking back, there are few things I’ve picked along the way.

  1.   The language isn’t that bad.  It’s tricky sure, but with daily practice you can get your head around it pretty well.  No-one has ever insulted me about my less than perfect grammar or vocabulary.  Quite the opposite – I’ve received only encouragement.
  2.   I don’t manage to get to the sauna as much as I like.
  3.   You’d be amazed at how short, yet warm the Finnish summers can be.
  4.   You’d be amazed at how short, yet warm the Finnish people can be.
  5.   Mämmi.  Looks like poop, but actually quite tasty.
  6.   Salmiakki.  Salt of ammonia.  They put it into vodka and children’s sweets.  Dissolves your brain cells, but quite nice and warming once you get the hang of it.
  7.   Finns actually thaw out in the spring.  In the winter you won’t see to many out and about, but just after the bears come out of hibernation, so do the Finns.  This is also when you might see one smiling.
  8.   Sometimes, a quiet Finn is just a Finn with out a drink.  Coffee, beer .. anything will do.
  9.   In June and July Finns will BBQ more or less anything that comes from a farm yard or a lake.
  10.   In July there is no point in trying to apply for work, buy a car or look for a house.  Just go to a summer cabin with the rest of the country and wait for things to start up again in August.
  11.   August is the busiest time of year for Tech. Support.  It is also known as “Password Reset Month”.
  12.   Do not cross the road unless you are using the zebra-crossing.  Just don’t.  If you get knocked down, the police will probably give you a bollocking too.
  13.   Equal-rights cross roads.  Nope.  Still not got my head around those.
  14.   Fishing.  If you catch it, you can eat it.
  15.   If you have a Finn as a friend, you have a friend.  Full-stop.
  16.   In the sauna, social hierarchy vanishes.
  17.   When your line manager invites you for sauna it’s just sauna.  Explanation: I’d just arrived to work on my bike.  He’d just been in the work gym.  All the same, it was one of those “deer-caught-in-the-headlights” moments as I tried to work out a response.
  18.   The education system really is excellent.  The oldest duckling will start at a business college in the autumn.  Three years duration, free and he receives a laptop from the college.  All the new students do.  It ensures equality amongst the students and that there is nothing to prevent them from studying.
  19.   If you need to borrow a friend’s car, all you need is a driving license (duh), their spoken permission and the keys.  This very cool.  This is because the car is insured to be driven, not the driver to drive.
  20.   Healthcare may not be free, but it’s damn cheap and often is covered by your employer.  It’s also of a high standard.
  21.   And yes, we put babies outside to sleep in the middle of winter and they also sleep in cardboard boxes. 😉

Updates: My gosh – how did I forget these??

  1.   Long summer holidays – paid + “return to work bonus”.  I’ve gathered now 4 weeks paid summer holiday and 1 week paid winter holiday per year.  The return to work bonus is equivalent to the salary of the amount of time on holiday.
  2.   Strawberries.  If they aren’t Finnish, they’re not really strawberries.

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