Pluses and minuses of being a Finn, part 1

I am a Finn, who lives in Sweden. At times I call myself Swedo-Finn, because I have had my home and family in Sweden for a long time and because I have both the Finnish and the Swedish citizenship. But in my soul, I must admit, I cannot get rid of what I grew up with, Finnishness. My parents were Finns, my first language is Finnish, I went to school in Helsinki and I learnt to think of that fairly small place in the North-Eastern corner of Europe as "my country". It is my synnyinmaa (country of birth, cf. "rodina" in Russian), and it has a very special place in my heart. This is why it is a little difficult for me to take negative comments on Finland and Finns. But let us be fair and let us do what the law-abiding Romans used to do: "Audiatur et altera pars" or "Let the other part also be heard." In this particular case the other part is a Russian who lives in Canada.

Below, I have enclosed critical statements about Finns penned down by him. He has a few positive things to say about them (see Plus-claims), and quite a few negative things (Minus-claims). He says he has lived in Finland. Reading what he has to say about the (!) Finns, I understand that he has got his share of Finnishness. I start with his statement, and put my comments after these claims.

Pluses and minuses of being a Finn

Plus-claim 1: Honesty. Finns won't pretend, but will heartily and honestly hate us... They have no imagination or inclination to dissembling.
My comment: Do I pretend when I say that I heartily and honestly like many Russians. Jelena, Kostja, Nadja, Boris...?

Plus-claim 2: Law-abidingness. If there is a sign on the door saying "Do not enter", a Finn will die before he comes in. He won't even look inside out of the corner of his eye. Why do such a thing?
My comment: "Law born before me, will also remain after me." This is from a poem written (in Swedish) by J.L. Runeberg, the national Poet of Finland. I would say that law-abidingness is not only a Finnish national trait but a Nordic one.

 Plus-claim 3: Concern for the environment - their swamps ("Suomi" translated means "swamp") are pristinely preserved.
My comment: True, "swamp" is "suo" in Finnish, but most likely, the word "suomi" does not come from this word but from a Baltic word meaning 'land'. Etymologically, "suomi" may be related to the Russian word "zemlja" or 'land'. Why a Baltic loan? Well, back 2 000 – 2 500 years ago, there were both Finnic and Baltic settlements in what we now call Finland or Suomi.
Plus-claim 4: Massive interest in sports. Seeing Finnish women marching down the street with skis in the middle of summer gives me a rolling laugh even today. Sometimes it seems like I am in China, with everyone riding their "Tunturi" bicycles ("Turvalinen Kotimainen" Safe Domestic)
My comment: The writer has not been to Norway. There, they are really mad about sports, and especially about winter sports such as skiing. A more peculiar feature about Finns' sport interests is that they have developed new sports of their own like "pesäpallo" which is a kind of baseball, wife-carrying (on a swamp and elsewhere), bathing in sauna steam (unfortunately, a few years ago a Russian man died in a sauna bathing contest), swamp football (recall: some 30 percent of the soil has been swamp and marsh before Suomi-people toiled them into cornfields). Finns love car driving and their superheroes are Formula 1 drivers such as Mika Häkkinen and Kim Räikkönen.

Minus-claim 1: Dullness - incredible dullness. No creativity. Their nickname is "people from the forest", who never gave the world anything.
My claim: I have heard this before, said about the Swiss people, who only have given the cuckoo clock to us co-planetarians. Hmm... what about Finnish design and architecture, modern classic music (Sibelius), literature, ice breakers that work in the Russian Arctic areas. The Finnish school is known to be one of the best in the world. Some Finnish philosophers are well-known worldwide – at least in the academic world (e.g. Georg H. von Wright and Jaakko Hintikka)...
Minus-claim 2: Laziness - Incredible laziness. Half the population lives on welfare. Why work when the state pays you so well to sit and do nothing?
My comment: Here, the critic is talking about the Nordic welfare state. Perhaps, it is difficult to understand for people coming from outside Norden, the Nordic countries, that we have  flourishing social welfare, well-functioning market economy, well-educated population, fairly advanced IT- and other technology. Of course, the Nordic countries differ from one another. Finland is not as rich as Norway. There are much fewer immigrants living in Finland than in Sweden. Etc. But basically, the Nordic welfare state has been the "ledstjärna" (Swedish, leading star) in the social policy in this particular corner of our Blue Planet.

To be continued...

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