Monday, March 1, 2010

Finnish by design

Finnish design is very well known throughout the world. The touch of nature, beauty and innovation has always been popular among both western and eastern cultures. Foreigners often have clear stereotypes of Finnish mentality and us as a country. Often that image is also very shallow and even if it might touch the surface, the true essence of Finnish society gets buried under the surface.

Here it is! The Aalto Vase, the most famous piece of Finnish design all around the world. (Photo:

This is how Finnish-ity is seen. This and the school shootings. Yay. Being a Finn is not obviously just nature, midnight sun, little introverted but all in all quite friendly people. There is the famous "sisu", guts to go on whatever the odds, this we nurture remembering our wars and our suffering under the foreign rulers.

I used to live abroad for more than two years. Coming back to Finland hasn't been easy. Somehow, I seem to notice all kinds of small things I never saw before, and they annoy me now enormously. Maybe I am cynical, maybe unfair, but this has been in my mind for some time now:

We live in cotton. We don't want to take responsibility for our own actions, the society is always to blame. If there happens a shooting somewhere, that's because the police didn't do their work right, the parliament should have banned the guns years ago or there hasn't been enough money for mental health. The media goes on and on and on, how terrible it is that these kind of things can happen in Finland and how terrible it is that no one does anything and how many candles there are in the place where it happened and after a week they have the complete profile of the shooter from since he was a baby and why he did what he did and how everyone is missing the people he killed and how terrible it is that it can happen in Finland. This goes on until there is another headline.

It's also amasing, when during the winter one MP mentions that it would be good for people to clean their roofs so that they won't collapse and few people fall off and get killed, it's the MPs fault, because he asked them to get to the roof in the first place. Just last week I read from the newspaper how you should "refer to your knowledge about past experiences" when you are thinking whether you should clean your roof or not. It's good that media is here to tell us these things. We live in cotton because our wits are constantly stupendously underestimated and we like it since we don't need to hurt our brains thinking.

The other thing which has really really gotten into my nerves is the lack of Finnish optimism. There is no such thing. We always wait for the worst. We have our sisu to get through it, but it's not optimism - it's stubbornness. The day just can't be good if it's raining and if the sun is shining it probably won't be in the end of the day anyway. During the long winter there's either too much snow or too little and at least it's slippery all the time. When there's a transporter's strike starting, the first headlines tell us how fresh food will disappear from the shops in a couple of days and there won't be any fuel left in the end of the week. The mass hysteria in this country is something amazing. We see it around constantly, whether it was Kaarina Hazard or national railway problems. The media tells us about it and boy, we believe, the worse the better. When Saku Koivu boosts the self-esteem of the Olympic icehockey team when they are losing 1-3 and they manage to win the game 5-3 in the last period, it's not optimism either. It's sisu again - the same "we don't have anything to lose" attitude we saw in the Winter War. We have gotten far with it, no doubt, but it does make me angry when I hear the Finnish people repeatedly saying "I did this, but it's not so good as I intended". (I do that from time to time and that makes me even angrier, it just proves how affective that attitude is.) This country has some huge self-esteem problems. We are always ready to give up, but then don't after all, when we go forth with our sisu.

While abroad, I learned how powerful tool optimism really is. Or at least the faith for the future. What does it matter if it rains in the morning or evening? What does it matter if your bakings didn't turn fabulous or tasty, why do you need to apologise it in advance? I believe the world is a marvellous, interesting and funny place with lots of possibilities as long as you are ready to explore them. But that's it, isn't it? We have these things we don't want to give away. We live in cotton and we are so afraid of the future (and our possible death) that we always try to be ready for it by waiting for the worst - and we never succeed.

I must admit it has been really hard for me to come back here and notice, how I'm slipping back to that Finnish pessimistic attitude. That's why I can hardly wait that I get out of here again, because I can't afford another depression. I want to live my life to the full every day and enjoy it now. I don't want to sit in a dark house and wait that the roof will fall over me because it's so packed with snow. Maybe as a Finn I'd be able to get out of the ruins, we always do, but it would be so much easier just to walk out before it even collapsed.

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