The December edition featured an article about Finnish swimmer Ari-Pekka Liukkonen and one page had a photo of his hand – life-sized. If you have never heard of Ari-Pekka before, know this – he’s a really tall guy – 2.08m or 6’10” to be exact.
The Little Miss and and I had a good laugh this morning when she put her hand on the picture. :D
So how much wiser have I become lately?
1. I actually found out about this a couple weeks ago, but I am reporting it now. I have a couch (sofa) that needs to be recovered. I’ll be damned if I am forced into buying a new couch just because the cover on the current one is wearing out. We bought this couch just over 10 years ago and it has survived a baby-toddler-now school-aged kid. It is a solid piece of construction and it desrves some work rather than being ceremoniously dumped at a recycling centre or worse yet – in the landfill.
I sent e-mail to six different entrepreneurs in Espoo and Vantaa and we now have an appointment to meet with one before Christmas. There is country-wide association of these professionals, if you ever need this kind of work done, be sure to check it out!
We owe it to people who do this kind of work for living. It might cost some money, but you’re keeping an entrepreneur employed, the money in your locality and material out of the landfill.
2. My company’s Christmas party was at Nosturi a couple weeks ago. Nosturi (translation: crane) is located in an industrial area in southwest Helsinki. It used to be a cargo terminal hall, but was transformed into a bar and concert venue in 1999. It is currently owned by ELMU, the Association of Live Music (Elävän musiikin yhdistys). Nosturi serves some 100,000 patrons a year and has hosted some popular bands like: HIM, Apulanta, Lordi, the Bloodhound gang, Anthrax and Motörhead. Apparently there are plans to tear Nosturi down to make way for residential buildings. Shame, really…
In asking around at work, it appeared that many had never been to Nosturi before – an experience for us all.
3. I scour the magazines I get in the mail for new information and here is what I learned by reading parts of the December 2014 edition of Pirkka lehti. These were based on the responses of 1677 people between the ages of 16 and 75 earlier this year.
Products or logos that best describe Finnishness:
- The Finnish flag (24%)
- Sauna (17%)
- Rye bread (13%)
- Fazer blue (chocolate)
- Aalto vases
- Alvar Aalto furniture
- Koskenkorva (alcohol)
- Products and buildings made of wood
These products must continue to be made/manufactured/produced in Finland:
- Rye bread (54%)
- Fazer products (46%)
- Valio (dairy) products (46%)
- Ships and icebreakers
- Fiskars products
- Arabia products
How many of these are on your Christmas list? ;)
Do you ever buy souvenirs when you travel? When I came here in 1997 I never thought I would be coming back, so I bought some nice things home with me. When I moved back, I brought them back with me. :) I still buy Finnish stuff and handicrafts and it still feels like buying a souvenir.
I am one of these shoppers that looks for Christmas presents all year round, so I am always happy to score a good buy when I find something suitable to give as a gift. When I buy handicrafts or locally made goods they’re usually for someone in Canada – and I let people know that. The creator of said piece is always pleased to hear that their stuff is headed to the other side of the pond.
Anyways, so what do I have in my collection of Finnish-made stuff? Here’s a smattering, I have more of course…
Have you ever bought or been given a souvenir from Finland that you treasure? Tell me about it!
This is what I love about Finland, there is something to learn every day! So what have I learned recently?
A couple weeks ago my cousin asked me about a disease that has occurred in our family in Canada and wondered if it was more common in Finland. A quick search turned up an organization called The Finnish Network for Rare Diseases (Harvinaiset-verkosto), which was formed in 1995 to help support to help patients and their families living with a rare disease. The organization brings together NGOs, health care professionals, service providers and the member organizations.
Foreigners in Finland have some serious issues with something as simple as opening a bank account. In this day and age it is nearly impossible to live without a bank card, let alone being without a bank account. My previous entry touched on that and other bureaucracy foreigners run into. I have been here so long that these are things that I don’t really have to deal with anymore. I feel sorry for the folks who do.
The Finnish Book Foundation represents the interests of book publishers in Finland working on common interests such as “publishing, the distribution of literature, reading and freedom to publish in Finland.” There are over 100 members in the Finnish Book Foundation and 14 of Finland’s oldest book publishers were established back in the 1800s! Who knew!?
There are nearly 43,000 people over the age of 90 in Finland! That number is expected to increase dramatically by 2040, when there are expected to be 150,000 people over the age of 90. If we are already experiencing challenges with elder care now, what will it be like to be old in the future? While on the subject of our elders, some 2500 of them still have a valid driver’s licence, although the majority of them do not drive anymore. Two-thirds of this cohort still live in their own homes and 70 percent of the them live alone according to Statistics Finland. Only one-fifth of the over 90s are men. (Helsingin Sanomat featured an article about the over 90s in the November 16, 2014 edition.)
I’ve decided to make this a new category of entries when I report to you, so look for more of this soon!
The Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (YLE) published a news piece yesterday discussing the issues that foreigners face in trying to open a bank account at a Finnish bank. It has caused much consternation and much discussion on social media channels. It seems like getting a bank account is an experience equal to trying to get a work/residence permit (and renewals) – and everyone has a different story to tell.
So is this institutional racism, overbearing bureaucracy or ignorance on the part of bank workers? I think it’s a combination of all those things, and more. A lot of things have changed since 1998, as I responded to someone on my blog’s Facebook page, “…I think a lot has changed since 9/11 and the huge business failures in the US, financial security is an issue.”
I was just musing about this issue with a friend of mine yesterday when she brought it up and so I decided to look back on the obstacles I came up against when I moved here. Getting a bank account was simple, getting a permanent phone contract was another issue. That is what this blog entry is about, what about all the other things you have to deal with in your daily life when you move here. Mind you these experiences are from a few years ago – so I highly suggest you don’t apply these as a metre stick to today’s Finland.
Phone: I managed to work without a phone for about month, then my situation necessitated that I get one. The phone company wouldn’t give me a contract, but sold me air time. I rarely made calls out (because I couldn’t really afford it), but I was able to receive calls. When I changed jobs my boss opened a phone contract in his name and effectively owned my number for just over a year. Then I managed to get it sorted and put the contract in my own name.
Credit card: Flashback to 1999 when I moved into my own apartment. I had no furniture and I needed to go shopping. I managed to get a credit card with no problem, the interest rate is out of this world for Käyttöluotto, but it was better than nothing. In fact I have never had a problem getting a credit card in Finland. I guess I have been here long enough.
Work permits: I have never had the nightmare that some people have reported. Getting a work permit was always a relatively easy and straight forward process. Then again, I don’t live in Helsinki and I understand that getting permits sorted there is nothing short of an ordeal. I wrote about that a few years back.
Apartment: Getting an apartment rental agreement in my own name was not a problem either. My old boss was kind enough to let me live in his home for a couple of months while I got my feet grounded. Then when the opportunity to get my own place came, he even drove me out there to look at the place and get the contract sorted out. I was on my own!
Insurance: At one point I thought it would be a good idea to get some kind of insurance policy. I did, and it covers travel insurance and injury insurance… But truth be told after all these years I still don’t really know what the details of my agreement are. The Mr. needs to be consulted.
Electricity contract: When I moved into my own place, I had no idea I had to call an electricity company and make an agreement. I assumed the costs of water and electricity were covered under my rental agreement. Imagine my surprise when I got a letter in the mail saying my electricity would be cut off if I didn’t make a contract. I called, got it sorted out and as I recall there were no problems.
TV licence: I didn’t have a TV for nearly two years. I did write about that experience in an entry a few years back – have a laugh. These days there is no TV licence fee, but rather a blanket media tax that is paid by everyone in Finland.
Driver’s licence: I got my Finnish driver’s licence back in 2002. Having missed the time period for transferring it over I had to write a couple of tests and do a road test. The whole process cost me about EUR 200. (I have a good background story to go with why I finally decided to get a Finnish driver’s licence, but I’ll have to save that for another time.)
KELA card: I came to work here on a temporary contract so I was never issued with a KELA-card. As I recall I finally got one nearly a year after living here and that too was a relatively painless process.
Bank loan: When it was apparent I was really going to stay here for good I decided to get a bank loan to pay off all my student loans back in Canada in one lump sum. I had been here for nearly three years and I mustered up enough courage to go to Nordea and boldly ask for a loan. I made the application and they called back about 20 minutes later with approval. It was a good move on my part and I was able to pay it off in much less time than it would have taken me in Canada.
Taxes: In 1999 I was going through the horrifying process of trying to file a tax return and upon making a call to the tax office, they told me that I didn’t have to because I was “in the system.” I wrote about it here (see point 1).
Health care: Fortunately I have been healthy since I have lived here and my current employer covers occupational health care. There were a couple of times where I needed to go through the public system for a back injury and a respiratory infection, I had someone call for me. Back then I had no idea what I had to do if I got sick… Although I navigated the public side in getting surgery on my elbow last year and that went fine.
So to sum it I came here without a check list of things I had to do… I feel like I managed those early years through flying by the seat of my pants. If you asked me to do it again, I am not sure how it would turn out.
With regards to the banks of this country: they need to sort out their rules on issuing bank accounts to foreigners. They need to have uniform policies on what kinds of ID are accepted and outline conditions upon which internet banking codes and credit cards will be issued. The fact that many people have had to bring this issue to the Ombudsman for Minorities speaks to a problem that needs solving.
In Finnish there is this word “talkoot.” “Talkootyö” translates to volunteer work.
I have often questioned why we can’t get things done by having more talkoot when government cutbacks affect services and infrastructure maintenance.
Just last week the front page of Metro (the free paper distributed in the capital area) had a photo of dozens of people raking leaves in the city’s main park, Kaiviopuisto as part of a “talkoot” to get the park cleaned up for the fall. If I remember this was an initiative of the City of Helsinki, which offered drinks and small snacks to all of the volunteers as a reward.
My kid’s school needs some fixing, our “home” arena needs some serious renovation and will be out of commission until 2017 (!), so why can’t we help the process along? We can help – we don’t need to build, let’s leave that to the professionals. We can remove materials, bring in the new stuff, do all the little toby jobs that don’t require professional qualifications and the let pros get our infrastructure back into shape.
I have also questioned why more Finnish people don’t voluntarily adopt a park or a stretch of highway to keep it clean. The first services to go in times of austerity are parks and recreation maintenance…
I realize this a larger question of infringing on the rights of unionized workers, but isn’t there something Joe or Jane Public can do to help? Why don’t the municipalities communicate these things? Or am I missing something that is already out there?
A talkoot now and then would reduce the costs of getting things done and bring more of a community spirit, would it not?
I know what will happen if I ask though (in typical bureaucratic fashion in Finland): You can’t do that.