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Disappointed: Election 2015

April 23, 2015

So, the election has come and gone and the Centre Party is now tasked with finding the right mix of partners to form the next government. There has been plenty of analysis by the media, including YLE News, which I follow on a daily basis. What always makes headlines is the demographics of the elected MPs.

I can’t even tell you what I think might be a good government in Finland, all I can say is that I am not optimistic about how the next four years will go – although, it could be (and should be) better than the last four years under a conservative government. There were far too many MPs and ministers who were completely out of touch with what is going on on the ground in this country. See my last post for some examples.

Now we’re headed for a government that will be run by the old boys club, and that means business, money and profit over doing good for the common people and the environment.

Let us see how this plays out. I hope it will not take two months to get a government together as it did back in 2011.

And yet the anti-immigrant theme continues… Loudly and clearly.

A headline from YLE three days after the election reads: “Yle poll: Majority of Finns oppose work-based immigration

One must remember – and this is the same the world over, no matter where you are. When the economy is bad anti-immigrant sentiment increases. So yesterday’s news item was no surprise. I remember the same thing happening in Ontario in the early 1990s when we were in a deep recession. I wonder if ethnic Finns ever think about how their opinions may hurt the people who are already here and working and contributing to society.

But again, this leads me to question the mantra that Finland needs immigrants right now to fill the jobs out there. What jobs? Are there really that many jobs. This morning YLE reported that March saw an increase in unemployment, now at 10,3%. Nearly one-third of those are under the age of 25.

And I think it is utter and complete bullshit (excuse my language) that people shun jobs because it is beneath them to do “that kind of work.” I can tell you now, if I lost my job tomorrow, I would find another one right away – even if it meant cleaning office buildings, working in a kitchen or picking produce at a farm. We all have to start somewhere. Think about it – all you adults out there: What was your first job? Probably something you would never picture yourself doing these days, right?

I think we have set the bar too high for ourselves in Western countries and many believe that immigrants are and should be happy with any job, which is a complete crock of poo. I don’t work in the field in which I was educated, but I am incredibly fortunate to have a job that offers many perks: flexible hours, healthcare, generous holidays, opportunities to learn and so on. If only other immigrants could be so lucky eh?

Come on Finland, we’re going to be in a big hole at some point in terms of elder care, so we need to start thinking forward now and taking the blinders off.

All work is meaningful and that is something we all need to start believing in again.

To end off this post, I’d like to thank everyone who dropped in on last week’s post and commented in the many fora where it appeared. I’d also like to thank the people who e-mailed me with kind words for bringing up what is a polarizing topic.

Anti-immigrant campaign messages: Election 2015

April 15, 2015

I am not normally one to stir up controversy via my blog and I normally keep my thoughts to myself (or within my circle of close friends and family) with regards to political issues, but these are things I have to comment on ahead of the Parliamentary election this coming Sunday.

If election ads like the following appeared in Canada, which I consider racist, they would never see the light of day.

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Freedom of speech, sure.

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Racist and fear mongering? Absolutely.

Immigrants are not the root of the problems we’re facing in Finland. It still boggles my mind that candidates can run on an anti-immigrant platform. Mind you, for those not up to speed on Finnish politics, most of the main parties in Finland do not run on these kind of outright anti-immigrant platforms, though there are a few politicos who have put their foot in their mouth over the last few months.

When asked if Finland needs more immigrants, Päivi Räsänen (Christian Democrats) told the Finnish Broadcasting Corporation (YLE), “Yes, we need more immigrants,” she said. “We have areas in our labour market that we do not get Finnish people to do. Nowadays we have many immigrants working as bus drivers or taxi drivers and so on.” She freely admits that we need immigrants to do the work that Finnish people refuse to do. <sarcasm> Wow, that sets the standard really high for that person who hopes to come to Finland to practice the profession they trained for.

A few months ago in a YLE current affairs program (A-studio), the National Coalition MP Pia Kauma alleged that immigrant families with babies received better benefits than ethnic Finns. She claimed that ” ‘that Finns are losing out to non-natives when it comes to discretionary purchases made by local social services’ – in spite of evidence from an Espoo city official, who says all customers receive the same modest sum for baby gear.” And she added, “For example why should immigrant families purchase new baby carriages with social support, when if Finnish families have to recycle old carriages?”

An official from the City of Espoo had to immediately go into damage control mode, iterating that “immigrants do not receive more money for prams than Finns do.” Kauma had no evidence to back up her claims – and yet she was able to smear a whole group of people in front a national TV audience with no repercussions for her apparently false words.

That being said…

We keep being told that Finland needs immigrants to secure the future of its workforce and tax base. In the current economic climate with unemployment hovering near double digits and layoffs happening at a brisk pace, I really wonder where the jobs are.

Finally…

A message to the candidates running on an anti-immigrant platform in this election: You must remember that the people who come to this country cannot all be painted with the same brush.

This is a message to the candidates of Muutos 2011: Stop classifying educated immigrants who work and pay taxes here in the same group as the so-called “threat” you single out in your election ads.

And a message to all eligible voters (and thanks to a friend for suggesting a different word here): VOTE. Because you have the right to – even (especially) if you hate what the government is doing to the country.

Picture of the Day

April 14, 2015

It’s spring and that means the first flowers are blooming! Enjoy!

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Finland’s people: facts and stats

April 7, 2015

The November 2014 edition of Yhteishyvä (the customer magazine of the S-group) featured an extensive graphics-filled article that presented loads of facts and statistics about people in Finland. Now this is something worth sharing. So enjoy my rough translations and learn! These are in no particular order. Enjoy! (I learned a lot reading this article!)

Maria is the most popular woman’s name in Finland, while Juhani is the most popular man’s name in Finland.

There are 2 771 000 women and 2 680 000 men in the country.

The most common surnames are: Korhonen, Virtanen and Mäkinen.

Finns love to play the lottery. Their favourite number is 9, the least favourite is 38.

Finns eat and drink in one year:

  • 51 kg of fruit
  • 61 kg of vegetables
  • 23 kg of cheese
  • 77 kg of meat
  • 4,4 kg of butter
  • 129 L of milk

We normally eat lunch at 11.00.

The average height and age of a Finnish woman is 164cm and 43,3 years, for men 178cm and 40,5 years.

The age structure of the women in Finland:

  • 0-19 – 21,3%
  • 20-39 – 24,1%
  • 40-59 – 25,7%
  • 60-79 – 22,3%
  • 80+ – 6,6%

The age structure of men in Finland:

  • 0-19 – 23%
  • 20-39 – 26,3%
  • 40-59 – 26,9%
  • 60-79 – 20,4%
  • 80+ – 3,4%

Average life span of Finns: Women 83,4 years and men 77,5 years.

We live in a country that is 78 percent land, nine percent fresh water and 13 percent salt water.

Many Finns see their world through glasses. Of people aged 40-49, 53% of men wear glasses and 74% of women wear glasses.

Every third Finnish man sweats more than he would like to. Nearly 25% avoid sweaty handshakes.

We use, on average, 39 rolls of toilet paper each per year.

The most driven car in Finland is the Toyota Corolla. The most common car colour is grey.

The most popular dog breed in Finland is the Labrador retriever and it is likely to be named Bella.

The favoured “ready-made” cakes for family parties are “sandwich cakes.”

Finland is said to have eight dialects of the Finnish language, six of them are considered western, two of them eastern.

On average we go to the movie theatre 1,4 times a year.

75 percent of us live with family (structure), of that:

  • married couples with no children – 35,8%
  • married couples with children – 29,5%
  • common-law couples with no children – 14,2%
  • common-law couples with children – 8,2%
  • mothers and children – 10,1%
  • fathers and children – 2,1%
  • registered same-sex couples – 0,1%

We have an average of 1,8 kids.

58,7% of Finns live in their own dwellings. The average bank loan is about €93 620 per dwelling. On average we have 39,6 square metres of dwelling space per person.

The average commute to work takes 46 minutes and most often by car.

Our favourite month to holiday is July and we love to travel to Sweden, Estonia and Spain.

We do about 30 million Google searches per day!

53 percent of men and 56 percent of women report taking part in exercise at least three times per week. Our favourite activities are walking, cycling and going to the gym.

Finns like to listen to Finnish male artists – the favourites being Jari Sillanpää, Eppu Normaali and Kirkka.

What do we earn per month?

  • Managing Directors (Men: €6312, Women: €5145)
  • Experts / Consultants (Men: €3622, Women: €2973)
  • Office workers (Men: €2753, Women: €2555)
  • Service and health workers (Men: €2647, Women: €2325)
  • Farmers (Men: €2311, Women: €2211)

In our free time, we love to go to the “summer cottage,” which is an average of 90km away and 48 square metres in size. The average age of the average owner is 61 years.

Finns love getting married on unusual days: the most popular ones recently were August 8, 2008 and December 12, 2012.

Our money goes towards the following things every year per household:

  • Living and energy costs 28%
  • Food, alcohol and tobacco products 15%
  • Transportation 17%
  • Culture and leisure 10%

The Finnish man’s working week is longer than a woman’s. Men work on average 38 hours per week and women 32 hours.

73% of marriages result in a family that has the man’s surname. Finnish women, on average, get married at the age of 31 and men, age 33.

Finns watch three hours and two minutes of TV per day.

Forgot the milk? The closest store is about 2km away on average.

Celebrate!

  • 1.9 million people watch the annual Independence Day celebrations on TV, namely the President’s Ball.
  • We send 37 million Christmas cards a year!
  • We spend EUR 40 million on flowers at Easter.
  • The sales of sparkling wines grow by 439% around Vappu (Labour Day).
  • At Midsummer the consumption of sausages increases three-fold.

Over half of Finns are overweight according to the BMI measure. The causes of weight gain among Finns include the time we spend sitting, too little exercise, increased quality of life and the continuous consumption of poor quality foods.

Finns throw out about 500kg of garbage per person a year. We throw out some 23kg of food per person a year.

Common causes of death among Finns:

  • blood circulation disorders
  • tumours and growths
  • Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
  • Accidents
  • Respiratory illnesses
  • alcohol-related diseases and accidental alcohol poisoning

70,5% of the eligible population voted in the last parliamentary election. (The next one is slated for April 19.)

We do about three hours of house work every day.

Finland by religion:

  • Evangelical Lutherans – 75,3%
  • Orthodox – 1,1 %
  • Other faiths – 1,4%
  • Undefined, non-religiously aligned (Uskontokuntiin kuulumattomat) – 22,1%*

In 24 hours Finnish people use water, on average:

  • 40L in the toilet
  • 20L washing clothes
  • 60L washing ourselves
  • 35L in the kitchen

We use too much water, the average Finn uses 155L of water per day, when the desired amount is about 100-120L per day.

We are prepared for “rainy days.” Nearly 60 percent of Finns save money and make investments just in case.

Most Finns sleep between 20.10 and 10.40 (on the clock). Most of us are sleeping at around 4.30 a.m.

Many Finns are happy with their homes and relationships. We give our lives an 8 on a scale of 10.

Per capita, Finns use 11,6 litres of pure alcohol a year.

Finns love to sauna! There are 3.2 million saunas in Finland – enough for every person in the country to take a sauna simultaneously!

Finnish women begin menopause at around the age of 51.

We recycle over 90 percent of our beverage containers.

We borrow about 17 books per person a year from the libraries in the country.

In 2013 Finns talked about 8,6 minutes daily on the phone and sent 2,6 text messages a day.

* I had a hard time translating that one.

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Picture of the day

April 1, 2015

Getting ready for the gardening season!

It doesn’t matter that we had 15 cm of snow on Monday either! Ha ha!

I am very much looking forward to puttering in my yard.

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Women’s things

April 1, 2015

I realize it is April 1, but this is not a joke.

This is a post of a more personal nature, aimed at women. So guys – if you’re not into women’s health, this post is probably not for you.

A couple of months ago I went for my annual “exam” to get checked out. My employer is pretty generous and this is something that is covered for all the women who work where I am. The doctor I saw was a new one because the one I usually see was not available.

As we went through the exam, the usual questions came, how regular is your cycle, etc. etc. Fortunately I am pretty healthy so there was nothing to be concerned about. As per the standard here tests are done and if there is a problem, the doctor will follow up.

So, that being said, I am in the over 40 group and a new word entered my vocabulary. It was so omninous to hear it:

Mammogram.

Jeez, I thought, am I already old enough for one of those??? Well, I’ll go get one, though I haven’t quite got my head around the thought of having a part of my body squashed in a vice.

One thing besides this mammogram stuff that stuck with me was how much the doctor was trying to push contraception pills on me as a way to regulate my cycle. I think I had to tell her four times that I was not interested in using drugs to regulate my body. I told her more than once that I manage just fine, thanks. Never in my life have I ever been at a doctor’s appointment where there was such a clear push to get me to use drugs. I wondered about her motives (or the drug companies’ motives) in applying so much pressure.

We are all getting older and that requires a slight shift in the focus on health and well-being… Have you ever had a doctor try and push any treatment on you?

Comments, as always are welcome!

Language education issues

March 27, 2015

These are some scattered thoughts that I have had recently…. I hope this makes sense because I kinda feel like I am rambling here.

These days Finland’s population growth is driven mostly by immigration. A news brief in Metrolehti this morning revealed that Finland’s population is set to hit 5.5 million soon. So there are more foreigners than before and many of them are starting families here. Myself included.

The Little Miss started school last fall and the City of Espoo generously offers additional language lessons those kids who have another language other than Finnish or Swedish in their home. I, however, have a real problem with the terminology used to describe these kids. I have to apply for my child’s own “mother tongue education” in the education system. (We use an internet-based record keeping system that is called “Wilma.”) Read a little bit further down and the terminology used is “immigrant mother tongue education” for children with:

  • a migrant background, whose mother tongue is something other than Finnish or Swedish (but the system says her mother tongue is only Finnish)
  • students whose parent(s)’ mother tongue is something other than Finnish or Swedish (requirement fulfilled)
  • adopted children who can maintain their first-learned language (not applicable)

In the internet-based education record system, the Little Miss’ mother tongue is listed only as Finnish. But she speaks two languages at home, so why isn’t English listed there too??

This whole idea of two mother tongues was pointed out to me by a friend whose children are also Finnish-Canadian and hence have two languages in their home. Is it just me or is it annoying that kids born in Finland in an international family are automatically thought to be Finnish (or Swedish) speaking even though they have another language at home?

How does one address the fact to the authorities that many kids have two mother tongues? I don’t consider my child as a Finnish-speaker first. Sure, it is her dominant language because she goes to a Finnish language school, but that shouldn’t diminish the role of English in her life either!

Why is she considered a child with an “immigrant background.” In my opinion she has no such thing because she was born here. I am the immigrant! She may learn Canadian customs and take part in cultural activities that mainstream Finnish people don’t necessarily partake in – but that does not make my child an immigrant in any way. Or better yet, under Finnish legislation, immigrants are called “aliens.” A crappy word that needs to be dropped from the legislation.

I was so irked at this kind of classification of these kids born in Finland that I sent feedback to the City of Espoo.

I have feedback regarding the application for foreign-language lessons offered to kids in Espoo. My kid is learning English and dozens of other kids are learning their own mother tongues. This is a really valuable service.

But why is the application in Wilma in Finnish? Could you not simplify this process by translating that particular module of Wilma into English and/or other languages to make it easier for us non-Finnish speaking parents to help further our kids’ educations?

And why are children who have been born and raised in Finland who have a second language other than Finnish or Swedish classed as “maahanmuuttaja”? We already have enough problems with children being stigmatized for being different. I assume most of the children in these language programs are in fact Finnish citizens, so call them as they are – not “aliens” or “immigrants.”

The reply that came back was:

Thank you for your feedback concerning the English language translations of the Espoo Childcare and Education websites.

The English version of the electronic application form for the pupil’s own mother tongue instruction will be put to use in August 2015. Because the majority of foreign language families in the Espoo region cannot speak English, the form was initially introduced in Finnish quite recently. (I take issue with that assessment, I know plenty of foreigners in Finland who can speak, understand and read English!)

The name for these studies in the current National Core Curricula is literally the mother tongue instruction for immigrants. We have had to hold to the consistent name in the forms. In the new National Core Curricula (2016), the name of the subject will be nevertheless modernized and called the pupil’s own mother tongue instruction, after which we will be able employ the name also in our official use.

I was glad for the clarification, but still have a big problem with the terminology.

Are your kids getting “mother tongue” education in Finland? What are your thoughts on it?

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