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What did I know about Finland before moving here?

July 15, 2015

A question to the diaspora in Finland! I think this above may become a new category of entries on my blog because I have questioned people who have moved to Finland about other things before.

I asked this question a few weeks back to a group of foreigners living in Finland: What did you know about Finland before you moved here?

If I answer that myself, I did research on Finland before I came here the very first time. I took a beginner’s Finnish language course, so I could pronounce the names of the places I was planning to visit. 🙂 I actually had to look Finland up on a map to see exactly where it was. When I came here the first time in 1997, the Internet was just becoming widely available, so I actually did a lot of research by looking things up in encyclopedias at the local library. (Wow, when is the last time anyone did anything like that, eh?) I impressed the Finns I met with the things I knew, like the name of the President at the time (Nobel Prize winner Martti Ahtisaari). I did NOT know that Nokia was Finnish! Of course I learned a lot more about Finland while I was here in the summer of 1997 and fortunately the learning journey continues daily!

Do you live in Finland these days? What did you know about Finland before you moved here?

Below are a selection of the comments I got from people who answered my question on social media:

  • I knew Lenin escaped to Sweden via a train through Finland just before Russian Revolution. I knew it had a crazy extra hour. I knew almost nothing else, I falsely expected it to be like this, which was the hypnotic (Norwegian?) Lapland based TV show that every British 70s kid was hooked on.

  • The Boy From Lapland TV show 1977 I remember this on a saturday morning…
  • All I knew was that it was one of the Nordic countries. It’s cold (but never imagined it to be this cold) and has snow (but didn’t expect it to last for almost half a year). It was where Nokia phones were made from. & it is the home of Santa Claus.
  • I knew it was a bilingual country, but had no idea I would end up learning Swedish, nor that Finnish was so difficult…! I DIDN’T know it was possible to see so many inebriated people on a holiday (even though I have lived in NYC) or even a Friday night and I didn’t know the Chinese food would be so… mediocre!
  • I believed Finland was a country with extreme weather conditions, an impossible language, weird customs, taciturn people and a difficult job market. I was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t as bad as I thought. <winks>
  • Yes, the weather is not that bad <grins>
  • And I learned there are some Finns who are able to talk more than I can…which is hard to do. <smiles>
  • I knew [of] HIM, 69 Eyes, Dudesons, and TEEMU SELANNE :)) …I knew where it was and was familiar with Lapland and that the language was unusual.
  • I knew it was the country of The Moomins, Santa, Nokia, Kaurismäki Brothers, IYS (penpal association), Lordi (Eurovision), and Habbo Hotel (edited by Sulake, the company I was working for). I’ve heard about sauna, lakes, forests, darkness, alcoholism, feminism, depression, suicide, racism, education, humility. Statistics. I’ve dreamt of riding a reindeer with the Rite of Spring as a soundtrack. I didn’t know anything about Finnish composers, of course. But I had this image of the country: the fire under the ice, the violence under the appearance of calmness.
  • Quite a lot actually <smiles>. Had studied Finnish language and history for 3 yrs before I moved here and had made a dozen trips across the border as a tourist.
  • I knew there was snow in the Winter and they ate a bit more fish than I thought normal.
  • Taxes!
  • That people weren’t talkative <smiles>, how wrong that was. <smiles>
  • I knew Finland mainly from this song… (I can’t embed this for some reason.)
  • Forest, Nokia, cold
  • That it would be cold! I was 19 and it was 1998. My friends did ask me if there were reindeer walking around in the towns.
  • That Rovaniemi was the birth place of “Santa Claus” though I still question this belief <grins>.
  • Back in the nineties I was stopped in the street in my hometown of Hastings, England by 3 Finnish students. They were doing a project for their English language school and asked if i new of any famous Finns. So I started rattling off some names, Mika Häkkinen, Mika Salo, Tommi Mäkinen and Jari Litmanen and possibly a few more. I’m guessing that they must have been asking passers by all day to no avail coz the way they got excited will stay with me forever <smiles>
  • I’m from a small town in Indonesia, I am not sure if I can use that as an excuse that I have never paid attention on Finland before… I used Nokia phone but it was made in Japan, so I didn’t know that it would be from a country named Finland (shamed of me)!! But then in 2008 when I did my master degree in South Korea, for the first time I met a Finn and from him I get to know more about Finland. Knowing him I understood Finland is a country with a lot of snow, a country where the people are so smart because with just work and study 7-8 hrs/day including lunch and coffee break, 5 days/week and really enjoy the weekends but you still can get 100 points in the exams!!!!! (I was super jealous lol) Also a country that seemed so different and strange that I thought it was a magic land well, indeed, when I came to Finland in March 2010 it was like a Narnia!!!
  • Nothing more than Nokia is made in Finland, that it is very cold, and that IT is being applied so much. <smiles>
  • I knew absolutely nothing!! They say ignorance is bliss, lol. But I consider it an advantage as I had no preconceptions
  • Actually I don’t know much details about Finland before I came but your request reminded me that way before I even thought of visiting Finland, let alone staying here, I met a Finn in my university… from him I got to know that Finland is a country where students can take out study loans to ‘travel-study’ in other countries. En route to his destination, he studied in several SE Asian countries before finally arriving in China, and after nearly a year there he studied some more in South Korea! He was away from Finland for about two years and finally came home to complete his Master. He may be an exception but I was amazed at the flexibility of the system here.
  • Fast forward to many years later, right before I departed to Finland, I got to know that Finland is dark and cold (that’s the feedback from my dismayed friends in the UK when told where I am heading). But there was one excited friend who informed me I am going to see a lot of birch trees and there is a Monty Phyton song on Finland! <grins>
  • All I knew was that three things came from here Snow, Nokia and Angry birds lol
  • First thing to know about Finland was Nokia of course at the same time I was curious to see the sun during winter (whole day dark) and summer (whole day sunny) time.
  • Back in the 90s, I knew that is was up North, Helsinki the capital, cold and dark in winter, mosquitoes, mooses, light in summer, strong dependence upon Russia/recession in the 90s, Nokia (After realizing it was not Japanese), isolated and melancholic, having alcohol problems.
One Comment leave one →
  1. July 15, 2015 10:13 am

    Very interesting post! I knew a bit of Finnish history. I also read a lot about Finnish culture on “Depressing Finland” blog. Also, my husband is Finnish, so, on the one hand, I have a full access to whatever I want or need to know about the country. On the other hand, because he is an “insider”, he doesn’t notice things that interests a newcomer or not always is able to explain them. Anyway, getting acquainted with the country before moving helped me a lot. I didn’t feel lost. Although, I remember waking up in the middle of the first night after the move thinking: “Where am I? Finland, right, Finland. Finland?????What have I done” 🙂

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