Monday, July 29, 2013

"Finland through the eyes of an almost American"

This morning's Helsingin Sanomat had column written by Tuomas Niskakangas, a Finn who has lived in the U.S for the last 3 years. I found the column "Miltä näyttää Suomi melkein amerikkalaisin silmin?", which describes Finland through the eyes of a self-proclaimed "almost American," really interesting, mostly because when I moved back to Finland after being gone for almost 6 years, I saw Finland somewhat similarly than Niskakangas. (I'm assuming) Niskakangas lives in the DC area, which I'm not that familiar with though. Also, I don't consider myself as American in any way, although some of my Finnish friends beg to differ.


Here are some of his observations (please excuse the obscure translations) and my comments as a Finnish remigrant:

One sees very few obese people, there are a lot of 'slightly round' folks. -> I've also noticed that we don't have that many obese people here in Finland as they do in the U.S. I nevertheless think majority of Finnish people are of normal weight. Statistics may disagree with me.

People drink milk and alcohol. Lactose or the lack of it is mentioned everywhere. -> Very true. It took me a couple of family dinners at my husband's to realize that no other adult member of the family drank milk! I switched to ice tea like the rest of them, so that they didn't have to serve milk just for my sake :D

Children's parks offer free food. The parks also offer free entertainment for kids, which is something American parents would pay a lot to receive. -> Parks don't offer free food where I live, but they do have events for kids that are invaluable! The community park nearby where we live is awesome, they even have a kiddie pool during the summer!

There are a lot bicyclists, and they all seem to be going somewhere. They wear helmets and carry stuff and kids. -> Agreed and I think it's great! No one in their right mind rides bicycles outside parks and paths in Nebraska. I did, and got harassed daily.

Public trashcans are almost always full. -> Have not noticed this, but the public trashcans in Finland are a lot smaller than the ones in Nebraska.

Taking care of business at government establishments is surprisingly fast. It doesn't often cost a thing. Public services get a grade A. -> Why I love Finland: things get taken care off! I think one might need to live outside of Finland for a while to realize how efficient Finland is. I love the honesty and efficiency here.

27C is considered hot. Summer is beautiful. -> I wholeheartedly agree, lovelovelove Finnish summers. It's not too hot, but it's warm enough. And I love the long days!


And here are some observations by commentators:

Finnish roads are in bad shape, full of potholes. -> Disagree. Commentator has clearly never lived in Nebraska where you might lose a small child in one of the potholes on the public roads. Not kidding.

Finnish stores have poor selection and high prices. -> I think we lack variety, but I love the fact that you can mostly trust Finnish food. In the U.S you have to check the packaging to make sure it is what its says it is and not just an imitation of it.

Finnish food is tasteless smash and porridge. -> Umm, disagree But perhaps it may seem bland if you are used to all the artificial flavorings in the U.S.

Most of the commentators focused on commenting about U.S rather than Finland, so I skipped the rest. Those who can read Finnish, do check out Tuomas Niskakangas' article yourself. I would love to hear your thoughts on the issue as well!

p.s I wrote this at work and I can't change the font for some reason :(


Pilvi said...

I saw this as well, and even skimmed through the comments.

First off, it seems few commenters understood Niskakangas' point of view, and retorted to either defending Finland, bashing USA or badmouthing the writer. How Finnish! ;) As an expatriate, I think I know exactly where he came from. He's not trying to pass any final judgement on either country. Then, even more significant than the details he lists, is how after a time abroad, you really notice these details, and how strange it is for the familiar, the home, to look foreign.

Potholes: I completely agree with you!

Groceries: Maybe I lack imagination, or can't take advantage of the many different items here, but even when I've visited Finland, I've just absolutely loved the quality and variety in a Finnish supermarket. Price - yes it's cheaper here, but insert my magic word: bell peppers. You can get a lot of processed c*** for pennies here, but pay high price for quality fresh produce.

Now that I think about it, I can think of even fresh variety here you can't get in Finland, like papayas and cacti. Thing is, I haven't learned to use those yet! :)

As for the headline, I suspect he didn't self-proclaim to be almost American, might've been editor's headline. In the article itself he just says he's lived here for three years. Coincidentally I've lived here for almost three years, and I do consider myself if not "almost American", already "partly American". Something like 25% American maybe, and 98% Finnish.

Leena said...

Kirjoitus oli mielestäni ihan OK - tosin en ehkä olisi kaikesta samaa mieltä (en tiedä missä pääkaupungin jetsetti pyörii ja sellaista). Mieleen jää tämä ihmisten herkkyys ja se, että ei ole suotavaa kirjoittaa jotain, josta ei kaikki ymmärrä, millä mielellä se on kirjoitettu. Kirjoituksessa ei kritisoitu, mutta ihan vaan asioiden kuvaaminen saa ihmiset älähtämään.
Toivon, että otsikko oli myös lehden idea !

Minulle kuvauksesta tuli Suomi ikävä ja kuinka ihana olisikin se 27C lämpö !

Sugar said...

Pilvi, thank you for commenting! I also wondered about the self-proclamation, but figured the author would have at least approved the use of "almost American" in the headline. Perhaps I'm wrong :)

I think it's really interesting to ponder who is American and who is not and in fact I discuss the issue in my upcoming thesis. Who is American enough has changed so much throughout the nation's history.

I believe you saying that you are partly American is accurate, since you plan on living there indefinitely and perhaps even apply for citizenship. I wouldn't describe myself American since I have only had temporary visas and never (before) had any intention of establishing home there, despite having some American ancestry. Someday I will most likely become a partly American as well :)

Since being an American is not a genetic trait, anyone can become American :)

Leena, kiitoksia myos kommentista! Itse olin myos yllattynyt miten paljon tunteita tuo kirjoitus oli herattanyt ihmisissa. Ja itselleni tuli kanssa kirjoituksesta sellainen fiilis, etta ihana Suomi :)