Friday, January 05, 2007

Two books about Finland

Shortly after I moved here, I wanted a book about the history of Finland, to give me some perspective about my new home. Although finding an English language history book was a bit of a challenge, I settled on this book Helsinki: A Cultural and Literary History by Neil Kent in the series Cities of the Imagination. I was a bit disappointed in the writing style, although there were some good nuggets of information, and the book was generally helpful.

For Christmas, my student Jenni Teittinen gave me Roman Schatz's book From Finland With Love. This is a humor book written by a German TV producer and director who fell in love with a beautiful Finn woman, moved to Finland, and got divorced. I laughed out loud several times reading it, as I have noticed many of the same aspects of Finnish life as an outsider. The book was way too short, ending after only about two hours of reading it. Some highlights:
  • "When I emigrated from West Germany, I left a lot of problems behind. Soon after I came here I realized that some of those problems had followed me. Thus for the first time in my life I could actually tell which of my problems were due to my surroundings and which of them were intrinsic."
  • Finnish saying: "Take a man by his word, take a bull by its horn!"
  • "Let's be brutally honest, fellow immigrants: Why did we really come to Finland? . . . One reason why we like it so much here is because it boosts our little egos, doesn't it? We all know that for reasons unbeknownst to anybody the Finns have a collective inferiority complex and enjoy feeling inadequate. We did not invent this weakness. We found it when we arrived here, and we didn't even know of it before we came to Finland. But we'd be very stupid not to exploit it..."
  • "Alcohol also helps regulate the population and create fluctuation. Midsummer [summer solstice festival] is a good example: Hundreds of men fall into a lake or the sea while pissing and drown with open zippers. This loss is compensated for by the fact that on the very same night hundreds of Finnish women get pregnant without ever really recalling the event..."
  • Martin Luther: "No joyful fart shall come from a disheartened arse."


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