It is a known rite of passage in America that all pseudo-anarcho-white guys, upon their first visit to a different country—ANY country—have to make a clichéd statement, pronouncing how much America sucks. Well, I knew this day would have to come sooner or later, so here goes: FINLAND GOT IT RIGHT AND AMERICA IS WACK AS HELL. Why? I’m glad you asked! Here are six reasons that will piss off your xenophobic uncle. Also, in the spirit of fairness, six possible drawbacks.
6 – Comfort is King
I am a bit on the frumpy side. My gut is clearly visible when I wear a t-shirt. One way around this, I’ve found, is to dress in button ups. It’s a little bit uncomfortable sometimes but wearing a collared shirt everyday has the added benefit of camouflage (because I dress nice, it throws most people off of the fact that I’m actually a sentient pile of hissing garbage).
In Helsinki, this had the opposite effect. I looked completely out of place on a warm summer day, while dudes way grosser than me were just strolling around, making no attempt to hide their dunlaps (dun lapped over! Get it?) Some of them even had significant others. Perhaps love handles are viewed as an indication of Viking ancestry in Nordic counties? I can never know for sure but one thing is certain—Dad Bod is not only accepted in Finland: it is celebrated.
The Finnish women benefit from this mentality just as much. Not beholden to any of the callous fashion laws set forth by other bitter women and gay men, the girls of Finland move about their day in comfortable attire, with no side-eyed glances from their peers.
Possible drawback: perhaps some level of shame should be mandatory. I saw a guy wearing a “Bazinga!” t-shirt and nobody pelted him with rocks. Also a European wearing a Big Bang Theory shirt just feels bad, man.
5 – Everyone is Drunk
I think if we were able to link America’s problem with violence to one historical event, prohibition would be a high contender. I’m not saying that Finland is completely nonviolent—it actually has a slightly higher rate of violence compared to Western European countries, but overall much lower than the rest of Europe, and a fraction of America (on a good day). Still, you would think a country that permits drinking in public would degenerate into a blighted wasteland or worse; Florida. Not so in Helsinki at least. Our AirBnB was stationed right next to a park surrounding the Baltic Sea, so most of my time was spent taking in the view while drinking brew-dogs at breakneck speeds. Out of the 200+ people in that park, there wasn’t a single adult who wasn’t binge drinking. And nobody got into a fight. Nobody yelled or took off their pants or put pee where pee’s not supposed to go.
Because drinking in the park is such a popular activity, it means that collecting cans is a viable side hustle. Dudes would come by with garbage bags and ask all the hoodrats for their empties, just patrolling for an hour or so until their bag was full. I checked it out and yeah, there was a special recycling machine inside the grocery store, spitting out .15 euro for each can—a rate at least 50% higher than anywhere in America. An hour or two of that is dinner. Like, nice dinner. A win for environmentalism and a win for drinking a whole lot!
The bars are dope too. In fact, after my time there I am convinced that no American bartender can make a proper Negroni. Plus, the place I was drinking at played a bunch of Finnish hip hop, and that was pretty cool. On a side note, it is impossible to know the exact number of rappers that Ghostface Killah has collaborated with over the years.
The beer there is terrible! It’s like they engineered it to taste warm no matter how long it’s been refrigerated. Either that or I just kept picking out the Finnish versions of Steel Reserve.
Also, you have to make sure that you are stocked up on booze-ahol, because the stores close mad early. But that’s mainly because…
4 – They Actually Have a Work-Life Balance
On average, Finnish workers accrue 1.5x more days off than Americans working the same jobs. Parents—of any sex—are afforded the option to take a leave of absence until their kid turns three, without fear of losing their position. So because the omnipresent stress that the American “work ethic” imposes is virtually absent, parents have the option to hang out with their kids in the sunlight each day. That same park where I got shit-housed the night before, now, in the daylight, was home to frolicking children with both parents/guardians playing alongside them. I’m not sure about you, but I don’t have that many memories of both my parents taking me for walks in the park during the workday (not that I had the concept of a “workday” at that age, but you get it). Oh yeah, and if you can’t afford the time off then income-based childcare gets provided for your preschoolers.
Possible drawback: Even though there is literally nothing to be a punk about, Finland has an alarming amount of straight-out-of-the-70’s punks. Why? Don’t you know how good you have it?
3 – Public Transit
I’m a frequent bus rider in the States, and while there’s something to be missed about sharing seats with that one guy who reads the same gun catalog every day, I have to hand it to Helsinki for best public transit experience.
The trams can get you anywhere you want to go in the city, it never takes more than ten minutes for a new boarding, and there aren’t any smelly dudes who might punch you! In fact the only potentially homeless person I saw was this old guy who bummed a smoke and watched my wife and I kiss. He also looked me directly in my eyes and told me I would have a son.
Possible drawback: None. Every day on my home bus commute I am forced to listen to strangers’ unfathomably long and pointless phone conversation, while smelling the worst nutsack, at 7 AM. Finland’s public transit had none of those things.
2 – The Language
The Finnish language might seem needlessly syllabic but it’s a good way to make sure that every word is accounted for. In English, the word orange (color) and orange (fruit) are separate. Pure laziness. Oh, you mean fly is a verb AND a noun? Maybe we could have added some extra letters on those bad boys too, eh? It’s actually examples like these that makes English one of the harder languages to master if it’s not your first.
Luckily for my monoglottal ass, the whole rest of the world speaks English. Which is probably how I didn’t get super lost on the buses and trams.
Possible drawback: All of the funniest words are monosyllabic. Fart, Poop, Bjork (okay they have that one). Still, because of this, most of their slang has to get imported from other cultures.
1 – They Are Way More Chill About Religion
Most polls place the amount of people in Finland who identify as an “Atheist / Agnostic / Nonbeliever in God” at around 45%. As you may have already guessed those 45% are a little bit classier about believing in nothing than your typical American atheists. They don’t drive around with those annoying Darwin fish, they don’t insufferably quote Nietzsche, and they don’t interject with the Flying Spaghetti Monster every time their world view is brought into question.
On the other end of the spectrum, Finland’s deeply religious are just as cool with their heathen friends. The Temple of Silence, which I realize sounds like some blood cultist shit, is a place where all faiths are encouraged to come pray and/or meditate. It is technically a place of Christian worship but there are no members of the clergy who try to do anything other than just let people sit down and then mop the floors at night.
Possible downside: If God wanted to be a dick like that, Finland would probably be one of the first places he’d smite.