Top Ten Reasons to Live in Finland
TOP TEN REASONS TO LIVE IN FINLAND
10. They Color Code Everything
When you pay for a bus pass they ask you to choose between an entire box of different colors for the plastic case. This not only solves the problem of "card-clash" as the British winningly call it, it also gives the purchaser a sense of ownership in the decision-making process. The same thing happens when you get a library card from the university: "which color card would you like?" is the standard response to requests for a library card (try that at your university at home). I think this focus on bright colors and personal selection was developed to prevent Finnish people from suffering excessively from Seasonal Affective Disorder.
9. You Never Have to Wait for Anything
Instead, you mill around at the cash registers until you realize that no one else is queuing - they're all milling around too. And then you realize you need to press a button and take a number. But here's the beauty part: the numbers are triaged by tasks, so that you are in the queue of people that only do the things that you want to do (and not, as in the post office, spending forever trying to send a package to Antarctica, or as in the bank, asking the nice lady behind the counter to come around and help her with the app on her new smart phone). And then you stand around chatting to people in the milling area, or you pick up a tube of toothpaste that you needed - it's just brilliant. The Finns are the most efficient people in the world.
8. They Have a Target
At least I think so, it's called "Tokmanni" and has a red dot and is in the basement of the city square. I bought an iron and an ironing board there (had to go back for the ironing board, since I was using my flashy new purple bus pass), and some walking sticks (everyone over a certain age uses them), and a toaster and a coffee maker (how did the person whose flat I'm using even live???).
7. The Lichens Are Amazing
When I was eight I did a botany project on the lichens of Botley. I didn't ever learn anything (does anyone?) but I remember being strangely fascinated by the shapes and colors of the lichens. Having seen Annihilation on the plane over, I now realize that lichens are a dangerous menace and need to be respected. I'm teaching a course here on the Contemporary Pastoral in which all plants are out to get humans (The Overstory, "The Bad Graft," Bloodchild) and reading up on the scientific literature of neurobiology (the Wood Wide Web). 5 minutes from me there is a huge lake with rocks covered with lichens; 10 minutes the other way there is a less huge lake with rocks - you guessed it - covered with lichens.
6. Finnish Names Are Adorable
On the way to work there are several preschools - Tampere seems to have a thriving education business. There's always a line of kids being shepherded somewhere, and I saw parents with the same "we-have-to-do-this" look as they let their children run in the Super Park for Pointless Bouncing Around as we have going into Magic Mountain. I saw through a window that one cubbyhole said "Sofia" and was going to take a picture, only to discover that her cubbymate was called "Mimosa." Now that's adorable.
5. Tampere is Just the Coolest Place to Live
You'll have to take my word for this - I've run out of coffee and this is already too long. Here are some black-and-white pictures - there's more at the Finland Photo site.
4. Everything Works
It's really amazing - I have a Finnish ID number that begins with the eight digits of my birthday and I have it FOR LIFE. I'm getting a bank account on Monday because I have an employment contract that let me pay taxes, but because of my pension I had to pay 35% (why did I tell them I had a pension?) so they worked it out that they could tax me "at source" and only pay 10%. Would the IRS ever do that? I went in to get a city library card, took a number, milled around, showed them my Finnish ID, got a card (no color choice - missed a step there), went to the music area to see if they had any copies of Beethoven's Late Piano Sonatas and they had LIKE SIXTEEN OF THEM. Went over to the CD area to see if they had a copy of Sviataslav Richter playing the Well Tempered Clavier since the Chair recommended it ("he's an intellectual, you can tell by the way he plays"), and they DID and IT'S PLAYING NOW. Plus what kind of Chair actually cares about different recordings of Bach?
3. They Have More Hairdressers Per Capita Than Anywhere in the World
I'm bald, so that's actually not much of a selling point for me. But you would be amazed how many hairdressers there are. Finns must really care about their hair, which is weird, since they always wear thick woolen hats.
2. Recycling is Fun!
I collected the previous flat owner's empties (what is it with academics and going away parties?) and made 3 Euros and 50 cents in refunds. He had stored all the cardboard he had ever received in closet space that I actually needed so I walked it down to the Kartonki (cardboard) receptacle and threw it away. Biojati (biohazardous waste) goes in the white bag, Paperi (paper) in the paper receptacle, Lasi (glass that doesn't earn a refund) in the glass receptacle, Metalli (metal) ditto, and the rest goes in a purple bag marked "Loser." There's actually a picture of a frowning Finn on the inside label of the ice cream cartons saying "This is plastic! Don't throw away with the paper carton or I won't be your friend!"
And the number one reason to live in Finland:
1. There Are No Bugs!