Wednesday, June 20, 2012
I have one more question staring at me accusingly from my inbox begging me to answer it. I have been procrastinating, there is no excuse. I am sorry. I will try to get around to it soon, I have started. I am also wrestling with myself to get myself to translate something pro-bono from English to Finnish. It is a lot less fun than you would assume especially taking into account how bad my Finnish grammar is, these people are desperate.
Sunday, June 3, 2012
In the U.S. Norway, Sweden and Finland are pointed to often as being great countries to live, from your perspective what do you think about that?
This is Jeffrey’s final question, please send me more. The e-mail address is email@example.com. No matter how small or silly, I can answer it. I will even try to tackle the big and controversial. Prompt answers are not to be expected but eventual answers are guaranteed at this time.
I think Finland is a wonderful country to live in. It has its faults but I love it here and not just because it is my native country. I have perspective on this issue having lived in the United States for 18 years. I only moved back here a little less than two years ago. Still, I can only speak from my own perspective. There are plenty of complainers on the internet and around town that I hear. Some say that Finland is a crap place without really offering an explanation. Others say Finland is terrible in regards to business. Others say the taxes are too high. Some point to the far reaching alcohol abuse. Still others complain that Finland is overrun with freeloading darkies. The last group has their own political parties The Finns or the True Finns (perussuomalaiset) and Vapaus Puolue.
Some of these criticisms have merit. The way Finnish business is regulated is tight and the taxes are high. This is fine and even good in my opinion when it comes to big businesses like Nokia, Fiskars and other huge companies. The real problem, from what I have heard, is that the taxes are not really lower for the small businesses. I think the government should be more supportive and legislate to encourage small business more than it does now. It is not a terrible place to have small businesses. Several people I know have their own businesses and do well and succeed. I think this is a case of, could be better but is not bad.
The charge that taxes are high is completely true. Well, they are high if you make a lot of money. They are pretty low for low income. Once you get in the middle class and get comfortable they start to go up. This is because Finland is social democratic. We pay higher taxes than most countries but we get a lot for it. We get the best education in the world. It is all free, not just elementary through high school but University and certain job training too. We also get healthcare. When living in the US there was five years that I did not visit the doctor during. It is good that I did not get sick because I could not have afforded it. Here when I had my last doctor’s appointment it cost me 20euros. My son gets all medical and dental care completely free until he is 18. He also has access for free to any physical, mental or speech therapy that he may need. If he needs glasses the eye doctor is free as well. Glasses and medication, not so free but everything else is. Medication is very reasonably priced. Crime is pretty low. If it was not for violence fueled by alcohol and bicycle theft we would have one of the lowest rates of crime in the EU.
Speaking of the alcohol problem, it is true, as I said about the binge drinking on Vappu. There is an underage drinking problem here as well. About a year ago I went to the store with my husband and we also went to buy a bottle of vine at Alko (state liquor store). Behind us in the checkout line was a young man, maybe fourteen with his mother. Young man puts a large bottle of brown hard liquor on the belt and mother pays for it. Leaving the store I saw the young man drinking it outside the store with another young man with the mother nowhere in sight. There is a problem with alcoholism and underage drinking that is deeply engrained in the culture that is complicated and I hope to discuss it in a future post in more detail.
Still, I really think this is a very good place to live. It is beautiful:
I can walk, bike or take a bus anywhere and I don’t need a car. People don’t think I am crazy for walking on the street like they did in America.
The political freedoms and the ability to influence are so beyond what an American can understand in some ways. Finland is a small country and so your vote really counts. When you write a politician they are very likely to write back, especially during election time. I got written back to by representatives and a blogger Willie Lahti who is a naturalized Finn made a big project out of it trying to find a party to vote for. If you get thirty people together for a protest in the right place you get attention and your questions are likely to be answered by someone.
Education here is free. This does not just include K-12 but specific job training, professional degrees and university degrees. People say there is unemployment and that is true, but it is also true that there is a shortage of employees in fields. Healthcare and social work is always hiring and cleaning jobs are in plentiful supply. Then there are other growing fields these are just the ones that always seem to be hiring. If what ever field you trained for all of a sudden laid you off here you can pick another, if you can’t get another job, and go back to school, it is free. Still there can be money worries as a student because student aid is rather low but at least the classes are free.
Personal opinion aside, the Legatum Prosperity Index lists Finland as number seven, ahead of the United States. Other sources like Newsweek put Finland higher. They say Finland is no. 1. So, there is no consensus if Finland is the best, or one of the best, but based on personal experiences, and reading I have done, Finland is pretty darn great.
The last complaint that I listed about Finland being overrun with foreigners/refugees/dark skinned people is really ridiculous and racist. I will only mention it here to say that Finland takes in fewer refugees per capita than Norway and Sweden and also gets fewer immigrants. This argument is fueled only by ignorance, fear and hate and has absolutely no basis in reality. Personally 90% of my social circle consists of immigrants and I am uet to meet these free loaders who do not want to assimilate.
So there is good and bad like everyplace but I think it is great here.