Saturday, 31 December 2011

End Of Year Review 2011

And so 2011 comes to an end. Time to reflect on a whole year of blogging about Finnishy things.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Guest Blog: Santa Writes to the Children of the EU

Dear Children of the European Union,

Greetings from Finland! Yes, I am Finnish, despite what you might have heard from people on the other side of the Atlantic. And yes, they do call me "Christmas Goat" (joulupukki) here, but it's got nothing to do with how I smell, OK?

Anyhow, I wanted to write a letter to you, because I think I need to set expectations this year.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

S-Market Story

On many occasions now, I have used this blog to make fun of my own ineptitude in Finnish (check out for example the Spare Moose post). But now comes a chance to laugh at a Finnish person's struggle with English.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


Last Tuesday, as I walked down Helsinki's main shopping street, Aleksanterinkatu, I stumbled across a short procession that appeared at first gance to be a tribute to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Linnan Juhlat - Finnish Independence Day Party

Earlier this week, on December 6, Finland celebrated its Independence Day, or "itsenäisyyspäivä". Like every year, the highlight of the day was the "linnan juhlat" (castle party), when close to 2000 guests were invited to the presidential palace in Helsinki.

The event is broadcast live on TV, and it seems, provides compelling viewing for many Finns.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Enthusiastic Bull or the Art of Finnish Palindromes

This week, I found out that, according to the Guinness Book of Records, the Finnish language holds the world record for the longest palindromic word in "every day use" with "saippuakivikauppias" (19 letters). That magnificent specimen of a word means a "dealer in caustic soda", which does beg the question as to how much daily use that word actually gets. But hey, if Guinness says it is in daily use, then it must be.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Heavy Metal for Kids

Q: What do you call a band of dinosaurs playing heavy metal?
A: Hevisaurus!

No, really. This is not a joke. Not in Finland at least.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Matti Nykänen Quotes

In in recent weeks, I have made references on a couple of occasions to the legendary Finnish ski-jumper and bon-viveur Matti Nykänen. In particular, I have mentioned that he was the source of classic, mostly unintentional, humourous quotes.

However, it has come to my notice that only very few of the great man's perls of wisdom have actually been translated into English. That is clearly a shocking omission!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Melancholy Season

This week marked the official start of melancholy season in Finland, aka November.

November is the time of year where the weather in Finland is garanteed to be miserable. It is also noticibly darker, and the snow has not yet arrived to bring a bit of luminosity.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Finnish Mnemonics

It's a tautology to say that you can't speak a language if you don't know the words. That is my biggest problem with Finnish.

I have documented on many occasions before my struggle with Finnish vocabulary. The trouble for me is that most Finnish words are not related to their equivalent in the Latin or Germanic languages that I know. This is compounded by me having a goldfish-like memory.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Out of the Mouth of Babes

It is often said that “out of the mouth of babes comes the truth”.

Sometimes that truth can be painful though.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Matti Nykänen

Last Monday, former ski-jumping champion Matti Nykänen started a 16 month prison sentence in Kupio for aggravated assault on his on-off wife Mervi Tapola in 2009.

This is just the most recent twist in the “car crash” life Nykänen has led since retiring from top-flight (fortuitous pun) ski-jumping in the late 1980s.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Review: How to Marry a Finnish Girl

This weekend I read a newly published book called “How to Marry a Finnish Girl”, by Phil Schwarzmann.

I have to admit, I was quite excited about reading it. How could I not be? After all the subtitle of the book is: “Everything You Want to Know About Finland, That Finns Won’t Tell You” and the back-cover also warns: “DON’T LET FINNS READ THIS BOOK!”

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Finnish Jokes About Drinking

Drinking is a very important part of Finnish life. So it's no surprise that Finns have many jokes involving drinking.

I mentioned a couple of short drinking jokes in an earlier post, but now's the time to tackle this subject in earnest.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

The Death of Gagarin

This week was an important one for The Death of Gagarin.

No, I am not referring to the death in 1968 of Russian cosmonaute Yuri Gagarin (R.I.P.). I am talking about the fabulous Finnish band of that name!

And this week saw the launch of their long awaited debut Album, “Nro 9”.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

The i-Trick

This summer, a group of us were walking along Esplanadi in Helsinki on our way to the restaurant Kapelli, when Noah, aged 14 and visiting from the UK, declared: “I’ve been thinking... Finnish is quite easy really!”

Monday, 12 September 2011

Finnen von Sinnen - My Finnish Wife

This blog has been a little neglected in the past couple of weeks. But I have a good excuse: I was lazing around on the Caribbean island of Antigua. And, strange as it may seem, I found it hard writing a post about Finland, or even thinking of writing one (I realize sympathy towards me might be in short supply here, so I won’t dwell on this).

That said, I did put my down-time to good use, as one of the books I read was by a foreigner commenting on Finland, the Finns and the Finnish language. Sounds familiar?

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Mini-Post: Happiness Finnish Style

Apparently, a common way of congratulating someone in Finnish is:

Onnea, onnea, onnea vaan!
Punainen tupa ja perunamaa!
Contratulations (x3)!
Red cottage and potato patch!

So forget the diamonds, forget the Ferraris, forget first class travel around the world, nothing can make a Finn happier than having a little red house and some spuds.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Joke - How the Finns Came to Finland

Lovely as Finland can be at times, I have always wondered why the Finns chose to settle in that inhospitable northern corner of Europe – back in the days before central heating, double-glazing, cars, snowmobiles, GORE-TEX®, winter holidays in Thailand and other such things.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Doctor, Doctor, My Car Needs Fixing!

When your knowledge of a language is fairly basic, understanding what people say is largely guess-work. It relies on trying to link logically together the words you recognise, and the gestures that accompany the narrative.

Sometimes though, some sentences seem to defy logic.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Mini-Post: Autumn is Here

Back in late March, as I stood in 50cm (20 inches) of snow in the Finnish countryside, I was told that spring was in in the air.

This week, while staying at the same location on the river Kokemäenjoki, I have been walking around in shorts and T-shirts, enjoying the sunny weather and the temperatures in the mid-20sC (mid-70sF). Yet, I have heard from a couple of people and read in a blog that apparently it's beginning to feel autumnal.

Go fathom.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Never Trust a Dictionary!

At a recent event, I wanted to say a few nice words in Finnish about someone dear to me. As there is no way I could ad-lib something like that with my limited command of the language, I decided to prepare my mini-speech beforehand, in writing.

A good thing I did too, because I came close to making a bit of a faux-pas.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Volcano Erupts Near Finnish Village

Last week, a volcano erupted near a small Finnish village, throwing hot ash and smoke thousands of feet into the air, forcing thousands of people to flee.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Got a Spare Moose?

“Hey Jyrki”, I shouted to my colleague through the small cubicle wall that separates our respective workspaces. “Do you have spare hirvi [moose]?”

You see, even though my Finnish is very, very basic, I like to pepper my English sentences with Finnish words – just to show off my hard-learnt vocabulary to my work colleagues in Helsinki.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Ten Short Finnish Jokes

Finnish jokes seem to involve primarily 3 subjects:

- Drinking
- Being taciturn
- Swedes

Here is a small selection of short Finnish jokes collected from various sources (I'll keep the longer jokes for a later date).

Disclaimer: Laughs not guaranteed.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Your Name Means Nothing To Me

One of the many challenges of trying to learn Finnish is that the vocabulary is so very different from other languages. I have already mentioned how words don't come easy to me, not least because I have a terrible memory.

As a result, I have had to develop various strategies to try and remember words. One of these is an obsessive analysis of Finnish surnames.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Top of the Finn-Pops

Have you wondered how many Finnish acts have actually appeared in the UK's top-40 pop charts? Oh, so it's just me then.

Well the answer (since you don't ask) is: not many.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Language Oddity #4: No Future in Finland's Dreaming

It might be unfair to say that that Finns are pessimists, but they definitely don't believe in the future.

Future tense that is.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Hail to the Juhannus Sausage!

Today is the eve of Juhannus, the celebration of the mid-summer solstice. Well, the solstice was technically a few days ago, but this is the nearest weekend to it.

Juhannus is also, it seems, a celebration of the Finnish sausage.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Say “Ääääää”!

In the previous post, I explained how I thought my colleague was going to become a snail. The confusion arose as a result of my inability to distinguish the sound “a” from the sound “ä” in Finnish.

Well, it seems I am not alone in suffering from irritable vowels syndrome, if the messages I received from other ulkomaalaiset (foreigners) are anything to go by.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Being a Snail

Yesterday, one of my co-workers told me in Finnish: “Tomorrow, I will be a snail”.

Even accounting for Finnish eccentricity, aspiring to be a snail is quite an odd thing.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

From Guidebooks to Carnival

When I began spending a lot of time in Helsinki, I figured it would be nice to get to know the city. So I bought a travel guide.

I started reading the guidebook eagerly. However, doubts soon set in. It seemed that the guidebook I had bought had the right cover, but the inside was describing a completely different city.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Wot? No Government?

On 17 April 2011, Finland held parliamentary elections. Seven weeks later, the country is still without a new government!

Problem? What problem?

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Mini-Post: Morning-After Contrition

Apparently, the morning-after pill is called “katumuspilleri” in Finnish, meaning “contrition pill” or “remorse pill”.

Does that mean Finnish women need to go to the pharmacy on their knees, confessing to having sinned and begging for forgiveness, before some pious pharmacist condescends to handing over the pill along with a penance?

Talk about piling on the guilt.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

How's Your Butter?

When I first decided to make a little effort to learn Finnish, I began reading every label I could find. Before long, I learnt that the Finnish word for butter was “voi”. Armed with that knowledge, I tried to spot the word “butter” wherever I could – all part of reinforcing my newly acquired vocabulary obviously.

That's how I noticed that butter was very important to Finns. Or so I thought.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Before and After

In every language, there are words that have several meanings. But how about a word that means one thing and virtually the opposite also?

Monday, 16 May 2011

My Ice Hockey World Cup Final

Last night, Finland triumphed against arch rivals Sweden in Bratislava (Slovakia) to win the ice-hockey world cup for only the second time.

As a finnophile, I would have dearly loved to have watched the game live in some sports-bar in Finland or with Finnish expats in a pub in the UK.

But I couldn't.

Friday, 13 May 2011


Last night, I went to the cinema to see “Hanna”, a spy thriller movie by Atonement director Joe Wright, set in Marocco, Spain, Hamburg, Berlin, and that other hot-bed of “spydom”, Kuusamo in Finnish Lapland.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Winter vs Summer in Finland

Friends often ask me about the light in Finland. Is it dark all the time in winter? Is it light all day during the summer?

Just found this great video, which illustrates the difference between winter and summer in Helsinki.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day in many countries, including Finland (though not in the UK, France and a few other places). So I wish mothers across the world a very Happy Mother's Day.

However, I would also like to take this opportunity to have another dig at the Finnish language.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Sami Hyypiä and Me

This week, Sami Hyypiä, the legendary former Liverpool FC and Finland defender announced his retirement from professional football – at the “advanced” age of 37.

I have a bit of a connection with Sami, you know...

Sunday, 1 May 2011

May Day

Hauskaa Vappua! [Have a] Fun May Day!

And boy, do some Finns have fun on May Day!

The first time I was in Finland for Vappu, in 2007, I took part in the traditional celebrations in Helsinki, and was both amused and surprised by the decadence of the (normally reserved) Finns letting their hair down!

Saturday, 30 April 2011

Escaping the Royal Wedding

This week, I travelled to Finland in a bid to escape the Royal Wedding fever that has gripped the UK.

Admittedly, my real motives for the trip have been professional, but the chance to escape was a welcome by-product. I was even prepared to exchange two Bank Holidays in the UK for two working days in Finland just to get away from it all!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Immigrant or Expatriate?

My parents came to visit last weekend, for Easter. We had a lovely time, and, as we often do, we put the world to right on many subjects...

At one point though, my mother asked: “what would you say is the difference between an immigrant and an expatriate?”

This was not the opening line of some inappropriate joke, but a genuine question. And a good one, too. And I have to admit that I was somewhat flummoxed by it: I had never thought about the difference and I wasn't too sure what it was.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Happy Easter

The Easter Bunny must have been cooking. Not literally, not in the oven... perish the thought! I mean, the Easter Bunny must have found it tough going as he (she?) delivered all those Easter eggs in the UK this morning, because it's been unusually hot for this time of the year...

Wednesday, 20 April 2011


A Finnish colleague of mine went on an English copywriting course in London a couple of weeks ago. Upon her return, she told me that she had been advised that to write good business English copy for an international audience, sentences should not contain words of over 3 syllables.

The thought immediately sprung to my mind that this would be impossible in her native language!

Yes folks, it's time for me to have another dig at the ridiculous length of Finnish words...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Speaking English

Bertolt Brecht once said the Finns were the only people in the world who were "silent in two languages".

That is grossly unfair as Finns are often pretty good at more than two languages!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

An Unimpressive Story

A couple of years ago, I had a little misshap down an unlit country lane in the UK. It was a bit of an unpleasant experience, yet when I related this story to a Finnish friend shortly afterwards, I received no sympathy.

The story is as follows....

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Mini-Post: Rubber Aunt

Talking to a Finnish friend the other day, instead of saying “sinä olet kummitäti” (“you are a god-mother”), I claimed “sinä olet kumitäti” (“you are a rubber aunt”).

That dropped "m" meant I had some explaining to do...

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Angry Birds Take Over The World!

Angry Birds have come from nowhere, to become the best-selling mobile game of all time, in the process making it one of Finland's most high profile export of recent years.