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!”

The author is an American who has lived in Finland for over 10 years, working for a large Finnish mobile phone manufacturer (give us a clue?), and moonlighting occasionally as a stand-up comedian. One could assume therefore that he is well placed to comment on Finland in a funny way.

Mmmmm…

Let’s start with the good news: this book is an easy read, it does contain quite a bit of insight into Finland and the Finnish society. It also has some amusing bits, such as the author’s repartee to Finns who consider they won the lottery by being born in the ‘best country in the world’: “So very true, if you consider the lottery to be a 5€ scratch-off ticket”. My own favourite was the description of why so few people are in the office (all on leave for various reasons or working from home) – oh so true!

The problem, for me at least, is that the book should really have been subtitled: “A Dude’s Guide to Finland”.

The use of the word “girl” rather than “woman” in the title should have been a warning sign to me. The book’s leitmotiv is essentially: “Finnish girls are cute; Finnish girls are easy; Finnish men are socially inept drunks”. Of course, there are also other comments about the country and its society, but they are almost universally critical (of the “hahaha, look at those stupid Finns” kind). Only in the first and last chapters does one detect any form of affection for the country, apart, of course, from the lusting after Finnish 'girls' (rated 8 on a scale of 1 to 10 in terms of attractiveness on page 98 – need I say more?).

No wonder Finns should not read the book.

The dude’s perspective is also most definitely American. Despite brave attempts to bring in some British elements (e.g. rating Finnish drunkenness using colloquial British expressions), the lack of cosmopolitan outlook is glaring. Finnish apartments are really small apparently. Has the author been to apartments in Amsterdam, London, or Paris? Placing the utensils at the 4 o’clock position is essential to indicate one has finished eating. Err, that’s just good manners, in most of Europe at least – or did I miss a cracking joke there?

The ‘dudism’ of the book also extends to the style and the spelling. What’s with the use of “cause” (without the leading apostrophe) instead of “because” throughout the book? And who still uses “LOL” anywhere, let alone in a book?

And the spelling…

Some of the mistakes may be typos (“desert” instead of “dessert”, “I was being charge”) but others are just poor spelling or grammar. The author seems to have a particularly tough time with apostrophes: “all it’s great benefits”, “[many] Pinot Grigio’s”, “70kg’s”. Such things would not normally bother me greatly in an email or even a blog, but in a published book? Where's the editing, where's the quality control?

After a while, all this got a little grating.

Am I being too critical? Maybe. I am sure the author is very proud of his book. But hey, if one gets up on stage and tries to be funny, one has to accept hecklers...

The fact is I laughed more when I read a book about Finland written by a German philosopher. Says it all, doesn't it?

I guess, not being a "dude", I am not target audience for this particular book...

16 comments:

  1. "(give us a clue?)"

    Benefon, of course!

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  2. Hmm, heard about the book, and I'm the first one to admit that I wouldn't mind marrying a Finnish girl, but after your review I think I may need to pass on this book. I was worried that it was going to end up being the same jokes about Finland rehashed and I am getting that impression. Disappointing. (and the utensils at 4, Im american and I knew that)

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  3. Hey Tuomas, it's just my opinion. Others on the book's Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/howtomarryafinnishgirl) seem to have found it a hilarious read.

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  4. Yeah I get it, but I got a lot of books on my reading list. I actually want to read that one by the german guy, but I guess its not in english yet? If I come across the marry a finnish girl book in passing I may check it out. but my initial interest had already dissipated a bit (even before you wrote this).

    But you do seem like a trustworthy source.

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  5. Wow, thanks so much for taking the time to read and review my book! Very cool! And I'm so happy I've just found your blog, it looks great, I'll be visiting daily.

    Now I'm off to smack my publisher and editors for not finding those typos. Grumble, grumble.. :-)

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  6. Another review of the book concurs with my view: http://alreadyelena.blogspot.com/2011/10/ive-always-wondered-how-to-marry.html

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  7. The whole Finnish females are easy thing kind of gets to me. Everyone's screwing around. Maybe they're just more honest about it. Back in the day when I went to a Finnish university there was a foreign 'boy' from a very Catholic country. He was talking trash about a Finnish woman. Her friend piped up and told him, 'hey, she was curious what it'd be like with you, but will never try that again.' I almost choked on my meatballs because I was laughing so hard. As an American woman I was kind of envious of their openness and refusal to feel ashamed.

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  8. I heard someone say you need to be pretty familiar with finland to get the jokes, and even if you are it just might not be your cup of tea.

    Thank god world isn't made of only one right opinion. ;)

    Have a great week! Thanks for stopping by my blog as well. :)

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  9. Oh, I did understand the jokes. And some were funny indeed. But many weren't (e.g. recycling the old Mae West quote to produce "No, that's not a Nokia Communicator in my pocket" is neither original, clever nor hilarious). A Finn I lent the book to also came to same conclusion - so it is not about not being familiar with Finland. I do not know the author and I feel no malice towards him. I am pleased for him that his book got published and that he has made some readers laugh. It just didn't work for me. As you said, thank goodness for diversity. And thanks also for stopping by!

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  10. No problemo, feel free to visit again. :) I'll make sure to drop by too, as I do love Finland. :)

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  11. I happened to come across the same book yesterday, and I agree with your appraisal - the bits I read gave me the occasional weak chuckle, but on the whole I didn't think it was particularly original (or particularly well-written, for that matter), and there wasn't enough affection for Finland and Finns to persuade me to buy it.

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  12. Hmm, just noticed that the author himself posted in this comment thread.
    If you're reading this, Phil, sorry, but it just wasn't to my taste. Maybe that's to be expected, though, since I am neither male nor hoping to marry a Finnish girl! :)

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    Replies
    1. Hello Katriina. It is pleasant to read your lines. Personnaly, I lived 6 months in HKI and I loved it quite much. Actually, I am back in Portugal where I teach art, but Finn people are special, and Finn girls are really the most special women... when they wish to.
      I would be pleased to receive your message back and to know how it is going with you getting back to Finland.
      mario_afonso44@yahoo.es
      Best regards
      Mario

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  13. To marry a "girl" is not just to do the "boy-girl" thing in the sack. You as a male have acquired one very tough-minded, stubborn and determined woman, who will dominate your life for years to come. She will be far from "easy", and demand a lot from you, her "boy". She'll be calling the shots on where each of you work, live, what you eat and wear, when to get up and when to go to bed. If she doesn't like your non-Finnish ways, she'll fix you pronto.

    If you want to have it "easy", pick a woman from a country where the sexes are more equal and the women less pushing on their men. Best yet, marry someone from your own background, at least you know what's in store for you!


    If you really take a look around in Finland, it's the Finnish women trying to marry someone from abroad, or to move abroad to find a foreign husband. Apparently the women are not the problem, it's the men and their boorish behavior that drives a Finnish woman to even look at you.

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  14. Anonymous: How bitter your posting seems :). Perhaps you've been tossed around by one finnish woman but that doesn't mean you know anything about the rest of them.

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  15. I had great fun while reading this book. I'm a foreigner, I live in Finland, my partner is Finnish and I have to admit that around 90% of gags from is true.
    Why Finns don't like it? Cause it shows them in critical light. And we can't forget that Finland is the best place on the world. Ever.
    If Finns won't have so "squeezed asses" they will be happier and commit less suicides ;P

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