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.
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...