Saturday, 15 December 2012

A Weird Food Passion

There are two things I bring back from Finland on a regular basis. There's the amazing Fazer chocolates – no surprise there. And there's leipäjuusto.

For the uninitiated, leipäjuusto is cheese, but not as we know it, as Spock might have said. Had he visited Finland. And tried leipäjuusto. And felt the urge to comment on it.

Friday, 23 November 2012

The Tailor Began with a Button

A couple of weeks back, my friend Simo forwarded an email to me that had me smiling and frustrated in equal measure.

The email contained a short Finnish text with a series of word plays, which I thought were rather clever – that was the smiley bit. However, as I reached repeatedly for the dictionary to try and decipher the text, I also realised how far I was from ever understanding Finnish – and that was the seriously frustrating bit.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Lack of Future Shapes Finns' Behaviour

Over a year ago, I wrote a blog-post about the fact that the Finnish language lacks a future tense. In that post, I contrasted this with French, which has 3 future tenses, and asked mischievously: "What does that say about the respective nations' attitude to life?"

Well, it turns out that it might indeed say a lot, if a recent piece of research by an American economics professor is to be believed.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Short Story: Summer Lovin'

The website "What's Up Finland?" organised a short story competition recently. The theme was "the Finnish summer" and the story had to have "at least one Finnish character and have some understanding or a view of the Finnish culture".

I had never written a short story in my life, but I thought I would give it a go. So here it is: my very first short story.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Breaking Wind Lappish Style

A few years ago, while on a summer holiday in Lapland, I went on a one-day guided cycle tour in the countryside around the small "town" of Inari.

At lunchtime, we stopped at a small cafe in the town centre. To my surprise, we left the expensive mountain bikes outside the cafe, unlocked. Our guide, Ate, explained that no one locked anything in Lapland as theft was very rare. He then proceeded to tell us a hilarious story about the pitfalls leaving vehicles unlocked.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Finnish as a Secret Code

One of my former colleagues, Simo, is fond of saying (I suspect only half jokingly) that Finnish is the second best encryption language in the world. By that he means that Finnish is virtually undecipherable to anyone who doesn’t know it, and spoken by sufficiently few people globally to make it pretty secretive.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Finland and the Olympics

The London 2012 Olympic games have now come to a close. These were the most successful Olympics for Britain ever, but how were they for Finland?

Time to indulge in some stats and some gratuitous speculation.

Friday, 10 August 2012

How Many Infinitives Do You Need?

Regular readers of this blog will know that I use it occasionally as a platform to moan about the complexity of the Finnish language. Well, when I say moan, it’s more of an affectionate groan, because I love learning the language. And actually, it’s not really a groan about the Finnish language itself (which is not so much complex as very different), but more about my own struggle with learning it.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Vowel Fest

As a finnophile, I often find myself surfing the Web for information about Finland or the Finnish language.

What I find generally veers between the sublime and the ridiculous. If I am honest, it is more often ridiculous than sublime, as regular readers of this blog will no doubt testify. But it keeps me amused, so I keep surfing.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Weird Finnish Sports

Last Saturday, the World Wife-Carrying Championship took place in Sonkajärvi, Finland.

A Finn won it. Again.

Finns do excel at bizarre summer sports, it has to be said.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Finnish Mosquitoes Suck

Ah, Finland. The land of a thousand lakes. Actually, the land of a billion trillion zillion quillion mosquitoes.

In the summer, behind every idyllic Finnish countryside setting, there lurks an army if those evil creatures ready to ruin your enjoyment of it.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Show Me the Way to a Place with a Very Long Name

The Finnish language has long words. Yeah, we know that. Indeed I have mentioned this many times before in this very blog, including here, here and here.

But what hadn't occurred to me until very recently is what a challenge it might be for road-signs.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Rolling Stones, Finnish Style

Stonehenge, the statues on Easter island, the Mayan pyramids... These monuments all have two things in common: they involve really big stones and elicit awe of the "wow, how did they do that?" kind.

Finland has its very own stone-based monuments to human achievement, perseverance and ingenuity. Yet they are largely unknown or at least unsung.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Why I Know So Many Rude Finnish Words...

Swearing is not big and it's not clever. However, it can be both therapeutic and amusing in any language.

As it happens, rude words are one of my specialist subjects in Finnish! I'm not proud if it, but it is.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

My Cool Reino Slippers

Reino Slippers
When I left my job recently, I was touched to discover that my Finnish co-workers had clubbed together to get me a present: a pair of Reino slippers filled with Finnish Fazer milk chocolates.

Now, I understood clearly the significance of Fazerin Sininen, as I could never resist those chocolates when they were in the vicinity. But the Reino slippers? I wasn't leaving to retire, so why?

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Taciturn Finns

The Finns are often portrayed as taciturn, but this has not been my experience: most Finns I know are quite talkative. However, pockets of "taciturness" do remain in Finland, especially amongst older Finns - as illustrated by the following annecdote.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Running Around Aimlessly

This week, a particular viral picture caught my attention. The reason it caught my attention is because it provides a perfect illustration of why Finnish is such a tricky language.

In other words, this single picture is a neat summary of this whole blog, no less.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Flying the Flag for Finland

When I was last in Helsinki, just over a week ago, the Finnish flag was flying from every building in town.

It wasn't in honour of my visit though, even if that would have been a rather nice gesture given that it was my last for quite a while...

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Normal Service

It's been nearly a month since the last post to this blog, mostly because it has been a rather eventful month for me workwise. But fret not, for normal service will resume shortly.


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Alko - A Heroic Institution

What do you call an 80 year old always full of alcohol? Alko.

Yes, the national alcoholic beverage retailing monopoly in Finland celebrated 80 years just last week.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Is New Zealand Better Than Finland?

Gerry Brownlee, the leader of New Zealand's House of Representatives and the centre-right administration's third-ranking minister, caused quite a stir recently when he appeared to insult Finland during a speech.

Such was the uproar, that New Zealand's Prime Minister John Key ended up having to apologise to the Finnish president over the remarks.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Mini-Post: Dutch and Finnish Grammars Compared

While reorganising my book-shelves, I came across a book about Dutch grammar, which I bought back in the days when I lived in The Netherlands. 

Sunday, 18 March 2012

High Energy

Following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, there was a wave of anti-nuclear sentiments in Finland. The old "Nuclear Power – No Thanks" stickers came out again, and everyone agreed that nuclear energy was a bad thing.

I stood as an observer, not knowing much about Finnish energy generation or consumption (actually, I don't know much at all about energy). But a couple of thoughts came to my mind....

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Why I Quite Like Helsinki Airport

As a frequent flyer, I spend a lot of time in airports. I can't say I ever really enjoy any of them but some airports are more pleasant than others, and Helsinki airport is one of the best.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

There Are A Lot Of Sheep

It is a fallacy to say most Brits are lazy with regards to foreign languages. The reality is that, when they travel abroad, the Brits always make an effort to learn a few words of the local language. Usually those words are: "2 beers, please!"

Whether it's "deux bières, s'il vous plait" or "dos cervezas, por favor", the Brits are always ready. Even when travelling to Finland, it doesn't take long for Brits to master: "kaksi olutta!"

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Underthtanding Finnith Kidth

When you are learning a language, there are a few greater challenges than understanding young children.

In theory, it should be easy, as their vocabulary and their sentences are relatively simple. The problem however is their pronunciation.

Monday, 20 February 2012

When Lisa's More

There is Canadian writer by the name of Lisa Moore (pictured here). There is also an Australian avant-garde pianist by the same name (not pictured here).

Now, the amusing thing about their name (if you are an easily amused Finnophile), is that in Finnish "lisaa" means "more".

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Finnish Jokes About Swedes

One of the top searches for this blog is "finnish jokes about swedes". I thought it was about time I obliged, and so am sharing here a collection of jokes about Finland's western neighbours that I found on the web (the jokes, not the neighbours).

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Moose Test

It’s been very cold and very snowy in Helsinki this week. Good thing that I am a fully-fledged winter rally driver then!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Insane Finnish Letters (Part 2)

My last post about the crazy transformations the letter “t” undergoes in Finnish seems to have resonated with many people. Clearly, dear readers, you want more Finnish grammar!

I aim to please, so here is more on the exciting subject of consonant gradation.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Insane Finnish Letters (Part 1)

It’s been a while since I had a good moan about the trickiness of the Finnish language, but it’s now time to tackle one of my pet grievances: the instability of Finnish letters.

This is such a wide subject, that I will have to cover it over more than one post. I know you all love a bit of grammar really…

Saturday, 14 January 2012

World Design Capital – Wassat?

This is a very special year for Finland's capital, Helsinki. It is the World Design Capital for 2012, no less!

When I first heard about this, I thought “that’s cool!”, or something equally meaningless but nonetheless expressing the appropriate mix of surprise and admiration.

But then I wondered: “Actually, what does that mean?”