A country of utopias – just next to us

Finnish nation is extremely distinctive: from national character and historical heritage to modern lifestyle. Few books published in Lithuanian recite about it.

Although our nations are quite intimate by temperament, it is not that easy to find similarities of their lives. I was convinced of this fact during the week of Foreign Correspondents’ Programme (FCP) that allowed comparing realities in both countries.

Whereas the program was very broad and diverse, I did not place everything in my head. Moreover, I write the topics of culture. Thus, I described Helsinki Central Library Oodi in my first article from Finland.

It caused a great interest from readers. Lithuanian libraries are associated to the silence of reading rooms, while Oodi offers plenty of services uncharacteristic to traditional libraries – from virtual games to traditional craft workshops and music making. It is visually attractive, open to everyone place of creation, free time and communication. Project Manager Lotta Muurinen revealed some interesting details about its establishment and peculiarities of activity.

During the trips of FCP, I noticed the common trend of modern Finnish architecture to focus on multifunctional spaces and social needs of communities. The project of new school in Jätkäsaari district even gave an impression of the original, communicative and creativity promoting Finnish education system. Open and cosy spaces of the University of Helsinki fascinated by their special atmosphere.

Why Finland is the happiest country in the world? FCP was a great opportunity to find answers to this question and make sure what my country misses. Many things in Finland are different from here – from the large role of communities and their impact on quality of life to trust in the national parliament.

Professor of the University of Helsinki Antti Kauppinen highlighting a phenomenon of Finnish happiness improved my knowledge of unique Finnish education system that lays foundations of happy society and unfortunately has little to do with Lithuanian system. For instance, it is not centralised – the teachers have creative freedom, and the level of schools is similar, regardless of their distance from the capital. It is fantastic.

What are the other differences of our countries? Philosophy of sustainability that is largely determined by attention to needs of population. It sounds like utopia to Lithuanians: city residents, not the business tycoons and their serving bureaucrats, develop the city, where new corners of nature are preserved, and ecological corridors for wildlife among green spaces are developed. However, the Finns implemented this utopia in Espoo – the happiest city in Finland and most sustainable European city.

The sustainable development strategy created by Aland Islands community covering the period until 2051 is no less utopian to Lithuanian. In general, the phenomena of Aland Islands deserves a whole series of articles. The brought information would be enough for them.

I was impressed by not only ambitious Finnish objectives, but also comprehensive researches on quality of life and analysis of indicators supporting their declarations. They really know what they do, as stated in one of the brochures.

The dessert of the program – museums (Pentala Archipelago Museum, Aland Maritime Museum), boat trips and banquet were also unforgettable. The banquet was like a festival of Nordic food with masters solo.

However, the most interesting episode of this “festival“ was not the most luxurious dishes, but food from donated past-due ingredients collected from grocery stores and producers at small restaurant in Lapinlahti hospital building. It is the perfect example of Finnish perception of sustainability and its ingenious pursuit.

I will “digest“ the impressions of FCP program for a long time. Huge thanks to its organisers for impressive presentations, trips and entertainment.

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Author: Asta - Lithuania

Asta is a lithuanian journalist and she took part in the FCP back in the 90's. She writes about culture and cultural events in the newspaper Lietuvos rytas and web portal lrytas.lt but she also covers other topics. Asta joined the FCP Alumni Edition 2019 when Huseyin Hayatsever had to cancel.

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