For a country that was ranked the happiest in the world (though there have been mixed reactions about this) I was curious to know what makes them happy. I must say being in Finland has exposed me to the typical Finnish way of life, one that combines a serene environment albeit thanks to the beautiful summer around here, appreciating the little things, freedom of speech and respect for one another. How about spending a weekend with a Finnish family – where it all begins!
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Helsinki, Finland…” That announcement by the Captain once we touched down at Vantaa Airport on the afternoon of Sunday 5th August kick-started the Finnish chapter of my Kenyan story; a story of a curious young man eager to explore the Nordic way of life.
As the sights and sounds of Helsinki zoomed past us, I was amazed by just how drivers including my cab driver adhered to traffic rules. My eyes couldn’t keep off quite a number of Finns riding on their bicycles as others walked on foot. “They must be bored with public transport” I thought to myself, only to realize that cycling was the norm in Finland and one of the best ways to move around town! We would later ride around Helsinki with fellow participants.
Despite the extraordinary summer, Finns are still faithful to the saunas, a substantial part of their culture. There are about 3 million saunas, for a nation five times less the population of my home country Kenya. There are saunas in every household, hotel and even in some offices!
To get around any place you need transport and Finland’s public transport system is one of the best that you don’t need to own a private car! The comfort, convenience and effectiveness of subways, trams and buses is incomparable.
Openness and accountability drives Finland, something you rarely find elsewhere. Information and contact addresses for civil servants are available online, no matter their caliber.
However I am impressed by the level of transparency and respect for media. That Journalists do not have to organize for interviews with members of parliament, there are no perimeter wall fences for public offices and no information is hidden, is something that almost everyone needs to benchmark from here. Don’t get me started with zero presence of police and /or military for public offices and officers!
The Finns love coffee and anyone coming to Finland will always be welcomed to a cup of coffee. Make no mistake this country is the highest consumer of coffee in the world and you will be treated to any coffee flavour and imagine my delight when I found some Kenyan coffee! What’s more, enjoying Kenyan coffee with the Kenyan community, the Kenyan way!
Family is the core of any society and spending a weekend with the Merijärvi family delved me deeper into the Finnish way of life. From enjoying traditional Finnish cuisines, to sharing moments of laughter and fun not to mention exchanging ideas from both countries, the family unit is one that affirms the Finnish way of life.
The Finnish Chapter has left an indelible mark in my Kenyan story by living life the Finnish way.
Kiitos! (Thank you in Finnish)