Finland Facts

With school ramping up the workload this week things have slowed in the adventure department. The next couple weeks’ mantra is buckle down, and get work done before the trip to St. Petersburg on April 30.

Contrary to our semester back home, classes here are winding down in all different ways and at different times. Plenty of exchange students have previous commitments with their home institutions or lives back in their country and as such have very early departure dates, some as early as the coming weeks. For this reason, many instructors have opted to have final exams or end their classes by mid April. At the end of next week we will have finished two of our 5 full-time courses. There is no dedicated exam week and no rhythm to the coming weeks. Just a shotgun blast of deadlines and exams.

As I mentioned last week, it was far too easy to let school take a backseat to travel and exploration while abroad and we are definitely paying for it now. It’s nothing unmanageable, especially not for a BCIT student, as the workload is always much lighter here than back home – but it’s still a noticeable change of pace from the last few months.

Instead of sharing a story about this week’s (nonexistent) adventure or travel, I figured I could share a few more of the interesting facts I’ve learned about Finland while I’ve been here. So here are three fun facts about Finland that I’ve picked up on the past few months here in Helsinki.

Learning to drive is extensive and costly

Getting your driver’s license in Finland is far more difficult and expensive than in North America. While you can just pay the test fee back home, do your written test, and then have your parent with a valid driver’s license teach you how to drive, in Finland qualified driving instruction is mandatory and expensive. It can cost upwards of €2000 to complete your driver’s training in Finland and earn an unrestricted driver’s license. The training includes written tests, road tests, classes, and closed course slip and ice tests.

It’s hard to say whether all this rigorous training is beneficial. In 2013, Finland had 6,939 injuries caused by road accidents, of which 258 were fatal. This accounts to .13% of the population. That same year, Canada had 167,229 injuries caused by road accidents, of which 1,923 were fatal. While this seems like a dramatically higher number, it accounts for only .48% of the Canadian population. It’s also interesting to note that Finland’s most densely populated city only has a population of roughly 600,000 people. Canada’s most densely populated city boasts 2.62 million residents. Both cities deal with pretty harsh winters and unfavourable driving conditions.

Easter is like Halloween

The Easter Bunny took a while to make it to Finland. This isn’t to say that Finns don’t do the typical Easter Egg Hunt thing – they do. It’s just a little different, with maps and fewer eggs. The Easter Egg Hunt actually comes second to Finland’s more common Easter tradition – one which strangely resembles how North Americans celebrate Halloween.

On Easter, Finnish children dress up as “trolls”, as described by our Finnish language instructor, and go door to door to get their Easter candy. They decorate a bunch of sticks with paint and ribbon and then, in groups, go house-by-house collecting chocolate on Easter Sunday. They knock on doors, and when someone answers they sing a song of which the lyrics were very roughly translated and summarized by our instructor to mean “Here I am, I wish you good luck, I’ll trade you for this stick for some chocolate. Sound good?” I’ve also learned Finns are people of few words and pomp.

They then complete the transaction and continue on to use their decorated sticks to scam the next house out of their Easter chocolate. Brilliant! I guess they are actually trading something for the chocolate, and perhaps they do put more effort into decorating their sticks than the kids back home do on their $15 Walmart Spiderman costumes. So perhaps it’s a fair trade. Go Finland!

Finland is #1 in Education

The OECD Better Life Index ranks Finland as the number one country in Education. I think the main driver behind this ranking is the social status attained by teachers, who earn a respectable wage here and are very highly regarded. It’s apparently not easy to become a teacher in Finland; it’s one of the most competitive fields with rigorous qualification assessments. Additionally, Finland is third in the world in “Years in Education” – meaning students spend an average of over 19 years in education. The free education and subsidized living wage of students here also makes going to school and attractive option for practically every young Finnish person. Despite this, it’s interesting to note that Canada actually ranks higher in percentage of population with a post secondary degree. Nearly half of all Canadians have an education beyond secondary school. We’re doing something right!