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Columns

SOCIAL DEMOCRAT leader Jutta Urpilainen triggered a storm of controversy recently when she suggested that foreigners moving to Finland should keep in mind the phrase “when in Rome, do as the Romans do.’’

As a foreigner, I really don’t understand much of the anguish at all. To me, the idea that a migrant, much like an air mass, takes on the characteristics of the land over which he or she passes is a basic survival mechanism. We move, we learn languages, we encounter strange belief systems and habits, and we emerge better people for it. We also pay taxes, start businesses, spend money, and on occasions even marry local women. We observe local laws and customs, and do so without compromising our own identity.

The news this month: the Israeli government permits the building of 1200 new homes in East Jerusalem in defiance of American wishes; the head of ETA’s armed resistance wing is arrested at a safe house in Normandy; ‘Angel of Grozny’ Xhadizhat Gataeva is deported by the Finnish authorities despite her asylum appeal being unresolved; and David Beckham was treated for a torn Achilles tendon in Finland.

Wait, hold on, what? David Beckham? You mean the David Beckham? Worldwide celebrity married to a Spice Girl? That guy? Here in Finland?? OMG! Amazing! Hold the front pages! Israel? What? Screw that! It’s DAVID BECKHAM.

Everyone buying a new computer these days likely experiences the same thrill of a new toy, closely followed by the dawning horror that everything he once knew about computers is now redundant. At times it seems as if Microsoft take a perverse pleasure in pulling the rug out from under the users’ feet, a kind of “this will screw them up for months!” delight.

I have no doubt that Microsoft do not actively set out to ensure users can not access their email, but on the other hand I suggest they give insultingly little consideration to normal users. Tried importing an address book or records of your old emails from one account to another recently? It is theoretically possible, and given three days of sweat and tears you may be able to get it done, but more in spite of the tools available than because of them.

Born in the 60s of parents from the 30s, I was on holiday in Edinburgh in the first days of the 10s discussing the noughties with a beer in hand. Over many superbly kept and poured Deuchars IPA’s a friend and I discussed the impact of the last decade. More sober minds than ours had produced the inevitable decade’s end lists so we decided upon some uncommon awards.

End Of Western Civilisation Award: The insistence on cycle helmets for toddlers on tricycles to protect them from the risk of gravity. Parents who carelessly let their children fall 500mm without a helmet, knee pads, gloves, and counseling for PTSD are regarded as monsters. In fact, they are preparing the child for...

Everyone knows that Father Christmas lives in Finland. Or at least that’s what the Finns like to believe. The national tourist board and the flagship airline Finnair publicise this factoid incessantly, protesting most indignantly about Swedish or Norwegian imposters. The idea that Father Christmas might live at the North Pole or in some mysterious Elf Land is of course out of the question, as nobody would profit from this.

Santa Claus is a famously jolly, sociable and talkative figure, who loves children and is always ready to share a hearty “Ho! Ho! Ho!” Somehow it’s hard to imagine a character more distant from the hoary old stereotype of the reclusive and introverted Finnish male.