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.

AH, AT LAST, a proper winter – miles of piles of snow, bone-chilling cold, and lasting well into the spring. Now, that’s what it’s all about. Some people are starting to think it surely must end any day now, but they just might have another think coming. This chill has teeth and looks like it intends to stick around, despite a few respites and regardless of what the calendar says.

They say Helsinki hasn’t experienced this kind of snowfall since the 60s, and throughout the country records on the length of frost periods have been broken right and left. Hey, this is Finland, what did you expect? At least now we get a glimpse of where all those rumours of polar bears roaming the streets of the capital and so on are coming from.

MY first exposure to Indian food was as a nine-year-old at my friend Ravi’s house, as his mother prepared extravagant dishes from the subcontinent with ease and flair. Sweating and close to tears, my naïve Australian palate wilted under the heat of the fiery delights, and it wasn’t long before a plain omelette with white toast magically appeared on my plate.

THIS, I’m afraid, is chief of my childhood regrets. Some people lament a first love, a faded football career or the loss of freedom, but for me it was those years denying Ravi’s mum’s kitchen that pinch the hardest. Thus, upon arriving here in India two and a half months ago, I have been furiously making up for lost time by indulging in the cavalcade of culinary delights on offer.

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.