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Finnish Wife Carrying

So in the middle of all the excitement of getting settled we missed the World Wife Carrying Championship which took place (as it has for the past 14 years) in Sonkajärvi, Finland – about 500km north of Helsinki.

Photo from Herald Sun, click to see full gallery
Photo from Herald Sun, click to see full gallery

Eager to see what it would take to participate next year, I came across the official site which had a bit on How to Become a Master in Wife Carrying. In typical Finnish deadpan humor, they went into all the details just so you believed they were serious until you came across lines like,

The core of the race is made of a woman, a man and their relationship. The wife carrying and eroticism have a lot in common. Intuitive understanding of the signals sent by the partner and becoming one with the partner are essential in both of them – sometimes also whipping.

Maybe we’ll go next year.

Related crazy Finnish events include:

and more.

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Finland, they do it different here

I have a feeling this is going to be a regular feature. There are many things that are different here in Finland. Here are just a few that I’ve learned about in the past few weeks.

Speeding tickets are progressive, you pay more if you earn more. I was warned about someone who had a $1,000 speeding ticket and they were only slightly over the limit. How do the police know how much you make?

There is a government service that allows anyone to lookup another person’s salary. The idea is that if you know what your colleagues are making (and they know that you know) that everyone will cooperate better. Of course no one bothers to look up someone’s salary, just knowing that you can does the trick.

When you get here, you register with the local city hall and once they get your address, they let everyone know. This has the unsettling effect of you signing up for cable TV and the rep not even needing your address because (and they always wink when they say this) we know where you live. The flip side of this is that we’re in a temporary apartment right now but when we move, there’s only one place we need to tell our new address. No pesky change of address forms!

Like Britain and Japan, there is an annual fee for TV. It’s about $250/year for one set (you pay based on the number of TV sets) and if you’re busted cheating, you pay triple.

I can drive on my California driver’s license for the next year but if (or is it when?) I get my Finnish license, the driver’s test includes snow driving.

Most people pay with debit cards for everything and invoices are paid with a wire transfer. This extends to individuals. I can wire money to any account, free of charge. In the US, it costs $40 to do this from one bank to another. Fiscal Portability anyone?

The Finnish Posti is well aware of the impact of all this electronic billing on their revenues so they’ve gone ahead and offered a service which scans in any paper invoices headed your way and they will email you notification when a bill is ready. Login to your Posti account in time and you can look at a scanned copy of your invoice before it arrives.

Recently in Oulu, a development center for Nokia up north, one of my colleagues dialed me a taxi and all he did was grunt a few times, hung up and said a cab was on it’s way. The taxi service used caller ID to identify him, then pulled up the most popular destinations he’s made when he’s booked before, and asked him which of these he is (1) at right now and, (2) going to as a destination. Smart! Like a call log for taxi destinations!

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Rental Cars as Advertising

o2 Media CarWhen we moved to Finland, we decided to leave our two car, suburban lifestyle behind and live life in the center of Helsinki. We walk everywhere and take trolleys, buses, and trains when it’s too far to walk.

It’s really not a big deal. Helsinki has an excellent public transportation system and the infrastructure is set up to make it really easy to get around without a car.

There are times though, when a car is going to come in handy. Trips to Ikea, or a weekly run up to the big shopping center come to mind. It’s possible to huff it back with 30 pounds of goods in your rucksack but a car would just make it easier.

I’ve already signed up for Helsinki’s equivalent of Zip Car (City Car Club, they’ve been around longer than Zip) where you can order up a car via SMS but today our savior, Pirjo Koskivirta at Finland Relocation, sent me a pointer to o2 media, an advertising company disguised as a car rental firm.

I didn’t get it at first. They rent out these cute little Smart Cars for 5 euros/day. The deal is, you need to drive at least 30kms, otherwise they charge extra. I had this image of people driving laps around Töölönlahti just trying to turn over the odometer.

By now you figured it out right? I’m a little slow and it’s late. The value prop here is they just need people to drive around and get impressions for their advertisers on their fancy-wrapped cars. Why pay college interns to do it when they can charge people instead. It’s more environmentally friendly, the renters get a car for cheap, and the advertisers get their message taken into real world situations.

Brilliant!

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Swimming in Finland

The weather in Helsinki has been fantastic the past week. T-shirts and Keen sandles type warm. We’re even sleeping with our windows open in the evenings. Today we swam in the ocean!

At the beach in Helsinki
At the beach in Helsinki
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No Smiling!

nosmiles

The Finnish Immigration pages has a series of guidelines for their passport and visa photos. I found this one regarding Expressions amusing.

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Thoughts on Helsinki

As with most business trips, my first visit to Helsinki this week was abbreviated and knowingly distorted view of the city. Here are a collection of my impressions.

It’s not as cold as I thought. I wouldn’t want to work outside fixing roads or anything but for a quick stroll, a sweater and jacket was just fine. Locals tell me November is actually the worst season because the bay isn’t yet frozen so the damp air feels colder. When snow covers everything and the air dries up, it actually feels warmer.

It doesn’t get light until around 8am and it’s dark by the time I leave the office at 5pm. Nothing like the “couple hours of daylight” that people warned me about – that’s only way up North. Here’s a shot of a cloudy sky at 4pm.

The tap water here is so good, they bottle it and sell it overseas.

Everyone has a cell phone and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an iPhone or Blackberry. This is the land of Nokia which accounts for about a third of the capitalization of the Helsinki stock exchange.

People love their coffee but stay away from the energy drinks which I swear are mixed with gasoline.

Many of the streets downtown are still cobbled giving it a charming old Europe feel. The roads around the my hotel are torn up for maintenance and pallets of fresh cobblestones await their careful replacement.

The Finns love hockey. In addition to the local teams, there was quite a bit of coverage of the San Jose Sharks on the local news.

Finns take their winter gear seriously. The local department store had a dizzying array of boots and ski jackets. Everyone wears scarves here like Californians wear sunglasses – a fashion accessory.

The language is incomprehensible. To my untrained ear it sounds kind of like Russian with wonderful, vowel-filled words that plop out like big nerf balls. I love listening to the receptionist at Nokia House (as they call Nokia headquarters here) calls up the taxi cabs for visitors – it sounds like she’s directing a complex ballet routine to a cast of tired dancers.

Finns speak perfect English but sometimes mix up the metaphors in a charming way.

Finns shun ice in their soda pop. Ask for some ice with your can of cola and you’re met with a, “yes, sure, but why?” smirk.

Linus Torvalds, is from Finland.

Every hotel has a sauna which is a beautiful thing.