The environment is a big thing to the Finns, but that’s not the only thing they care about.
Finland is a very young country, having only achieved independence from the Russians in 1917, since then, the country has made huge leaps forward in equality, respect, the environment and urbanisation.
Visiting Helsinki city centre, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s just a very large town with more than usual public transport options. It’s 500,000 people in a country of five and a half million. To say that the Finns have more than their fair share of public services is also true. Travelling to Hanko the other day, our group noticed a fire department with more than five or so engines for a town with a population of 9,000.
This kind of extends to everything in Finland. They have a police service for what seem to be the most peaceful people I have ever met. Finland’s version of Cops, ‘Polisiit’, is an amazing programme in which precisely nothing happens every episode. Finnish Police are armed to the teeth but never seem to have a need for any of their weapons. Although we’re watching it in Finnish, it’s quite clear to see that each encounter the police have is just a small one. Usually it’s just telling someone to move out of the way of oncoming traffic, or someone who’s a little bit drunk. The other day, they despatched two vans and two cars to deal with one drunken man who had been kicked out of a bar. They didn’t even take him back to the station in any of those vehicles. They had a jovial little conversation with him, moved him away, that was the end of it.
In one of my first days here, I met one of the communications people for the Finnish Forestry Industry. After pointing out that 60% of the country is forests, how do they avoid over utilising this resource?
“Surely the temptation must be, when you’ve got so many forests, to just get the highest possible profits by chopping down as much as possible?”, I asked, curiously.
“Yes but why would we? No-one would be interested in the products if they weren’t sourced sustainably.” She replied.
Equality is a strong theme which runs repeatedly throughout the whole of Finland. In their first parliamentary elections as a free country, 20 or so of the MPs elected were female. This is a strong contrast to many other countries at the time who still hadn’t given women the vote.
What did shock me is that equal marriage has only been passed in Finland comparatively recently, but as they are seen as the most conservative country in the Nordics, this isn’t too surprising.
There’s a mutual respect here, for the environment, for the people and between each other. I could live here.
To see more that I’ve written on this subject for the official Foreign Correspondent’s Programme blog, click here.