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Friday, 27 November 2015

No metal detectors.

Finland is a country without metal detectors. It seems like a premature statement, because how come in today’s world could you have a country, where metal detectors are not used? But I hope in the following lines I might succeed in establishing my position regarding this short but affirmative statement.
In today’s time and age metal detectors, body searches and all of those signs of mistrust and acts of integrity negation are so common place that we often don’t even feel offended or hurt when subjected to such procedures.

I have been travelling a lot for last more than two decades and believe me there are countries, I will avoid pointing fingers, where you go through body and belonging searches, entering a hotel or a shopping mall and even a night club. But in Finland things are different.
Although they have proper equipment at Vantaa airport and the ferry terminals, still at other places, like the ones aforementioned, you can’t even dream of being subjected to any kind of search. Now my point is not to talk about metal detectors. My point is the level of general trust and observance of human rights. Finland, unlike most of the world has succeeded in avoiding the paranoia, generally termed across the world as “security concerns”. 
Maybe it’s because Finland is clean of any or all of the threats or threatening elements? But that is not true as well. Reading a report published by the security police in 2012, I came to know that there are immigrants in Finland, who have some sort of links, connections or mildly saying experience of extremist activity or they come from hot spots. Which means that reasons or basis for starting the globally accepted paranoia are there, but the Finns, remaining a part of the global village have succeeded in blocking out the negative influence of world politics. This in itself is a great feat.
Talking of immigrants and immigration, I learnt after coming here that for Finland immigration is a new phenomenon and a necessity. So people from all around the world are now heading here. In streets of Helsinki you can see lots of colour and hear a multitude of languages. All the streets have dual language street signs and as things are going I believe soon we will have tri-lingual signs everywhere. The present signs are in Finish and Swedish, although the population proportion of Swedish Finns is less than 20%. This in fact is a sign of high level of tolerance in the society, because more than 80% people don’t have anything against the observance of right of Swedish Finns to speaking a different language at official levels.
There is one thing alarming about immigration in Finland and I say alarming, because looking into the history of some of the countries, which encouraged immigration and received a lot of immigrants over a certain period of time, I stumble upon a strange phenomenon. And that phenomenon can be described as concentration of certain immigrant groups in certain areas, gradually pushing out the local populace. 
Probably concentration of a certain group of people in Brooklyn NY, South Hall London, Bangrak Bangkok, African quarters in Paris and China towns in many cities around the world has proven to be an erroneous practice. The most recent proof of wrongfulness of this practice could be traced back to public disorder in Husby, Stockholm. What happened in Stockholm is beyond the scope of my writing, but what I understood was that the gradual pull-out of Swedes over 2-3 decades and concentration of a certain group of immigrants in Husby, triggered a few nights and days of havoc in one of the most peaceful cities in the world (well you can disagree with the most peaceful city status endorsed by me if you want to!). 
Well I mentioned this problem, because within the short period of time that I have yet passed here in Helsinki, I already know that the colour of Etakeskus is changing at a very fast pace. It already is like a new city within the city. I hope the Finnish authorities will not let Etakeskus grow into Husby.
By the way speaking of municipal districts, Kallio, which literally means the rock, is in fact an island of different sort within the framework of Helsinki downtown area. The differences that I have noticed include reduction in the level of pomp as compared to nearby real center, lower rates of beer in bars, less numbers of tourists and readiness among the local Finns to start or join a conversation.
The last indicator is very important, at least for me, because I have noticed that Finns generally are, mildly saying very quiet and it takes one too many drinks before they slightly overcome their habit of keeping things to themselves. 
If you go to a bar say like sometime in the day or early evening, don’t expect a stranger, sitting nearby, to talk to you. Saying hello to everyone around you and just starting a chit chat is not a welcome practice in Finland.
If you are looking for chit chats, wait till 12:30 or one-o-clock in the night, when the surrounding Finns would have an ample amount of alcohol running through their veins and that is when you might get lucky in instigating a conversation. And mind you this whole scenario covers places like bars and clubs. I am not talking about people in the streets. And more so this is about summer time, because in winter things get blown out of proportion in the negative arena. 
Finnish winters are hard and there is no denying this fact, but the way everybody paints the winter scenario, it has to be a horrible time. Even in summer you don’t see many smiles or laughs in the city streets, but they say that in winter the small amount of smiles that does exist leaves the land of the Finns and returns only after 7-9 months of extreme depressive chill of fall winter and early spring.
I can’t say if this image is correct or not, because I arrived in spring and have yet to see the Finnish winter.
Interesting pointer: When you do get into a conversation at a public place and your conversant is a Finn, with whom you speak, let’s say English, the first two questions would mostly sound as
1) How long have you been in Finland?
2) How long are you planning to stay here?
This sounds very annoying, when a perfect stranger is concerned about your plans, but it is a national trait. Since you are not speaking Finnish, they interrogator perceives that you are on Finnish soil for a short period of time and this inspires the question about your plans of leaving, as if that person wants to come to the airport to see you off!
Talking of languages, it is quite normal to go around seeing Finland if you are capable of speaking English, because majority of people, at least in the nine largest cities, speak and well understand English and I’m pointing out only nine cities, because I have not been lucky enough to see more than nine cities yet. Traveling in the Eastern parts of Finland, your knowledge of Russian can be very handy, provided that you have it!
Sticking to the topic of languages, another common thing that Finns would always tell you is that Finnish is a very tough language to learn. I have travelled around a lot and I have learnt languages and believe me Finnish is no more difficult than languages like Chinese, Japanese or French. Although it is not an Indo-Germanic group language, hence grammatical and phonetic specifics, but still it is a language and a reasonable number of people in this world speak it as their first tongue not to mention the ones who speak Finnish as a foreign language, so it’s learnable. 
When I started learning Russian, I was also told that Russian is the most difficult language, but believe me just 6 months later only the word language was left intact out of the expression the most difficult language.
But combining the topic of immigration and languages I understand the equation and it spells as a secret weapon used by the Finns to control immigration. They generally use this Finnish is a hard language to learn weapon to scare off probable settlers!
I hope you understand that I’m just kidding. Finns are not reluctant people. They understand the rationale behind the settlement in Finland of people of different descent. In the streets of Helsinki and maybe other cities also, you can already see children born to Finnish + non-Finnish couples and there are no apparent signs of any discrimination towards these different looking children.
By the way if you are a guy and you want to get lucky with Finnish gals the handiest weapon is your origin. And unlike common belief it is not the Africans, who enjoy a popular status among women folk here. You are the luckiest if you are an Italian. Oh yes sir, Finnish gals prefer the Sicilian touch!
But don’t worry if you are not lucky enough to be Italian, your origin might be the second most preferable. To know this you have to hit it with the local gals or local gal pals. 
It’s Saturday evening and it’s time to go out. Well the weather is very good today. It had been sunny and warm all day, so I might hit a few beers in Kallio, before going to one of many clubs in the center and many of them are very nice. I will not mention club names, to avoid covert advertisement, but if you come here just ask your friends about the good clubs and I am sure they will mention the same clubs, one of which I am planning to visit tonight and most interestingly I will not have to go through a metal detector. 
And mind you if you don’t like to drink or you have something against hitting the dance floor and showing how you like to move it move it, don’t come to Helsinki for more than 3 days, because you will have nothing to do in this capital.

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