The tawdry truth about Finland

Finland. There’s more to the place than it just being Santa Claus’s personal fiefdom, you know. But what exactly more? We didn’t know, so we excommunicated our buddy Wayne Farry, pictured below, to the frosty tundra of Tampere, to live out the rest of his days, and to report back his findings.

Would it be worth it? Almost certainly not. Nevertheless, it was a chance we were willing to take. Here’s what he found out….


I have, as of Thursday last, been living in Finland for two weeks. This time has flown but at the same time I feel like I’ve been living here for much longer, a good thing in my eyes. I’ve spent my days so far applying for jobs, wandering the city in which I live, taking bad photographs and embarrassing myself at shop counters with my lack of (Finnish) language skills. But I’ve learned a few things in these wonderful first few weeks here and I’d love for you to pull up a pew, scooch a little closer and perhaps listen to a few of the things I’ve gleaned in my time here so far.

I now participate in knife fights every day

The Finnish are a nation of knife lovers, they even have a traditional national knife – the puukko. I was advised to pick one up as soon as I got off the plane and despite some scepticism, I figured better safe than sorry. It’s a fine blade, strong yet delicate, like a deadly flower. Mine has a beautiful birch handle, which I keep attached to my belt with a leather sheath. It comes in handier than I’d have ever imagined. I face knife fights essentially every day – on street corners, in shopping centres, everywhere. My life has effectively become the Havana scene from Guys and Dolls, but with polka playing in the background.

There’s a particular Finnish face

Now, at the risk of offending anyone, this doesn’t go for all Finns, far from it. But since I’ve arrived on these chilly shores I could not fail to notice that for many of the population there is a particular and noticeable similarity in appearance. Button nose, round cheeks, wide eyes and slick, razor sharp hair are just a few of the attributes I have earmarked as being quintessentially Finnish. Of course, nature does these things for a reason. The button nose, slightly turned up towards the blue sky, is surely such a way to help detect the scent of any wild reindeer close by – I only wish I shared this trait. The round cheeks protect from the winter chill and offer the option to store carrot sticks or reindeer jerky during a long walk or commute. The wide eyes – again – are surely to spot any wild reindeer in the vicinity and also most likely to take in and store as much sunlight as possible during the predominantly dark period before spring. The razor sharp hair, quite frankly, is just cool. I envy my Finnish overlords.

I only eat reindeer now

There’s an urban myth that’s been doing the rounds for years that once you taste human flesh you can never eat any other meat again. “The hunger” as they call it creates an insatiable desire in its victim, rendering all other meats inedible. What people don’t tell you is that reindeer meat does much the same. I had my first taste of reindeer shortly after my arrival in the form of a reindeer bagel in a popular coffee establishment. “It’s okay”, I thought after my first bite, but as the bites turned to chews and the chews turned to savouring, I found myself salivating all over my puukko. I looked at my reflection in the wet blob on my fine blade and knew straight away that I was hooked. Since that fateful day, I’ve gone to any means necessary to satisfy my undying hunger. Camping out on farms, waiting for farmers to drop their guard was my first move, before realising days later that the meat was readily available at nearly all supermarket outlets. This has undoubtedly made my new vice a little easier to manage.

Everyone, and I mean everyone has a Mannerheim tattoo


Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim – you don’t need me to tell you – is the father of modern Finland. He led the victorious Whites in the Finnish Civil War as well as fending off the horrid Russians on more than one occasion. Everywhere you look in this beautiful country, you’ll see either marks or portraits of the man himself. None more so, I’ve only noticed since living here, than on the body of each and every citizen. It all started with a story that has since been debunked – that Mannerheim himself was born with a birth mark of his own bust on his left calf – but in this instance Finns care not for the truth and instead, each and every one them has a tattoo of the great man emblazoned on their left calf at the age of 13. It’s a bar or bat mitzvah of sorts and refusal is met with scorn from nearly all. For immigrants, such as myself, it is one of the conditions upon gaining citizenship after five years of residency. It shows a commitment to this great nation and an eternal gratitude to “Pop Pop Carl”, as he’s called. I for one look forward to the day I have his warm, authoritative face and shoulders gracing my leg.

You may find some of these things strange but for me, now, they are but second nature. Finland is where I live now and I would be remiss to do anything other than dive head first into her bountiful lake of culture. Moi moi.


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