Love thy neighbour

Finland’s geographical situation is a curious one. Not only are we far up north, we share a large border with Russia. Then there’s the practically uninhabited part of Norway and a slither of Sweden. And across the Gulf of Finland, we have Estonia.

The Finnish maiden – the country is supposedly shaped like a woman. Except she lost one arm and parts of her skirt some 60 years ago.

We have a special relationship with each of these countries which perhaps reveals more about Finland than it does from our neighbours..

Given our somewhat problematic history with our Eastern neighbour, there’s always a certain tone we use when talking about Russia. It’s either a scared whisper or a demeaning remark. Finnish military still practices for a possible attack from the East.

From a young age we’re taught to be skeptical about Russia and the influence they’ve had on us if often ignored. Our food culture is surprisingly similar to theirs and we’ve even been influenced by the language. Finland is, after all, in north east of Europe but somehow people always forget the eastern part.

Russians on the other hand have too many neighbours to remember we exist. But we do!

Then there’s Sweden. The neighbour we love to hate and have a complicated inferiority-complex over. It always seem they do everything better than us. When we triumph over something it’s a cause for national celebration. Not least when it’s in ice hockey.

Being under the Swedish rule for 700 years left it marks, most noticeably in the fact that Swedish is an official language in Finland.

The Swedes on the other hand think of us as slightly pathetic drunks.

Now, Estonia is all kinds of awesome. They speak a cute language that sounds like a Finnish dialect but isn’t. They have similar words which mean completely different things; the word for mother in law in Estonian means ghost in Finnish. The word for mother in Estonian sounds like a mother pig in Finnish. And so on.

Furthermore, Estonia is cheaper than Finland so every year hundreds of thousands of Finns flock to visit Viro to buy cheap alcohol. You have not experienced true Finland unless you’ve been on a ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn.

The Estonian migrant workers keep our construction business going. So we have nothing but good things to say when it comes to Estonia.

Now, the Norwegians. Nobody really knows much about them. We like them because they share a similar twisted relationship with Sweden. But then when you visit the northern border of Finland you realise they stole all the mountains. Conveniently enough the Norwegian border is right where the mountains start. Damn those sneaky oil-rich Norwegians…

But in the end we shower them with points at the Eurovision Song Contest every year. This year we might even give some points to Russia since their representatives, Buranovskiye Babushki, speak Udmurt, a language related to Finnish. And as everyone already knows, Eurovision is the true measure of neighbourly relations.

One thought on “Love thy neighbour

  1. Lovely written about Finland’s neighboring countries. Being a Swede I must say you have a point. Never the less I love working with Finns and keep as friends – but when it comes to ice hockey…

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