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Tiina: Hi, and welcome back to FinnishPod101.com's All About series! This is lesson 8: Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Finnish Society. I’m Tiina.
Reeta: Hei, minä olen Reeta. And I’m Reeta.
Tiina: In this lesson, we’re going to tell you more about life in Finland.
Reeta: There are so many aspects to Finnish society, it’s hard to know where to begin!
Tiina: Well since the title of this lesson is “Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Finnish Society” I picked 5 topics.
Reeta: Which are?
Tiina: Finland’s major cities, family life, work culture and economy, politics, and generational trends.
major cities and city life, family life in Finland, Finland’s work culture and life in the countryside.
Reeta: Wow. So we’re all set then.
Tiina: That's right! Why don’t we start with city life, shall we?
Reeta: Let’s talk about the biggest city in Finland!
Tiina: And that is the capital itself – Helsinki. In Finland, there are 5.3 million inhabitants, and Greater Helsinki has almost one fifth of them.
Reeta: Yes, it is a big number compared to the population of Finland.
Tiina: Helsinki has lots of different districts that each have their own personality. One of them is Töölö, which is something like a luxury residential district. There are many famous people living in the area and the apartments cost a lot. For the casual tourist, though, it’s not the most interesting area, as it’s primarily a residential area. There are some nice restaurants and bars, and some parks, in that area though.
Reeta: Well, it sounds like a nice place to visit anyway.
Tiina: Also in Helsinki you'll find Eira, the other somewhat expensive district with small boutiques and trendy restaurants; Kallio, with its famous artistic area, and Central Helsinki, known for being home to the largest dome in Finland, and big shopping district and many tourist attractions.
Reeta: I think it’s impossible to get bored in Helsinki. There’s just so much going on!
Tiina: Then, in contrast to the central Helsinki, we have the surrounding natural areas, like Kaivopuisto, which is a huge park along the seaside, and Seurasaari, an island with romantic cafes that is reachable only by crossing a bridge. And of course, there are the many small islands in front of the capital.
Tiina: And then there is Suomenlinna, The Sea Fortress that is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Finland’s most popular tourist attraction.
Reeta: It takes about 20 minutes on the ferry service. Many tourists visit Suomenlinna and there are some people who live there year-round.
Tiina: During the summer season in particular, the island gets busy with visitors – many people enjoy picnics in the island, and if you are not afraid of a bit of cold water, join the other people for a dip in the sea.
Reeta: I really recommend visiting Suomenlinna! If you’d like to enjoy Finland's natural environment and learn some Finnish history, Suomenlinna is a great place to do both.
Tiina: Let’s talk a bit about family life now. There are a few interesting things to note about Finnish society. Finnish children gain independence at quite a young age. This might have a lot to do with the social security system, as universities are tuition-free, and all the students get some financial help from the government until they graduate from university. This makes them financially independent when they leave home around the age of 18 or 20.
Reeta: Yeah. Speaking of studies in Finland, many people are waiting until they finish their studies and have worked for many years before they start to think about marriage.
Tiina: And because in Finland men and women are equal and they study and work the same way, it is not uncommon to get married at a later age.
Reeta: And some people even think that there is no need to get married. Even when you're having children, there are no problems to do with custody if the parents aren't married.
Tiina: Why is that?
Reeta: Well, they can still officially be a couple in Finland and they can certainly be the child’s official parents.…people are less willing to “settle” and many people don’t like the traditional Christian wedding. A lot of young women these days value their career, and in some cases having children will hinder advancement in their career. So there are a lot of factors involved.
Tiina: But it looks like parents will still encourage their children to marry once they reach a certain age though!
Reeta: That’s true, but in Finland marriage is not seen as a duty, it is more as a thing to do if you think you find the right person to live with the rest of your life.
Tiina: Now let’s talk about Finland’s economy and work culture. Everyone knows that Finland is a welfare state with many technological innovation and research centers. There is some manufacturing, of, for example, cruisers and big ferries. But, how about work culture? This is another unique facet of Finnish culture.
Reeta: Yes, for one thing, Finnish work culture does not have a rigid hierarchy system.
Tiina: Right, and this is not just limited to work, it's also the case in society.
Reeta: People are treated the same way, whether women or men, new hires or seniors.
Tiina: The working hours are rigid, and overtime will be always paid or given as days off.
Reeta: I think working conditions in Finland are great, aren’t they?
Tiina: Yes, and even young graduates get well-paid jobs and will be valued in the workplace.
Reeta: Right. Let’s talk politics for a moment. Tiina, we have a president in Finland. Who is the current president of Finland?
Tiina: That would be Sauli Niinistö, who won his first term just recently.
Reeta: That’s right.
Tiina: And the political party system is different from that of the US. The ruling political party is known as the Coalition party. And it’s only one out of a handful of political parties, as Finland has a multi-political party system.
Reeta: Yes, it’s known as Kokoomus in Finnish, and it’s been a long time since a candidate from that party has won the election. And, while the president of course has power, he or she has to not represent the political party, because he or she is the president of the whole of Finland.
Tiina: How old do people have to be in Finland to vote, by the way?
Reeta: 18 is the age that people can vote.
Tiina: Ok, that is the same as in most countries I guess. Okay, finally let’s talk about general trends in Finland.
Reeta: There are some generational trends that I want to talk about. Finnish society is opening more and more towards Europe and towards equality.
Tiina: A lot of people these days are traveling to Europe or other parts of the world and staying there for 6 months or a year.
Reeta: Yes, and young people are starting to value more high quality of life over high salary and a good career. Of course career is important as well, but they prefer a balance between work and leisure time.
Tiina: And changing jobs is really not a big deal anymore – if there’s something that they’re not satisfied with, they’ll find a new company to work for.
Reeta: Yeah, you might be able to say that Finnish people have more of their own interests in mind. Going back to the marriage trends that we talked about earlier, they’re waiting longer and longer to get married and have children, partly because they have their own interests in mind.
Tiina: Yeah, that seems to be the trend now.
Reeta: Well, that was our glimpse into the Finland of today.
Tiina: We hope you’ve learned a lot! We certainly covered a lot of information.
Reeta: Yes, and you can get to know more in our next All About lesson on FinnishPod101.com. Hei hei!
Tiina: See you next time, everyone!