Impressions of Finland…

Impressions of Finland…

Towards the end of the summer, I had the chance to visit Helsinki for a few days as part of being selected as a junior fellow for the Finnish business and policy forum, EVA (Elinkeinoelämän Valtuuskunta). I did not really have preconceptions about Finland, rather a curiosity about this ‘beacon of light in the northeastern corner of Europe’.

My primary connection and interest to Finland was… Ice Hockey! I had previously played with a member of the women’s national team, and had met many Finns at various times who were involved with Ice Hockey both here in Turkey and elsewhere. Even my connection to Finland in Ankara was through a Finnish diplomat who played Ice Hockey at the same club as I did.

While waiting for my luggage at Vantaa airport, my attention was grabbed by hearing what I thought was Turkish but instead Finnish. The similarities in the diction between the two languages was striking. It was no surprise then, to learn that Finnish apparently shares common roots with Turkish.

The second thing that struck me was the weather. I had already checked the temperature forecast before leaving Turkey but still was not prepared for the slight shock of being greeted with 4 degrees Celsius Scandinavian mornings after coming from a scorching 30 degree Celsius Anatolian summer! The summer dresses, sandals and running shorts I had brought along would have to remain in my suitcase, even though I later learned that the weather was uncharacteristically chilly for the time of year. Rather than having an averting affect, the chill was rejuvenating – the air was crisp and clean, and these elements were reflected in physical structures and Finnish design as well. Functionality, clean lines, as well as a sense of environmental custodianship pervaded my observations.

Although my visit was brief, I was also struck by the order in society. Everything is conducted or made with efficiency and ease in mind. I loved the idea of having bicycle lanes alongside pedestrian footpaths. I loved seeing broad walking and bike paths hugging the shore- lines, and seeing so many people out enjoying the prelude to winter weather. This, as well as the presentations, seminars and other events pertaining to Finland’s economy and politics that I attended as part of the EVA program kept bringing my mind back to thinking about Turkey. How can some of the practices that Finland has learnt and applied, be adopted by Turkey?

The dynamic and engaging folk I met through the EVA event was a reminder that there lies a great untapped synergy between Turkey and Finland. If it can take a pair of hockey skates to peak my interest in a northern land, then imagine what football boots, high heels, loafers or slippers can do!