Reviewing Finland, With the Help of Monty Python and an American Author…
Good tongue in cheek expat advice from an expat American on Finland. And that Monty Python song.
Monty Python – Finland Official Lyric Video. Monty Python and photos © Gummerus
My next review is on a book, just to prove to my mother that I do, do more than watch films all day. In my defence when I do watch movies, I watch them with the Finnish subtitles. This so I can learn the Finnish language at the same time. As an ex-occupational therapist I strongly advocate this as a meaningful way of learning.
The video accompanying this article is Finland, Finland, Finland and was sung by Michael Palin from Monty Python way back in 1980 on their comedy album, Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album. For those of you who don’t know Monty Python were a group of now legendary British comedians from the late 1960s and 1970s who had a surreal comedy sketch show – Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-74) – and also released films, such as the Life of Brian (1979) and Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975). Notable members included Eric Idle, Michael Palin and John Cleese.
Anyway, I’d never heard of the Python song, until my Darlin’ Husband and I were due to move here and then a close friend sent me a link to it on a social media site. This was a touching send off and quite thoughtful. Which was more than I can say for a then work colleague who proved her lack of knowledge of this country asking me exactly where Finland was on a map of the world. Still, she had also told me once she knew 3 words in Spanish namely “ciao, tagliatelle and arrivederci”.
I’m not sure how many of Monty Python have actually set foot here, but it’s words are pretty accurate. Unless you include the “mountains so lofty” and if you are reading dear ex work colleague, we are “near to Russia, so far from Japan, Quite a long way from Cairo” and “Lots of miles from Vietnam”. I believe since then in 1992, Michael Palin visited Finland in his travel programme, Pole to Pole. And John Cleese, another Monty Python member is also extremely popular in our home as his alter ego Basil Fawlty.
However, one person I know of who has written a book on Finland and lived here is the American stand up comedian, Phil Schwarzmann. He wrote the satirical guide for immigrants How to marry a Finnish Girl, Everything you wanted to know about Finland but the Finns won’t tell you (2012). As well as telling you how to do this, he also talks about other subjects we immigrants must take heed of in a wry, often tongue in cheek and inoffensive manner.. unless you are the type of person who takes things personally.
Sadly some readers did and sent hate mail to his website. The book weighs up pros and cons of living here, with pros including women (true, come to Finland if you like blondes.. they are here in all shapes and sizes) and the cons he adds include the extremely difficult language (no shit Sherlock).
He gives the future immigrant tips on where to live in Finland, with sadly no mention of South Karelia which I’d recommend for swimming in Lake Saimaa in the summer and skating on it for the remaining seasons. He also tells how to prepare for (but in reality nothing can) and survive a winter here and about the food – and Schwarzmann is less offensive and more tactful here than Gordon Ramsay has been – and the many public holidays. I feel it is essential to know the latter, as if you go outside and there is a Finnish flag outside your apartment block there is a good chance that all the shops will be closed by the time you get there.
As for food, mämmi may look like mud but if you have fond memories of malt loaf.. don’t eat it. Schwartzmann talks realistically about the language and unemployment issues. The language is admittedly very hard, but as Dr McCoy from the original Star Trek (1966-69) – ie the ones with William Shatner – and the song Star Trekkin Across the Universe says “It’s logical Jim, but not as we know it”.
Unemployment is an issue here for immigrants, but if you are very good – i.e. native level – at languages and/ or have a previous degree in and a Health Care Profession you are laughing all the way past the Kela – i.e. unemployment benefits office. Unfortunately I only had the former and am still trying for the latter.
A large portion of the book tells how to marry the Finnish girl of your dreams. As an immigrant I’d recommend reading all of this book after you have been here for a while so you can relate to your own experiences and your perceptions of your own particular Finnish reality better. But it does promise to help you if you buy it hoping you will end up with Anja or Aino.
Anja and Aino are the two Kate
Uptop Upton, lookalike twins who you met when you got “lost in Helsinki” or alternatively that you fell in love with at first sight of them in the sauna. Probably in slow motion, did I mention you don’t wear clothes in saunas here… In the book, there is a 30 day wedding (häät.. just so you know what she’s talking about) guarantee. I can’t really say if it works as I am a Scottish lass married to a sassennach.
I can however say to those of you wanting advice on “How to marry a Scottish lass, Everything you wanted to know about Scotland but the Scots won’t tell you”. This guide is especially those you are an Outlander (i.e. out of place English person in Scotland) from Englandshire.
- You must be able to impersonate Sean Connery by doing a mock advert with as many words starting with “S” as possible or we might let you off with just being able to impersonate Gerard Butler saying “this is Sparta”.
- It is important also that you must like both Irn Bru and Haggis Pizza.
- You understand Billy Connolly or Peter Capaldi’s accent and laugh appropriately during all their comedic performances.
- You understand what a ceilidh is but you don’t know how to do the dances well, if at all. We as a nation, do get suspicious of people who know these things.. which is why all Scottish people hate the Scottish wedding in Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994).
- You never admit to being a Rangers or Celtic fan until you know who our daddy roots for.
As for Finnish girls, best to ask Judd Apatow as off-set wife Leslie Mann’s great-grandmother was Finnish so he can tell you just how often he tells her “you’re just like your great grandmother”. But don’t be biased by her roles in his movies, just don’t.. or just lie back and think of third generation Finn, Pamela Anderson.
Weeper Rating: 😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating:: 🙂 /10
Hulk Rating: /10