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kottke.org posts about Finland

Helsinki has a library to learn about the world, the city, and each other

posted by Patrick Tanguay   Nov 05, 2019

Oodi

The Finns love libraries, and a new fabulous one opened last year in Helsinki. Tommi Laitio, Helsinki’s executive director for culture and leisure was at the CityLab DC conference recently and presented some of the thinking behind Finland’s investments in libraries and culture, and why they are so important to their country.

“This progress from one of the poorest countries of Europe to one of the most prosperous has not been an accident. It’s based on this idea that when there are so few of us—only 5.5 million people—everyone has to live up to their full potential,” he said. “Our society is fundamentally dependent on people being able to trust the kindness of strangers.”

One of the goals of the Oodi library is to make them less afraid of the various contemporary anxieties and from more informed citizens.

Nordic-style social services have not shielded the residents of Finland’s largest city from 21st-century anxieties about climate change, migrants, disruptive technology, and the other forces fueling right-leaning populist movements across Europe. Oodi, which was the product of a 10-year-long public consultation and design process, was conceived in part to resist these fears. “When people are afraid, they focus on short-term selfish solutions,” Laitio said. “They also start looking for scapegoats.”

The central library is built to serve as a kind of citizenship factory, a space for old and new residents to learn about the world, the city, and each other. It’s pointedly sited across from (and at the same level as) the Finnish Parliament House that it shares a public square with.

The library is widely popular and committed to openness.

Oodi just hit 3 million visitors this year—“a lot for a city of 650,000,” Laitio said. In its very first month, 420,000 Helsinki residents—almost two-thirds of the population—went to the library. Some may only have been skateboarders coming in to use the bathroom, but that’s fine: The library has a “commitment to openness and welcoming without judgement,” he said. “It’s probably the most diverse place in our city, in many ways.” (Emphasis mine)

Oodi

Oodi

Oodi

The images are taken from this post on ArchDaily where you can also find a lot more views of the gorgeous spaces.

Life Aboard a Finnish Icebreaker

posted by Jason Kottke   Apr 22, 2019

Monocle has produced a pair of videos about what Finland’s fleet of icebreakers do and what daily life is like for the crew.

In the second video, I was most interested in how life aboard icebreakers has changed now that wifi and personal TVs & DVD players are ubiquitous. Crew members are able to speak & video chat with their families daily (instead of every few weeks or months as in the past) and as a result, they feel less isolated and closer to their loved ones. But at the same time, access to the internet and TVs in each cabin results in less on-board socialization among the crew, which perhaps makes for a less tight-knit group. Extrapolating to society at large is left as an exercise to the viewer.

See also the Relaxing Sounds of an Arctic Icebreaker. (via why is this interesting?)

Pantsdrunk, the Finnish Art of Relaxation

posted by Jason Kottke   Oct 10, 2018

Kalsarikanni

You’ve likely heard of hygge, the Danish word for a special feeling of coziness that’s been productized on Instagram and elsewhere to within an inch of its charming life. The Finns have a slightly different take on the good life called kalsarikännit, which roughly translates to “pantsdrunk” in English. A promotional site from the Finnish government defines it as “the feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear — with no intention of going out”. They made the emoji above to illustrate pantsdrunkenness.1

Finnish journalist Miska Rantanen has written a book on kalsarikännit called Päntsdrunk (Kalsarikänni): The Finnish Path to Relaxation.

When it comes to happiness rankings, Finland always scores near the top. Many Finnish phenomena set the bar high: the best education system, gender equality, a flourishing welfare state, sisu or bull-headed pluck. Behind all of these accomplishments lies a Finnish ability to stay calm, healthy and content in a riptide of endless tasks and temptations. The ability comes from the practice of “kalsarikanni” translated as pantsdrunk.

Peel off your clothes down to your underwear. Place savory or sweet snacks within reach alongside your bed or sofa. Make sure your television remote control is nearby along with any and all devices to access social media. Open your preferred alcohol. Your journey toward inner strength, higher quality of life, and peace of mind has begun.

Kalsarikännit isn’t as photogenic as hygge but there is some evidence of it on Instagram. As Rantanen explains, this lack of performance is part of the point:

“Pantsdrunk” doesn’t demand that you deny yourself the little things that make you happy or that you spend a fortune on Instagrammable Scandi furniture and load your house with more altar candles than a Catholic church. Affordability is its hallmark, offering a realistic remedy to everyday stress. Which is why this lifestyle choice is the antithesis of posing and pretence: one does not post atmospheric images on Instagram whilst pantsdrunk. Pantsdrunk is real. It’s about letting go and being yourself, no affectation and no performance.

I have been off alcohol lately, but kalsarikännit is usually one of my favorite forms of relaxation, particularly after a hard week.

  1. That’s right, the Finnish government made emoji of people getting pantsdrunk. Americans are suuuuuper uptight.

Finnish schools to teach topics, not subjects

posted by Jason Kottke   Mar 23, 2015

Finland is planning on phasing out teaching by subject (math, geography, etc.) and replace it with a teaching-by-topic approach.

Subject-specific lessons — an hour of history in the morning, an hour of geography in the afternoon - are already being phased out for 16-year-olds in the city’s upper schools. They are being replaced by what the Finns call “phenomenon” teaching — or teaching by topic. For instance, a teenager studying a vocational course might take “cafeteria services” lessons, which would include elements of maths, languages (to help serve foreign customers), writing skills and communication skills.

More academic pupils would be taught cross-subject topics such as the European Union — which would merge elements of economics, history (of the countries involved), languages and geography.

As a generalist, wannabe polymath, and obvious fan of a scattershot approach to knowledge gathering & dissemination, I approve. (via qz)

Update: From the Finnish National Board of Education: Subject teaching in Finnish schools is not being abolished.

The news that Finland is abolishing teaching separate subjects has recently hit the headlines world-wide. Subject teaching is not being abolished although the new core curriculum for basic education will bring about some changes in 2016.

(via @adamcreen)

Mobility on demand

posted by Jason Kottke   Jul 14, 2014

Helsinki has announced plans to integrate all transportation within the Finnish city into a single system with a single payment structure and run it as a public utility.

Helsinki aims to transcend conventional public transport by allowing people to purchase mobility in real time, straight from their smartphones. The hope is to furnish riders with an array of options so cheap, flexible and well-coordinated that it becomes competitive with private car ownership not merely on cost, but on convenience and ease of use.

Subscribers would specify an origin and a destination, and perhaps a few preferences. The app would then function as both journey planner and universal payment platform, knitting everything from driverless cars and nimble little buses to shared bikes and ferries into a single, supple mesh of mobility. Imagine the popular transit planner Citymapper fused to a cycle hire service and a taxi app such as Hailo or Uber, with only one payment required, and the whole thing run as a public utility, and you begin to understand the scale of ambition here.

As the Helsinki Times’ headline reads, the future resident of Helsinki will not own a car.

Nordic geopolitics

posted by Jason Kottke   Aug 03, 2006

Heading into dinner last night, I believed with certainty that Finland was one of the Scandinavian countries. I rebuffed Mr. Jones’ attempts to disabuse me of that notion before dessert arrived, but it wasn’t until this morning that I checked into the matter and found that he may be correct.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune investigated the issue back in January, finding that there’s some controversy, even among the staff at the Finnish Embassy in Washington D.C.:

I called the Finnish Embassy in Washington, D.C., where press aide Mari Poyhtari started by saying Finland is part of Scandinavia, but then someone in the background disagreed and she corrected herself. The most accurate term is Fenno-Scandinavia or the Nordic countries, Poyhtari said. But, she admitted, “We always say we’re part of Scandinavia.”

The Wikipedia page on Scandinavia, the result of a vigorous discussion on the topic, indicates that there are several possible arrangements of Scandinavian countries, depending on the grouping criteria used and who you’re talking to.

So there you go, clear as mud. Probably best to avoid the issue altogether in the future by using the term Nordic instead of Scandinavian. All look same anyway.

Update: Underbelly notes that this “issue is in no way limited to Scandinavians”:

It’s the kind of muddiness you just have to expect when you consider any culture. Was Cleopatra an Egyptian? Are the Tasmanians British? What did the Byzanatines have in mind when they described themselves as “The Romans” while fighting wars against, well, Rome?

(thx, jack)