This is Why It’s My Duty to Tell You Why the Finnish Cheese Slicer is Great

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Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

I think I have found myself becoming a slightly smug bore.

I was at a family event in a beautiful hotel in Cologne recently, meeting friends and family from all over the world, some for the first time in a long while.

Conversations would quickly cover the basics of life; my family, my work as an adoxographer and music-doer, and then the question would always pop up, the great enigma of which I as an authority could dispense palpable knowledge, “what is Finland like?”

And now, with the ball in my court I could let rip; “Oh Finland is like this,” and “Oh Finland is like that” – on and on and on. If they asked about the weather I could talk about it for hours, or sauna, public transport, houses or food.

Of course when you are engaging in multiple conversational partners in one evening it becomes an act of battology. A repetition of the same anecdotes, statistics and fun facts. I would hold the attention of three people only for a fourth to join in mid-way and that meant I’d have to rewind and go through explaining the efficiency of the Finnish drying cabinet once more.

I do like to talk, I do exaggerate sometimes and I am also a bit of a show off. But somehow instead of boasting of sitting in 150°C saunas and punching bears I drone on and on and catch myself criticising the fact that sinks in Britain have a hot tap and a separate cold tap when it would be more efficient if they had just one tap with hot and cold knobs like in Finland (it IS very efficient but hardly party conversation).

Not all my conversations are like this, for example if I’m talking about literature or music, I am probably more interested in hearing what you have to say so I can build up my knowledge and learn about new things that I might be interested in. I adore the conversational dance and the bouncing of information from one to another, entertaining, complimenting and educating one and another, the vocal sorcery of colloquizing.

Maybe I drone on about Finland because so little is known by many I know back home and the few things that are known are usually steeped in tired cliché. As a sort of herald of life in Finland it is my duty to put straight the myths and inform of the wonders of the country, but when my conversation partner has no active part in the fabrication of the dialogue, it turns it into a one sided monologue by an increasingly boring aeolist.

Have you ever had to pick up visiting friends or family from Helsinki airport and then explain how the public transport system works?

As a sort of herald of life in Finland it is my duty to put straight the myths and inform of the wonders of the country.

For me it is one of the ripest fruits of conversation to have with a non-Finn, explaining what all the numbers on the card swipe machine mean, explaining that we can use buses, trains, trams, metro and a boat, which is all fine and informative. Then I explain how people with children in buggies get to travel for free, again interesting and informative. Then I start talking about the benefits of the Valmet model of trams over the more modern but ultimately inferior Variotram and I start to lose my audience.

Another strange aspect of this Finland based monologuing is that I do a near reverse version to Finnish people about England. The hours I have spent battering my homeland to poor Finnish people who are too polite to tell me to shut up: England is rubbish, it’s too expensive, jobs are rubbish, trains are rubbish, not enough trams, no sauna, government is rubbish, countryside is boring etc. etc.

My excessive talking comes from the difference in cultures which dovetails into a near never-ending cycle of combating awkwardness; Finns don’t mind silence and don’t feel awkward not talking but English people feel awkward when there is silence so tend to fill it with inane witterings until someone else takes over, which Finns never do as they find it rude to interrupt.

Back at the hotel in Cologne I discovered they had a “Finnisch” sauna in the spa area so my brother and I both went to check it out.

It was fantastic with a huge quartz type crystal on the stove, lots of space and an excellent sauna heat, but being me I began: “In Finland I have a sauna about three times a week,” then, “Actually sometimes I have four,” and “I think the best temperature for sauna is 90 degrees.”

At this point I noticed the rapid succession of water being thrown onto the stove by my brother, an attempt I assume to make me shut up. It worked.

Finns don’t mind silence and don’t feel awkward not talking but English people feel awkward when there is silence so tend to fill it with inane witterings until someone else takes over, which Finns never do as they find it rude to interrupt.

Hopefully no one will get the wrong idea about what I am writing, I am in no way implying that Finland is boring. I find Finland a very interesting place, I do love it here and consider the country my new home. And let’s face it, I’m sure friends and family are happier having their ears bent by me talking about why it is very important to take your shoes off when entering a house, rather than whining about how rubbish my new life is. It’s also nice to have so much information to divulge on my new home.

Still, I don’t want to become that boring guy who corners people at parties and drones on about one subject. It’s just that if you do want to know about Finland and you ask me, I will gi­ve you the unabridged, unedited version if you let me. The thing is, the Finnish cheese slicer IS actually totally amazing and I see it as my responsibility to ensure that everybody knows it!

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