My previous post was focused on trying to understand if and why there are some tensions between Finnish-speaking Finns and Swedish-speaking Finns. That might leave one with a feeling that there is some kind of deep divide between Sweden and Finland. But that is only so very partially true, as there also are different layers to the culture and to the general atmosphere. To better describe the situation, I remember in the 1980's if people in Eastern Finland discussed like;
- Which foreign countries you have been to?
- Nah, only Sweden.
- Hehe, but Sweden isn't really a foreign country =)
Yeah, Sweden is considered to be like Finland, only that they speak their own language, most of the time their ice-hockey team beats Finland's team, and they used to be a bit wealthier and had more famous music groups. So kinda the lucky cousin or something =) There was no border control between Nordic countries, travelling from Finland to Sweden was as simple as hopping on a ferry. And up in the north where it is only a river which marks the border between Sweden and Finland, many people regularly visit the neighbouring country for shopping etc. A lot unlike the Soviet border in the 1980's - you needed to apply for a visa, and tell your travel plans beforehand - if the Soviet militia (police) would find you anywhere else than the route announced in your visa, you knew you were in trouble, a suspected western spy (and they'd be tracking you, just to be sure you stayed on your announced route of travel).
Also, many of the people who moved to work in Sweden in 1960's and 1970's they often praised Sweden for doing it right - they paid good salaries, workers had a nice amount of paid holidays, and all in all the state-provided services like health-care were pretty good. Just like in Finland, but 50% better =) Actually, finally Finnish iron- and steel industry had to introduce a special bonus paid to workers when they return back to work after a summer holiday. That was because so many workers had went to Sweden during the summer, and never returned because they found that in Sweden a similar job earns higher pay.
On another level, a lot of Finnish people (both Swedish-speaking and Finnish-speaking) have felt that the general atmosphere in Finland is rather narrow-minded and judgemental. But oh the lovely progressive Sweden, there you can freely be who you are, as there people are generally liberal and non-judgemental! In Finland people just get bullied for being different, everybody has to fit this or that box, and that's why Finnish cultural life is generally poorer that the Swedish.
So, in Finland among the blue-collar workers and progressive liberals you could and can find a good portion of people who admire Sweden and think that we should adopt some of their good ideas, and to learn their positive attitude. Also, even if you go to the more judgemental fraction of people - the ones like me in my early teenage years, who believed that Swedish is a stupid language, and Sweden is a silly country - it still was somehow not-so-serious. In the sense that nobody demanded to close the border to Sweden, nobody ever thought that we should be prepared for a possible Swedish armed invasion. Open borders and officially friendly political relationships were such a self-evident normal state of affairs that I simply don't remember anyone seriously questioning them, ever.
So, the way I see it - most of the negative attitudes and tensions between Finnish and Swedish speaking populations are a lot like that grandma in Tampere who didn't want people speaking in Savo-dialect to be allowed to move in Tampere. Inside Finland it would never occur to anyone that you'd need to apply for a permission to move into this or that city or town or village. People are free to move around, and it appears somehow silly to even suggest otherwise. If you are disturbed with people speaking a different dialect in your local public transport bus, then the problem is more likely with you than with those fellow citizens from another part of the country. If you take a train from Kuopio to Tampere there will be no-one checking your identity - and it was a lot like that when visiting Sweden or Norway (or Denmark or Iceland, although from a Finnish point of view it takes longer to travel there. But you could cross the border to Norway by skiing, and no-one cared.)
Again, if you ask my personal opinion; Is Sweden better that Finland? I don't have an opinion, since I'm not that interested in ranking things in hierarchies. They do some things differently, in some aspects our countries have different backgrounds so all the things can't be compared just like that, and yet the differences aren't that big after all. I like the general atmosphere of trust and openness, both between the ordinary people and the state organisations. I like the idea that people can freely visit neighbouring countries, seek homes and jobs, without being accused of spying or something. Oh well. And in this post I focused mostly on Sweden so I won't continue further philosophizing about nations, countries and borders. For the 'thumbs up, Sweden!' -gesture I'll post it in their language without translating; Heja Sverige!
Instead of posting a link to The Swedish Chef of The Muppet Show, and instead of an Abba song I'll post a link to a ballad by Molly Nilsson. Molly is originally from Sweden, for what that matters. Nowadays she lives in Germany. Does it make a difference? I don't think so, for
we were all born to be
so dangerously free
Don't wanna grow in their gardens
I wanna be the weed beyond the fence
I wanna live outside the frame
with no name in my defense
(lyrics by Molly Nilsson, in the song linked above)