International journalists – messengers for Finland?
A growing awareness of Finland has awoken a deep appreciation for her home country, writes Katja Anttila, in this week’s column.
Finns are modest people. Tooting your own horn or bragging, for instance, about Finnish expertise, can still be embarrassing. Is it easier to leave that to foreigners? And is it enough?
For several years, I have been organising international media tours for foreign journalists coming to Finland. During a tour, journalists will get to see and experience the Finnish way of doing things with their own eyes and senses. Each tour has a certain theme, and these vary from design to chemistry and education to maritime technology, for instance.
No matter what the subject, usually journalists are genuinely surprised about the innovations, expertise or technology Finland has. Some of the journalists have even expressed their willingness to move to Finland based on what they have seen. At the same time, I myself have learned a great deal about different types of Finnish industries. A new kind of pride for my home country has awoken. Whereas, when younger, Finland seemed so boring that it had to be escaped from to far away countries, now, it feels like a wonderful motherland.
For example, Finnish companies have designed about 80 per cent of the world’s icebreakers, and about 60 per cent of them have been built by Finnish shipyards. Based on international rankings, Finland has the most efficient healthcare system, and Helsinki is one of the top startup cities in the world. Education system and press freedom are top notch! To mention but a few.
Sure, there is only so much you can see or experience during a short stay. We do try to give a multifaceted picture of the topic at hand, with all the flaws it may have, but it clearly isn’t enough to give the whole picture. It does, however, give an initiative to start exploring a certain field of Finnish expertise in more depth, and, perhaps, to come back to Finland.
It is often said that when a Finn meets a foreigner in Finland, they ask: “Of all the countries in the world, why did you come to Finland?” My question in the same situation would be: “How come you didn’t come here sooner?”
We Finns surely need help from the messengers, but let’s also confidently share the good life we have. It is not embarrassing.