The Slovenia Times

Northern Exposure



Finland would definitely ring a few bells. The letter N (as in north) immediately jumps to mind: Nokia and Nykänen. The former stands as a mark of quality in mobile communications (although there's more than just digital toys behind the brand); the latter for sports hero - the man who conquered our beloved Planica in the eighties (Slovenes prefer to overlook the former ski-jumper's more recent persona). Speaking of ski jumpers, another N comes to mind: Nikkola (Ari-Pekka), once Nykänen's wingman, now coach of our own "eagle" Jernej Damjan... and an incidental hero of a popular Slovenian song.

Besides these, depending on personal interests, the list would include other popular other celebrities like Mika Haekkinen or musical entities Apocalyptica and the Leningrad Cowboys - both of whom are quite well known to Ljubljana audiences... Then, of course, any film buff would mention Aki Kaurismaeki and aesthetes would almost certainly raise Tapio Wirkkala... The letter S is also strongly associative: Sibelius, sauna and skiing (although, the Finns regard skiing as a cross-country pursuit rather than a downhill one as Slovenes do). Oh, yes - Finlandia, of course, ...cheers!

During an amusing discussion with a Slovene-Finnish couple who have settled in a small town near Ljubljana (the girl is a Finn), it was interesting to learn that our northern friends don't understand the Slovene compulsion to hike in the mountains; way too much effort. On the other hand, most Slovenes wouldn't want jump into ice-cold water after a sauna either.

After acknowledging that Finland rates highly in terms of female participation in the public sphere, we came to the conclusion that Slovenes treat men and women pretty much as equals when it comes to careers. Nevertheless, our Finnish friend still feels that Slovenians have different sets of rules when it comes to behaviour: women should look after their men, never swear and be always cheerful.

She also made the point that Finnish people may not describe themselves as being individuals, but they certainly are more independent and self sufficient. Most Finns leave the nest at around 19 - a very young age from a Slovenian perspective. This is probably because everyone is entitled to a non-refundable government grant that covers all living expenses during their study years, including accommodation. The same applies for anyone who is unemployed.It means that you can avoid the inevitable unsolicited advice from your family, who you must rely upon in Slovenia in such cases. The clan mentality is accompanied with all manner of expectations - from what you wear to how you should spend your life. But it also has its positives: people get to know their neighbours and friendships tend to last a life time.

And how much do Finns know about Slovenia? According to our 'source', who has lived here for three years now, Slovenes seem to know more about Finland than the other way around. Some Finns recall Slovenia was a part of Yugoslavia, older people know of Tito, but nearly everybody has heard of Primož Peterka, the ski jumper. And yes... they are familiar with Elan, but rarely identify it as a Slovenian brand.

So much about the two nations... oh, yes, there is just one more similarity that surfaced during our discussions: there is a similar level of honesty and openness in both of us... if you ask a Finn or a Slovene about their well being, you are liable to get the full picture - from birth!

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