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EU > Finland > Rovaniemi

Stick to the rules

Rovaniemi, FI (View on map)

If there is one thing that makes Finland stand out from its Central European siblings, it`s their tendency to always stick to the rules. It has helped Finland the least corrupted country in the world, while neighbouring some countries where corruption is more of a norm than an exception. I am trying to learn more about this whole rule-idea today, finding out where it could possibly have come from and which rules are more important than others.

Satu (25):

`Rules are rules`
The question `Why do you always stick to the rules` is bound to produce useless results, because most of the Finns do not really know why. `Rules are rules`, says Satu (25, photo) and all other people I speak to reply in the same manner. `It is not something you think about`. Satu explains that Finnish people have a basic trust in authorities, so if they are told to do something, they expect there will be a reason for it.

Not anyone issueing rules will see his plans followed instantly. Rules that are observed are preferrably issued by official institutions and need to be sensible. Fortunately, Finland is rather loose on many rules, which makes obeying them a lot easier. Another requirement for the rules to be followed: the authority needs to be a trusted source. Becoming a trusted authority or even a friend is not the easiest thing, so that is how the system balances itself out. Finns are very experienced at unconsciously weighing the trustworthiness of the person on the other side of the table.

Official authorities also have the possibility to issue fines to make sure the rules are observed. They do use that possibility. Speeding for example can be a costly pastime. Exceeding the speed limit by more than 20 kilometres means that the fine will be calculated with your income as a basis. The more you earn, the more you pay for the offence. Be rich and have bad luck - fines of over 100 000 have been issued without merci.

Red lights
Ville-Pekka (23) lived in London for a while, where hardly any pedestrian ever stops for the red light. That`s quite different in Finland where jay-walkers are exceptional. Villa-Pekka thinks that honesty and humbleness are the two main characteristics of the Finnish people. These virtues are being transmitted from generation to generation, starting at the early childhood years. Helena (56) works in a restaurant and she is not very positive about the way people in other countries raise their children: `When we have English kids here, they run around the restaurants and the parents just sit and do nothing. Finnish kids are much more silent and behave a lot better.` Etienne (23, from France) remarks that all the streets are clean here - cleaner than he has seen pretty much anywhere else. Leaving dirt is considered the opposite of thoughtful, especially when hiking or skiing in the forest.

In relation to my earlier article about TV and Media, it`s a cartoon called `The Moomis` that helps parents and teachers in transmitting moral values in a way that is accessible and comprehensible to children. Their adventures show the importance of friendship and family values and at the same time separates the `bad and evil`.

Although putting the two on the same pile may seem a little strange, the Moomis are accompanied by the church in their efforts to raise children in a sensible manner. Finns are on average not very fanatic about religion and many call themselves atheist. Nevertheless, all schools teach religion. Sonja (21) explains a very basic Finnish philosophy: `I remember the rules and forget about the religion`. In a way similar to religion, the compulsary army service for men also spreads discipline and good manners.

There seems to be one escape from the rules: getting drunk. Weekends are the most suitable for that, but any other day could be used just as well. Drink-and-drive is also breaking the rules, but it is done a lot. `Smuggling` of alcohol is also a general practise, but all these alcohol-related incidents seem to be the exception that confirms the rule. The rule being that rules are there to be followed. upcoming postings may be delayed as I am somewhere far away in the middle of a forest with no electricity)

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