- -  Day # 61  + +

EU > Sweden > Ume?

Finns vs. Swedes

Ume?, SE (View on map)

After writing about Finland`s languages and finding out about the position of the Swedes there, I spend today trying to find out about the differences between the real Finns and the real Swedes. In the meantime, I am finding my way from Vaasa (Finland) to Ume? (Sweden) by ferry. Four and a half hours travelling time, moving one time zone west and, once more, a new flag in the upper right corner of the Us Europeans website.

Elin (24):

`A large part of Finland is Swedish-speaking, but they have a very strange accent that I like to call Mumin-Svenska`
Nicke (33) is a performing artist who is originally from the Swedish part of Finland. He recently moved to northern Sweden and is taking the Vaasa-Ume? ferry to join his wife in Northern Swedish. After giving me a ride to the ferry terminal, he shows to be experienced in comparing Finland and Sweden to each other. Quite randomly, he starts by stating that everything in Sweden contains more sugar than the same products in Finland. With bread being the best and mustard the second best example of how the sugar can ruin the product.

Finns about Sweden
Nick continues about the north of Sweden, starting from Stockholm northwards, is actually very similar to Finland. Finnish people are said to need only few friends to lead their lives and a few words to express their needs: what they say is what they mean is the same and vice versa. People from the South of Sweden will be quicker in inviting people for coffee and calling and referring to them as `friends` afterwards. Already before leaving, many people told me that in Sweden things are not always what they seem, although opinions are shared about that.

Finns think that Swedes are drunk all the time, but that is a mutual observation. The difference seems to be that Swedes get drunk to party, while Finns get drunk simply to get drunk. The stereotype further decides that Swedes are noisy and arrogant.Even in Finland, where Swedish speaking are a quite small minority, they tend to have access to the better jobs. Finns think of Swedes no only as arrogant versus the Finns, but also over-self-confident and proud in comparison to the rest of the world. Part of that can be explained by history, as all Scandinavian countries at one point in time belonged to the Swedish empire. They all have the same slight aversion of what they call Swedish arrogance.

Today, both Sweden and Finland are home to leading products in a variety of industries. The difference between the two resides in the Swedish companies generally known to be Swedish, while Finnish companies are often thought to come from other countries. Nokia is often seen as Japanese, while W?rtsila is not generally recognised as Finnish. Still, it is one of the world`s main manufacturers of diesel engines for, among others, cruise ships. Kone, manufacturer of elevators, may be known by people in the mechanic business area but to hardly anyone foreign to the industry. Paper manufacturer Stora Enso is even the biggest in the world.

Other resemblances include the popularity of hardrock music, even increasingly so since a Swede recently became a singer of the Finnish band Nightwish. Both Finland and Sweden have state owned shops for alcohol. They make a big contrast with the situation in for example the Baltic States, where half the shop shelves are filled up with alcohol up until the strongest kinds.

Ice hockey is equally popular in Sweden and Finland. The teams tend to compete at quite an equal level, making a Sweden-Finland hockey match one of the biggest challenges to the neighbour relation. Swedish Finns may have a hard time choosing sides. Kristina (28) is one of them and after long hesitations, she says that she would support the Finnish team, because after all, Finland is her home country even though she does not speak Finnish.

Swedes about Finland
Swedes tend to call their neighbours in the East more primitive, less open and more rigid. Finland takes up much fewer refugees from war-zones than Sweden does, and both Finnish nature and Finnish people are less welcoming to foreigners. But returning back to the friendship difference, there is no comparison for Finnish friendship, which is designed to last life-long. Elin (24, photo), who is hosting me in Ume?, smiles about what she calls `Mumin Svenska`, referring to the way Finnish people speak Swedish or even English: flat and with little melody to it. She further affirms that the north of Sweden is home to more Finnish people than the west of Finland has Swedish people. Although many people in the north speak a dialect closer to Finnish than to normal Swedish and have Finnish family names, the Finnish language has never been an official language in Sweden. The only real common language between Sweden, Finland and also Norway is Saami, spoken by the indigenous population of Lappland: the northernmost parts of each of the countries.

The above should list at least the most obvious and stereotypical differences between Finland and Sweden. I now have two weeks left to get to know some of these arrogant Swedes and see what they are really like.

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