Just like Gilligan, we boarded the ferry for our 2 hour cruise to Helsinki from Tallinn. Mr X had just watched the Cats go down narrowly to the Hawks so he was none too impressed when the guy who sat down opposite him had a Hawks’ polo shirt on. What are the chances in the middle of the Baltic Sea?

As educational leaders in the government system in a past life, Mr and Ms X had been lectured for many many years on how the Finnish Education system was THE best in the world. Our government sent many representatives over here to unlock the secret. Our schools tried hard to replicate what they thought made the difference in Finland, however, we still languished well below those Finns on that blasted PISA league ladder!

So what might Melburnians need to do to be a bit more Finnish? What is so special about these Nordic natives?

  • Melbourne already loves coffee however Finland leads the world in the most coffee drank per capita. And they do a cafe quite well.
  • Those Finns love to exercise rain, hail, sunshine or even in snow and ice. They even run up and down the steps in front of their big Lutheran cathedral daily
  • Given that they don’t have an abundance of warm weather they shield their eyes from the sun at the same time as embracing it. They even have a statue to remind each other.
  • They really do love fish; salmon and herring being their favourites and their street food depicts this 💖
  • They love a sauna and of course, lead the world with the number of saunas per capita. Mr and Ms X had one in their hotel and there is a central one for the public right near market square , just next door to their big wheel. And guess what their big wheel has got. Yep, one of the carriages on the wheel is a sauna! It will set you back €250 for an hour.
  • They put their big boats out for the summer for the aesthetics and pack them away for the other 8 months of the year when the place freezes over and they have to bring out the ice-breaker ships.
  • They haven’t a very good track record for “making good choices”as our Minnesotan friend Ms N likes to say. They kept joining the wrong teams during WWII and also embraced Tsar Nicolas 1st many years ago and hence have some Russian architecture around to remind them of these alliances. Don’t ask Ms X about her conflict in the Russian Cathedral over the dropped candle. We know she has a history of this (remember Cologne Cathedral that she nearly burnt down last year) however the Maltese Mafia did not have to jump on her so aggressively during this visit.
  • They know how to build a long lasting fortress. They have an island, Suomenlinna, full of such security. Now if they could only settle on which team they were on!
  • They like to read. A. Lot. They borrow the most library books per capita and they have a beautiful National Library to go with that trivia fact.

So, as we farewell Finland, we thank those Finns for the old Nokia phone that we all loved, for saunas, for the Angry Birds game, for Paavo Nurmi (ran very fast), Kimi Raikkonen (drives cars very fast), for all that salmon that heads south and for work-life balance (which I think they have nailed)

So maybe the secret to becoming smarter is to drink more coffee, close our shops on Sundays, spend time sweating more, read lots more books and run wherever all the time whilst eating fish.