Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Finnish home versus the American home

This idea has already be written about by other bloggers, but it is something I had personally been thinking about for a while.  There are many differences between the American home and the Finnish home, some obvious and others subtle.  I thought it might be interesting to discuss a few of them for this current blog article.

I have mentioned this in a much earlier blog entry, the biggest difference is the size of the home.  Many Finns live in homes with their families that are around 100 square meters, which is about 1,100 square feet.  You typically don't see homes more than 175 square meters ( 1,900 square feet).  Of course, there are bigger and smaller homes, but they aren't the standard.  There are 2 reasons for this that I can see: 1)  Finns are generally more efficient than Americans, they are wise with the space they have and do not need tons of extra "wasted" space.  2)  The Nordic weather means that you need to heat your house and it would be very costly to heat your 3,000 square foot mansion for 5-6 cold months each year.  :).  The home we are living in now is a bit smaller than our home in California, but I have gotten used to it and we use space more efficiently.

Finnish homes typically have plain white walls!  I am not sure why many Finns like the plain white walled look because I really don't care for it.   I think it is sterile and cold.  Luckily, the home we are currently living in is not typical of a Finnish home.  Many of the walls were painted with various colors.  I personally want to avoid a hospital like environment in my home and appreciate some color.  Seems like Finns have a fear of using colors.   :)

Many Finnish home do not have a drying machine.  Americans definitely don't understand this one and would hate the inconvenience, but it seems that now Finnish families with younger kids do have drying machines.  I think much of the older generation got used to just hang drying their clothes and many others feel the extra energy used it just wasted.  Yea, I agree it is less energy wasteful to hang dry clothes, but sorry I am just going to be lazy and pop my clothes in the dryer and enjoy the convenience.  :)

Finnish homes generally have smaller kitchens and smaller appliances.  You typically don't see these over the top American style kitchens in Finland.  You know the ones with the huge counter tops, Island in the center, 6 grills, double refrigerator, huge double oven, stone pizza oven, pots and pans hanging down, etc.  I am sure that there are exceptions, but I haven't seen them myself.  Sure, it is nice to have all this fancy stuff, but you can still cook just about anything with a smaller kitchen.  It just takes some planning, preparation and patience.  I never really had an excessive American kitchen, so I am doing just fine with the smaller version here in Finland.

I have yet to see a home in Finland with either a "walk-in" closet or a master bathroom.  These items are very typical of  the American household.   I think just about every home in American has a master bathroom, and many have "walk-in" style closets.  Sure, they are nice to have, but now that I have moved with to Finland, I realize that they are not necessary.  Having more is not always better.  However, I do have to admit that they are nice to have, especially the privacy and convenience of the master bathroom that is always separated from the other bathrooms that are used in America for the children or guests.

Finnish homes are generally well insulated and have more efficient heating systems.  Most Americans homes have central air and heating units where the air is pumped up through the home.  These systems are a bit noisy and don't seem as efficient now having lived in Finland for the last year.  The more outdated way in Finland to heat a home is to use individual floor heating units they call "batteries".  In the newer homes each room has individual floor heating, that can also be controlled individually. It is nice to be able to control the rooms you want, instead of just pumping warm air through the vents throughout the entire home.  The heating systems in Finland make no noise and keep the rooms warm for several hours after they are turned off. I guess it makes sense that the systems are more efficient in Finland, considering how cold the winters can get.  I wonder why the United States doesn't seem to get past their noisy and clunky central air heating systems?  Anyhow, I find many of these differences interesting after having spent a year abroad.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hullut Päivät - Crazy Days

It seems that American marketing techniques have infiltrated Finland.  This week, Finland's largest department store, Stockmann had their "Hullut Päivät" or "Crazy days" store promotions.  And crazy it was, it brought hordes of maniacal shoppers to the stores.  They had massive amounts of signs and promotions to lure in customers in, like pieces of metal being sucked into one giant magnet.  

Since I have lived in Finland, I have not seen many American style marketing tactics being used, with most stores just doing some basic newspaper promotions, etc.  The recent event at Stockmann was like experiencing the day after Thanksgiving's "Black Friday" in America all over again.  The parking lots were full early and the stores were buzzing with energy.  The stores even featured people dressed in costumes and they were having canned conversations with each other to create more fervor.  It went something like this "Hey, did you know about the great deal in electronics", "No, can you show me" and then they would proceed to the electronics department trying to lure more suckers along with them.

The irony of these crazy days is that there aren't really any crazy good sales going on.  They are simply sucking you in and then giving a few good deals, but most of the items are not really at bargain basement prices.  They had many items in bins just outside the store to get your attention and then the shoppers would walk into the store and unload half their wallets.   I never thought the Finns were very good at marketing, but Stockmann has it down to a science.  Finnish businesses should take note, but is this a good thing?  Let me now your opinion on the American marketization of Finnish products.    Who knows before long Black Friday will invade Finland, but I sure hope not anytime soon.