A Finnish View of the United States

By Sarita Nieminen
The United States has always been known as a land of dreams and opportunities. In Finland we have always seen the U.S as a wonderful place. However, now that I have been in the country for five months, it’s hard for me to find things that are better here than back in Finland.
If we start with ordinary things like dates, I can only ask why the U.S. citizens put month/day/year? It doesn’t make sense to me. In Finland it goes day/month/year and the reason for that is simple: smallest to largest.
Next is the counting system. Why are things named like foot, inches and yards? Not only that, but the way to count them is confusing. The metric system goes by tens. The U.S. system? I have no idea.
Another problem is the way U.S. citizens describe the weather temperature in fahrenheit. Where does 32 F even come from? In Celsius it’s easier to understand. Zero is the freezing point and 100 is the boiling point. All the freezing temperatures are negatives and others are positive and it makes perfect sense. The U.S. is the only country who uses fahrenheit and the positional decimal system (the U.S. system of counting).
Finland has the best education system in the world and that’s why I feel that I’m free to say anything about that subject. In Finland we don’t have standardized testing, we trust our teachers’ ability to teach. We don’t get so much homework or get credits. The teacher doesn’t check if we have done our homework. They teach us what we need to know and in the finals, we show how well we have studied. We also have five to six semesters in the year and school can’t start before eight, it’s in the law.
Standardized testing doesn’t work with everybody. It makes students study only for the test, not for life. The information goes to your brains and stays there only a short period of time. Is that what school is for? Just getting the good grade on tests? No! Schools should teach students how to use this information in their lives, so they would actually survive and not just be book smart, but street smart too.
Homework and credits are stressing people out. Students have a long school day, and after school they may have other activities like sports. When they get home they are tired and want to relax, not stress out over homework. There are days when you don’t have time to do your homework or you don’t make it to school because of vacation or sickness. Those things makes you lose points in the class. Students may actually be interested in the homework and classroom assignments, but aiming for credits in the class makes them do it without much thinking because they want it to just be done by the deadline.
Also the fact that I can’t get fresh air during the school day is annoying to me. You’re not allowed to go outside, not even open the door for a minute. In Finland it’s recommended to go outside during the breaks. The teachers in Finland say that going outside and getting fresh air will make your brains work better, and you will feel more energized.
In a Finnish point of view, Americans care too much about politics. Sometimes I feel that’s all people can talk about. Everybody has some kind of opinion about it. In Finland, we may not even know who our prime minister is.
Instead of having two main parties, in Finland we have six main parties. There are always three parties that are going head to head at the same time. People vote for the ruling parties every four years. The president is selected every sixth year and it doesn’t matter what party he/she is in, it doesn’t make any difference in the government.
In Finland we also have a parliament that has 200 members and 41.5 percent are women when in the U.S. only 19.4 percent are women. Finland seems more equal and to be honest, we had a woman president for twelve years. She was awesome. We still love her. After her we almost got a gay president. It didn’t happen but it was close. He got 44 percent of the votes, so I could say Finland is a pretty open-minded country. I’m not saying that America is not, but your problems are bigger.
In Finland we don’t list people’s ethnic backgrounds. If you’re Finnish then you’re Finnish, it doesn’t matter what your skin color or religion is. Of course 95 percent of the  population are white nordic people and ¾ belongs to the Protestant Lutheran Church, but there are other people too.
One of my best friend’s dads is from India and my coach is Chilean. We also have a large gypsy culture in Finland. If you live in Finland and speak Finnish, you’re a Finn.
In the U.S. if you go to the doctor, you need to fill out papers and tell if you’re Asian, African-American, White, Mexican or other. I can’t understand why in a country where everybody, not including Native Americans, are basically immigrants, people can’t just make it work and stop categorizing people by their ancestors.
It’s the United States, why can’t you be United People too?