Oh, what would be culturally sensitive course with a Bavarian without Oktoberfest! We were greatly satisfied that PISTOT (the official parties by the three biggest subject organizations in TAMK: TTO, TIRO and PIRATE) had an Octoberfest theme party. (Into which I of course had a vip access;)
Well they didn’t last for two weeks like the original one does. There weren’t any dozens of massive beer tents carring hundreds of people. There were only few blond maiden waitresses. And no amusement park constructed nearby the beer tents. And well actually no fast food joints serving shcnitzels and bratwurst mitt sourkraut. Or italians drunk as hell 10 in the morning. But Victor did wear his original lederhosen as the only one in the festival crowd. But points for the good spirit! And after all they are Finnish Student parties…
We did however drink in the style of the original Octoberfest. Even though the beer was bad compared to the one they serve on the real one. Oh and it came in glasses half of the proper size. But at least I had fun trying to explain the drink names. White russian was called Schweinsteige… no sorry acording to “the-Bavarian-Fussball-star-who-must-not-be-named”. Curious enough Jallushot was named as Aatu after a certain Austrian statesman who had a funny mustache. And well after the previous discussion it took some guts to explain the context. But we did one thing according to the original Oktoberfest traditon: party till the morning and drink beer to exaggerated extent!
As I held a high position in the students Union administration I tend to avoid discussing controversial topics related to timid political or religious issues. However one monday evening that I was just about to show the outskirts of Lappinniemi and cruiseboat harbour on a cloudy Septembery monday evening. Maybe it was the motion while walking or the timidity of lakeside scenery that launched the discussion on WW2. Wait a second! Nope it was Victors saturday evening in local pub that emeged the topic – sorry! He spoke Germany on the smoking spot with a fellow landman and had noticed that he had run out of matches. Therefore Victor asked from a local guy if he had any fire. The guy had heard them speaking German and just replied (direct quote) : “ette saa tulta saatanan lapinpolttajat!” Which could be translated somewhat like: “You aren’t getting any fire from me you goddamn Lapplandburners!”
After first gagging for a while I then got some words out of my mouth. I started explaining that as a matter of fact in the second World War Germany and Finland were allies. In the caotic end of the war however Finland managed to pull itself out of the war with the famous trick conducted by president and statesman Risto Ryti. He promised to Hitler that he will personally guarantee that he won’t make a separate peace with Soviet Union in coorepondence to notable aid in military material. After the Soviet attack was warded off Ryti resigned from his position while Marshall Mannerheim took the position as temporary president without the bounderies of Ryti’s contracts.
Once the peace was made there was still a notable amount of German soliders in Northern Finland who had been responsible for the battlefront there. Based on the peace treaty between Finland and Soviet Union the German military forces had to be driven away from the country. At first the old brothers in arms kind of played the retreat. Everything would have gone well if the head of the Soviet Inspection comitee Anton Zdanov wouldn’t have heard of the arrangement. He demanded more powerful and swift procedure. Therfore there was no other way than to start driving the German troops away with force. That’s how the war of Lappland started. Understandably the Germans were infuriated and burnt everything in Lappland while retreating to Norway. Hence what the local said to Victor in the pub. Of course our generation is not the one to be blamed of the war. Reasons to the war are always so complex and a myriad that they would be worth an own blogtext so I won’t be going any deeper to them at this point.
At this point of the conversation if not hell – at least all of the psychological locs were unleashed.
In Germany backwash from the heritage of WW2 has been extremely profound and harsh! Virtually all of the Nazi past has been prompted to wash away. Much to our dismay right-wing nationalistic movements are again rising their heads in both Germany and Finland.
Victor told that their history teaching starts from the elemnatary school hammering their heads that nazism is an extremely bad thing and Hitler was an insanely malevous man! I have seen the vast everburning lights comemorating the victims of Nazis in front of the fromer Nazi hedquters in Munich (where the movement was originally founded). They are a stopping sight I must say!
The burden of third reich and the war must be an extremely heavy weight to carry! Especially the elderly people in Germany are much ashamed of it and would rather not discuss about the topic with foreigners. Younger generations – people of my age- has a more open approach to the burdens of past. Victor said that many youngsters of his age even joke about Hitler and Nazis. Humour is indeed an excellent way of dealing with even extremely difficult topics. And at this point I must yet again highlight that Victor and I share a very dark and mischievous sense of humour! The following is my personal interpretation and does not present point of view of any organization that I might in other contexts represent: but all in all it seems that despite the extreme burdens of the past Germans have gone through a very thorough, profound and harsh contemplation with their past and have come to terms with the horrors that have taken place previously in their history.
To return the favor a few days later on 21st of September I invited Victor to my place. I had had a really rough week and wanted to eat acordingly so I introduced a Finnish classic: “Hookoon sininen uunijuustolla” That is a very big and floury Finnish sausage with a plenty of cheese baked in the oven. And what would be better with it then plenty of mustard and some Karhu (a local beer brand)! Victor sure liked the meal – no wonder, Gemans are a fable sausage folk! Even though German wursts tend to contain more meat then their Finnish equivalents.
It’s said that food describes a lot about the national character. Thus cultural awareness would not be complete without comparing and understanding each others food culture. We had a nice and relaxing evening with German food on Monday 19th of September.
Victor cooked us traditional German treat: knödels. They are cooked doughballs made out of various ingredients which can be potatoes, breadcrumbels, wheat flour and milk and eggs. There can be meat or various other ingredients inside. This time Victor made a really traditional interpretation of knödels. He cooked them out of Pretzelcrumbs and baked mushrooms inside. During my stay in Germany I had tasted knödels not no winter what they were. Once I had the privilege of enjoying them again I simply fell in love with them!
Several days later that we had recovered (exept for my cough) in the moral hangover we decided to discuss more serious cultural topics. This time we ended up yet again comparing societies. And well we did find a lot of similarities.
The system of justice is on both countries based on the -yes ancient Roman concept of justice. But I didn’t start with the phrase. In addition it’s worth mentioning that the German folklore has it’s own traditions of legal usage spicing the German traditions up. And as for Finland well, ES copied it from the Germany like the framefork for our educational system.
Financial systems in the society are to an extent similiar as well. Heavy industry that leans on export is the corner of both finances. Very well and hihgly educated labour is essential for economic succes in both countries. And post-industrial information-based service-society is the developmental phase of both societies.
And what again was the biggest branch of German industry? – Ja das auto!
We couldn’t avoid talking about cars and car industry for so long and profoundly that if we had been acompanied by any lady, she would have kicked us on the groins. I’m more a Mercedes-man whereas Victor prefers BMW. I wonder why? Their headquaters are located in Munich if I remeber correctly and it’s the biggest employer in the region. But we both could compromise for an Audi. It’s a pity that Finnish roads aren’t long or in condition good enough to take the monster out of our favourite cars – compared to our southern example-land.
And quess where we have taken model from Germany – yes you have it right (assuming that you read the title) – the military. The Finnish jägers went to study military practise in Germany
right before the Finnish Civil War. It is no surprise that the brought the model of military and dicipline within.
World has though changed from the WW1 times. Nowdays military services is now longer compulsory in Germany. It changed a few years ago. Victor was amongst the first generations not having the obligation to go to army. Finnish geopolitics hasn’t changed though and with all the tension between global superpowers it’s hard to believe that mandatory military service would be stopped in Finland.
Well since drinking beer was fun while whatching football we decided to continue it. This time our meeting was related to how Finnish students party. And we had an excellent opportunity to have an insight on the subject at Tamkos Alkumetri party on 7th of september.
I thought that Finns drink a lot – and they do. But we don’t exactly loose to Germans. Damn student-friendly prices! Which as a matter of fact aren’t student friendly compared to the German ones. But ES didn’t let that ruin the evening. And thanks to that we were able to continue our empiric study on cross-cultural partying habits.
-Firstly: they do play contemporary dance music in night clubs both in Germany and in Finland. As a classical musician I consider most of it “rubbish”. However it’s good to keep the rythm going.
-Secondly: “going out for a fag” is a social event despite the cultural background. Even though my wind players lunta did cough blood for the next two weeks. Maybe one cigarette too many?
-Thirdly: I’m getting old to stay up till 4 AM with the guys under 20.
-Fourthly: Having a snack after the party night seems an universal phenomenon.
-Fiftly: MacDonalds is same crap everywhere – luckily it’s more expensive here!
After all this sacredness mambo-jambo and dealing with melanchoic events in the past we wanted to relax and unwind properly. And what would be a better way to do so than the “national sports” of Germany – football or fussball as they say. Funny though fussball refers to soccer rather than it’s american equivalent. But football sure sounds more like it’s German version. So the very next day on 31st of August we headed to a football pub by the name of Player’s House located on Otavalankatu.
The match we watched was from the English Premier League between Arsenal and Manchester United. So even I who understand relatively little about football was able to tell that the match was of really high quality. Victor who had worked in England for a few years was of course an expert with the topic.
There was a myriad of other exchange students mainly from Germany and Austria. It was notable how big thing football is in German countries. Every major city has it’s own team and football stadium bigger than we can see here in Tampere. Football is a really popular sport and usually the immensly large stadiums are sold out. Big business too – I guess. It was also obious that football evokes great emotions. With some of the famous players having switched teams to foreign ones great heroes have become traitors – like Schweinste… oh sorry “he-who-must-not-be-named”
We were very impressed by our trip to Näsi park. And since I still was trying to reduce the stress orientation week had caused me we decided to make another trip to woody parks of Tampere the following day 30th of August that is. We headed our bicycles to the Pyynikki park. What would be more classical Tampere than to go and have a munkki (doughnut) with coffee at the Pyynikki sight-seeing tower and enjoy the picturesque scenery over the two lakes.
Victor was yet again very very impressed on what he saw. Luckily the weather was still pretty good. This did loosen our lips to discuss the national realtionships to nature and forrests. It is quite well known that Finns stereotypically are “mehtäläisiä” also people from the woods. A truly nature-loving folk that “every decent” people have a summer cottage of some sort reatreat on every available mongerreta period of leasure time. Well we’ve got plenty of lakes and space to do so.
It was though quite suprising to know that in Germany since the vast majority of land space is either occupied by urban areas or agriculture thus forests are a rarity and most luxury affordable only by the very richest people. Most of the city-inhabitants have to settle with parks. In Germany also hunting is a very elitistic hobby – not to mention that there is some corrution even in Finland while becoming a member of hunting societies. Going to a cottage is a traditional free-time activity in Germany too. The gottages are located in the Alps though – not bad! Ultimately the spirit of going outside city areas is pretty similiar in both countries. People want to get out of the overcrowded city areas to refresh their heads and minds. In a very profound sense Gemans and Finns are the same – they consider nature and especially the woods in certain extent a “holy” place.
After having had such deeo and even melancholic disussions about the social trends in Finnish educational system we decided to have a light and heartly-mooded day off in the parks and outskirts of Tampere. That was on a cloudy but dry Monday afternoon in late August. (On 29th to be precise). Of course there was also a background idea of showing the city geography so that Victor can travel around the city more independedly.
As we both live in Tampella it was quite natural to go hiking in the Näsinpuisto which I consider one of the most gorgeous areas in Tampere ornamented by the handsome palaces and surrouded by sparkling live water in Tammerkoski and Näsijärvi. At the same point we made a time travel to 19th century Tampere at the city block of Tallipiha.
Victor seemed to be very impressed by the beauty of late summery parks and the glamorous glitter of the palaces. As a Finn there must be a bit oc melancholy and tragic even at the finest relaxing afternoon walk. This realized when we came across to the meamorial statue constructed to commemorate the ones perished in the accident of steamboat Kuru. I explaned this Titanic-story of Finland to Victor and he seems very affected by it. The amount of decided marines and submarine crew during the wars is a totally different story. On the other hand wartime is wartime and the steamboat Kuru incident remins the most fatal peactime transportation accdent in Finnish history. Every country must have it’s Hindenburg…
As we met next time on the 22nd of August the topics weren’t as relaxing as last time. This time we spoke about system of education in Germany and Finland. As the discussion went on we found a great deal of similarities in these two countries. Both have elementary school that starts pretty much at the same age. After that there is secondary school followed by upper secondary school or some sort of vocational education. Secondary education is followed by academy-level education. At this point we came across the fact that German school system has been the role model for Finnish adoption for system of education. Even the timelines seem quite similiar. It didn’t take many decades for Finns to create our system after the Germans had developed theirs.
Some things are differently in Germany however. In vocational education working life connections and apprenticeship training is in much higher esteem and far more commonly used. Perhaps this is due to long traditions of craftmanship in middle Europe. Another difference was that ability groups are in use practically everywhere in Germany starting already from late primarily school. On one hand it helps to utilize and dicover the best potential from the adolecence right from the beginning. On the other hand it in a way does separate the groups from an early point and start to direct the future of children already at an age they likely are inaware of consequences to their future academic and working life.
Germany is of course a large country with multiple populaation compared to Finland. Perhaps where in a small country like Finland national social coherence is important even at the costs that most capable individuals might frustrate in a large country such procedure is possible and even needed to separate the wheat from the chaff. In addition my “sith sense” is observing trends in Finland directing towards the German system with both apprenticeship training and ability groups.