09 September 2006

So let me tell you about my gall bladder operation

Just for fun, I'm attaching a photo of the Lutheran cathedral in Helsinki. And as food for thought, here is a tale related by an American who has lived in Finland for many years.

"One thing to be cautious about here is privacy. Finns are very private people, especially with personal information. We Americans open up quickly and talk to just about anyone about our recent gall bladder operation. I once rented a lake cottage from a Finn in Savonlinna. He rented several cabins on a beautiful lake and we all gathered for breakfast at the old farmhouse. I happened to sit with him this particular morning and as we began to eat I noticed that nothing was being said (another story you are no doubt familiar with by now). After some time I couldn't stand it and began to think what topic I might bring up. Then it dawned on me that we could talk about the farm. So I said, "how big is your farm?" He looked me straight in the eye and curtly said, "big enough." Of course we both realized instantly that we had goofed up. I made the mistake of asking a Finn the kind of thing that they view as private, and he realized (I believe) that I was a visiting tourist on his farm (a paying one) and that visitors are naturally curious and he needed to be prepared for questions like that. After this 'critical incident' our relationship became much better as we both tried to save face. But I never did find out how big that farm was.So it may be best to reserve such probing questions until late into the sauna evening, if you now know what I mean by that."