It was December, and I’d just arrived in Helsinki. Fresh snow lined the roads and I frantically covered myself up against the cold; gloves, hat, scarf. I headed to the train station, looking for a Finnish SIM card, and popped into several shops and kiosks to find the best one. At some point, I realised I’d left my hat somewhere and retraced my route in frustration. I peeked inside the stores, mimicking wearing a hat, asking if anybody saw it. I finally spotted it, sitting atop a small Christmas tree on one of the kiosk counters, and picked it up with a smile.
That led to one of my first observations about Finland: that the Finns are a very honest bunch. During my visit, I would slowly go on to discover that honesty is highly valued in society here and is the bedrock of all interaction: people are assumed to be honest all the time, and trust is implicit unless proven otherwise.
“Being honest is a characteristic of Finnish culture – at least if we compare to other cultures,” said Johannes Kananen, a lecturer at the Swedish School of Science at the University of Helsinki. “In English there is a saying that the truth is so valuable, it should be used sparingly. But in Finland, people speak the truth all the time.”
My hat situation was by no means unique, as in Finland lost possessions seem to always make their way back to the owner. “It’s a very quirky habit around