With Britain voting on whether to stay or leave the EU, Brits in Finland have recently been fielding their fair share of questions about the debate. Answering questions about the UK from Finns is, of course, nothing new. When you move to a new country it’s natural that the natives are curious to find out if the stereotypes they’ve learnt about your homeland are true. However, Finns don’t always have a convenient Englishman at hand to answer. So, to make things easier here’s a handy list of answers to all the questions I’ve been asked by Finns in the last 11 years.
1. Why is the UK voting to leave or stay in the EU?
Needless to say, this is the most recent question and it’s usually followed by a “please don’t leave!”. The simple answer as to why is stupid party politics. The more detailed answer is that the governing Conservative Party under electoral pressure in the last election from an extremist, racist anti-EU party, UKIP (Think Finns Party, but more pompous) agreed to have a referendum to win votes. The case for Leave is utterly flawed, mainly based on romantic nationalism, deluded myths or just plain misinformation. There is not a single valid reason to leave the EU. If it weren’t for the fact much of the UK press is rabidly right-wing, the Leave Campaign would have long been exposed as the cynical liars they are.
For a far better analysis, with a marvellous song at the end, enjoy the equally marvellous John Oliver.
2. Which football team do you support?
My answer to this is Ipswich Town, which normally prompts a blank stare and a swift change of subject. Then I mention that the legendary Finnish international Shefki Kuqi was an Ipswich hero and, if the questioner is a footy fan, a smile appears.
3. Do you miss fish and chips?
Of course. What sane human being wouldn’t?
4. What’s the deal with Wales?
They’re part of the United Kingdom and have been since Edward I of England took advantage of the death of the last King of Wales, Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, to conquer his country. This happened in 1282. The Welsh have, understandably, being doing their best to ignore the English ever since.
5. Why do you insist on buying rounds at the pub, can’t you buy you own drinks?
The tradition of buying rounds just is. Nobody questions it. One of my earliest memories of a pub (and in the UK our pub memories are very, very early) is of my dad tottering toward the table with half a dozen pints bunched together in his hands. You can buy your own, but if you’re with a group, your sanity and character will be questioned.
6. What’s the general opinion of the Royal Family?
For the most part, they’re accepted in the same way rain and drunken drownings are accepted on juhannus. Ardent royalists are either your grandma or weird eccentrics. There are probably more and more closet Republicans, but while the queen is still alive, they tend to keep patriotically quiet.
7. Have you ever met the Queen?
No, but seeing as she’s seemingly immortal, I might still get the chance one day.
8. What exactly is a chav?
You really don’t want to know… Oh, okay, it’s a derogatory name created by the tabloid press for working-class youngsters who act like louts and wear designer clothes. You might have met chavs on holiday or seen them on TV throwing shit around at football matches.
9. Why doesn’t Britain have properly functioning taps?
Most of our taps are older than your country. They may not work perfectly, but the things they’ve seen would astound you…along with their beautifully retro design and strange gurgling sounds.
10. Why are British homes so cold?
See above. Many British homes were built when Helsinki had a population of less than 30 000 and everyone else lived in the forest. The house I grew up in was almost double the age of Finland, and that was nothing unusual. This affects modern things like heating.
11. Do Brits really eat a full English breakfast every morning?
No, that only happens in British heaven or if you live in the Costa del Sol.
12. Why are you drinking coffee? I thought Brits only drink tea.
I don’t like tea. Cue jaw-dropping surprise. As rare as this is, there are British people who don’t drink 15 cups of char a day.
13. Why aren’t you eating this delicious Finnish sausage?
Because Finnish sausage isn’t a sausage. In fact, calling it that gives all sausages a bad name. Please call it what it is, a flour-pork-mash-finger.
14. What exactly is a crumpet?
It’s the food of the English gods. Our equivalent of a Karelian pie, but a million times nicer (in my clearly very biased opinion).
15. Are the class divide and aristocracy still a big deal?
The UK has the biggest gap between rich and poor in Europe. While a lot of this can be traced back to the extremist neo-liberal economics of Thatcher, it’s also very much reinforced by a society still wracked by class division. In short, while people no longer doff their caps to their betters, the upper classes and aristocracy still ring fence, in proportion to their numbers, a huge percentage of the best jobs for themselves. Take the current Conservative cabinet of ministers. 50% went to private school when just 6.5% of the general public attend.
16. How do you like the weather in Finland?
When it’s good it’s very, very good. When it’s bad it’s very, very bad.
17. Why do you moan about the rain when you come from England?
While rain is very much a constant presence in British life, it’s not the same as Finnish rain. In the UK, we have showers. In Finland, you have Nordic monsoons that can go on for hours and hours. That’s when, despite our famed stiff upper lip, I crack and launch into full-blown rain rant.
18. Are you from London?
No, like 85% of the UK population I’m not from London, but the small yet beautifully formed town of Sudbury in Suffolk. However, I did go to university and work in London. It was, as you’d expect, fantastic.
19. Do you know any chimney sweeps?
No. Nor, sadly, do I know Mary Poppins.
Hopefully, these go some way to answering your questions about the UK. If you’re a Finnish reader and you have a question that hasn’t been tackled, please pop it in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer it. And if you’re a British reader living in Finland, and there’s a question you’ve been asked not showcased here, please let us know that too. The more questions, the merrier.
Joel Willans is the Editor of Ink Tank and Co-Founder of Ink Tank Media. Author of the short story collection SPELLBOUND: Stories of Women’s Magic over Men, his prize-winning fiction has been broadcast on BBC radio and published in dozens of magazines and anthologies worldwide. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.