This week has been full of meetings with different people working in different areas of my project- guidance, vocational education, teacher training and general educational stuff. It has also been full of meeting with people who are Finns to get to know them and start to build friendships. What this means is that for someone who has been adapting quite nicely to the not as much talking culture, I have been talking a lot! But I have also been listening and one common theme has come up in almost every conversation I have had.
It means trust. Now trust is not a new idea for me. I trust a lot of people in my life, but trust as a cultural value is a new idea for me. The Finnish are very proud that their society is built on trust. I think the best part is that they actually believe it and not just say it. You can see it all around you from people not locking up their bikes outside a store to students leaving their coats and shoes outside the classroom door so they will be comfy while learning. There is also a deeper trust that is harder to explain unless you are here to feel it. In my conversations with people, the Finns are trusting me to ask the right questions, talk to their colleagues and help them to grow and improve. Everyone has said that just because the country is getting good PISA scores (international test- this is a big deal and ranks Finland at the top of all education lists!), does not mean that they can't continue to improve. So everyone is curious to know what I find out so it can help them improve and they trust that I will do a good job.
There is a saying here that has come up in a couple of different contexts. I only feel as good as you feel. What a delight to approach everything from a community perspective. I think that it is because of this value that you see government structures and local communities focusing on making sure that the income gap between rich and poor is never too large, making sure that every school is a good school, helping ensure that everyone has enough to eat and an opportunity to learn, forecasting the type of jobs that will be available in the future so that students are counseled accurately and deciding as a country that helping each other is the most important thing to do.
Now my disclaimer that there are subtle signs that this value might be slowly changing as Finland becomes more globalized and I haven't had a lot of interactions with young people to see if they share the same perspective as the older generations. But I am hopeful that this cultural value doesn't disappear in the new generation and only begins to be shared with the rest of the world.
As for me, I hope I feel good as good as you feel because that is feeling pretty good! :) As a matter of fact, while I was writing this, these yummy things were cooking in the oven. A perfect treat for a wintery Saturday morning.