A month ago, I invited readers to drop me an email and let me know what they think about Finland. The request formed part of a column called ?Branding Finland?, which I wrote for Finnair?s in-flight magazine, Blue Wings. Just a couple weeks after publication, I had already received about 30 replies.
It?s great to hear from people all over the world about how they perceive Finland and the Finns, and heart-warming that our country inspires tourists and business people to make their voices heard. I received messages from as far away as Singapore, Hong Kong and South Africa. North and South America were well represented, as was an array of European nations, from Spain and Italy to Estonia and Sweden.
One letter suggested a slogan for Finland: ?Nothing fake, just real flavour.? Another referred glowingly to a Christmas trip in Finland as a ?genuine experience?. ?We had such an amazing time in Finland that we are VERY sad to leave,? wrote yet another.
And generally, that seems to be the consensus among those who took the time to write: ?Finland is reasonable, polite, friendly?everything just works.? ?I?m amazed at how efficient, clean and nature-respecting everything is in your country.? ?When I arrive in Finland I feel at home, like I can just be myself.?
Yet it?s funny how the same qualities that many enjoy can also be interpreted in a negative light. One letter chastised Finns for being ?way too serious, even compared to the Swedes?. Another suggested that Finland is ?too modest about touting its own merits?.
And since my column appeared in an in-flight magazine, a couple people noted that they had found the passport officers at the airport less than friendly. However, those writers did add that these were isolated incidents that did not match the rest of their Finnish experiences or the other times they?d flown out of Helsinki.
Out of all the answers I got, the one that made me smile most was this line: ?Having returned home, I became a free-of-charge public relations officer for Finland among my friends and business associates.?
Thanks, and I look forward to receiving more comments!