Friday, May 22, 2009

Finnish Cultural Assimilation Lesson # 53 - Its Not All Pristine Forests and Sparkling Lakes

Another lesson in a series designed to help the immigrant to Finland assimilate into the host culture. Warning! The following cultural behavior should only be observed by new immigrants to Finland, not taken into practice! Although you may notice the host population engaging in these activities this does not make what they do socially acceptable! Remember, this will one day be the home of our children and they will definitely appreciate our efforts if we keep this beautiful country nice and tidy for them.

Occassionally I run into a cultural activity practiced by the host culture that I find hard to comprehend. A slap in the face to remind me that even idealistic little Finland has its not-so-hidden negatives.

The wayside rests along the highways here are generally quite minimalistic. They truly are meant to be just a place to pull over, stretch out your legs, breath some fresh air, so they have no facilities to speak of. If there is a trash receptacle and a picnic table you are at a first class Finnish wayside rest. This is not the problem that I am about to discuss.

Quite often there is no trash can available. This doesn't stop Finnish travelers from disposing of their garbage, however inappropriately, as the following photos illustrate.

Photos taken at a wayside rest located between Kyyjärvi and Alajärvi.

I guess that roadside litter is small beans compared to the dying Baltic Sea, but anyone who has ever stopped at a wayside rest in Finland will admit that the amount of trash left behind by motorists is disgusting and ruins many a scenic view.

The amount of windblown plastic and paper refuse reminds me of roadsides in India, or in the U.S. back in the 1970's before the Give a Hoot - Don't Pollute campaign really took effect.

This is an extreme example of a Finnish wayside rest trash pile. Usually the refuse is a bit more scattered. Here we see a mound of household garbage, empty oil containers, cardboard, etc.

I'm surprised there wasn't a used car battery abandoned here, they are a common sight at roadside parking areas. Quite often the bags of household garbage are left by the owners of summer cabins who can't be bothered to bring their weekend trash all way home. This doesn't explain the candy wrappers, potato chip bags, and fast-food packaging that normally festoon the wayside rest areas.

Perhaps the mentality behind this negative behavior is that we have so much nature available here just a little bit of litter won't make a difference.


  1. If you've seen the forests in Poland you'd be shocked. The closer you get to a village, the more garbage you find. People do not want to pay for the garbage companies to collect the litter, but just throw it to a ditch between the trees.

    Is it really so hard to take your garbage with yourself to the town and throw it to a bin?

  2. now that is shocking, will. i never thought that could happen in finland. canada, yes, but not finland!

    been enjoying your blog, btw.