Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

29 May 2014

It may not seem obvious but I believe New Yorkers and my countrymen Finns share surprisingly much.

All those hard centuries living under Swedish and Russian power apparently give you some of the same qualities as living in New York.

Neither New Yorkers nor Finns enjoy chitchat – we are both about the economy of expressions. Whereas Finnish culture doesn’t encourage too much socialising with strangers, New Yorkers are too busy with their everyday lives to engage in much small talk when dealing with their laundry or grocery shopping.

I have even heard people joke here about how difficult it is ending phone calls with Brits as there are so many rituals and compliments that you need when ending a call. Well, this is not the case in New York nor in Helsinki.

Looking at New York through the eyes of a resident has also made me think about what I would love to see Finland – or even Europe – learn from all this. I wonder what would happen to the rather unsociable Finnish mentality were people to live in an area as tightly built as Manhattan. Perhaps the result would be a new breed of Finns who would be used to social situations, who would be more considerate and less eager to complain about anything that was being built in their backyards.

And while we’re on the subject of city planning, something Helsinki should learn from New York is that you always have services close to you. Somehow Helsinki has a tendency of building shopping centres next to residential areas that lack local restaurants and grocery stores.

One more thing I’d love to import to Europe: adventurous entrepreneurial attitudes. Failing a business in the US is almost like a badge of honour. In Finland – as in many other parts of Europe – failing gives you a social stigma. That’s why people are often too nervous to try anything that could actually be great.

These adventurous ideas are a key part of New York’s attractiveness. And this is something I will definitely be discussing with my friend when we go to the local restaurant that only serves Malaysian beef jerky, before I drop her at the bar where she gets a free manicure for every single cocktail she buys.

Markus Hippi is a producer for Monocle 24

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