I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Friday, June 11, 2010

Sibling rivalries

This is a joke that Eero, the guide in Helsinki, told us:

A Norwegian archaeologist discovered copper cabling buried ten meters deep. He held a press conference and announced that this was proof that Norway had the world's first advanced telecommunications network one hundred years ago.

Sweden then announced that their archaeologists had found copper cabling twenty meters down, proving that Sweden had in fact had the first telecommunications network two hundred years ago.

So a Finnish archaeologist dug down thirty meters, and announced that he had found -- nothing. Which proved that three hundred years ago, Finland was already wireless.

He also warned us to be careful of pickpockets in the market square, who were, he assured us half-seriously, Swedes. And he told us about the "Vodka Express," the Viking Line ships that run between Stockholm and Helsinki, which in the days before the EU were a way for the Swedes to drink tax free and behave badly.

I already knew about the Viking Line, having heard much the same description from Britt in Stockholm, except that in her version it was the Finns who were the ill-mannered drunks.

We heard this mostly good-natured sniping in every country: in Denmark and Finland, it was the Swedes they complained about. In Stockholm, it was the Finns. In Göteborg, it was Denmark.

And in St. Petersburg, it was the Muscovites, who are apparently lowbrow, vulgar, and obsessed with money.

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