What we can learn from other countries is that we are in serious danger of becoming a country with a Trumpian government, believing we are more important. We don’t need to be ‘world-beating’, just a peaceful friendly nation, which makes good tea! The fact that most people supported the Chancellor’s proposal to cut aid to the world’s poorest (the week after committing £16 billion on defence) means worrying times ahead.
Our politics is nowhere near as progressive as most of Europe. We still have one Green MP, while Greens are in government in many countries (the next German chancellor is tipped to the co-leader, who in his spare time writes poetry). Others say Green co-leader Annalena Baerbock could be the next leader. The large Green vote means their forests are highly protected (unlike ours – only a petition at 38 Degrees stopped our government from recently trying to sell off all our forests to private companies).
- The Serenity Passport is a world tour of peaceful living in 30 words, with secrets drawn from cultures around the world. Try Ayliak (the Bulgarian art of living slowly without worry), Hoppìpolla (Icelandic jumping in puddles), Flâneur (French leisure strolls) or Utepils (a beer outside with Norwegian friends).
- England’s second-largest pear tree was just chopped down, to make way for the disastrous HS2 project. Germany’s state-owned railways are deemed the best in the world, we could have spent that money on upgrading present stock.
- Europe also has less of a consumerist culture. Christmas for instance is not about everyone running to buy everything in Argos. It’s about singing carols in town squares around real Christmas trees, and eating roasted chestnuts, and attending Midnight Mass. There is no celebrity culture either (people prefer a walk in the forest, reading books, warming by the fire or watching Northern Lights, over reality TV).
- A third of Danes and Dutch cycle everywhere (both flat lands). The Netherlands used to be traffic gridlock, but today has more bicycles than people!
- Despite cold weather and dark nights, Nordic countries don’t grind to a halt, when it snows. They use snow chains, side-lights on cars, doors that open the right way in snow, and heated driveways (not pet-toxic rock salt). People on low incomes don’t live in dark damp bedsits: they have BOKLOK houses – light airy homes with bike parks and green spaces.
- People are nice, and things are fair. Fines for shoplifting and other crimes are based on income. Finland is known as home to the ‘$103,000 speeding ticket’.
- Estonia is one of the most forested countries on earth, with free public transport. There is also little state religion. It’s interesting that some orders visit to try to convert – from countries with problems, caused by organised religion!
I can think of many US states where it would be uncomfortable to declare yourself an atheist, gay, choose not to have children (or be unmarried and have children) or to raise children as Muslims. I don’t imagine it would be easy being vegetarian in Texas, or a wine buff in Salt Lake City. And don’t even think of coming out as a socialist! In Scandinavia you can be all of these things and no one will bat an eye (as long as you wait, and cross on green). Michael Booth
Finland’s Prime Minister
Sanna Marin recently became the world’s youngest Prime Minister. Under 40, she was then almost immediately pipped to the post by the new Prime Minister of Austria. However, they have very different policies. She is very big on tackling climate change and animal welfare, and is trying to introduce tax breaks on plant-based food.
Now is probably a good time to make my confession about Finland. I think the Finns are fantastic. I can’t get enough of them. I would be perfectly happy for the Finns to rule the world. Michael Booth
Why is England So Rubbish at Languages?
England is renowned for being rubbish at languages. It’s a bit embarrassing when nearly all other Europeans can speak at least one other language fluently? So what is it with England? A lot of it likely has to do with the ‘British empire’ mentality, in that some folks still think (wrongly) that we rule the world, and we have to be ‘world-beating in everything’, blah blah.
But the truth is a bit more simple than that. Firstly, we teach languages a lot later here. Unless you grow up in a bilingual family, most children abroad start learning languages a lot earlier, around 4 or 5, as opposed to later on in England’s schools. And secondly, we are apparently learning the wrong languages. French and German (the ones most offered) are not the easiest for the English tongue. Norwegian is apparently the best one to learn. If schools introduced that instead, everything would go wonderfully, as they share the same verbs and sentence structure. For example:
vinter and sommer
kan jeg hjelpe deg?
You didn’t need help for either of those, did you? Linguists says that French is not as easy as Italian, and that all the Scandinavian languages are good bets, apart from Finnish, which is different entirely and has the world’s longest words:
lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas (it means ‘airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic)
If you want to learn another language and are not visiting abroad, consider getting a few books out of the library. In a modern virtual world, you may even get a good home-based job if you became fluent.
Teach Your Dog Cornish
Cornish people have their own language. And it was not long ago that the last woman who was a native speaker died (she did not learn English until she was 19). It’s not Gaelic, more like Welsh (which people in Brittany and Argentina can sometimes understand).
People who hear Cornish say it sounds ‘like someone talking backwards’ or ‘like English to a person who doesn’t understand the language’. You can buy buy Cornish language books online, if you can’t find them in local shops. Read Teach Your Dog Cornish! to learn 60 words with your best friend. Also in the series: