Comparative study of Finnish and Swedish cultures

A study (fi) by Thorleif Pettersson and Sakari Nurmela, titled "Eri tapoja kohdata suuri elefantti - Suomalaisen ja ruotsalaisen kulttuurin vertaileva tutkimus" ("Different Ways of Meeting a Big Elephant - A Comparative Study of Finnish and Swedish Cultures") got some press (fi) a while back. I would have posted something on the topic sooner, but at first I couldn't find a link to the study, and then the Jokela shootings interfered.

Using World Values Survey data as evidence, the study concludes that Finns are more conservative than Swedes. Then again, so are pretty much everyone else; the numbers point to Swedish exceptionalism. For example, Swedes' attitudes toward democracy are the most positive of any country in the survey by some distance, whereas Finland is close to several other liberal democracies. The study concludes that the liberal Swedes are guided to a greater extent by principles, whereas the conservative Finns are more pragmatic.

In addition to the World Values Survey figures, the researchers carried out a survey of their own that concentrated on bilateral issues between the two countries, such as what do Finns and Swedes know of and feel about each other. In the trivia part of the questionnaire, respondents were given three options in each question. We find, for example, that five percent of Finns thought The Who was Swedish, whereas only three percent of Swedes thought it was Finnish. Nevertheless Finns were judged to have slightly better knowledge of Sweden than Swedes of Finland.

The headline grabber of the study was the finding that Swedes were friendlier toward Finns than vice versa. 81 percent of Swedes agreed strongly or in part with the statement, "I would like to have a Finn as a close friend." When Finns were asked about having a Swedish friend, the figure dropped to 32 percent. The authors present the possibility that Finnish and Swedish respondents understood the statement differently. I would also consider the possibility that Swedes can be a bit annoying, what with their democracy and hockey team that wins tournaments and famous rock band The Who.

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