Now that I've been in Finland less than 24 hours and walked around a small corner of Helsinki for two hours, I am an Expert on Finnish Culture. (Hey, I have as much experience in the country as most development missions before they pronounce how to solve poverty, right?) So what is special?
1 - In US restrooms, the icon representing women wears a knee-length skirt. In the Helsinki airport, she wears a miniskirt. At WIDER, she's reverted to the more modest knee-length again.
2 - "Every man is an architect. You plan the architecture of summer houses!" Finn Tarp opened the conference mentioning this, and he's not kidding. The facades of the buildings are amazing, and each one is remarkably different. Some are medieval stone, some have Arabic arches, some are all brick, some have Greco-Roman carved marble decorations. The colors are lovely and varied without clashing. Actually, I saw the first 5-story, Eurobau apartments that I thought might be places an American would like to live in. The restaurant I ate in for dinner had beautifully muraled ceilings Very attractive. [Oh, how I WISH they hadn't lost my luggage and CAMERA in the Manchester airport!]
3 - Barren windows. Shockingly, despite the enormous numbers of windows in all these architectural wonders, the windows are empty. I glanced at thousands of windows and in a couple hundred cars and saw: 1 printer, 1 fan, 2 potted plants in buildings, 1 dream catcher, 1 air freshener, and only three cars that had stuff in them. The cars were completely empty! Okay, I was glancing, not searching under the seats, but there was almost no individualization of windows or cars. For a course on flaneurie, I had once tried to identify which person in a store belonged to which car in the parking lot and I did pretty well - there was nothing to go on here! (aside from the owner of the East German Trabant)