[The Hieno! Suomi 100 series] Inspirations from President Tarja Halonen.

Finnish People, Finnish Politics, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office

Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series celebrating Suomi 100 in 2017, we have the huge privilege of featuring President Tarja Halonen.

We are especially thankful that President Halonen and her team made precious time from her busy schedule to do this interview with us! 🙂

Tarja Halonen: The First Female President of Finland.

President Tarja Halonen served two terms as the president of Finland from 2000-2012. A vocal champion of social equality and minority rights, she is a tremendous inspiration and role model to many female leaders worldwide.

In 2009, Forbes named President Halonen as one of the top 100 most powerful women in the world.

Aside to her political career, President Halonen served extensively in trade unions and various non-governmental organisations. She also chaired the main Finnish gay rights organisation SETA from 1980-1981 and was an early proponent of gay rights.

An interesting fun-fact for our Singaporean readers: President Halonen made significant contributions towards the excellent diplomatic ties between Singapore and Finland.

In February 2008, President Halonen visited Singapore with high-level Finnish business and state delegations, 13 years after any Finnish president went to Singapore on a state visit.

In October 2010, President Halonen extended a state invitation to our Singaporean President Nathan, where many fruitful discussions were made and concluded. The 2010 presidential state visit to Finland was a clear affirmation of the start of many stronger bilateral collaborations and goodwill between the two nations.

The 3 things President Tarja Halonen considers as “Finnish”.

Firstly, President Tarja Halonen regards the sauna as “Finnish”, affectionately saying that the sauna is “very dear to us.”


Next, she felt that the concept of “sisu” is also particularly Finnish, for it is “the spirit in which we raise our kids.”

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Last but not least, she considers the northern nature to be particularly Finnish, too.

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The 3 things about Finland that President Halonen is particularly appreciative of.

Equality, education and solidarity are three things that President Halonen hold particularly close to heart when it comes to Finland.

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President Halonen once made a speech in 2000 at the opening of the Women of Learning exhibition in Helsinki which highlighted these three values.

We present the following extract from that speech:

“We are a model country where gender equality is concerned…Under-representation of women and other inequality among researchers is a problem that will not solve itself as women acquire competence….The Finland of the 21st century can thrive only if women of learning – in common with their male counterparts – are guaranteed the opportunity to use their creative potential to the full.”

In the book “Te naiset, te naiset: Sitaatteja vain naisilta” (2006) by Laine Jarkko and Jung Irmeli, President Halonen also mentioned that–

Naisille annetaan helposti vaikeimmat tehtävät”;

which translates to:

“Women receive easily the most difficult assignments.”

As a distinguished lady who served two terms as the President of Finland, President Halonen truly walks the talk!

The one birthday wish President Halonen has for Finland 100.

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For Finland 100 in 2017, President Halonen wishes that:

“Finland would be strong in implementing and promoting sustainable development both at home and internationally.”

Don’t we all love President Halonen already for her big hearted-ness? ♡ ♡ ♡ 

Some personal reflections.

I first met President Halonen at an UN-Economic conference in 2014, and will always remember how approachable and knowledgable she is.

President Halonen really has no airs at all and is generous in sharing her wisdom and experiences with the audience. We even took this picture where she locked her arms into mine! :DDD /fangirls


Foreigners who have met President Halonen spoke especially fondly of her. I personally don’t think that “warm” is a word you will use to describe many presidents or ambassadors in the world.

Lilian Neo, the chair of the Singaporean Association in Finland for instance, once told me that she is particularly inspired by how sincere and modest President Halonen is.

It’s truly a great privilege to have President Halonen on our series and we are very grateful. We hoped you have enjoyed this feature!~♡

Credits| Feature photo: Tarja Halonen. / Other photos: Unsplash.

How to Make Your a Baby First Month Gift Basket

Shopping, Singapore
little flower hut

I hope you enjoy this guest post sponsored by the Little Flower Hut, given that many of my friends are now promoted to mummies. Enjoy!

Most new moms are now celebrating baby’s first month. They treasure every memory they have with their child. If you have a sibling who is planning to throw a simple party for your niece, give your baby gift contained in a baby gift basket.

little flower hut

Instead of buying just one gift for the little angel, why not do a collection of baby items as your a gift. This is ideal because there are several options you can pick from different stores and that all can be contained in a basket. Another thing about using a baby gift basket is that you can customize it according to how you want to make it look.

You can start your preparations by choosing first a basket scheme. Traditional colors may still be applicable that the blue ones are for the baby boys and the baby girls get the pink ones.

However, you may go beyond this binary standard if you still want to get a blue basket for your niece. There are other colors also that you can pick for babies. Yellow is good. Green is warm. Orange is bright and a brown basket is a nice pick.

little flower hut

The next thing to do is to get your basket theme. Flowers are always the best choice, but you can also get themes like animals, Disney princesses, stripes or polka dots. If you are still opting to get flowers then you can visit a flower shop Singapore to buy your materials. If you cannot find time to do that, you can ask for a florist delivery service like Little Flower Hut to bring to you your orders.

Be mindful that this is a gift that you are preparing ahead of time. You can ask for the express flowers to be delivered to you on the same day of the event. These materials can be added once you perform your finishing touches.

Next step is to collect the items you want to contain your gift basket. Ideal choices for a baby gift are toys, diapers, candies, baby’s outfits, dolls, teddy bears, reading books, chocolates and more. Consider also your sibling as the one who might want to consume some of the goodies that you will include in the basket.

Finally, add some more decorations apart from the flowers. You can put ribbons and balloons to make it look nicer and sweeter. For that special occasion, with your beautiful personalized baby first month gift, you can send love to your niece in the most extraordinary way.

Flower Power

Misc, Singapore

This post was contributed by Elma Humpries

How many of you agree that flowers have a unique power? I have always been a huge lover of flowers because their ability to make everyone smile. The only struggle was the trip to my local florist. Over the past couple of years I was trying to find a good online florist in Singapore but I somehow I always managed to came to a dead end.

Luckily, I discovered one amazing flower delivery in Singapore – A Better Florist. This twenty-four hour florist delivers within minutes and for free.If you are asking me this is one of the best florist in Singapore.I have never ran into something as incredible as this. My favorite is The Ayla. It’s a true sunflower masterpiece. Get convinced yourself.

The service also offer a variety of other products such as gifts and hampers.I was truly amazed when the baby hamper I ordered for my friend got delivered. Baby Lovely Bath is something I highly recommend.

 Apart from that, they do cover any other occasion you can think of. If you need flowers for grand opening events or funeral flowers, they got it. The best part is that the flowers arrive fresh, blooms and fast. Their get well soon hampers and fruit baskets are a heaven. Especially the fruit baskets because they are a great idea for many occasions. Just take a look at The Elegant Classics which is composed of tropical fruits. It is just too perfect for all everyday occasions.


Considering the fact that A Better Florist offer 90-minute guaranteed flower delivery service to anywhere in Singapore, they make on the list of best flower delivery in Singapore.

 Another interesting thing is that A Better Florist is not stopping here. Their service covers several different countries including them to Dubai flower delivery and Hong Kong flower delivery. Their amazing work haven’t went unnoticed. They have been praised and named best flower delivery in Hong Kong best florist in Hong Kong as well as being among the best florist in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

If this is not making them the best florist in Singapore, I don’t know what ever will. From the very first bouquet I ordered, I became an instant fan of A Better Florist. They are my go-to florist service ever since. Get your blooms and you will start believing my words!

Why Is The Vienna Boys Choir So Popular Globally? Interview With Iris Koh

Misc, Singapore
iris koh

Today, we have the huge privilege of catching up with Iris Koh, an accomplished pianist, music director, choral conductor, vocal coach and composer. Iris has worked extensively with the local and international schools in Singapore with experiences in choral, classroom, piano and voice methodologies.

In this feature, Iris shares with us about what she has been up to recently. Enjoy the feature!


WW: Thank you for your time today Iris! Can you tell us a bit more about yourself and SVBC?

Iris Koh: Currently I am the organizer for SVBC, which stands for the See, Sing and Study with the Vienna Boys Choir.

The Vienna Boys Choir will be here for one whole week, and there will be very exciting events during the one whole week. These events include training, workshops, and concerts for people ranging from music lovers, parents, kids, singers to choral conductors.

We are really excited and looking forward to the two concerts—one at the Victoria Concert Hall and the other at the Esplanade.

iris koh

WW: So Iris, can you tell us a bit more in detail about what the public can look forward to in SVBC?

Iris Koh: So for 11th and 12th we are going to be conducting training at the Arts House, and the training is basically for conductors and teachers who like to know more about how to improve their skills as conductors. And of course, on how to work with growing voices, especially the voices of boys.

There is also the opportunity to see Professor Gerald Wirth in action, with the Vienna Boys Choir on stage. Professor Gerald Wirth is actually the artistic director and the president of the Vienna Boys Choir and he is personally coming down to share about the 500 year-old system that the choir is using to train their singers.

On the 13th of January, we are having an event at the Grand Capthorne Hotel, which is our official hotel sponsor. There will be a workshop for the parent and child, and the topic is how to identify, develop and encourage musical talents in your child.


WW: Wow, that is truly a workshop that many parents would be interested in!

Iris Koh: YES! This is going to be great because a lot of parents would want to know if my child is talented in music. In the modern world we live in, many people have so many things to do and distractions. So if your child has a special musical quality it is important to spot it and then to help the child to develop this talent. I truly believe that if a child is doing something he is good at, this would increase his confidence and he can do better as well.

So there will be this segment. And maybe the Vienna Boys Choir may sing a few songs at the event. There will also be an opportunity for the guests to mingle with the boys at the Junior Buffet Lunch.

It’s going to be an exciting event, and we are really looking forward to it!

At night on 13th January, the Vienna Boys Choir will be performing at the Victoria Concert Hall. Followed by the Grand Finale Concert on the 15th January, which will be with the Kids’ Philharmonic Orchestra. There will also be three songs performed by the local choir with the Vienna Boys Choir.


WW: Wow the event sure sounds exciting and we’re looking forward to it! I’ll like to go back to the point on how parents can spot and develop musical talents in their children.

Would you say Singapore as a society is conducive to develop a person’s musical talents in?

Iris Koh: Well I would definitely say that Singapore is one of the world’s most affluent countries. Many parents spend a lot of time and money on the music education of their children.You know, we have gorgeous concert halls, established music schools and a lot of high calibre musicians in Singapore that people can learn music from.

So even though we are a small population, we are affluent and we can afford high-quality music education and learning.


WW: So do you think Singapore will eventually be a thriving hub for music appreciation, learning and education?

Iris Koh: Well, you know it has been a long-standing joke that Singapore wants to be a hub for everything. And we all know that much as we like to be, we simply can’t. While I must say that the government has spent a lot of money and resources into arts and music education, some things just can’t be rushed.

If we look at Vienna, it didn’t become the “hub” for Western Music overnight. It took many many generations of world class musicians, support from the royal family in those days and continuous support from the government today to continue their long tradition in Music, which I believe they know sets them apart.

Unfortunately culture is not built immediately and today we live in such a fast-paced society that demands things in an instance. It takes time perhaps even centuries to even find our own voice and identity and we are still a very young nation.

I think this question also pre-supposes that the government wants Singapore to be a thriving hub for Music appreciation learning and education and unfortunately I’m not in the loop for this.

If I look at the steps we have made in the past 20 years since I came back from Australia in my music studies, back in those days, we didn’t even have a music conservatorium. The biggest concert hall back then, the Victoria Concert Hall. Now we have Yong Siew Toh, The Esplanade, Star Theatre and so many other performing arts venues and I believe the Esplanade and the concert halls, our SSO etc are also doing a good job to bring Music closer to the people.

It is a continuous work in progress although I feel a bit jealous that our literary arts scene seem to be more thriving than the musical scene here. But of course everything takes time and when a particular arts discipline does well, I like to think that it will pull along the others.


WW: So personally, what are you looking most forward to in the SVBC week?


Iris Koh: I’m actually really, really looking forward to the training that Professor Gerald Wirth is going to give to all the conductors and the music teachers, because I think it is a very rare kind of training.

It is not easy for us to invite Professor Gerald Wirth to come down to Singapore for so many day, and it is his first time in Singapore specially to conduct this training. He has actually been in the Vienna Boys Choir before as a child in the 1970s and he has performed at the Victoria Concert Hall as a child.

Professor Gerald Wirth has an international travel schedule and it really wasn’t easy to organise this training session. I’m not even sure if we will be doing this training session in the near future, so I strongly encourage all music teachers and conductors not to “wait and see”. Instead of flying to Vienna, we are flying Vienna to you for this training of a lifetime. There are master-classes for choirs, and even hands-on opportunities to conduct the Vienna Boys Choir during the workshops, so don’t miss this!


WW: I have a curious question—Let’s say a boy were to be in the Vienna Boys Choir and his voice breaks. What is going to happen to him then?

Iris Koh: Well, the choir is made up of Soprano and Alto voices. When a boy’s voice breaks, he will no longer be able to sing one of the parts and will have to step down from the choir.

There is however a mixed choir (SATB) that the boys can join, which is part of the co-ed school that the Vienna Boys Choir is actually part of. This helps them to make the transition and still keep their passion in music and singing alive.


WW: Just to clarify, are all the boys in the Vienna Boys Choir Austrian?

Iris Koh: No, they are actually from all parts of the world. Perhaps a majority from German speaking countries or from Europe. But there are some boys from Asian countries—in the past there was even a pair of twins from Singapore. There are also boys from Japan, Korea, Hong Kong to name a few.


WW: Do you personally feel that Vienna Boys Choir contributes to this abstract concept of the “soul of Singapore”?

Iris Koh: This is a complex question. I would say that the “soul of Singapore” in relation to music is a very deep subject.

We are after all a mish-mash of everything, which is why I was really interested in Singlish discourse, because I think that is part of our identity as a country. And I think Dick Lee is one of the few composers who included Singlish in his songs. And there was a period of time when the government didn’t accept his work and what he was doing. Yet he became very popular in Japan with his work “Chinaman”.

I went to the 60th birthday concert by Dick Lee where he shared about his journey as a musician. So I would look to him as one of the most respected figures in Singaporean music and his songs express our identity as Singaporeans to a very large extent. While SVBC week is about bring Vienna Boys Choir to us, it is also about Singaporean choirs sharing our music with the boys. And one of the songs that we will be sharing with them is Dick Lee’s Home, which will see our Singaporean Choirs on stage with the Kids Philharmonic orchestra singing this song.

So please look forward to that!


WW: Can you tell us one thing about the Vienna Boys Choir that most people think they know, but actually do not know?

Iris Koh: Most people think that there is only one choir, but there are actually four choirs in the Vienna Boys Choir.

The four choirs are named after famous composers namely Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, and Bruckner. And each group is made up of about 25 boys.

So each year, a different group goes to a different country. So by the end of four years, these boys would have travelled at least half the world. So being part of the Vienna Boys Choir is a very international and educational experience that you cannot find anywhere else in the world. And you get to sing in the best concert halls globally.

So if your child has a strong interest in music and he wants to be part of this educational experience, this is an invaluable experience.


WW: Do you personally feel that you’re making a difference in the way music education is done in Singapore via Vienna Boys Choir?

Iris Koh: Yes, definitely. It is a huge privilege for me to bring this world famous choir to Singapore. In terms of classical music and choral music, I would say they are one of the most famous groups there is in the world. Organising the SVBC week in Singapore has made me realise that our educators value classical music and they are hungry for the opportunity to learn.

I had the opportunity to visit the school where the Vienna Boys Choir is in. It was an old palace. They have a whole system of choral management that is beyond us, from their own costume department to their own PR team etc. Everything is professional and I have learnt so much in the process and I hope that we can really learn from them how to break new grounds with our choirs. I mean if something has been running for 500 years, I would love to know what they have been doing to not only keep traditions alive, but innovate to ensure they are not outdated / become irrelevant.


WW: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?

Iris Koh: Well, I’m very excited and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the many people behind the scenes who are helping and supporting this event. Our partners, the Austrian Embassy, our sponsors, volunteers, conductors who are training the choirs to prepare for the concert and my team who are working very hard to make this event possible.


WW: Thank you for your time today, Iris!

Iris Koh: Thank you for having me on The Hieno!