Today, as part of The Hieno! “What is Finnish-ness” series, we feature Olli Lukari. Olli shares with us his life in Finland, thoughts about what “Finnish-ness” is, concerns about social well-being, and some of the awesome things he is doing currently.
Enjoy the interview!~♡
TH: Hello Olli! Can you tell us more about yourself?
Olli: Hi, sure! I’m a 26 year old student, born in Helsinki, now finishing my bachelor’s degree in special education. I’m the oldest of us kids in my family with a little brother and little sister.
Although I was born in Helsinki, my parents are actually from the countryside many hundred kilometres away from Helsinki. My mother works as a high school language teacher.
And my father, in spite of his engineer background, works as a journalist.
I’m a late boomer. I was a shy adolescent, awkward with girls, and all this has led me living an intense life as I’m trying to take up my “wasted years” of the youth.
I’ve lived many lives: through musician, sports guy, philosopher, writer and hippie phases. In the last year or two I’ve also dived into the world of organizations, entrepreneurship and event management.
I’m trying to craft my beloved hobby project from years ago, So Many Dreams, to a phenomena and enterprise that makes a global impact in the next few years. I volunteer and work at many festivals, events and compose and produce my own music.
TH: Wow you sure wear a lot of hats. Let’s say I have a friend who is visiting Finland, and asks if you could bring him to your favourite place in Finland. Where would that place be?
Olli: Ouch, this is cliche but I’d say sauna.
It’s such a refreshing and vitalising place, a place for relaxation and solitude/companionship, depending if I’m there with friends or alone.
For a not so cliché answer I’d say any kind of descent movie theatre as I love watching films. I’ve been volunteering in many film festivals.
TH: Actually quite a few people told me sauna thus far in this Finland 100 series, HAHA! Okay now tell us, what is your happiest memory thus far in Finland?
Olli: There are many but I think I’d have to say it is the memory of giving a speech to young people in a youth camp I was volunteering in.
While giving the speech, I was in verge of tears and terrified! But I managed to talk from the heart: I talked about my own background of being a bully and being bullied, I talked about my own insecurities and growing above them.
I told that the young people: in spite of how they’ve been treated or how they had treated others, in spite of what they’ve done or thought, in spite of everything…they are worthy of unconditional love and care. This is something they should always remember.
A lot of people cried during that speech. After the speech many people started sharing painful experiences of being bullied et cetera.
It was such a beautiful moment.
TH: Showing one’s vulnerable side is always painful but endearing. And it sure takes a lot of courage and guts! So now tell us, what does being a Finn mean to you?
Olli: That’s a good question. I served a year in the military and I like many things about Finland. However, I still think that being a Finn is not that big part of my identity. I would like to say that I’m a world citizen.
But of course being a Finn means I’ve got a chance to enjoy some privileges of our society. For example:
- free public school;
- free/low price healthcare system (up to this point in my life at least it’s been cheap);
- student loans;
- student fees;
- unemployment programs etc.
…Just to name a few!
TH: Wow that’s really cool! Actually, have you ever faced any challenges in or outside of Finland, when it comes to your identity as a Finn?
OllI: A tough question I have to say. I don’t if I can think of any challenges other than maybe that that not many people know (anything about) Finland!
If and when they do know Finland, Finland has quite a good reputation around the globe I think.
As a point of a traveller, coming from Finland, I think is in every way a privilege.
TH: What is the one thing that you appreciate most about Finland?
Olli: I’d say it’s the free public school system.
It gives the same kind of basic education to all the people and for free.
Of course family background still has an influence. But thanks to the school system, many people from less privileged backgrounds get an opportunity they wouldn’t get in many other countries.
TH: What is the one thing you think that can be improved in Finland?
Olli: I could choose from many (xenophobia, racism…) but I think I’m going to go for people’s low self-esteem and belief in one’s abilities.
In Finland, we have some top level education and university-level research in the whole world and governmental systems that can monetarily support people through tough times. Granted, the system is not perfect and full of flaws and injustices, but it’s still a lot better than in many countries.
But still as people, we Finns are not usually having that much confidence in ourselves and tend to shy away from our potential (me included).
The depression and suicide numbers are high and people have a hard time talking.
This all is changing bit by bit though. The entrepreneurship revolution is empowering people to think and act in new ways. And many people in women’s magazines and therapists like Tommy Hellsten talk openly about feelings like shame and depression.
TH: That’s interesting yet slightly disconcerting at the same time. It’s like battling against the invisible all the time. Talking about battles, how would you interpret the term “Finnish War”?
If we are talking about the second world war times, my grandfather (who I don’t even remember seeing) fought in the war and got wounded by a grenade. I know the soldiers paid a heavy price for keeping Finland independent and I do honour what they did.
I also feel a bit sad for them in the case that many of the soldiers carry within them emotional wounds, memories that they haven’t shared with anyone for decades.
I haven’t yet read it, but a book came out some years ago about this topic. The book was called Murtuneet mielet; it would surely be interesting to read it one day!
Or maybe we can conceptualise “war” in terms of the Finnish identity – the talk about multiculturalism, refugees et cetera? I’m quite liberal and think of myself as a world citizen, but I’ve nothing against healthy nationalism.
Healthy nationalism could mean highlighting and being proud of the Finnish society, Finnish traditions (sauna for example), Finnish basic education and bringing these kind of thing more to the world. Maybe even using the Finnish nature more in international branding and marketing.
I’m pro-building and creating stuff and co-operating with other people and nations in a good way. What I don’t like is the “destruction and exclusion and violence” -patriotism that some people and movements are for.
If Finland and Finnish traditions are such good things, why should they be protected/spread with violence? Why couldn’t they be spread with good-will and benevolence?
TH: -nods- I couldn’t agree more. The recent killing of Jimi Karttunen by the neo-nazi group SVL in Helsinki was horrible and awful indeed. On a lighter note, You run a really interesting project “So Many Dreams”. Can you tell us more about it?
Olli: Thank you! 🙂 So Many Dreams is a project inspired by projects like Humans of New York and PostSecret.
Its mission is to inspire people to live up to their full potential, to inspire people to dream. Yet at the same time remind people that we’re all human beings.
We all do and hope to have some dreams, big or small, personal or not.
We’ll see what will become of the project: so far I have dreams and visions for a big online dream database. On this database you will find people who could look through people’s around the world through different filters: age, gender, home country, different topics regarding dreams.
These dreams could be classified according to well-being, hobbies, relationships, travelling etc.
I have visions of many books (dreams of children/prison inmates/refugees/old people/handicapped people, children) and products (blankets, notebooks, jewelery…). I wish to have massive exhibitions in big conferences and events and festivals with thousands of dream post cards in the future!
Building a global brand and doing campaigns for organizations like Amnesty, Plan and Unicef would be amazing. The current version of So Many Dreams can be found here.
TH: Do you think that anyone in Finland can achieve their dreams as long as they put their minds to it? What are some of the barriers they might face?
Olli: As for most people I would say, yes.
Of course there are hardships – one has to find or create a supportive social environment for oneself for example. It can be hard to do anything in an environment filled with too much envy, cynicism or pessimism.
One has to be able to find supportive people which can be difficult, but luckily we have the world of internet nowadays.
Some guy for example just created a facebook group for lonely adults, it got visibility in the news. And now there are many groups of the same kind holding regular meetings and get-togethers.
And it depends on the dream also of course. Let’s face it, if you’re a single parent or act as a care giver for a family member then some dreams might be harder to pursue than others.
But then again, no one is dictating what should one dream about!
TH: As a young person, what do you think about Finland’s lacklustre economic growth in current times?
Olli: In spite of the current situation I have hope for the future.
“Entrepreneurship” is a big word these days and hopefully people and companies also start to relate words like “social and environmental responsibility” to it.
Nordic Business Forum had a theme “responsibility” in some years ago. Supercell too, has an awesome mentality of paying it forward. They have donated millions to a fund helping the youth not to become alienated and socially excluded from the society and their peer groups.
It’s been said that the Slush-generation of new entrepreneurs is thinking big and ready to internationalize and take and grow their businesses outside Finland as well.
So, let’s hope this entrepreneurship culture change empowers both the people and economic situation in Finland.
I just hope the Finnish school system stays free in the future as well.
TH: Haha, I hope all that talk on entrepreneurship isn’t just hype! After all, loads of startups do fail, and very badly. Just curious: Do you personally think that Finland is the best country in the world?
Olli: Yes and no. As a society, we have nice structures that enable people to get support and help when life hits you hard.
No, these systems are not perfect–far from it! But still they function better than in many other countries.
TH: What are your dreams and visions for the future?
Olli: Well, I have many dreams. I wish to get my bachelor degree in special education. I wish to gain huge momentum with the So Many Dreams -project.
Hopefully I can build a big brand and make a living out of it, and to co-operate with international organizations like Amnesty, Plan and Unicef.
I wish to publish some books in the future. And also at some point I want to concentrate more closely on making music – it would be nice to have my music played in a video game or a movie one day.
I wish Dreamspire–an organisation I started with a couple of friends a couple of years agoDreamspire–an organisation I started with a couple of friends a couple of years ago— continue to make an impact in people’s lives. I wish we could get some fundings for this organisation. I wish to win the Finnish Championship of freestyle rap!
TH: Finland would be celebrating its 100 years of independence next year. What are your dreams and visions for Finland’s future?
Olli: I hope that the social landscape continues to change.
That it becomes more okay and acceptable for people to talk about emotions and mental health issues.
TH: On a parting note, do you have anything else to add?
Olli: Not that much – or maybe that what a reader could do is to start writing down the things they want in their lives.
Do this writing daily for 30 days, and see what happens in your life.
TH: Thank you for your time and generous sharing today, Olli!
Olli: Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed! I wish all the best for your future 🙂
We hope you have enjoyed this interview! The Hieno! is the official partner of the Finland 100 independence programme: What is “Finnish-ness”? endorsed by the Prime Minister’s Office. Feature photo courtesy of Olli, photographed by Sebastian Trzaska.