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Helsinki Book Fair 2016: The secret as to why most Finns are so smart.

Finnish Society, Helsinki Events, Things to do in Helsinki

I’d always wondered why most Finns are so smart. Then I went to the Helsinki Book Fair 2016 and realised why.

My personal experience with my Finnish friends is that regardless of education level, most Finns can think on their own terms. This is of course as opposed to blindly believing in abstract subjective statements like “hard work is always good”. Dr Ed Dutton also wrote in an academic article that Finns are by far the most intelligent Europeans, with an average IQ of 111.

Average IQ and education levels aside, why are Finns so smart?

Today I found out another reason…

…It’s because Finns read a lot!

And this is why it was such a huge privilege for me to cover the Helsinki Book Fair 2016! 😀

The Helsinki Book Fair 2016 is Finland’s largest book event, featuring 1000 performers on the fair stages over four days. Arranged for the 16th time, there are 314 exhibitors and invitations to 48 international writers from 8 different countries in Helsinki Book Fair 2016.

It was quite fun! I met really random mascots too:


Oh if you are wondering why there are chocolates in the picture collage, it is because the book fair was held in conjunction with the wine-and-food fair.

Happiness in The Helsinki Book Fair!

Oh yes, the themes of Helsinki Book Fair this year are the literature and culture of the Nordic countries, immigration of our time and education. The Book Fair commenced on Thursday for example, with opening words from Jari Tervo–author of the book Matriarkka, a book on immigration from the eyes of migrants.

Interestingly, there is also a focus on how Finland’s own history in terms of immigration and minority groups are often conveniently forgotten–not just related to the Swedish speaking minorities, but also the Sami people, Jewish, Russians and Romanians.

Related to the literature and culture of the Nordic countries, I dropped by the Nordic Culture booth, and read quite some stuffs about Icelandic and Danish literature!

They were really fascinating. I’d never considered Icelandic literature before prior to this book fair–sounds so exotic right? I mean, as Singaporeans we know the movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” that was filmed in Iceland, and that’s it.

So it’s great to know that there are many, many interesting Icelandic literature too. Especially after the following Ms. Iceland’s video went viral, I’d been more interested in what Icelanders are taught. Considering how brave she is, I’m sure Icelandic literature must have been quite brave too!

I deviate, haha.

One thing I appreciate most about the Helsinki Book Fair is the concept that”reading promotes empathy”. I think I used to be quite a non-empathic person in Singapore until I came to Finland where the culture of humility toned me down a lot.

I remembered that some time last year, my cousin brother applied for his scholarship in UK and I helped with his interview preparation. He asked me a question–

WW, why must we have empathy?”

I couldn’t really answer. But! I went home to google and youtube the question, and found this TED talk:

I guess reading a lot of books and having a high level of empathy is consistent with the notion that Finnish people are in general calm, agreeable and with a high level of conscientiousness.

Interesting, right?

Okay, I think I’d go downstairs to walk around more now–I’m at the press room right now. The Helsinki Book Fair 2016 is still ongoing tomorrow, from 10am to 6pm, at Helsinki Exhibition Centre Halls 6 and 7.

Do visit and have fun!~ =) Do check the website for Sunday’s programme and more details.

[Suomi 100] "Tätä tehdään yhdessä!" ♡

Helsinki Events, Official Finland 100 Series Endorsed by Prime Minister's Office

Today I had the huge privilege of attending the Finland 100 Espoo/Uusimaa networking event. It was soooooo fun and I met many interesting people!


Saara briefing the crowd.


The official Espoo schedule for Suomi100 next year!~

I found two particular projects to be extremely interesting. They are the:

  • “Koko Suomi tanssii” project/ “The whole Finland dance” project…

  • …and the “Let’s eat together” project!

There were people knitting while the presentation was on-going, against the backdrop of cute random mini-flags. I found that intriguing.


One really interesting Wee-gee talk!


I was really surprised to see the paper dolls at the bottom left-hand corner on the screen. I always thought it was an American thing!~

“Let’s do it together!” That’s the theme for Suomi100!~

Kiitos to the Espoo Community for having me today!~

It was such a fruitful and informative networking event! ♡♡


Brown-chan with the cute mini-Suomi 100 badges.

My only regret was forgetting to take the Suomi100 chocolates/sweets! 😀 Though I’m sure I’d be able to get some periodically throughout 2017!

[EARS on Helsinki 2016] Main learning: The determination of price and value of creative work lies on the premise of "trust" and "consent".

Helsinki Events

I was really inspired after reading the draft by my friend and guest-writer Meri, who attended EARS with me as media practitioners. She wrote such a beautiful piece on her learnings from EARS on Helsinki 2016, so I am moved to write one personal piece too! Check her beautiful website out for the post, which she’d be publishing tomorrow! ~~

You can read our prior interview with the CEO of EARS on Helsinki 2016 here.

Today I wish to highlight a very random conversation that took place over breakfast with Mr. SK Lee. I haven’t had such an enlightening conversation for a long while, and I sincerely think SK is a really wise person.


(Apologies for the blurry photograph–I was sitting quite far back :D)

Here’s SK’s brief profile:

“EARS on Helsinki speaker Sang Kil Lee is currently managing KT Licensing Limited and overseeing other subsidiaries and business units at Fung Group (formerly known as Li & Fung Group) for Greater China and Korea, in the area of consumer products licensing and brand management for world famous cartoon characters. Prior to joining Fung Group in 2009, S.K. Lee worked at Disney Consumer Products for 15 years across important management roles in Asia Pacific region. “

In his presentation on 25th of August, SK spoke at length about on managing and developing one’s IP in Asia. It was a very detailed talk and got me thinking about the difference between copyrights and trademarks, the Berne’s convention (didn’t know/ can’t believe that China signed it) and the “passing off” law. The interesting thing was that SK was sitting next to me before his talk, so we did briefly say hi on that day!

So I was particularly happy to continue the conversation on the morning of 26th of August, and the conversation totally started randomly over breakfast. I asked SK some of his opinions about contracts, because I always have a keen interest about contracts–Be it verbal contracts, written contracts, NO contracts, and etc.

SK shared two very interesting points that really resonated with me: One, his personal definition of a contract (which was really elegant and classy), and Two, the assertion that morality is higher than any form of contracts you can sign.

And I can tell you that I’m rather impressed by SK’s interpretations of contracts, clauses and agreements. It’s very clear that SK is a wise gentleman who’s very generous with his sharing of domain knowledge. In fact, SK’s wisdom on contracts has already inspired one article I wrote about the GrabGas Saga, which you can read here.

SK defined contracts as follow:

“A written contract is a summary of what had been discussed and agreed upon beforehand.”

Now what is special about this definition is because of the idea of “consent”. This has huge implications, because once you get your signature onto that piece of paper, it shows that you have consented to the summary of a prior discussion.

So you sign a written contract not because you don’t trust the person, but because you trust the person and even want to consent to working with them.

In short, this definition of contracts is very wise and elegant, and I’d tell you why.

For whenever two parties sign a contract, they are projecting their future work experiences together, in the face of unknown-unknowns and known-unknowns.

This is to say, nobody started any collaboration/ co-operations thinking that it will all go to shit, and that they’d all end up in court. People always expect and hope for the best.

So, positive intention is key. When two parties sign a contract, they have to feel that they trust each other, and that there is general goodwill between both parties.

However, have you ever heard of the saying “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”? For instance, why do people end up in court in spite of starting their businesses/partnerships with good intentions?

Let me give you a recent example: QiuQiu Vs Nuffnang. QiuQiu has always been one of my favorite Singaporean bloggers and I have always liked her for her sincere, hardworking and honest online persona. I still cannot believe why Nuffnang is suing her on the clause of “breach of contract”, and because the courtcase is ongoing, nobody exactly knows what is going on until it is made public.

But I believe that when Qiu signed the contract, she and Nuffnang sincerely believed that it is with the best intentions for both parties at that point in time.

Qiu’s case–I believe, is just one of the common things that happen from time to time in the blogosphere, or to a larger extent the creative/ fashion/ arts industry.

So what happened? How can disputes happen in spite of partnerships that started out on a really promising and positive note?

Things can sometimes turn really sour probably because assumptions are different. That is to say, people always tend to value their work differently in monetary terms, and this needs to be clarified. Contracts are written with a certain set of assumptions in mind, and people usually end up in court not because they want to nit-pick, but because they feel that they cannot trust each other.

SK shared that sometimes, when he’s interviewing younger folks, he’d always cringe a little when he hear the younger folks say arrogantly– “I negotiate really well!” He’d always think–“Really? This sounds like you are ripping the other party off.”

So his sharing was that before signing a contract, it’s important for the salesperson to be upfront with his client on the hidden details, and things they can or cannot do. Because the client will eventually find out along the way and feel deceived.

And–SK adds– if the client feels deceived, he can just tear up the contract on the spot and you can’t really do anything about it.

That was when the point of morality comes in. Morality–in this view–is way higher than any written contract, because the premise of morality is mutual honesty and trust, and not the written word/ legalism.

Having said that however, it is still better to sign a written contract than to rely on everything verbal–so you should never start work without signing a written contract!! “Verbal contracts”, while legal in some countries, are rarely enforced because they are so weak as evidence legally.

For one could easily argue that these “verbal contracts” are but “discussions”. That is to say, no prior -verifiable- consent, unless it is recorded.

Anyway, do take some time to think about this and digest it. This issue of contracts, honestly, is something that is close to my heart because I’d personally faced a situation of NO contract and not getting paid in spite of work delivered. I personally had once naively thought that verbal contracts hold, until I realised they don’t–even in Finland, where people are supposedly honest! And you can’t really sue a person without implicating a whole lot of other people!

So I’d always been looking for answers, or a reasonable way to interpret this sort of tort/ contractual disputes. Mark my words–in the creative industry so filled with inflated egos, contractual disputes won’t be uncommon.

This made me reflect on the saying again by Warren Buffett: “Price is what you pay, value is what you get”. After the conversation with SK, I realised that price is determined via consent, and value is determined subjectively in accordance to the individual’s background. And therefore, miscommunication should be minimised as much as possible when it comes to money (which can be done in writing as opposed to just verbal), and trust and positive intention guide the entire process.

So thank you SK, for teaching me all these through our random breakfast conversation. I think it made me a wiser person too! 😀

And factually, this sort of unexpected, random breakfast conversations with smart people is precisely why you should attend EARS on Helsinki 2017–because it allows you to explore your unknown-unknows. You can find out the unknown-unknowns by being random, and you can find out the known-unknowns by attending the specially curated presentations.

I say this for sure because I did learn loads from EARS 2016, and I’m honestly impressed by how much the Finnish fashion scene for instance have progressed within 2 years. =)

Let’s attend EARS 2017 together!! Oh yes, and it will also be Finland 100 next year, so maybe something really exciting would be planned~ 🙂