Monthly Archives

March 2016

What is the opposite of "sisu"?

Commentary, Finnish Culture


Sisu is a Finnish word that cannot be translated metaphrastically into the English language, loosely translated to mean stoic determination, bravery, guts, resilience, perseverance and hardiness, expressing the historic self-identified Finnish national character. Sisu is about taking action against the odds and displaying courage and resoluteness in the face of adversity. Deciding on a course of action and then sticking to that decision against repeated failures is Sisu.

I’d always pondered about the differences between “sisu” and “being stubborn”, and concluded that the difference lies in whether the results are worth it. For instance, if a Finnish person does a marathon and keeps at it without stopping the run halfway, he has “sisu” and is not “being stubborn”. Because there is a personal growth here.

However, if a person who is obviously bad at Mathematics sticks to Mathematics as a major and keeps failing, then he is being stubborn because his true talent might be in Art. So his opportunity cost is high as he spends a lot of time on Math when he could have better channeled those limited time into polishing his arts skills.

Having said that, have you ever paused to consider the antonym of “sisu”?

I used to think that the opposite of “sisu” is “fickle-mindedness”.

But today, I suddenly realised that the opposite of “sisu” might well be “having no common sense”.


It totally changes the paradigm huh? If the opposite of “sisu” is “being fickle minded”, it shows that this person has a lot of things in life he/she wants to do–his/her challenge is simply a need to focus.

If however, the opposite of “sisu” is “having no common sense”–“common” defined as not knowing what the current world/ market is like, not being up to date with current trends, living in one’s own world 10-20years ago…then his/her challenge is infinitely greater than the need to focus. Because in this scenerio, he/she needs to first get out of denial.

Now, people usually don’t like to get out of their bubbles or comfort zones. You tell them they’re in denial, they shoot you. Q.E.D.

And hey, whether one has basic “common sense” or not can be validated by results and numbers. It’s not a voodoo vague term like “best”, “top”, “exemplary”–terms basically used by people who are somewhat suspicious.

Look at the numbers, folks. Numbers never lie.

People, on the other hand, lie all the time.

Lapin Kulta.

Finnish girls, Finnish men
Lapin Kulta

It started with Lapin Kulta.

The Boyfriend and I first met in the National University of Singapore (NUS) cafeteria.
There was a “Japanese/Korean Exchange student gathering”.
I was invited as a host for the gathering because I spent a year on student-exchange at Waseda University, Tokyo.

It was also in Waseda where I met two of my best Finnish friends–Paavo and J. I don’t know why, but I could communicate with them very easily. Perhaps because both of them speak very directly. I tend to be very direct too.

J is a honest Finnish guy who doesn’t talk much. We always had awkward silences (to me) during our initial conversations, but then as time passes I sort of realised that silence probably was not awkward to him.

J is really good looking, very soft-hearted, very kind–but doesn’t see himself as favorably as I see him. At Waseda, he drinks by the jug. I used to be very fascinated by that.

Paavo was like my big brother in Waseda. He took such good care of me in Tokyo! When I was sick, he would regularly check on me if I was OK, and constantly advised me not to drink too much alcohol.

During Valentine’s Day, he gave me Hello Kitty stickers from Hello Kitty Land in Tokyo, because I was like his little sister. At age 31, he looked like age 22. Good genes, good skin.

Paavo however, was constantly suspicious of online portals, and did not have facebook because they were not exactly huge on protecting your privacy. Eventually he did create a facebook to stay connected with the friends he made in Japan for a while.

However, after our year student-exchange was over, Paavo disappeared. Vanished. Our last conversation on facebook ended with “Let me know when you are coming to Finland”.

Then he deleted his facebook account. Nobody–not even J–knew what happened to him.

I deviate.

Originally, I wanted to sit with the Japanese and Korean girls at the right side of the long table to talk about shopping. But the two (male) Singaporean organisers told me to sit at the far left side of the table with the Japanese/Korean guys so that “Singaporean hosts are evenly spread out”.

How very innocent. -roll eyes-

Anyway, I ended up sitting across three guys. One of them is Japanese, and one of them is Korean. The third is strange–he doesn’t look Asian. Remember, the event was a Japanese/Korean Exchange student gathering.

안녕하세요, 제 이름은 wanwei 입니다. 만나서 반갑습니다.”

I looked at the third.

“Hi, this is Wan Wei, you can call me “One Way”! It’s the same pronunciation.”

He grunted and said in a monotone–

“Hi, N.”
Awkward silence.

“You don’t look like you are from Japan or Korea. Where are you from?”
“Oh wow, Finland! That’s cool!”
Awkward silence.

There and then, I made a mental note to engage in more small talk with the two other Korean and Japanese guys over dinner. The N sitting directly across me was probably a nice guy just like J and Paavo, but my intention that night was to be a good host to all!

N ordered chicken stew with rice, and ate with chopsticks. I was rather fascinated.

“Wow, you use chopsticks the proper way! Even I don’t.”

N grunted.

Five minutes into eating, the Japanese guy spoke about technology, and that was when the Boyfriend started talking–a lot. Initially, I couldn’t understand a word of his English, because his English was so monotonous.

But being a nice and pleasant host, I smiled and continued nodding–not understanding a single word of what he’s talking about– and made more mental notes to engage the Korean and Japanese guys.

The dinner finally ended. I suddenly remembered J gave me 6 huge cans of beer when he visited Singapore a month ago, called Lapin Kulta–or how the Finns affectionately translate the brand– “Reindeer piss”.

Nobody in my household could drink Lapin Kulta. They tasted terrible. I took a sip and that was it. Even my mom who loves salmiakki took a sip and couldn’t drink anymore.

So I decided to give N the Lapin Kulta(s) that nobody in my family wants. :DDDDD

“Hey N, here’s my number. Let me know if you want some Lapin Kulta”.

Why more Finns should learn business and why more Singaporeans should learn vision. From each other.

Commentary, Finnish Culture

Quick post before I go on to a precious friend’s bridal gown fitting. OMG I am so excited!

Just now I spoke to a professional wedding decorator, and she’s amazing. At the end of our interview, we concluded that it’s ideal to do something you like, but it’s so important to find a way to make your passion a sustainable business. 

Making your passion a sustainable business is not something a lot of people know how to do. In fact, most creative folks just live their lives not being able to monetise their passions, whereas most business folks just live their lives solely focused on profit maximization, and not being able to do something meaningful that contributes to the larger society.

I don’t know why, but I was particularly touched when she said that. Her portfolio is amazing, and her vision to be an ideal wedding decorator for the masses just touches my heart. You see, experienced decorators usually end up serving the luxury sector and the super rich in the Singaporean context. She on the other hand, with all her professionalism and experience, has a heart for the masses, because she believes that every bride–regardless of income level–deserves a beautiful wedding that is reflective of her heart.

Her vision really touches me. Not a lot of Singaporeans have visions for their lives, or what they do professionally. Most of us usually go for money, haha. Our life goals revolve around buying a house, getting a high paying job, buying a second house, buying a car, becoming rich, haha.

Whereas whenever I talk to Finns, especially creative folks, there seems to be a thinking that money is evil. Being a starving artist to them is apparently cool.

I think that’s just being in denial, haha. These precious folks think money is evil because they don’t know exactly how to acquire wealth and income stream in an ethical manner, and they don’t know how to use wealth for the larger good of society via their vision and business.

Honestly I’d rather be rich without a vision, than to be poor with a so called “vision” that can never be achieved. Because you’d always need $$$ to do big things, or to live the life you want, or to impact more people.

But ideally, of course, any form of business should not be just ALL about $$$, and I strongly believe that teaching Singaporeans how to have a vision would empower them to create entities that are even more valuable to the world.

But why do we, as Finns/Singaporeans, have to compromise? We can always work together and leverage our strengths.

Do you see how powerful greater Singaporean X Finnish integration and exchange can be?

More integration and even simple things like simply kick-starting bilateral communication and exchange can allow us to live just as we are. 

Singaporeans can leverage on the creative minds and innovation of Finns to create more wealth and money, whereas Finns can leverage on the “survival/ cut-throat” mentality in Singapore to get more wealth.

In the process, both nationalities will be able to create definite win-win situations for themselves.

Knowing exactly how to monetise creative arts/fashion/ innovation should be the direction to go.

It’s clear that Finland is the TOP country of innovation, whereas Singapore is the TOP business hub in the whole world. I used the word “business hub” because Singapore can help Finnish companies enter the ASEAN market.

Make no doubt about this. It’s really clear as day that nobody really knows exactly how to penetrate the rapidly growing ASEAN market, not even the Chinese government, with all their easy access to consumer data.

In today’s world, data and information is key. Singapore can be the springboard to ASEAN because of our historical context, cosmopolitan nature and use of English as lingua franca + business language.

Finnish innovation is perfect for the ASEAN market, which either is (A) developing or (B) of aging population. What will happen if the two tops come together to create even more value for ourselves? We’d be unbeatable, and many other new ideas, creativity and wealth can emerge out of increased interactions.

Why be restricted by the slowness and chains of the labour + macroeconomic challenges in Finland now? Leverage on the Singapore’s excellent business infrastructure, and together, let’s bring more innovation here.

I hope that in five years’ time, more Singaporeans can learn from Finns to find their own unqiue visions, which will make the world a better place.  Whereas more Finns can learn from Singaporeans to be brave, put themselves more on the line, and truly marketize innovation.

That’s my heart. 🙂 If you identify with it, please head to FINNGAPORE or like our facebook page. <3