I am very jealous of the ease with which technology integrates into the
everyday life of the average Finn. It's not obvious from the get-go, but
becoming mobile is very, very easy over here--provided you already have
the necessary devices.
Allow me to provide an example. The past two years I've visited, I had
my phone with me, but it was a very limited-use device, what with
exorbitant roaming charges, so I mostly kept it off, or in Wi-Fi-only
mode. This year, I decided to just bite the bullet and pick up a prepaid
SIM card and slot it in for the duration of my visit. I had a hard time
finding concrete information on how much a decently-priced data plan
would be, or what the limits or speed would be like, so I decided to
just play it by ear and figure it out when I got here. In the US,
picking up a prepaid plan is often a bit of a pain. I looked into AT&T's
prepaid plans a year or two ago and they were expensive and restrictive.
T-Mobile's aren't bad, but their coverage is spotty. Finding information
on anything else proved to be surprisingly difficult, and finding a
retailer to sell a prepaid SIM was a crap-shoot at best.
Here in Finland, we walked into an R-Kioski (roughly equivalent to a
7-11), asked what prepaid cards they had available and were handed a
list comparing five or six different brands and plan details. I wound up
paying 5 euros for a card pre-loaded with 6.60€. Calls are 0.06€ a
minute, texts are 0.06€ per, and data is 0.66€ per day for unlimited
usage. (These are all domestic rates. Calling and texting out of the
country is naturally quite a bit more expensive). Since, for the most
part, I use my phone as a pocket computer and don't do a whole lot of
texting or calling, this plan is fantastic for me. I also get consistent
4G speeds and a good signal everywhere (though I think that's more a
result of Finland's small size and flat geography). The best part? I can
share my phone's (unlimited!) data plan with anything via Wi-Fi. I'm
actually writing this post on my tablet using my phone's internet
connection. Give me a power outlet and I can keep this up from pretty
But it's not just phone service. I keep running into little things that
are surprisingly complex and well-designed. Take, for example, this
video of me demonstrating how to recycle bottles in Finland:
I actually place the bottle onto a treadmill that's capable of moving
the bottle back and forth as well as rotating it. It sucks up the
bottle, and a barcode scanner looks for the barcode. If it can't find
it, it starts rotating the bottle until it's successful. It's an
impressively-designed bit of machinery, and I am very jealous of it.
But maybe it's not so surprisingly that their designers and engineers
are inspired when they've got views like this:
Approaching the lake
Climbing a hill overlooking the lake
From the top of the hill.
Panorama of the shore.