Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Coffee Breaks

There is a telltale sign to indicate an extroverted Finn. When he is talking to you he looks at your feet instead of his own.

While the Finns have worked hard to earn this reputation, I think they did it on purpose, and I also think it is wholly inaccurate. Especially when juxtaposed with the hurry-scurry-worry-work me-first American attitude.

The Finns are very industrious, with a work ethic that would put most of our country to shame. They are also tremendously friendly (but again, I don’t think I am supposed to give away that national secret). We have been graciously greeted over and over again, even as we intrude clumsily.

The special needs student who marched, arm extended, out of his classroom to introduce himself and ask who we were and why were there. He was pleased to meet us. A classroom interrupted in the states might have brought out another reaction.

The master craftsmen at the Sella Furniture Design Center who put down their sharp tools and sandpaper to patiently answer our questions…and then simply wanted to know more about us.

The factory manager at Suomen Lampopuu Oy who interrupted his day. Despite coming upon his busiest season (because they do not store inventory in Europe) of heat-treating lumber for construction and decoration, and especially despite the fact that two of his buildings, including his biggest oven or kiln, had just burned down.

I think I know the answer to both their industriousness and their friendliness: The Coffee Break. Twice a day, morning and afternoon, they all take a break and talk. Yes, a conversation, gathered around a table. They enjoy a small (maybe 6 oz.) cup of coffee in real cups, and they do take a break. This allows them to know their colleagues better, and then they go back to real work. There is no multi-tasking during the coffee break.

In America, it would not work. We’re in too much of a hurry to engage the Starbucks clerk’s inquiry about our morning while we wait for our supertanker to go. And at the office, we should always be using that time some other way, or, more accurately, three other ways at once.

This is amazing. Coffee break time, you sit down, sip coffee, and talk. Even with strangers.

Now back to the funny (and some meaningful) pictures.

An X-Ray representative of a GSE team's collective brain after six days of travel. 

Now Karl is working on recruiting.

Exchanging banners with the president of the Rotary Club of Jurva. They meet at the restaurant Tarina. Tarina means “story.” When the movie theater across the street closed, the restaurant appropriated the name, along with a great neon sign.

The Alpha and Omega of our time in Kauhajoki: Restaurant Kruovi.

We’re off to Kristiinankaupunki tomorrow, and then Jalasjarvi tomorrow night.


  1. Awesome posts...Love to read them. Keep up the flow of information. Thanks!!

  2. Keep up the good work. I love the posts. Bring me the recipe for the Mammi.

  3. I am glad it is Adam posting these in his inimitable way. He is kind of Hemingway-esque. Good thing it wasn't me. I would say deep thoughts like Moose taste good, love the beer, the people are nice.

    Way to go Adam. Keep them coming.