There are not many books published in English language that tell the experience of a foreigner living in Finland. So Elks Do Not Speak English, by English author John Murolo, is a very refreshing publication for those of you who want to know more about the Nordic country.
But this is not a book that maybe would delight all kind of audiences interested in Finland. I have experienced myself in the last decade how more and more foreigners, not only political refugees as some Finns may think, but hordes of exchange students or workers for mainly IT companies choose Finland to stay for some period of time, and in many cases the stay stretches for many more years. If you are expecting to read a book about wild University parties with drunken students dressed in colorful overalls, amazing anecdotes where people wake up not remembering what wild party went on the previous night or hints about the main cities nightlife and nightclubs, Elks Do Not Speak English is maybe not for you.
John Murolo narrates his experiences together with his wife Celia during 15 years visiting and living in Finland, coming from England, his home country. But they represent another sector of foreign population, those who after many years of hard work want to get a piece of land in this quiet country, far from main cities, and who prefer to tell anecdotes about their grandchildren than going out to the local bar. Sometimes he spends long paragraphs amazed of little details of current Finnish life. But maybe that is what makes this book slow but delightful at the same time: in the end, not only in the big things but the little details of everyday life is where you most notice the difference of living abroad.
Murolo does not give you advice about the hottest metal bands from Tampere or Helsinki, but you will find very entertaining chapters that have to do with living in isolated communities of Finland: gardening, solving small household problems, the communication with the Finns, who are friendly but with different patterns of behavior than in many other countries, how to drink coffee always together with a pulla, how is life near a lake, sauna, fishing in frozen waters… It is also pretty interesting to see how Finland has evolved during the last decade and a half, and how some behaviors from Finns that Murolo contemplates in his book do not take place so often, at least in bigger cities, while some others remain the same with the past of time
Remember that this is a very objective narration of the author´s own experiences in Finland, so some comments and behaviors of amazement towards Finnish customs could be taken the wrong way. All in all, he manages to explain himself his love for this nation very clearly, and be honest, when you care about something or someone, there is always a small portion of healthy criticism involved here and there. Maybe the only chapter where people can feel really not comfortable is the one dedicated to Russians; there Murolo shares the widespread views of Finns about their not so beloved Russian neighbors, but let´s not forget that not all the Russians in Finland walk in Helsinki with full wallets and noses up.
If you are looking forward to stories of young blonde girls and boys drinking until losing their senses, rock and metal bands and crazy nights surrounded by snow, you are not going to find it here. But if you are interested in Finland, and especially what is to buy a property or live there outside the biggest metropolitan areas, you are going to find that Finnish Elks can be pretty entertaining, although they still will not be able to speak English with you.