“What’s the difference between a Finnish extrovert and a Finnish introvert? The introvert looks at his shoes when he is talking to you. The extrovert looks at your shoes.”
As politicians jokes go, that is not bad. I heard it from Alex Stubb, the Finnish foreign minister, who was speaking last night at the European Business Leaders conference here in Helsinki. Like many successful young politicians, Stubb is a crazed over-achiever. I used to know him in Brussels, when he was a member of the European Parliament, so I asked him if we could meet up again later this weekend. He informed me proudly that this would not be possible, since he is going to Germany to take part in an “iron man Triathalon”. Lucky him.
Another way of dividing up the Finns is between the inward-looking and silent “forest Finns” and the outward-looking cosmopolitan “Nokia Finns”. Naturally, the Nokia Finns are running the show at the business conference. Finland’s recent economic success has made the country a prime example of the benefits of being a small open economy in a globalised world. But some of what I’m hearing at this conference makes me wonder, if we may be moving back into an age in which it’s better to be big. Read more