Tag Archives: culture

The new library in Tianjin, China is simply amazing

2017-11-18

Public buildings, and in our era, especially libraries often have a significant role in positioning a community or an entire nation to the world. Looking at the images of the recently opened (October 2017) library in the city of Tianjin in China, the wow-effect is instant. The new library is simply something you can’t take your eyes off of.

Tianjin Binhai library designed by Dutch architects MVRDV
Tianjin is a metropolis on the coast about 100 km from Beijing. Dutch architect firm MVRDV designed the amazing library in cooperation with Tianjin Urban Planning and Design Institute (TUPDI). The new library has 1.2 million books on its shelves, ready to be loaned. The size of the building is 33,700 m2.

The architects of MVRDV describe the building as a cultural centre with a spherical auditorium. The bookcases that cascade from floor to ceiling make it an educational centre, and also social space.

The five-level building also has educational facilities along the edges of the interior and accessible through the main atrium space. Subterranean service spaces, book storage, and a large archive are working spaces for the employees. Reading areas for children and the elderly, and the auditorium are on the ground floor. The first and second floors consist primarily of reading rooms, books and lounge areas. Upper floors have meeting rooms, offices, computer and audio rooms and two rooftop patios.

The building project was completed in three years, which can be regarded as some kind of miracle for such a complex building. The fast construction schedule came with some sacrifices, though. For instance, the bookshelves located high up in the library don’t have books, but plates that look like books. The reason for this is that there wasn’t time to build public access to the bookshelves at the top.

View the video of the library filmed by New China TV:

Looking at the images of the Tianjin Binhai library also makes one think. What is the meaning of the new library? Perhaps one of its missions is to tell us that today, China is one of the most powerful nations in the world that has the wealth and the will to show that the society values education, culture and books.

The following photos by MVRDV.

Tianjin Binhai library in China, designed by MVRDV

Tianjin Binhai library in China, designed by MVRDV

Tianjin Binhai library in China, designed by MVRDV

Tianjin Binhai library in China, designed by MVRDV

What is the Finnish way of doing things? American author reveals it all in the 6th edition of his book about Finland

2017-02-10

Author, journalist Russell Snyder moved to Finland from California in 1982. He has spent over 30 years exploring and enjoying the Nordic country. He has traveled far and wide searching for experiences, but has uncovered many cultural treasures right in Helsinki where he has mostly lived. “Finland is both a great place to visit and to live. The longer you stay here, the more you become hooked on the Finnish way of doing things.”
cover image of book: The Lighter Side of Finland 6th Ed
Here is what the author had to say about the new edition of his book about Finland.

You have just launched the 6th edition of The Lighter Side of Finland. When was the first one published?

The first edition was published 22 years ago. It reflected Finland as it was back then. However, Finland is constantly changing and redefining itself, so the book has been updated and revised to reflect those changes.

Why have you picked this year to publish this new edition?

Finland is celebration its 100-year anniversary of becoming an independent nation, so I wanted to celebrate the occasion with this book.

You use a lot of humor in your writing.

I believe humor is the best way to encourage people to keep reading. And if people are entertained and get a few laughs, they may even remember something.

What have been your favorite experiences in Finland?

Sledding on a hill with my kids. Walking around in a forest in Lapland during the autumn to experience the fantastic colors. Fishing on the Ruunaa River and smoking the freshly caught trout on a campfire. Dancing on a Saturday night in a small village and meeting new friends. Trying out the magnificent smoke saunas the Sauna Society. And many more.

You have also written Analysis of the Finnish Tango and I, Helsinki. Any plans to write another book?

I hope to write a book about Estonia soon.

sauna etiquette in Finland
The book covers the basics of sauna etiquette as well as many other unique Finnish customs.

Spaghetti and Sauna is a survival guide to Europe’s vastly different cultures: Italy and Finland

2016-03-28

Finns are from Neptune and Italians from Mercury – that is what someone moving from Italy to Finland (or vice versa) might think. The differences in culture, behavior and socializing – not to mention weather and food are so great that it can drive a normal, healthy person to believe that the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy correctly defined the meaning of life.
sample page from book Spaghetti and Sauna
Fortunately, everyone who is planning to move to Europe – particularly to Finland or Italy – can now read a book that tells everything about the most common pitfalls that a traveler, student or an expatriate may encounter in a new environment.

Irene De Benedictis moved from Rome to Pori, a relatively small town in Finland to study and work. She survived. Even though it didn’t go as smoothly as she would have liked, the best thing is that she wrote a book Spaghetti & Sauna about her culture shock and how she learned to cope with the Scandinavian weather, food, and people.

Spaghetti and Sauna tells an entertaining and educating story that is worth a read for everyone who is interested in the cultures and customs of South and North Europe. If you don’t know what a personal bubble, sauna evening, umbrella ride or onion-style fashion is, you better read the book.

book cover image: Spaghetti and Sauna
More about the book Spaghetti & Sauna – Discovering the Rational Finnish Culture through the Eyes of an Emotional Italian here.

Research: Literacy culture is critical to the success of individuals and nations

2016-03-13

For more than 40 years, John W. Miller at Central Connecticut State University has analyzed the reasons and consequences for literacy and illiteracy from the society’s point of view. When he decided to analyze all the countries of the world, the result was a ranking for the World’s Most Literate Nations. Nordic countries top the list.
Apple iPad, ebook, eyeglasses, books,
Top 10 literate countries in the world are:

1. Finland
2. Norway
3. Iceland
4. Denmark
5. Sweden
6. Switzerland
7. United States
8. Germany
9. Latvia
10. Netherlands

The research didn’t measure the usual yardstick – percentage how many citizens in each country are literate, but literate behaviors and supporting resources in each country. The criteria for the analysis were:

– Number of libraries and their book selection.
– Number of newspapers, their circulation and online availability.
– Education system resources.
– Education system results, especially concerning literacy.
– Number of computers at homes (not tablets or smartphones, but only computers).

Miller intended to analyze data on 200 countries, but was able to collect reliable data from 61 countries. He concludes the importance of literary culture: “The factors we examine present a complex and nuanced portrait of a nation’s cultural vitality. And what the rankings strongly suggest and world literacy demonstrates is that these kinds of literate behaviors are critical to the success of individuals and nations in the knowledge-based economies that define our global future.”

It is quite remarkable how European countries, especially Northern European nations, hold top positions in the ranking for the most literate nations.

The report World’s Most Literate Nations by Connecticut State University is available here.

Via Takepart.

Accidental cultural conflicts are often excused for tourists, but in some countries, serious consequences await

2015-10-19

Experiencing and learning about foreign cultures is one of the best things when traveling overseas. The further away from home you travel, the more you should pay attention to getting familiar with cultural issues and local habits in the destination. Often, accidental poor behavior is forgiven to tourists because everyone understands that it is impossible for foreigners to know all local habits. There can be, however, serious consequences if you happen to break a local law that you would never believe is a crime.

Home exchange service Love Home Swap has created an infographic that explains a few good-to-know and especially, must-know cultural items from popular travel destinations across the world.

cultural risks, love home swap infographic

Thailand was mentioned in the infographic, but there are many more pieces of cultural knowledge travelers should be aware of. For instance, what is the real reason behind the famous Thai smile? The Best of Pattaya, Thailand and the Essentials of Thai Culture has the answer.

A few countries that are not mentioned in the infographic at all are Finland and Mongolia. Stories about working and traveling in Mongolia give valuable insight on the culture of this exotic country. Two guidebooks: The Lighter Side of Finland and Analysis of the Finnish Tango explain the cool Nordic culture of Finland.

Google Field Trip App Guides You to Sights and European Cultural Treasures

2015-03-29

Your smartphone knows where you are, because its GPS receiver can calculate your location. Now that your phone knows exactly in which street corner you are standing, it could tell you something about nearby places and sights as well. That’s exactly what Google Field Trip application does.

google field trip application

The Field Trip is available for iOS (iPhone, iPad), Android (for instance, Samsung, LG, HTC, Motorola) and Google Glass devices. The app is free, but you will have to give all your personal information from your phone and location information to Google (you won’t notice it, but the app asks for permission for it and then does it in the background).

There are two ways to use the Field Trip app:
1. Let the app determine your location and provide you with information cards about nearby places and sights. Obviously, this is a handy feature when you are standing in a street corner of a strange city and have no idea what to do next.
2. Search a specific place, and let Field Trip tell you what type of sights exists there. A useful feature if you are pondering if, for instance, Grasse in Southern France is a town worth visiting (it definitely is).

The Field Trip app has been around for a while already, but recently an interesting development was announced. Europeana, the digital archive of Europe’s cultural heritage, provides information on Europe’s cultural destinations directly to the Field Trip application. The first step was to add cultural information from Sweden (view a travel guide here), Poland and Estonia to the app.

google field trip europeana

Europeana writes: “Three Europeana partners – the Swedish National Heritage Board, the National Heritage Board of Estonia and the National Heritage Board of Poland – joined the pilot to share their curated and enriched collections. Their datasets are now available in the app history feed and guide tourists to beautiful and prominent historical buildings and monuments in Estonia, Poland and Sweden. Europeana is seeking co-operation with other European cultural institutions. More information here.

Finns can tango, but why do they do it? Book reveals the secrets of Finnish life

2014-03-01

Finns seem to be so enthusiastic about tango that they annually crown a new tango king and queen. Is there a secret of Finnish life that others don’t know about?

The best person to analyze it is naturally someone who isn’t a Finn, but knows them thoroughly. Russell Snyder, an author and journalist, has published a book titled Analysis of the Finnish Tango that kindly reveals the secrets of the nation, its culture and unique habits of people.

Download ebook: Analysis of the Finnish Tango

Analysis Of The Finnish Tango is a collection of flash fiction works and poems dealing with Finland, its society and its culture. These texts are not meant to be an accurate representation of the Finnish population. They are simply the author’s personal glimpses of people’s behavior, conversations around a dinner table, discussions in the sauna, chats in pubs, communications at the workplace and personal associations with Finns at large.

Interview: How to survive in Finland as an American author ?

2013-04-02

31 years ago, Russell Snyder moved to Finland from California. He makes his living writing and giving lectures in this remote Nordic country, and claims he enjoys it here – well most of the time, anyway. Find out what he has to say about his style of writing, and the country where he has had some many experiences (fortunately, mainly positive ones).

Russell Snyder

You are known for your entertaining non-fiction books such as “The Lighter Side of Finland.” How did you find your style of writing?

I try to use engaging and humorous texts whenever possible. People are bombarded with too much information these days; to get their attention you have to stand out from the crowd.

However, in many of my writing assignments, one can’t use humor. So I strive to make texts clear and concise.

What else have you written?

I’ve done lots of articles and columns on everything from culture and travel to business and technology.

My previous book, Finland – It Works, is very different from The Lighter Side of Finland. It’s an extremely positive coffee table book that focuses on the Finnish brand. I have also written a range of guidebooks, gift books, and textbooks.

What are your favorite non-fiction books?

There are so many. I enjoy Dave Barry’s humor books, Bill Bryson’s travel books, biographies and autobiographies if they are well written. And I read a lot of positive thinking books to inspire and motivate me.

You are currently using an Amazon Kindle e-book reader. Was it difficult getting used to this device?

Not at all. I use it while waiting in line, take it with me when traveling, and read in bed before going to sleep. It’s terrific having a book store that’s open 24 hours a day.

What can we expect from you in the future?

I’d like to write more about Helsinki and some other cities in Finland. Shorts stories interest me as well as flash fiction and poetry.

What are your favorite things to do in Finland?

Swimming in a lake after a sauna, skiing on a well maintained track at my own pace, and attending as many Christmas parties as possible. And there are many more. Have you got any suggestions?