As Finland is celebrating its 100 years of independence in 2017, I could not come up with a far more excellent idea than talking to Finnish people from different walks of life about the idea of Finnishness. The centenary year gives the Finns plenty of reasons to look back at the past and rejoice at all their glorious achievements. I wanted to listen to the stories of Finnish people in order to get an insight into what it means to be a Finn, the Finnish way of life and future hopes for this Nordic nation. As would be expected, not everybody will tell the same story but combining them together can produce a powerful Finnish narrative that comprehensively reflects what this north European nation is like.
Jenny Kangasvuo is a writer and cultural anthropologist based in the city of Oulu. Sudenveri (Wolf’s Blood) is her first novel which was published in 2012. She has received awards in short story competitions. Her works have been translated into English, Estonian, French and Spanish.
She has also written reviews and articles for magazines, especially on topics related to Japanese popular culture, gender and sexuality. Her doctoral dissertation was on Finnish bisexuality.
The 42-year-old is overtly critical of the austerity measures taken by the Juha Sipilä-led government, believes that Finnishness is not restricted to the land boundaries of Finland, and that the Finnish society should play its part in facilitating the integration of refugees.
Enjoy the interview!
Q. Tell us briefly who you are and what you do.
I am Jenny Kangasvuo, a cultural anthropologist and writer of fiction. I have worked as a researcher at the University of Oulu. I have written short stories and published a novel titled Sudenveri (Wolf’s Blood). I am currently working on my second novel.
Q. What makes a Finn a Finn? What does being a Finn mean to you?
I think this is the most difficult question to answer. In the context of the current situation and also the past, there is no such thing as Finnishness. For example, a person can be from a Somali family and he/she can still be a Finn. Also, a person can be adopted from China and can still be a Finn. On the other hand, a Sami person from northern Finland may not feel like he/she is a Finn because of discrimination.
I think being a Finn is kind of having an engagement with Finland. So it’s like living in this country and wanting to build it. It’s not only about the culture or the language because Swedish, for example, is the second official language in Finland. I’ve lived in the northern part of Finland but I’m not a Sami person. However, I went to school with Sami people. So it’s not only about the language or customs or culture. It’s about this imaginary engagement to this country.
Now for me, being a Finn is about the Finnish language because I’m a writer and I write in Finnish, which is my mother tongue.
My definition of Finnishness also includes the nature and scenery. But the odd thing is that I’ve been travelling to Sweden a lot because it’s near Finland. When I go to the northern part of Sweden, it’s like being at home because the nature is quite similar. So for me, Finnishness is not limited to the land boundary of Finland. For example, I can go to Karelia in Russia where the forests are similar to that in Finland and still feel like a Finn even though the area is not actually in Finland.
I think the idea of Finnishness is quite vague and it’s certainly not limited to land boundaries.
Q. What are you most proud of as a Finn?
As for what I’m proud of as a Finn, it’s kind of a sad thing. If this interview was done a couple of years ago, I’d have said I’m proud of the education system, healthcare, democracy and freedom of speech. However, all these have been crumbling. For example, our Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has tried to control the contents of Yle’s reports on him, and Finland’s press freedom has got a bad reputation. The country has lost its top position on the Press Freedom Index.
So I, as a Finn, could have been proud of these very important things but they are kind of disappearing. The way the government is changing how public healthcare services are organised and provided may mean there will actually be no free health services for people. The people, if they become sick, are actually going to die without receiving proper healthcare. Things were not like this in the past.
To me, the subject of gender equality is not tied to a specific culture. Equality between the sexes is not implemented magically. It is something to be achieved by taking a set of measures.
Finland has been a Nordic welfare state but the key welfare services are kind of vanishing. That no longer makes me proud of my Finnish identity.
Q. Finns often prefer isolation to social interaction. Does that mean Finnish people consciously want to live an isolated life by avoiding a vibrant social life? Or is it just the way of life that has been going on for generations?
I think the idea of Finnish people living an isolated life is kind of a fantasy. In the past, people were living in bigger households with their grandparents and uncles and aunts. In farmhouses, farm workers also lived with the families in the same house.
This idea of social isolation might be a new concept, but I don’t know for sure. It may also be because of the fact that the land area of Finland is so huge but only around 5.5 million live here.
Q. In 1940, the New York Times said ‘sisu’ is a word that explains Finland. If sisu is such a key part of Finnish identity, then I would define Finns using three words that all start with the letter ‘S’ — sisu, sauna and silence. To what extent do you think my definition is correct?
I think sisu, like social isolation, might be a fantasy but it’s a useful fantasy. It gives you possibilities to persevere. It’s like we are Finns and we have sisu, and that’s why we need to persevere.
Also, it has to do with our past. In the 1970s, Finland was going through changes and people were like losing their farms and so on. If I remember correctly, half a million Finnish people moved to Sweden to work because there were more jobs there. In Finland, social security is a very young concept. Norway and Sweden have been rich countries but Finland had been poor for a long time. That’s why you can say sisu in Finland was kind of a way to manage life.
We were on the side of the Nazis during the Second World War but we lost. So sisu was something that was important to build the country after the war and during the unemployment problem in the 1970s. I think sisu, later on, became kind of a fantasy. It was like everyone wanted to have sisu but nobody had any idea what it actually meant.
As for sauna, I think it’s not only about wanting to be warm but well, it’s also about that. For example, you can go to sauna when it’s -30 degrees outside and that’s extremely nice. But people also go to sauna when it’s +30 degrees in summer, for example. So it’s not only about the warmth but also relaxation.
For me, as a woman, sauna also means the chance to see people naked, especially in the context of how the media portrays and emphasises the idea of beauty. But it’s not like seeing people naked in a sexual way. Let’s say I see a 60-year-old woman in sauna and understand how her body looks like at this age. Then I realise how my own body will look like in decades when I reach her age. In that context, I think you don’t need to look at those advertisements in the media and fashion magazines, and think that you need to have those body shapes to be beautiful and pretty. When people go to sauna, everybody has like red faces and they sweat. So going to sauna is about realising that how your body looks is not important. For women, I think that’s empowering.
I have observed that Finns are not into small talk and want to remain silent. Let me tell you a story. I was in a writers’ residency a few years ago and there were people from all over Europe attending the welcome dinner. It was nice and everyone was engaged in conversation with others in the room until there was a very small moment of silence, so small that I did not even notice it. A Spanish person told me the Spaniards have an expression for this sudden silence during conversations and that is “an angle passing by”. It’s like people become silent because an angle is passing by. I was asked if we the Finns have any expression for this type of sudden silence and I was like “what silence? There wasn’t any silence.” Then there was this one guy who said this type of silence is called “conversations” in Finland.
So what you call silence is a way of communication for Finns. It’s not like we are withdrawing ourselves from social interaction. It’s about giving space to others and having your own space at the same time to engage in thinking. This silence, in no way, means we want to be alone. It’s natural for us as human beings to want to be social.
Q. Can you explain more, perhaps using examples, what it is like to be a Finn with sisu? Let’s say you have been unemployed for long or experiencing some insurmountable life challenges. So if you are a Finn who has sisu, what will be your course of action to overcome these challenges?
There are things that you can use sisu for when you are facing difficulties in life. If you are unemployed, for example, you can think about using sisu to offer community services and do social work. You can also decide, for example, to reconstruct your parent’s house and activities like that.
But sisu cannot be used for politics and bureaucracy. So I don’t think doing paperwork at the employment office during unemployment requires sisu. It requires something else. Sisu is something like you just take an action even though you are not certain about the outcome. On the other hand, bureaucracy is something that eats your soul.
So let’s say you want to dig a ditch or clear snow. That’s when you need sisu. For me, sisu is more like a physical thing.
Also, sisu is about doing something even when you know there is no hope. You do it because it has to be done. For example, you have to take care of your parents when they are terminally ill even though you know they may die. This is how you act when you have sisu.
Q. One way of describing sisu is the ability to persevere in the face of extreme adversities. Success, as we know, comes with hard work and great perseverance. Do you think having sisu increases your chance of success in life?
No, I don’t think so. I think sisu helps more with adaptation. It’s like abandoning the idea of success. If you want to be successful, you can use sisu but you actually don’t know if you will eventually achieve success. Success is something that comes and goes.
Let’s say if you are an author, you may win a prize or grant but you have to realise that you should be ready to adapt to difficult situations that may arise in the future. For example, you are doing great this year as a writer but you may become a struggling author next year. In such cases, sisu gives you adaptability even if success is not guaranteed.
Q. Let’s add two more words beginning with ‘S’ — salmiakki and shyness. Salmiakki holds a special place in the heart of Finns, and Finns have been described as shy people. Interestingly, the Finnish word for Finland — Suomi — also begins with ‘S’. Tell us more!
Well, salmiakki is not only popular in Finland. It’s also popular in Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and even in Iceland where I have been once. So salmiakki is not exclusively Finnish. It’s Nordic. I don’t know why it’s popular here in Finland. I was in the Netherlands in April this year and I bought some salmiakki there. It was as good as Finnish salmiakki.
It’s surprising to me when you say the Finns are shy. We are not shy with our own people. But when it comes to interacting with foreigners, what you describe as shyness might be more about giving space to foreigners. If you are a foreigner, Finns don’t want to give you awkward stares even when you are visiting a small village or town where there is no foreigner. We want you to take your time and feel comfortable in order to make sure that we are not making you feel awkward.
But we also do this with our own people. For example, on the bus, we don’t sit next to someone not because we are shy but because we don’t want to violate other people’s personal space. I remember a local bus trip with two of my Finnish friends in Spain. We walked to the bus stop together but when we boarded the bus, we did not sit together. We did it completely naturally. It was not like we decided in advance that we would sit this way. When the trip was over, we laughed at it because we realised how simple and easy it was for us to sit separately but the Spaniards would find it strange because they are more talkative people.
For me, as a woman, sauna also means the chance to see people naked, especially in the context of how the media portrays and emphasises the idea of beauty. But it’s not like seeing people naked in a sexual way.
The fact that we three had a long, busy day ahead of us was also the reason why we did not sit together on the bus because we knew we were going to socialise later. So each of us wanted to be alone for a while. It was not about shyness but having a space to breathe. Interestingly, we wouldn’t have even thought that not sitting together was awkward if the bus trip was in Finland.
Q. Finland and other Nordic countries are regularly ranked among the world’s happiest nations. Why are the Finns so happy? What is your definition of happiness?
I think the Nordic countries are ranked high on the happiness index because of equality, social security, education, freedom of speech and democratic society. I would say happiness is not exclusively linked to the Nordic countries. If you can ensure these features in other countries, they will have a high happiness score as well.
Being a happy country has everything to do with politics. Finland is less happy than Denmark and Norway, which is now the happiest country.
For me, happiness is having financial security, maintaining good relationships with family members and friends, and doing something that is meaningful. The idea of doing meaningful work varies from person to person. For me, it’s writing but for others, it can be craftwork or even fishing.
Q. In contrast, we have an upsetting picture. Research says 1 in 10 Finns suffers from chronic loneliness. Also, depression is a big concern and suicide rate is high here. What’s your opinion on ‘Finnish happiness’ when you take these saddening issues into account?
I think depression can be the result of occupational burnout and also social isolation. As for suicide, more men than women take their own lives. I think for men in Finland, the tendency to commit suicide has to do with trying to maintain masculinity. You have to know how to manage your life yourself and how to persevere if you want to be a good Finnish man. In other words, you have to have sisu!
I think some men drive themselves into a corner and try to survive alone instead of talking about their problems with others. They may start drinking too much and consider committing suicide.
Also, in Finland, the idea of masculinity is very much linked to conscription. When Finnish men start the military service, they are actually quite young, right out of high school. While serving in the army, these young men may develop the idea of surviving alone and not showing their emotion. This can make them depressed and prone to commit suicide.
Q. In 2010, Finland was named the best country in the world by American weekly magazine Newsweek. Also, World Economic Forum’s 2015 travel and tourism competitiveness report ranked Finland as ‘the safest place on earth’. What is your reaction to these rankings?
I think the 2010 ranking by Newsweek was based on facts. Like I said, I would have been proud of my Finnish identity if this interview was done a few years back.
As for the 2015 report on safety, I think that still holds true. There have been some occasions when I felt unsafe but in general, I have always felt safe in Finland. I think it’s partly because you can always get help from the police. Police are people’s friends in Finland, which may not be the case in some other countries. In those countries, people, when they become victims of a crime, don’t get the service they expect from the police.
But in Finland, you know you can always get help from the police. Policemen here are like nannies for drunken people. If they find any drunk person lying somewhere on the street, they tell that person that it’s time to go home now.
When the police force is not a threat to the citizens, you get a safe country. However, recently, it became public that the Finnish police have racist opinions, and that they treat non-Finnish and non-white persons with an attitude that is different from their treatment of Finnish and white people. This is upsetting and causes my trust in police to crumble.
Another thing is that I think areas having small communities are safer than places where the size of the community is big. For example, Oulu is a lot safer than Helsinki because the latter is home to a larger population.
Moreover, safety does not only involve situations related to crimes. Safety may also be about road safety. In Finland, we have safe roads because people follow traffic rules.
Q. If you were given the choice of living anywhere in the world, would you still live in Finland? If yes, why? If not, why?
I think I would choose to live in Finland because of the language. But I have been travelling to Estonia a lot and learning Estonian turned out to be easy for me because of the similarity with the Finnish language. I have never studied Estonian but I can still read Estonian texts. Estonia was previously under the Soviet rule and it has its problems but as I said, the language is quite similar to my mother tongue and also there are cultural similarities. So if I don’t live in Finland, I’d choose to be in Estonia.
Moreover, I have travelled to Sweden a lot as well, and Sweden and Finland share a long history. Thus Estonia and Sweden will be my safest choices if I’m not living in Finland.
I’d also name a third country: Japan. That’s also a cool place to live I think.
Q. Finland is gradually becoming a more culturally diverse country. Immigration is an increasingly important driver of population growth while there has also been a massive influx of refugees in the recent years. How do you feel about this? Do you think multiculturalism will make Finland ‘less Finnish’?
No, I don’t think so because culture is something that is always changing. When we lost the Karelian part after the Second World War, as many as 400,000 Karelian people moved to different parts of Finland. In a sense, these people became refugees and spread to different areas of Finland. They were also mocked as being Russians because they were living near Russia before moving elsewhere. So after the Second World War, Finland went through quite a lot of changes.
I’d describe the recent influx of refugees as an ongoing process rather than a threat. In the 1990s, I think 10,000 Somali people came to Finland and we had 5 million people then. Now let’s be honest. Even if we took everyone coming from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq in 2015, I don’t think it would have been a large number given the current size our population. So accepting refugees isn’t a threat I think.
Then there is the issue of integration of these people into the Finnish society, and failing to do so is where I’d say the threat lies. For example, there are Somali young men in Helsinki area who are struggling to find jobs. So they are getting isolated and may later form gangs or become interested in Islamic fundamentalism. So it’s not about these guys being Somalis or Muslims. It’s about them not being integrated into the Finnish society. Also, the integration process isn’t entirely up to them. The society must create possibilities for them to be integrated.
More Somali girls integrate easily than Somali boys. I am talking about the second generation Somalis, such as boys and girls who are in their 20s. This happens partly because Finland lets women enjoy their rights. So girls kind of get more from the society while the boys may be seen as threats for lack of their integration. So it’s not immigration but political measures regarding immigration that can create or remove threats.
Even Finns who moved to Sweden in the 70s became threats to the Swedish society. They were drinking, fighting and hitting their children. Thus it’s more about politics than about immigration or culture.
Q. Do you think Finland can benefit from the skills of foreigners?
Absolutely. I do.
Q. In what ways do you think Finland’s cultural and social landscape have changed in the last 10 years or so?
I think there have been some big changes. The public sector has experienced a shake-up since 2007. For example, the new university act was established in that year and it subjected universities to austerity measures. The result was that allocation for basic research was not adequate and people working in universities kind of lost their hope. That’s partly the reason I also quit working at the university.
This is actually very dangerous when people become frustrated with the education system or social security or healthcare system. If people lose hope, it’s very hard to rekindle it.
When I look into the future, let’s say 10 years from now, I actually get very worried. The current government is using these austerity measures to take away people’s security. People are getting more afraid of everything, including immigrants and other minorities. For example, there has been this idea that leftists, feminists and artists are useless or threats to the society. So I am quite worried that something conservative is coming.
Q. What are the challenges of living in Finland? Also, what are the positive sides?
I’ve not lived outside of Finland so I cannot make any direct comparison with another country. But as for me, I am a Finn and I have been educated in this country. I am able to do art without the government messing with what I am doing. I can date anyone I want. My parents do not strictly control what I want to do in my life, which means I have the freedom to do anything I want.
When I say I am free to do anything I want, I refer to things that are within a certain financial limit. For example, I cannot buy a private jet. But one can have things necessary in everyday life like food and shelter in Finland. Nevertheless, it’s not true for every single person because there are also homeless people in Finland.
The biggest negative thing to me is the present government. I’ve been complaining about politics. I’m disappointed with politics of the present government. I think the current state of our politics is very annoying, dangerous and disturbing.
Q. Finland’s economy is not doing well in the recent years. In 2015, Alexander Stubb described Finland as ‘the sick man of Europe’. And in 2016, the European Commission said Finnish economy was among the worst in the EU. What’s your future hope for the Finnish economy?
I think the leftist and green parties are coming to power after the next election and hope that they are going to do something better and useful. Statistically speaking, Finland’s economic growth has been low but it’s quite a rich country. The government can take more loans at low interest rates. So I hope the government will do that and build the country better. Taking state loans leads to growth at the local and national level. I absolutely don’t think the present austerity measures are going to help the economy.
I think growth is possible on a small scale in the next 10 to 15 years if money is invested in the public sector, such as building roads and schools and improving healthcare. Investment in the public sector creates jobs, which means people feel better with their lives, they can pay taxes, raise their kids and even start new businesses. So small-scale improvements are the key to economic growth. Growth is not about giving millions to big companies.
Q. How do you feel about the austerity measures taken by the present government? Finland has gained worldwide fame for its educational success but education budget has been heavily affected by these measures. Do you think it will mean a loss of quality of education?
Yes, I do. Well, it is happening already. When I did my master’s, majoring in cultural anthropology back in 2001, my curriculum included a range of different studies such as art history, literature, Japanese language and computer science.
I think for men in Finland, the tendency to commit suicide has to do with trying to maintain masculinity. You have to know how to manage your life yourself and how to persevere if you want to be a good Finnish man.
Now, the students are pushed to finish their master’s and enter working life. This means they are missing the training that fosters the ability to think, which in turn is hurting their capacity to innovate. They are not achieving the expertise necessary to innovate.
Q. Teaching has been one of the most respected and admired professions in Finland, and is particularly popular among young women. Why do so many Finns want to be teachers?
Until recently, it has been quite a well-paid profession and also teachers can have long vacations. Teaching is hard work and that’s why it’s reasonable that they have long vacations. They just don’t work 8 hours a day, they work 12 hours or more. I have a friend who is a teacher and she brings students’ exam scripts to parties because she has to check those. Everyone at the party is drinking and having fun but she is like working and trying to socialise at the same time!
Another thing is that teaching is a secure job. If you can establish a firm position in a school, you can work there until your retirement.
People who study, for example German language, history or Finnish language, in university can add pedagogical studies to their curriculum that enable them to work as a teacher later. So these are people who did not plan to become a teacher in the beginning of their university life but got into teaching after graduation. I think that’s not a bad idea.
Q. Starting from January 2017, Finland, as part of a new 2-year basic income experiment, will give 560 euros a month to 2,000 unemployed people each. The objective of the trial is to see if it can increase employment and reduce poverty. What’s your opinion on this? Do you think it will finally be able to boost employment figures?
I have two opinions on this trial. First, I think basic income would be a very good idea. We have social security in this country. If people are given a certain amount of money, then why should they go through a strict bureaucratic process to get it? So if everybody, especially elderly citizens, sick people and students, is given a basic income which comes from taxation of those who are employed, then it’s a good idea. In that case, the unemployed people receiving a basic income can not only try for jobs but can also think of starting a small business because that will not take their benefits away.
However, at present, you get unemployment benefits but cannot start building a company because your benefits will then be taken away. There is one recent example of an unemployed person who does music as a hobby and published his music online but the employment office considered him a professional musician! If this guy was given a basic income, nobody would have bothered about what he was doing.
My second opinion is that the experiment involves a very small size of the population — only 2,000 people — and that cannot produce an objective and accurate result. Also, the experiment is being done only on unemployed people. I think to get a better understanding of whether basic income can alleviate poverty and grow employment figures, the trial should include participants from other walks of life such as 2,000 students, 2,000 pensioners and 2,000 people doing small jobs. This way I think an objective result can be found.
Q. Who is your national hero in Finland? Tell us more.
I would choose Tove Jansson, the famed author of children’s book The Moomins. She was also a visual artist and wrote novels for adults. She lived with a woman in a lesbian relationship. This was a time when homosexuality was not yet legal in Finland.
Q. For a foreigner, it is difficult to befriend a Finn. If I’m a foreigner and I want to make a Finnish friend, is there any golden rule that I can follow?
I think the golden rule is to find a platform where you will meet people who share a common interest with you. For instance, if you are into ice hockey, you can look for groups who are also interested in and play this sport. So it’s not about finding a Finnish friend. It’s about finding a community that share a common interest.
For example, I’m interested in live action role-playing games. So my community will be very welcoming to a foreigner who is also a gamer. In fact, we met a German girl who came as an exchange student in Finland and was interested in gaming. When she looked for a community of gamers here, she found us.
Q. What does Finnish independence mean to you? And what’s your wish for your country as it is celebrating its 100th year of independence? Is there any area where you think Finland can do much better?
Independence is of course a key part of the Finnish history. We had been a part of Sweden for a very long time. At that time, Finland did not exist. I think it was very traumatic for Sweden because they lost a vast land area when Finland was incorporated into the Russian Empire as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland.
Happiness is not exclusively linked to the Nordic countries. If you can ensure equality, social security, education, freedom of speech and democracy in a country, it will have a high happiness score as well.
To me, Finnish independence means combining the ideas of Finnishness — like sisu, sauna, silence, salmiakki and so on — and creating a common story around them.
I hope Finland will remain an open, free and adaptive country. I also hope there will be no fascistic and nationalistic movements in independent Finland.
Q. Finland is a highly egalitarian society, with women enjoying equal rights and opportunities as men in all fields of life. Gender equality is deeply rooted in the Finnish society. What is it like to live as a woman in such a society?
I have not lived anywhere other than Finland. So I don’t know how it feels to live in a non-egalitarian society as a woman.
To me, the subject of gender equality is not tied to a specific culture. I think egalitarianism should be enshrined in the legislation. Also, gender equality isn’t implemented magically, it’s something to be achieved by taking a set of measures. Sometimes you have to make people follow rules that ensure gender equality even if they don’t want to.
Although Finland is an egalitarian society, Finnish women become victims of violence, especially in their relationships, as well. But in Finland, we have sisu which means you have to manage and adapt! You see Finnish women outside who look strong, have jobs, hold distinct positions in politics, own a company and so on but still they can be embattled women in their personal life. They can be subjected to violence by their partners. Amnesty International has also observed that the rate of domestic violence against women is actually quite high in Finland.
This is a problem that is more personal than political. If a woman is in a troubled marriage for example, she may not want to seek help from the authorities concerned even though she knows she will get it if she asks for it. The problem she is facing can be dealt with in the legal context, but she could think it’s about emotion and thus choose not to seek legal help.
I want to emphasise that politics and legislation are crucial for ensuring egalitarianism.
Other Finland 100 interviews:
‘Everybody Should Be Feminist Because Feminism Means EQUALITY’ [Finland 100/Suomi 100]
Nuggets of information on Finland and Finnishness — one story at a time
‘If winter was the ONLY reason, would not ALL Finns suffer from depression?’
Nuggets of information on Finland and Finnishness — one story at a time
‘Forget Cultural Homogeneity, FINLAND is Multicultural Now and That is Good’ [Finland 100/Suomi 100…
Nuggets of information on Finland and Finnishness — one story at a time
‘I wish running a business was simpler in Finland’ [Finland 100/Suomi 100]
Nuggets of information on Finland and Finnishness — one story at a time
‘I’m most proud of Finnish nature as a Finn’ [Finland 100/Suomi 100]
Nuggets of information on Finland and Finnishness — one story at a time
If you are a Finn, I’d love to hear your story and your ideas of Finnishness.
Your academic background, profession or other aspects of your life are not important at all for responding to my interview. If you are a Finn, I want to know what you have to say about Finnish society, life, culture and everything else that define Finland and Finnishness. Just throw me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be in touch ASAP. You can send me the answers to the interview questions by email, and I will publish your story on this blog. In other words, where you live does not matter — from north to south to east to west, wherever you are, I am here to hear.