Tonight will be my last night serving in the Finnish Air Force, I have spent the last 170 days serving here as a volunteer in a conscript service. When I arrived here I spoke barely any Finnish, it has been a trip, so ask me anything!


EDIT Apparently /u/Savolainen5 beat me to this. Oops haha, go check out his thread

EDIT 2 Looks like we're done here. Thanks everyone for your questions, I hope everyone also looked at the other guys thread he also had some great answers.

Comments: 108 • Responses: 32  • Date: 

neanderhall22 karma

Why are there so many Redditers completing Finnish military service? Is Finland taking over the world, or just Europe?

wahlberger12 karma

Finland still conscripts its males. Basically every Finnish guy has to serve in the army between the ages of 18 and 28. For females the service is non-compulsory. It possible to get out of doing your service, but if you find a way to skip out on your service you have to do two years of public services, which sucks IMO, or you wind up in jail.

With that said, because I am from Canada I was actually allowed to use a proxy to avoid doing my service, but I volunteered anyway.

EDIT: spelling

microwavemike8 karma

For males it's compulsory, for females it's voluntary. Civil service is only one year.

wahlberger3 karma

My bad, I meant non-compulsory.

buffalobillys3 karma

He meant to say - are you the same guy who posted this

or is it just a coincidence. If it's a coincidence, it's really convenient, now that Finland is taking over the world.

wahlberger5 karma

Holy shit, total coincidence actually...

_TrueGentleman_2 karma

or is it just a coincidence. If it's a coincidence, it's really convenient, now that Finland is taking over the world.

Holy shit, total coincidence actually...

( ಠ_ಠ) *wild theme appears*

wahlberger7 karma

We might be taking over, and I just missed the memo.

dipset331 karma


wahlberger3 karma

There's 3 different lengths of service, and all have different streams of training. 6, 9, and 12 months. The military brings in new recruits every six months, so this guy and I would have joined at the same time (January 6th, and we were discharged on the 19th of this month)

However, he was away celebrating a Finnish holiday, and I had a few extra days attached to my service, so it is a coincidence, but it's nothing too extravagant.

evanr1116 karma

If you're not primarily Finnish, does that mean you're just getting started?

wahlberger18 karma

I guess you could say I'm about half-finnished

bklynbraver5 karma

How does it feel to be Finnish and finished?

wahlberger6 karma

Pretty great.

BigBrainAmWinning4 karma

Do Fins in the army still talk about Simo Häyhä when it comes to target practice or anything like that?

wahlberger3 karma

Not that I recall...what's the story?

BigBrainAmWinning4 karma

basically he has the most kills by a sniper in known history... during WW2 when Soviets invaded Finland, he almost single handedly defended a large section of land. He was basically the ghost, and the Soviets couldn't figure out how to get through him. He also survived the final push by the Soviets even after taking a bullet to the face. Link

wahlberger3 karma

Ah, yep I remember him. There may have been some talk about him during basic training, but most of the shooting drills were pretty serious. The only talking was some instructors telling us the rules, generally.

cp51844 karma

What do you like most about finland? What did you do in the air force?

wahlberger8 karma

Probably the fact that it actually feels very similar to Canada in the way of culture mostly, but also the how people act in general. Also the drinking culture here is pretty amazing.

I was a communications man, basically our task is to set up a mobile air strip that pilots can land the F18's on. We are also involved in air traffic control, but I never directly helped out with that unfortunately. Mostly I just plugged in cables and relayed messages.

President_of_Nauru11 karma

As a person struggling to learn Finnish, isn't communications an ironic assignment?

wahlberger6 karma

They call it communications, but the majority of it is really just grunt work, pulling wire and connecting different locations with a plethora of different cables. We also set up runway lights and a few other things.

GorillaBallet3 karma

As a Canadian trying to get along with a room full of Finns, how many times did you sing the praises of Teemu Selanne?

wahlberger5 karma

36 times

GorillaBallet1 karma

Seems about right...

wahlberger2 karma

Seriously though, I didn't get that much hate being a Canadian hockey fan. Although there was a lot of joking around during the Olympics and IIHF.

Finby3 karma

What air force base did you serve in?

wahlberger5 karma


bongowongowongo3 karma

What are the biggest differences between Canada and Finland?

wahlberger14 karma

The biggest difference I've noticed here are the people. People here are very very quiet and reserved. Not only is it uncommon but it's actually almost weird to look someone in the eyes when passing them on the street. It has it's pros and cons, for example privacy is never really an issue, but it also makes it kind of tough to meet people.

HOWEVER, once the Finns have had a little bit to drink, suddenly everyone is your best friend.

Also everyone here has a bidet.

bongowongowongo4 karma

As a Canadian I want to travel Europe and Finland is on my checklist! I've heard in Norway (I don't know if its in the same in Finland) They stand about 3 feet apart waiting for a bus at the bus stop. Where as in North America were inches away.

arcalumis8 karma

At what distance should people stand nest to each other at a bus stop? 3 ft. sounds reasonable to me.

wahlberger13 karma

We found the Norwegian.

wahlberger4 karma

You should definitely come here! Also as per the bus stop thing, it's not quite that extreme, but people definitely keep to themselves.

bongowongowongo1 karma

Would it be better to come in the summer, fall, winter or spring?

wahlberger2 karma

Summer for sure, winter is deadly cold and dark for 20 hours a day. In the summer everyone is just happier in general, and there's more celebrations (like Juhannus, which we just had, it's a midsummer celebration) and more festivals and things of the like.

VSchller3 karma

Do you identify yourself more with Canada or Finland? Was going to Finland a decision you made to find out more about your Finnish roots? (I assume that your half-Finnish, and half-Canadian, correct me if I'm wrong)

wahlberger7 karma

Considerably more with Canada. I was born and raised in Alberta.

Also great guess, you're right, I came here to reconnect with some extended family that live here, and also to learn more about Finland as it is half of my heritage.

LadyPotato2 karma

What was your grasp of finnish when you started your service and how is it now?

wahlberger5 karma

Next to none, I had learned some of the very basics but I knew virtually nothing. It was actually kind of embarrassing.

As for now, my comprehension is way better, I understand just about everything that people are saying to me, but speaking and reading are still pretty basic. The army is not exactly the best learning environment haha. I'll continue to pursue the language after this though.

HakaF12 karma

How/why did you choose the airforce or did they assigned you there?

wahlberger3 karma

I requested to be at the Air Force base near the town I'd be living in, and they granted it.

Cooper13372 karma

What was your job and what did you do in a typical day?

wahlberger5 karma


06:00 Wake up 06:02 Morning run 06:30 Breakfast 08:00 Training (usually something along the lines of radios, computers, or air traffic control) 11:00 Lunch 12:00 Training again (same stuff) 16:00 Dinner 16:30 Room clean up/inspection 17:00-21:30 Free time.

Rinse and repeat.

orr250mph2 karma

do u now think in finnish? translation needed

wahlberger5 karma

No, I still think and speak primarily in English. I can think in Finnish sometimes, however I am still not quite fluent. Finnish is pretty complicated and the army wasn't exactly the greatest place to start learning. 20/20 hindsight.

orr250mph3 karma

get that. i was stationed in the netherlands and had gone to language school for 6 mos. but it took nearly 2 yrs till i was thinking in dutch

wahlberger2 karma

Nice, I'm hoping to have mastered Finnish in around the same time.

IDUNNstatic3 karma

I'm Australian/Finnish myself, and I think in English. But it's different when I'm surrounded by Finns. Which I never am since I'm three states away from my family.

I'm glad you and the other guy are doing these AmAs. I never see much happening out of Finland, and it's nice to see that you're doing such a great thing over there. Kudos.

wahlberger1 karma

Thanks friend!

Ball-Blam-Burglerber1 karma

Do Finnish aircraft have annoying computer voices in Finnish?

Senappi7 karma

Yes. Yes they do. If you stall, the aircraft will yell voi vittu and if you attempt to exceed the altitude limit you hear haista paska.

Ball-Blam-Burglerber1 karma

Sounds effective!

wahlberger6 karma

Sounds more like my commanding officers.

[deleted]1 karma


wahlberger1 karma

Good luck!

I'd say I'm a pretty social person, and making friends wasn't hard for me at all. Most of the guys will automatically like you because you're Australian, not to mention they'll be excited to try out their English with you. You'll be allowed off the base most weekends, but some you'll have to stay, it really depends on the schedule. Also most evenings you'll be allowed to go off-base until 21:30.

As for my plans now that I've been discharged; I'll be going back to Canada for the summer, and then to university in the fall! Good luck again next year!

greasywhalemilk1 karma

What was your role there? Will you ever go back?

wahlberger3 karma


As for your other question, if I happen to be in Finland and they go to war, then yes, I'll go back.

concretepigeon1 karma

Are you jealous of the other Finnish guy who got loads more responses?

wahlberger6 karma

No, I'm fairly sure we both did this AMA with the same intentions, I'm just glad at least one of us got that much attention.

chunkypigeon1 karma

How did you cope with the language barrier?

wahlberger8 karma

Made friends with the guys that could help translate for me.

johnnynoname12-15 karma

do you freak out when you meet black people?

wahlberger7 karma


johnnynoname12-16 karma

that's a yes

wahlberger8 karma

I was born and raised in Canada, not Finland, I'm used to meeting black people man