Just a quick blog entry for now. I'm actually in the process of planning a trip up to Lapland for the next few days... up to Rovaniemi (close to the Arctic Circle) and Oulu. I'm sure I'll have lots more to share upon my return. I'll be very disappointed if I don't see at least one reindeer while I'm up there.
In the meantime, I thought it might be interesting to share a photo of a random street sign, here in Helsinki. As you can see, the name of the street is written twice. The top is in Finnish and the bottom is in Swedish. Like Quebec, all legal documents in Finland have to be written in two languages: Finnish and Swedish. In fact, I think it's in the constitution that Finland is officially bilingual. The presence of the Swedish language partly flows from Finland's having long been a part of the Swedish empire.
All government employees have to pass an exam demonstrating their aptitude in Swedish and everyone has a right to use Swedish when dealing with government authorities. That said, you'll see all road signs, etc. in both Finnish and Swedish. Depending on where you are in the country, you may see the Swedish on the top and the Finnish on the bottom (e.g., if you're in a part of the country where Swedish is the primary language spoken). I'm actually having a much easier time reading the Swedish, given its similarities with German. Finnish is a whole other matter!