Out in the Baltic Sea, there is a set of approximately 6,500 beautiful little islands collectively known as the Åland islands or just simply Åland. Never heard of it? Well then, this is the ultimate guide for you in order to avoid making stupid comments when meeting someone from the islands.
The first thing you need to know about Åland is that we belong to Finland and are therefore, Finnish citizens. Secondly, however, we are by law Swedish-speaking only. Confusing? Not really when considering our cultural origin and certain historical turn of events of which you can read more about here. So my first tip is: Don’t go accusing us for rooting for the Swedish team in national sporting events! The hockey games between Finland and Sweden in particular are serious business! And the second one to follow is: Don’t insult us by commenting on how good our Swedish is, since after all, it is our mother tongue. Or even worse, complain about how bad our Finnish is, because yeah it will be bad!
The third of my tips is: Don’t make the mistake of saying that we are “just” like any other part of Finland! This would be a very insulting statement for most Ålanders since Åland is in fact an autonomy. This has been a fact since as long ago as 1921 when the autonomic status was proclaimed by the newly-founded League of Nations (nowadays known as the United Nations). This basically means that we can have our own legislation in many areas including education, health and postal service. We even have our own miniature government and parliament. However, when it comes to areas such as foreign policy, taxation and law, it is still the Finnish state that decides all the matters, even for us.
The fourth and final thing worth noting for this quick guide is that we have something called “home region rights”, or “hembygdsrätt” in Swedish. To use a more correct terminology, this refers to regional citizenship or fancier still, the right of domicile. This special right is granted to everyone born on the islands and if you have lived here for over 5 years you can apply for it as well. This right concerns who gets to own property and land on the Åland islands. My fourth tip in connection to this is that: Don’t be a fool and think that you can buy one of our islands! You need to come live here for quite some time before that is even an option!
Have I sparked your interest in checking out our peculiar little place? If so, please let me know! And yeah, if you want to come and visit, please schedule your visit for the summer months since otherwise you will feel very lonely and deserted since nothing is really happening during winter.