The complicated truth about Finnish honesty

Asking a Finn what they think of your trendy new jacket and cool jeans will teach you about Finnish honesty the hard way. Finns tell it as it is.

A study by Readers Digest even suggests that Helsinki is the world's most honest city. A few years back, reporters dropped 12 wallets around 16 cities. In Helsinki, a whopping 11 of the 12 wallets were returned with the cash still inside.

One wallet planted in the city centre was returned by a 27-year-old businessman who attributed his honourable behaviour to Finland's closely-knit communities and low corruption levels. Another wallet was returned by a woman who simply thought honesty was an inner conviction.

But does this prove all Finns are honest? As you'll see below, the truth about Finnish honesty is not so clear-cut.

Finland has the highest prison escape rate in Europe

Finland had one of the highest rates of imprisonment in Europe back in the 1960s. And it wasn't because all those loveable criminals just didn't have it in them to lie to the police. The government quickly found that locking small-time convicts away only made things worse, so they came up with the open prison system.

Today, one-third of Finnish prisoners serve their time in an open prison. Here, inmates don't spend their days locked up. They're allowed to visit the local town, see their loved ones and even hold down jobs in the community.

We can't deny the effectiveness of open prisons. They drop reoffending rates by a whopping 20%. But they are really easy to escape. If Finland remade the film "Escape from Alcatraz," it would be a ten-second YouTube clip of some guy slinking away to the local bus station.

In 2013 alone, over one in ten prisoners did this. Luckily, most get caught and have extra time put on their sentence, making the whole thing an exercise in futility.

The unpickable padlock was invented in Finland

But Finland knows a thing or two about keeping things locked up, as it's the birthplace of the unpickable lock. The Abloy lock was invented by Finnish mechanic Emil Henriksson back in 1919 and is an impressive example of Finnish engineering. Even making a copy of an Abloy lock key is notoriously difficult. But here's something to think about. Why would someone living in the world's most honest country need to invent the world's most unpickable lock?

So, are Finns really the most honest people in the world?

Like every country, Finland isn't perfect. It's populated by over 5 million individuals with various outlooks, worldviews, motives and lifestyles. We can't expect them all to be honourable people. Still, as nations go, Finland is pretty honest.

In 2014, for example, the Finnish government launched an anti-fake-news initiative to inform residents, students, journalists and politicians of the evils of spreading false information. Thanks to this, Finland ranks first in resilience to fake news, and teaches the world the value of the truth through example.

But if you lose your wallet in Helsinki, just hope it's found by a Finnish person who also happens to be an honest one.

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