Panuma town landscape


The well-being of Finnish country towns is better than ever before


Villages thrive, gaining strength anew
as schools and shops move farther through.
The countryside won't die, the claim's misguided,
worries unfounded, fears one-sided.

During our land's rise and reconstruction,
shops and schools pulse with life, a seduction.
A smile, rough but real, illuminates
contentment shining amidst scarcities' fates.

Small shops bloomed, milk trucks drove,
daily encounters, connections wove.
School feasts, gatherings, village dances,
deep-rooted community, life enhances.



Changes came, shops and schools faded,
but well-being rose, and services traded.
Now on our own rides, we embark
work trips and shopping combined, and new connections spark.

Fibre optics bring a new world home,
remote work, study, hobbies, and no need to roam.
Villages clean and well-kept they glow
painted houses and yards in a row.

Villages won't fade, rural life stays,
from renewal and progress, strength displays.
Living standards have risen above,
and the countryside's heart pulses with love.



"Death is certain if a village does not have a shop or a school."


If villages die, so does the countryside." A well-known radio presenter and foreign correspondent recently wrote this in a guest column for a widely circulated rural newspaper.

I dare entirely disagree with this. Schools have become fewer, and village shops have almost disappeared. Still, villages and the countryside are doing better than ever before. There is strong evidence of this in our region. Having lived in a rural town for almost 50 years, I am an expert in these matters.

For the first 20 years of my life, I lived in a rural area that experienced decades of post-war reconstruction and growth.

Within a 3 km radius of my home, there were five small village shops, two shop group mobile shops operated four times a week, and a bank mobile once a month. Several bus services ran daily to the city, municipal centres, and back. In addition, there was a regular mail bus service every day of the week. Within a five-kilometre radius, there were at least five primary schools.

Milk trucks collected milk from small herds in the morning. They possibly delivered dairy products such as cheese, butter, and buttermilk in the evening. They also returned empty milk cans and crates returns.

The well-being standards are different from a European metropolis perspective and from that of our home country. A small grocery store, where you can buy the daily necessities, can excellently operate and thrive in the centre of Paris, selling a small selection of products and always offering fresh goods to many loyal customers who know what they want and whom the shopkeeper knows well. The goods circulate, and the business is profitable, providing the shopkeeper with their livelihood. This does not work for a small Finnish village shop.

In the countryside, during the decades of reconstruction and growth, a typical village shop customer did not critically examine the "best before" dates of food products nor demanded a specific brand of baking fat, dairy products, or cold cuts, not to mention that such options were not even generally available in the store. You had to order eg. meat beforehand, and a public bus brought it to you from the city. Especially during hot summer months, people felt less like ordering meat. However, you could find cigarettes, coffee, nails, salt, harness parts, rubber boot repair materials, or latches, without pre-ordering. There might even have been some salami-type or loop sausages also available.

People hardly mentioned cold storage back then.

Cars were a rarity; those indispensable grocery runs were made by horse, moped, or bicycle, or in some cases, even by boat in the summer. People made necessary trips to larger settlements by bus, which were cold and smelly in the winter, and sweaty, hot, and dusty in the summer.

Milk transport and market visits were also the social media of those days, where people chatted and exchanged a few words with neighbours. School celebrations, parish meetings, and agricultural society evenings at the village grain dryer were other forms of community.

Life smiled in its brutal way, and people were satisfied, even though money was scarce, clothes were few and worn, food was mostly unhealthy and one-sided, and there was no money or resources for cultural pursuits. Lack and the dreariness of everyday life showed in the landscape, with well-tended lawns and flower beds rarely seen.

Over the past 30 years, I have lived in a village in Pudasjärvi, actively participating in and witnessing its development and growth in well-being.

When I moved to my home village, the nearest two grocery stores were within a 3 km radius. There was also a local post office which delivered all our mail. Two grocery trucks (mobile grocery stores) visited the village street four days a week — a milk truck collected milk cans from the then-operating three dairy producers in the village. Many people still made their living from primary production, at least partially.

Over the past 30 years, the services, as mentioned earlier, gradually disappeared one by one: among the first to go was the Pudasjärvi cooperative store (which, according to the Gebhardian collaborative ethic, should have been the last to leave!). They closed the post office and transferred its services to be handled by an agent.

Contrary to what an unacquainted person might imagine, the departure of services from the village did not mean a deterioration in their accessibility, let alone the death of the town. Among other things, postal services are now more accessible to working people than ever during the village post office era when special arrangements were needed to visit the post office during its opening hours. Nowadays, one can have mail sent to a desired location or automated locker and fetch it at any convenient time.

People use private cars for commuting and work-related travel; even retirees now own cars. And if one cannot use their vehicle for some reason, they can order a taxi.

Grocery shopping is practically combined with work trips, ensuring fresh groceries are always available in the kitchen. A village store which cannot maintain a large selection of products and brands and needs to sell more fresh goods to prevent expiration dates from expiring cannot meet the needs of today's consumers, even in rural areas.

Taxpayers can only expect to use their money to maintain a convenience store in the village for a sparse customer base with minimal needs if the store can operate on the profit margin it earns from sales because retail is not charity.

Schools have been closed down in villages, but the functioning of the towns has not suffered. Many families with children enjoy living in my village, which has seen the construction of new homes. Recreational opportunities are accessible with private vehicles (as was done in the 1900s, with more humble means of transport!).

Excellent telecommunication connections provided by the fibre-optic network enable dealing with authorities, remote work, studying, and many other useful or entertaining activities.

People can sense the overall well-being of the village in many ways. The villages' well-being is apparent through the cleanliness and tidiness of the buildings, which are in good condition and well-painted, and the well-maintained yards with mown lawns and flower beds. It is a great place to live and reside, and there is no desire to move anywhere else.


Therefore, the alarm about the death of villages is premature and heavily exaggerated.


Original by Toivo Miettinen 2022
English by Toivo Miettinen 2023
Alkuperäinen juttuni  suomeksi


Tämän sivuston sisältö on lisensoitu Toivo Miettinen CC BY-ND 4.0 -lisenssillä.

CC BY-ND 4.0 -lisenssi