Petri: Finland’s president has some thoughts about his visit

Maybe next time, if the president plans some personal yelling, he could wait for his guest to leave.

By Alexandra Petri / The Washington Post

President Sauli Niinisto! Thank you for visiting the United States and President Donald J. Trump on the 100th anniversary of U.S.-Finland diplomatic relations. Can you spare a minute of your time to tell us what you thought so we can improve the experience for future visitors?

Please rate your visit on a scale from 1 to 5 stars.

3 stars

What were some highlights of your stay?

I enjoyed the museums very much. I visited several, and they were all well lit, clean and informative. I liked that they were free, just like the population is under democracy.

I do not think that either of those things should change. If possible, keep both aspects.

I also enjoyed the chairs. I sat on a chair that was large and bright yellow, with arms, and although the arms did not provide as much protection of my personal space as I had hoped and I briefly suffered a surprise touch upon the knee (something Moominpappa would have addressed even more sternly than I did), it was not the chair’s fault. I still basically liked the chair. It was clearly not the work of Alvar Aalto, but it was a good chair.

Do you have any feedback as to how your stay could be improved?

Well, I have to say, I would perhaps have done certain things slightly differently. For instance, it was clear that President Trump had many things he wanted to get off his chest, primarily about someone named Adam Schiff, but also about the governor of California? I found this unseemly emotional outburst off-putting. I would not have asked him to stand there while I had an emotional outburst. To me, a more seemly way of showing disapproval would be to purchase and then quietly hand them a Marimekko design that is in an unpleasing color; although, such a Marimekko design does not exist?

I do not understand why it was necessary for me to sit there silently like an Artek daybed (although even when they are silent, Artek daybeds make statements). He kept yelling about a perfect conversation, but if it was anything like the conversation we had, I would say it was not perfect. A perfect conversation, to us in Finland, is one in which the freedom of the press is respected and people do not shout, say inaccurate things about the European Union and give the press mean nicknames. We reserve this kind of saltiness for our licorice.

Also, I would say, it is embarrassing for a leader to hector his press and call them fake. It makes him look bad, and it is uncomfortable. It seemed as though this was the kind of thing you would want to save for later, when you were alone, after you were not trying to impress people anymore. Indeed, I started to wonder: Does he know that I am here? I am just sitting here like the “J” in “fjord” or the many treasures of Helsinki: I am there, but nobody thinks about me. I began to feel that I had blended into the chair, but then he placed his hand on my knee, so I knew I had not been forgotten.

In Finland, we are proud of our free press. The United States, too, should be proud. They should not let this man insult one of the things that should be a source of national pride. Does he do this to Tiffany lamps and the Grand Canyon?

I kept thinking, should I say something? Then the president yelled at a reporter for not directing his question to me, but when he did direct the question to me, the president interrupted and made it difficult for me to answer. On the whole, it was confusing.

I would say in the future, if the purpose of the visit is that you will be unexpectedly called upon to defend the European Union as an institution and then sit very still while the president does some personal yelling, you should specify this more clearly on the invitation so that a leader can decide for themself whether it is worth it to visit.

)How likely are you to recommend the United States to a friend or colleague?

Not very.Is there any other feedback you would like to leave?

I would like to tell Donald Trump to go to Helsinki.

Follow Alexandra Petri on Twitter @petridishes.

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