Being offered a free meal by the Finnish State is possible, especially when it happens by chance.
I was driving in a low-populated area at noon. I looked for the nearest restaurant in my GPS navigator’s database. According to it, there was only one within a ray of 30 miles and it was a few kilometers ahead.
Following its indication I entered a village which was mostly made of small yellow and red family houses, with a few apartment buildings. The navigator brought me into a parking in front of what seemed to be the biggest building in the village. Quite an anonymous block, with a few signs, all of them in Finnish language.
However there were people getting in and out through a small automatic door. Maybe a shopping mall sized accordingly with the village? “We’ll see”, I thought.
I got in and immediately noticed a cafeteria. No signs thou, not even in Finnish. Only people taking food and eating at the tables. All around were corridors with no apparent sign of shops. Anyway, I was so hungry and I was in front of a place where people could eat… what was the problem?
So I took a tray, flatware, and filled my plate with the only food provided, which was apparently meat escallop. However, it turned to be fish in the end.
While taking the few tomato slices left, I looked at the people seated. There was a prevalence of middle-aged women, most of whom were well yet soberly dressed.
The type of character I almost automatically associate to a public sector employee.
Then a non-secondary problem arose. No cashier around.
In European Nordic countries almost everybody speaks English, so I asked an attendant where I could pay. She replied there was no possibility to pay, as that place wasn’t open to the public and reserved to bureau’s employees working in the building.
I was giving the plate back and apologizing, when she came back to me saying not to worry, to have a seat, and to enjoy my meal. I insisted I couldn’t, but she insisted back. So… I sat down and had my meal.
That was the day when Finnish taxpayers offered me a meal for free, and when my soul was fed even more than my body.