A large number of the differences between Finland and Scotland are quite subtle and likely to be generally ignored by most people. Furthermore, many little aspects of the society go unnoticed, whether it’s in your home country or abroad. In order for one to notice some insignificant difference between two societies, someone has to point it out to them, after which the newly discovered difference becomes glaringly obvious. Kind of like when someone points out a barely audible sound while you’re in a lecture, after which you can’t focus on anything else but that sound which you had not heard before.
In Finland, shopping malls and supermarkets continuously have music and/or advertisements blaring through speakers audible everywhere you go, even in the car park and the staff breakrooms.
In Scotland, not so much. There’s no music blaring through speakers when you park your car or walk from store to store. There’s no repetitive advertisements tempting you on a sale going on at a shoe store or such.
The difference is vast. Anyone who has ever worked in supermarkets or shoppings malls in Finland (I have, in both, and in many of them) would greatly appreciate the change in atmosphere, the quietness and lack of repetitive advertisements and catchy slogans which’ll get stuck in you head and haunt you in your dreams.
To understand this difference, allow me to explain the atmosphere in these situations in both Finland and Scotland (mainly Finland, where I’ve lived and worked longer.) The focus here is on shopping malls, large shopping centres and larger supermarkets. There are some exceptions to be found in both countries and I’ll address these at the end of this post.
In Finland, the largest supermarkets, such as Prisma and CityMarket, have music playing through speakers at all times, audible everywhere within the supermarket, including in the car park and the corner of the loading dock where stressed out cashiers go to have a calming smoke and bitch about stupid and crazy customers. Essentially, the entire time you are within the store, you are listening to “calming” music, to create an “enjoyable” shopping atmosphere. This is only interrupted by the occasional advertisement, reminder to customers that all winter coats are on sale, or an announcement saying that could the idiot who parked their Mercedes-Benz in front of the escalator please move their bloody car (not in those words).
Christmas, the season which starts earlier each year, is the worse time of the year. Everyone’s a bit more stressed out than usual, and the playlist of the 20 Corniest Christmas Songs blasting through the speakers 24 hours a day (yes, even the cleaners at night have to listen to the cacophony of Christmas cheer) makes things a whole lot worse. Could you listen to the same 20 songs for 8+ hours a day, 5-6 days a week, from September/October to late December, without going insane?
In Scotland, I’ve yet to hear any advertisements and music is a rarity. It’s oddly quiet, really, and it allows one to have a relatively peaceful shopping experience. No Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, no Beach Boys, no Beethoven’s umpteenth Symphony. (Disclaimer: I’ve yet to go to a truly large supermarket, although some of the stores which we have been to here are large enough to have music and ads in Finland.) [Correct me if I’m wrong, in the comments below this post.]
Supermarkets in Finland tend to focus on relaxing and opiate music most of the time, to put the customer into a drugged state of shopping where you’d be more susceptible to bright and big signs screaming “Buy 12, get 1 half price!” or something like that. Shopping Malls, being in multiple occupancy whereas supermarkets have a single company calling the shots, have to cater to a larger pool of demanding shop owners and business entrepreneurs. This means the music is out of the window, and is now replaced with commercial advertisements for all the stores in the mall, continuously ad nauseum. Well, especiallythe stores which a) have competition in the mall, and b) have a lot of disposable income to spend on advertisement, such as banks, which have a branch in every mall. These advertisements aren’t like the ones on TV, as they’re supposed to catch the attention of shoppers in 10-15 seconds in mered words, no visuals, which, unfortunately means catchy tunes and slogans, or matter-of-fact voices running through the reasons as to why everyone absolutely must go shopping at a particular store.
St. Enoch Shopping Centre
Being bombarded with crappy music and annoying advertisements for that hour or so which you’re out shopping at a supermarket or shopping mall is a nuisance to some/many/most, but after that hour long shopping experience you get to go home and all is good in the world. The workers, on the other hand, have to spend anywhere from 4 hours to in excess of 10 hours a day, most days a week, working and having to listen to the repetitive playlist of catchy pop songs and addictive advertisement slogans, day in, day out. One objective of advertisements is to be catchy and as such, who is more likely to have that stupid slogan burned into their memory, forever repeating in their mind: the shopper who spends an hour or two walking around shops; or the lowly shop clerk who has to listen to the ads for up to over 40 hours a week? Guess who will be humming the tunes and slogans they hear 400 times a day?
Now, this is where the exceptions to this post come into play. Shopping malls in Scotland do not have advertisements blasting at you about the sales you might miss if your eyes were closed. There is no music following you wherever you go in the mall between stores. BUT, as you enter, say a clothing store, loud eurotrash or RnB music will blasts you from all sides. Makes you wonder how the people working there feel like, having to listen to loud music all day long whilst working. Then again, all the people working in these stores are young and their music is contemporary, meaning they were probably allowed to pick their own music and the volume they’re listening to it at.
Now, having only been in Glasgow for just over 6 months, my experiences in this regard are relatively limited. I have been to Buchanan Galleries and St. Enoch many times, and Braehead once (those being the largest and most significant shopping malls in Glasgow, with the exception of Glasgow Fort, which is more of a retail outlet.) With that in mind, I end this blog post with a plea. If I’m wrong about Scotland’s malls and supermarkets in this regard, please, please let me know in the comments. In addition, if you work (or have ever worked) at a shopping mall or supermarket in Finland or Scotland, please shared your experiences in relation to this post in the comments! Thank you!