Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Paneer leaves Oulu

Tuesday morning, at 0615, I went to the Oulu Railway Station to say goodbye to Subramaniam Paneerselvam, who in the short time he was in Oulu, made many waves.

This young lad from a small village in Tamilnadu near Villipuram, made his mark amongst many in the community in Oulu by his very simplicity.

He confessed to me that he did not even have a bank account in India as his earnings were so low that there was no money to open a bank account.

But considering the work this young boy has been doing, he is worth more than a tonne of gold.

Subramaniam Paneerselvam and Matti Ylitalo, Oulu Railway Station 31st January 2006
Subramaniam Paneerselvam and Matti Ylitalo, Oulu Railway Station 31st January 2006

Besides me, Matti Ylitalo, the person who is in charge of the Young People's Centre in Puolivälikangas, where Paneer did his work programme ,was there to see him off.

I was happy to wish a friend "Bon Votyage" to a new life based on his experience gained in Oulu. This is phrase Paneer must have learnt from his French friend, Anais, and one he will be using when he visits France soon after his wedding later this year.

God speed, Paneer.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Photographs from CHAFF meeting

Here are some photographs from the last CHAFF meeting, thanks to Unnop:

Pentti bids farewell to Paneer

Pailin sings a Thai song

Ting Ting sings a Chinese song

Ilari sings "Mombasa" a hit Finnish song

Pailin & Ting Ting, two CHAFF singing stars

Amazing meeting

Each CHAFF meeting only gets better and better.

Today was a sad and poignant one as we bade farewell to Paneerselvam, who returns to India, and we also said au revoir to Kannan Balram who moves to Rauma in South West Finland to take up his new job.

We welcomed Anais Guimard from France.

After a delicious lunch, we had very interesting discussions. We learned many new things about different foreign communities in Finland.

Much of it was eye-opening to several of us.

We had some excellent music with Pornpailin singing a Thai song like a nightingale, Tingting rendering a Chinese song as a true songstress and Ilari thumping out the song "Mombasa" with an air so confident that one wonders why he is faffing around with another profession than the stage.

Ilari is so multi-talented that the stage really must be his real line of work.

We ALL then had the great opportunity to sing a "happy brthday" to our Hungarian friend, Ildikó Hámos.

Do not forget to attend Kaija Välimaa's meeting next Friday (3rd February) afternoon (see announcements) if you are interested in developing CHAFF as a viable organisation.

And next Sunday's meetng - read the blog on Thursday for the venue and time.

Hopefully I can some pictures of the meeting up in a subsequent entry.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Open day at Codenomicon Ltd

Ilari and Ildiko, Pentti, Risto and myself were able to take part in the Open Day at Codenomicon Ltd.

Codenomicon Ltd., Oulu Office

Codenomicon Ltd., Oulu Office

Codenomico Ltd, Oulu
Beurtiful, easy atmosphere,
and full of creativity

The atmosphere was relaxed. Even for a drab subject as internet security, the Codenomicon team made the event interesting for all ages.

They had an excellent spread.

The visitors were a spectrum of people from industry, banks, universities and research institutions.

I was able to renew contact with several people that I have not seen for years, including my former bank manager, Juha Karjalainen from Osuuspankki, and many colleagues at the University. Juha Röning, who, used to be a Laboratory Manager in the early 1990's is now a Professor and the Head of the Electrical Engineering Department.

It was nice to meet some of the Board of Directors Codenomicon Ltd., some of whom had come from Amsterdam and Sweden, with the Chairman coming from England.

The Sunday meeting of CHAFF will be at the Pailin Restaurant at Kenttätie 9, Kasarmin Area starting at 13:00 hours.

We will be saying farewell to Paneerselvam from Tamilnadu. He will go to Helsinki next week on his journey back to his home. We hope that Paneerselvam will start the CHAFF movement in Tamilnadu within his NGO.

We will also be saying au revoir to Kannan Balram, who will move to start his new job at Rauma as the site engineer at the 5th Finnish Nuclear Power Plant. However, as Kannan will be doing his doctoral thesis in Oulu, we will be seeing him occasionally. We hope that he too will start the Chaff movement in rauma.

Many new faces should be present at this week's meeting.

Hope you will join us for some fun and frolic.

Friday, January 27, 2006


Kannan Balram, Pentti Paakki, Pornpailin Weber, Ilari Sohlo, Gizella Tauriainen and myself, were among the CHAFF participants who turned up to show our support for Ildikó Hámos and the group that she works with in the SINNI women empowerment centre (northern women´s power under one roof).

Kannan, Pentti and me at the SINNI Open Day

The SINNI resource and empowerment centre is located at Isokatu 30, 302, FIN-90100 Oulu and the telephone number is 040 728 87 77. It is bang sentre in the town.

Black Dot signifies where SINNI is located

It was a very nice afternoon. The place was packed with beautiful Finnish ladies of all ages.

I met several old friends, some of whom I have not seen for years.

Let us wish this organisation all success and hope that they will work with CHAFF in the years to come. Here is their hope of their own centre in a short while. Still a dream, but one which I hope comes true for them and the wmen of Oulu.

I am happy that Subramanian Murugan, who has been living in Oulu for a couple of years now, doing his PhD at the medical campus of Oulu University checked in. Besides his medical studies we can see that Subramaniam is a competent and talented Logo Designer. He too has submitted a Logo Design for Chaff.

Logo design submitted by Subramanian Murugan

We look forward to seeing Subramaniam at our next CHAFF meeting this Sunday.

Remember, tomorrow at 13:00 hours is the Open Day at Codenomicon Ltd. You will find the directions in the Announcement Section in the right hand column along with a map.

Today, I was able to meet up with two Thai youngsters, Soda and Kim, and introduce them to Paneer, who was able to organise a Climbing Session for them at the Youth Centre in Puolivälinkangas.

Climbing is an extremely important sport for foreigners who come to Oulu. The moral of the sport is that it teaches people that, in critical situations, the power of having a life-saving partner, one who you will put your full trust in, including your life, is absolutely essential.

I hope Kaija Välimaa will take this moral seriously, and introduce newcomers to Oulu to this sport of climbing. She is fortunate to have such an excellent climbing wall at her disposal in this youth centre, along with a very competent climbing expert.

See you on Sunday at 13:00 at the Thai Pailin Restaurant, Kenttätie 9, Kasarmin Area.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Student's Organisation Meeting

Yesterday, Kannan and I attended a meeting organised by the Oulu University Students Union, with Wille Leppämäki in the Chair, Anne Lukkarila and Secretary Eeva-Maija Kolehmainen (Social Politics Secretary) being in attendance.

Kannan and JM

Kannan and me

Also present were Kaija Välimaa, the Coordinator of Oulu City International Youthwork Affairs Department accompanied by her project worker, Anais Guimard from France,

Anais Guimard

Bill, Kaija, Pentti and Tingting at Chaff meeting on 8th January 2005

A couple of students from Oulu University, Ms. Anne-Marie Muller and Ms. Rosalind (Cooper) and a couple of nice Hungarian ladies living in Oulu (with their Hungarian husbands) were also present.

What alarmed me was that all the good work done in the 80s and early 90s, where my office in the University was an open door for Foreign Students and Staff coming to Oulu to help them orient to life in this rather inhospitable city, which had become a way of life, seems to have evaporated in the last 14 years.

The work of Thomas O'Rourke (now an Oulu Buisnessman) and his group of foreign friends who started the Foreign Students Association of Oulu University, against many hurdles posed by the authorities, seems to have also vanished into thin air.

It may seem to be the right time for Ildikó Hámos, Ilari Sohlo, the authors of "Culture Shock Finland", and Annikki & me, authors of "Handbook For Survival in Finland", to get together to produce a new book on the subject of Survival and Culture Shock!

Oulu University is busy calling for foreign students to come and take part in degree and postgraduate courses, but the effort of orientation seems to be only directed at the exchange students. The Government of Finland is pushing to charge fees to foreign students, which will result, as Kannan so pointedly said, that whereas one is getting some marginal flow of foreign students, it will vanish into almost zero flow!!

It is strange that politcians, greedy for an "anticipated" flow of finances into their coffers cannot see beyond their noses and are likely to commit the harakiri route which Margret Thatcher followed in the UK in the 70s.

Kannan, who has been here just a few months, was particularly brilliant in his observation that everything exists today to help foreign students, but there is a very thin wall called "language of communication" which seems to present an enormous gulf between actual effectiveness and complete chaos in the lives of the new entrants to this society.

Kaija was interested to focus on providing servivces which are related to making everyday life satisfactory and rewarding for foreigners who come into Finland.

Nobody, except Kaija, had heard about our CHAFF movement. That is because we have not gone about trumpeting ourselves. But it seems that CHAFF has an enormous role to play in this process, either in our present form as a totally independent non-formal body or even as a formal body. That decision has to be amongst the younger members of this group of fun-seekers.

As Isaac Sundarajan, CEO of Codenomicon Ltd., said last Sunday, we have to get the support of local industries to help CHAFF be established on the scene as a welcoming help group for ALL Finns and Foreigners.

Kaija's meeting scheduled for this Friday has been postponed till Friday the 3rd of February 2006, again at 13:00 hours (which means all of us can attend the Open Day at Codenomicon Ltd. at 13:00 hours this Friday (see entry in the Announcements to see the location and map). I hope some of you will join me to express the important views of how to develop what we have started.

Kaija has kindly offered us the Walda premises in the City Centre for our Sunday Club meetings. They do not have any facilities for refreshments, etc. on Sundays. But maybe we can come to an arrangement with some restaurants who are our supporters to make some services available to us.

I have offered my help to the Oulu Students Union, should they need some of the expertise that we developed in the 80s. But I feel that the responsibility for all this work should rest on the City of Oulu IF it intends to call itself an "International City", which is today nothing but a tragicomic situation.

Today's letter in the Readers' Opinion column in the local newspaper, Kaleva, by my better half shows the present ridiculousness of the situation, as Oulu City hopes to be multicultural in name but follows its totally "monocultural" agenda! Kaleva edited some of the most hard-hitting and more humourous portions of a very serious letter, including the apt TITLE. So, I give below the full text as submitted by Annkki.

To: Kaleva
Date: 16-Jan-2006 08:41
Subject: Minimoni - Monokulttuurinen Suomi

Minimoni - Monokulttuurinen Suomi

Aika ei ole hävittänyt täysin kaikkia maailman ikivanhoja kulttuureja ja kieliä.

Ihmiskunta elää ajassa ja tilassa. Sitä hallitsee valtoja ja voimia, jotka repivät ja rakentavat sitä omissa rajoissaan. Entinen elää uusissa raameissa, tilassa ja tavoissa.

Maailman vanhin yhä puhuttu kieli on Tamil, jota puhuu yli 100 milj. ihmistä.

Itsekin Intian eri osissa varsinaisessa maailman kulttuurien sulatusuunissa asuneena, sulauduin sinne luontevasti suomalaisena.

Asuessani Tamil Nadun osavaltiossa, opin helposti puhumaan paikallista ikivanhaa tamilin kieltä juuri suomenkielin ansiosta. Siinä on valtava määrä samoja sanoja. Koko Suomen "monokulttuuri" löytyy pieninä murusina Intiastakin. Käytännössä vapautta kunnioittavassa maassa, kuten Intiassa, on tilaa erilaisuudelle ilman uhkaa kenellekään. Se elää omaa elämäänsä osana suurta kokonaisuutta.

Suomenkieli on osa vieläkin eri alueilla vallitsevaa kulttuuriperinnettä ja kuuluu Finno-Ugrialaiseen kieliryhmään. (Siinä on paljon vaikutteita Indo-Eurooppalaisista kielistä ja se on monikulttuurin tuote.)

Esa Hollappa yrittää tehdä tyhjäksi tämän maailman kulttuurit ja haudata ne yhteishautaan "Suomineidon" alle, kuten vahvasti vieläkin täällä vaikuttavat maailman vallat Babylonista Roomaan, Arabia, Intia ja Kiina. Niillä on vahvat juuret, jotka aina versoo uutta kasvua.

Kuitenkin näiden maiden keksintöjen, matematiikan, lääketieteen ja tähtitieteen perustuksiin on rakennuttu nykytieteen saavutukset.

Britannian mahti oli lähtöisin siirtomaakulttuurien rikkauksista.

Suomi kuuluu monikulttuuriseen Eurooppaan. Isäni suvun alkuperä on lähtöisin Reinjoen varrelta ja vaikuttanut Suomessa jo yli tuhat vuotta.

Kaikki ovat tulleet tänne jostakin, läheltä tai kaukaa ja tuoneet tapansa ja uskontonsa. Se ei ole sama kuin kulttuuri. Uskonnon suhteen vallassa olevien tavoite on aina ollut Suomessa "monokulttuuri", jota on helpompi hallita. Suomessa on vuosisatojen ajan sallittu vain yksi valtion oikeaksi määrittelemä kristinuskon muoto.

Kaikki maailman kansat kautta aikojen ovat olleet kulttuuri- ja talous-suhteissa riippuvaisia toisistaan. Tänään mitä suurimmassa määrin. Ilman elintärkeitä yhteyksiä, ruokakulttuuristammekin puuttuisi moni laji. Joku tulokas toi tänne porkkanan, nauriin ja lantun. Peruna on uusi tulokas, josta on tullut suomalainen.

Maailmanlaajuisuus alkaa läheltä ja päätyy kauas. Maassamme vallitseva "omanapakulttuuri" ei halua nähdä eikä välittää lähellä olevista köyhistä ja sairaista. Heitä ei ole "olemassakaan". Valitettavan totta.

Suomen pieni vähemmistökansa säilyy osana maailmaa, jos se on elinvoimainen- ja kelpoinen, polkematta alas muita. Tätä kansaa uhkaa vain sellaiset vahvat käytännöt kuin kateus, alkoholin suurkäyttö ja kiroileminen, jotka tuhoavat sitä, alentaen sen arvoa.

Esa Holapalla ja minulla on täysin erilainen kulttuuri suomalaisina Suomessa. Hänellä on monokulttuuri ja minulla on monikulttuuri!

Ihminen on kollektiivisillä taidoillaan päässyt kuuhun.

Autio karu kuumaasto tuottaa vain hedelmätöntä "monokuukulttuuria".

Annikki Matthan
Kampitie 6 B
90150 Oulu
Puh.: 08 33 69 39

See you on Saturday at the Pailin Thai Restaurant, KASARMIN, till we get more pernmanent premises for our SUNDAY CLUB MEETINGS.

Ville Suomi checks in from India

It was with great pleasure I can report the text message I received from Ville Suomi, who is part of the group of Finns sponsored by the Rotary District in North Finland to visit the Rotary District in Kerala and Tamilnadu in India.

Ville and his wife attended our CHAFF meeting when Paneerselvam spoke at length how the multinationals, in particular Monsanto of USA and Bayer of Germany are destroying the traditional farming techniques which provides livelihood for millions of farmers so as to promote genetically modified seeds and strong pesticides which harm people and the land.

Also we explained to Ville how the use of chemical fertilisers is totally destroying the fertility of the land.

We had requested Ville to raise this amongst the Indian Rotarians that he met.

The text message that I received from Ville was as follows:

Greetings from India, Jacob! I've brought up the chemical fertiliser issue with few Rotarians so far, and their views of the situation are same as yours. Ville

CHAFF is grateful to Ville for carrying our message into the greenest and most educated state in India.

Thank you Ville from all of us in Oulu.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Small Ads and Announcements

I have introduced a small ads and announcements section at the bottom of the column on the right.

Click image to see an enlarged version.

If you have something to inform all our CHAFF friends, please send an email to


and we will put it up in this section.

Many thanks to Tingting for this suggestion.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Unbelieveable CHAFF meeting

It is quite unbelieveable how CHAFF has grown, Today the meeting was packed, even though several who were supposed to attend could not make it because of illness, etc. Good thing too, as the Pailin Thai Restaurant in Kasarmin was overflowing.

The food was simply superb. The atmosphere was electric.

A move is afoot to make sure that CHAFF stops being an informal body and becomes a front runner to act as a responsible organisation in Oulu as well as other places in Finland as the message gets out.

However, it is my opinion that still more time is needed so that the backbone organisation consists of youngsters who can carry the ideals of CHAFF further than what the tired old school, namely myself, can do.

All the logos which were put forward, including the one received all the way from England, were considered to be excellent. The one which was designed for Ethics 2000 by our Kamutaza Tembo scored on many grounds especially its lightness and happiness.

We have asked our graphic designer Kamutaza Tembo to use the different suggestions to come up with a logo which will best reflect the mood of the organisation.

CHAFF Logo by Susanna  - Suggestion

Here is the one suggested from an interested observer all the way from England. The pen represents the action symbol.

Today's meeting discussed a plethora of subjects:

1. How to handle the cold weather.
2. How to save on ncome taxes.
3. How to make CHAFF relevant to all levels of Society.
4. Information of relevant meetings being held all over Oulu where CHAFF participants are involved.
5. Emergency services in Oulu which foreigners may have to use and how to get the information.

These emergency services will be listed on this blog site, in the column on the left so that it can prove to be an useful resource to all foreigners in Oulu.

Here are some pictures from Sunday's CHAFF meeting.

Thai Pailin Restaurant team, Pornpailin and Unnop - marvellous hosts.

Isaac Sundarajan, CEO of Codenomicon Ltd, Jacob Matthan,
Bill Zhang, Product Quality Engineer , Flextronics Inc.,
Subramaniam Paneerselvan, Visiting NGO Representative from
Villipuram, India. Pentti Paakki is in the background.

Ilari Sohlo, Ildikó Hámos, Bill, Paneerselvam,
Pentti, Tingting Xiting Zhang, China

Surya Vempati, Kiran Kumar, Nokia Mobile Phones,
Nageshwari (Kiran's wife), Gizella Taurianen

Surya, Isaac, Kiran, Nageshwari with her back to the camera

Next week will be another very interesting group with several new entrants including a young lady from France and another from Zambia. David from Kenya will be there.

Location will be intimated by Thursday. Welcome.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Oulu will hit -42 C today

Many of you are seeing winter in Oulu or Finland for the first time.

The thermometer is expected to go down to -27 C.

But be warned - that is not the temperature you will feel.

You have to watch the Wind Speed.

Today, the wind speed is expected to be 8 metres per second.

The temperature that you will feel after adjusting for this Chill Factor will be the same as you were exposed to - 42 C.

If you take off your gloves for just a few minutes, your hands will be almost numb. Please wear dry socks as wet ones will freeze instantly. Also keep your gloves dry inside.

I give below, in the relation to wind speed, the air temperature and the temperature you will feel after adjusting for this Chill Factor.

Chill Factor Table

Chill Factor Table
Click to see enlarged version

Be extremely careful when exposing yourself to these cold temperatures. Continued exposure can lead to frostbite which in extreme cases can be disastrous.

I will give you some useful hints on how to handle this degree of intense cold at the meeting this Sunday.

Details of the meeting this Sunday:

Date: 22nd January 2006
1. Centres for assistance of foreigners in Oulu.
2. How to handle extreme cold weather
Location: Pailin Thai Restaurant, Kasarmin Area
Time 13:00 hours (meeting may last approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, including eating time)
Car Service: Lift available from University area, Nokela area, Toppila Area. (Please contact Bill Zhang or me.)
Menu: Special Thai Buffet, Thai Sweet Chilli Wraps, Pizzas, Kebabs, Fast foods, etc.

See you then.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Soda gets his residence permit...

It is with pleasure that we can announce that Soda got his residence permit to be permanently reunited with his mother.

For this we must especially thank CHAFF participant, Ildikó Hámos (planner - communication, training - of the SINNI resource and empowerment centre, Isokatu 30, 302, FIN-90100 Oulu tel. +358 40 728 87 77), who helped Pornpailin and lent her the important morale support in the intervening period.

At our request, Ildikó met with Pornpailin and went with her to the local Police Station. She also followed up with the Department of Foreigners Affairs in Helsinki to ensure that the papers were processed quickly. Since Ildikó (Hungarian) and Pornpailin (Thai) speak German, communication was easy and the two were "at home" together, instantly.

SINNI stands for women empowerment centre and it provides for northern women´s power under one roof. SINNI is having an OPEN DAY on Wednesday, January 25th 2006. Please make sure you attend as it will be an great event.

Ildikó and Ilari in Iran

Ildikó and Ilari in Iran during
their overland trans-Asia trip

Here is a photograph of a very happy Pornpailin with her two wonderful children, Soda and Sodium.

Soda and Sodium with their mother Pornpailin
Soda and Sodium with their mother Pornpailin

Yesterday, Pornpailin was able to visit the Oulu Magstrate's Office to ensure all the papers were put in order for Soda's stay in Finland. Now comes the steps of ensuring that Soda gets his KELA card and that the formalities of his stay regularised.

We must also mention the help given by Virpi Ihonen, a resident of the Kasarmin area, and her partner, who have been helping the Pornpailin family to work through the several problems.

Virpi is truly wonderful person, who, with her partner are motorcycling enthusiasts. Virpi and her girlfriends run a Ladies Motorcycling Club - Pink Cats MC

Pink Cats MC, Virpi Ihonen and friends
Pink Cats MC, Virpi Ihonen and friends
Virpi is the one sitting at the back on the right

Thank you, Ildikó and Virpi, for acting in the true spirit of CHAFF. It is your selfless participation that has made CHAFF such a success.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

06.01.16: Savings and taxes

In attendance lasat Sunday at CHAFF were Bill, Kamu, Ildi and Ilari, Pentti, Paneer, Kannan and myself.

Photo of Chaff Meeting on 16th January 2005; Photo by Paneerselvam

Meeting on 16.01.2006

Some notable absentees: Tingting was away on a work trip in China, Isaac was in USA, David was in Kenya, Ville & Sini were in India, and Kaija was on leave from work. Saikou was trying to recover from a string of bad luck. His internet cafe was robbed over the New Year weekend. We wish him well.

Here is another proposed logo for CHAFF - this one is in Black and White. Like the last one, this has also been designed by Unnop of the Pailin Thai Restaurant for CHAFF.

We are looking for more ideas as it must be a striking logo, the envy of the world!

CHAFF Black and White Logo

The two logos received to date tell what CHAFF is, but they do not convey the fact that it is run by foreigners who want to help others in Finland, those wanting to learn aspects of living and working in Finland, those wanting to travel to various countries from which CHAFF members are drawn, and at the same time that is a "fun" group.

Here, for example is a logo designed by Kamu for me for the ETHICS 2000 Conference held in Oulu in March 2000.

What you see here is the fineness of the work of a professional graphic designer, Kamutaza Tembo from Zambia. There are few who can equal the quality of his work.

Kannan Balram, the human dynamo from Pondicherry, India, told us at the meeting about the savings that can be made in the taxes we pay in Finland.

The biggest saving obtained is by entering into a pension savings plan which can be done through any bank investment service. They charge a fee for their service, but it is well worth it.

A maximum of Euro 5000 can be saved in a year under this scheme. This entitles one to a tax refund of 28% of the amount saved (Euro 1400 maximum) in the following year.

If one is earning Euro 3000 per month and one has to pay 26% tax, this pension savings plan drops the effective tax to 21.9%, plus one is adding Euro 5000 to ones savings every year and earning interest on that sum.

There are two types of savings that can be done. The first is related to investment in mutual funds, which can go up or down.

Those who are of the gambling spirit can follow this, and your returns may be sky high or you may even loose your basic capital. For myself, I followed this scheme and I have done quite well over the years. My investment advisor in Nordea Bank is very wise and has told me which mutual funds to invest in and she has done all the work for me.

The safe fixed return savings earns interest of 4.5% presently, which is higher than normal bank interests. I followed this for Annikki who does not appreciate any form "gambling".

This money saved in this pension savings account cannot be touched till one is 62, when it will be paid as an annual pension over an agreed period, OR unless there are exceptional circumstances, such as divorce (unless one has a pre-nuptial agreement which is quite common in Europe) or unemployment lasting more than a year.

The amount saved can be changed depending on the financial circumstances except that it cannot exceed Euro 5000 in any year but it can vary from Euro 0 to 5000.

In addition to the savings, this pension plan covers life insurance.

This plan ensures that one can go into retirement with a comfortable personal pension at the age of 62 years. The State Pension is presently available only at the age of 65. This age limit may be raised to 68 or even 70 as the age demographic changes. Also the State Pension is very marginal compared to this personal pension savings return.

The other important aspect of taxes in Finland are that various deductions are claimable when making the annual tax return. Union and professional institution fees, purchase cost of professional books, work or professional related travel costs, capital purchases that are related to your professional activity, interest paid on house loans, labour costs incurred on house renovation, are just some of the areas where deductions from taxes can be made when filing the annual return. There are upper and lower limits for each item.

Claims made on these items will ensure that an appropriate tax refund is made the following year by the tax authorities. I used to have various deductions which gave me another 3 to 5% tax deductions per year - meaning the effective tax I paid was only aroung 16 to 18%.

If you earn less than Euro 3000, this makes it substantially better for you.

For instance, if you earn Euro 2000 per month and pay 21.5% tax, this scheme reduces the effective tax to 15.6 % and with other deductions, you will pay an effective tax of just 11 to 14%.

Otherwise, you will wonder where all your hard earned money has vanished to.

If one is running a small company, part of the rent for your home, electricity, water charges, transportation costs, and many other deductions can be obtained by careful planning of ones's life. Many people do not realise this and throw away all their bills.

KEEP ALL BILLS - that is a golden rule, as at the end of a year you may gain some substantial benefit out of them.

In a follow up meeting, the intention will be to cover this in greater detail. Kannan will make a small report on this subject for all our participant who are interested. It is possible that it can be made available on this blog as a downloadable document.

This week's meeting was lively as usual and the food was excellent. It is wonderful that we have such a great group of friends.

Kamu got a present from Ilari - Indian bidis, the cheap hand-made cigarettes that Indians smoke. Ildi and Ilari brought Annikki and Jacob a present of chocolates from Hungary.

Pentti gave Jacob a beautiful photograph of his daughter and her groom when they were married in July last year. It is customary to gíve a photograph of the couple to whoever attends the wedding.

The next CHAFF meeting is a sell out with many returnees and many new participants.

The Indian contingent is likely to be very strong. Besides the usual faces, Kiran and Nageshwari are hoping to attend. Swaroop and Devi may be able to come. We hope Uunik Gupta and his wife, Satyam and Bhaumik with wives and Vamsi and Subramaniam will be able to attend. Atul may still not be able to attend as he is learning to look after the new addition to the family and relieve Helena of some stress.

Next Sunday's meeting:

Date: 22nd January 2006
Topic: Centres for assistance of foreigners in Oulu
Location: Pailin Thai Restaurant, Kasarmin Area
Time 13:00 hours (meeting may last approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, including eating time)
Car Service: Lift available from University area, Nokela area, Toppila Area. (Please contact Bill Zhang or me.)
Menu: Special Thai Buffet, Thai Sweet Chilli Wraps, Pizzas, Kebabs, Fast foods, etc.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Launch of the CHAFF Blog

CHAFF, which stands for the Chamber of Assistance for Finns and Foreigners, started as small informal group of four persons, Bill Zhang from China, Kamutaza Tembo for Zambia, Saikou Marong from Gambia and Jacob Matthan from India.

Suggested Logo for CHAFF

Suggested Logo for CHAFF

The purpose was to help any Finns and Foreigners,in any possible practical way, based on the combined experience of the group. It was to be a informal body with a rotating Chairperson.

Within a few weeks several new faces appeared at the meetings. The group was helping people in several different ways. Solving problems of dealing with corrupt Finnish Businessmen, motivating foreigners to earn their livelihood, helping some with saving on the taxes, guiding people to invest money properly in Finland, sharing experiences in management, acting as an early warning system before uninitated foreigners were ripped off by others, solving physical abuse problems, helping small companies extricate themselves from financial and legal problems, were just some of the issues that were tackled during the course of the first six months.

The group has grown exponentially. It was felt that maybe a blog would help keep track of the activities of what the group is doing.

CHAFF Sunday Club
CHAFF Sunday Club at the Pailin Thai Restaurant,
Kasarmin Area, 8th January 2006

The Sunday Club meetings are not held at any fixed location. The venue is chosen based on the number of people likely to attend. The financially well-off members host the less financially well-off as they help them climb out their sitaution.

The Pailin Thai Restaurant in the Kasarmin Area (Kenttätie 9) has offered the CHAFF Group their assistance and has provided all with good food at reasonable prices.

Success on solving problems so far is over 90%. Some of those who have been attending have pulled up their socks having been motivated by the combined enciouragement of the group members.

People from the following nationalities have attended the meetings:

Bangladesh, China, Czech, Finland, Gambia, Ghana, Honduras, Hungary, India, Japan, Nigeria, Kenya, Thailand, USA, Zambia.

Anyone can post comments on the blog attached to any entry.

Meeting details will be posted on the blog. Dates, time and location for coming meetings will be also posted here.