This is a Post About Door Knobs


Today I’m supposed to write about (checks notes) door knobs. They are a rare thing in Finland. It confuses people when I talk about it, but when Americans get here they don’t seem to notice it right away. That lack of door knobs is another one of those subtle indications of deeper differences between Americans and Finns.

When I say door knobs, I’m referring to the roundish things that your grip, twist, and pull or push on to open and close a door. While I am sure they exist here somewhere, probably on order buildings, I cannot recall seeing one in five years. Most exterior doors have a bar running, running horizontally or vertically. Interior doors have handles, which sit horizontally and can be pushed down to unlatch the door. These arrangements not only address accessibility issues, they make it easier in the winter when you’ve got gloves or mittens on. It’s all-around more practical.

The thing that everyone does notice right away, however, is the lack of anything on the outside of apartment doors. Again, I speak to my experience, and the anecdotal evidence shared by friends. I have yet to visit an apartment building anywhere in the country where the door had anything other than a keyhole. No knob, no handle, nothing. You insert the key, twist, and use that to pull the door open.

Not Just Door Knobs – Keys, Too

Finnish keys are a whole other deal. They’re not the simple, flat things with ridges and teeth that Americans are used to. They’re technically cylinders, but squared and have a complex series of notches. In addition to being hard to duplicate, they can open multiple doors. For example, my one key can not only open my apartment door, but the front door to the building, the front door to the building next door (because of the laundry room), and the laundry room. My neighbor across the hall can open their apartment, but not mine, along with all of the things I can open. The people in the next building can get into their apartment, their building, and the laundry room, but not this building (because there are no amenities here they need to access).

The gap in technology blows my mind. It makes so much more sense, is easier to use, and provides far more security. The only reason why the United States hasn’t adopted these standards, I will venture to guess, is cost. I remember spending as little as $10 (€9) for an interior door knob. Around $30 (€27) for an exterior knob with a lock. It cost around $2 (€1,80) to make a duplicate key. Here making a duplicate key alone will run you around €40 ($44). There’s also the fact that the hardware is almost universally utilitarian, and I remember walking through aisles of styles for doorknobs and locks. Americans are about appearances, while Finns seem to prioritize function first.

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