A Finnish newspaper just absolutely rinsed Birmingham

They called the Bullring an ‘ugly new building’

BCU birmingham Birmingham City University brum bullring city Finland London Second city Ugly university of birmingham

A Finnish newspaper just described Brum as “ugly” “fascinating” and “rough” in a patronizing profile on the city.

It started so positively.  Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat was keen to do a piece on second cities and how they’re normally so much better than the “pompous” capitals.  A good start.  Of course Birmingham is better than London, right?

Travel guides apparently warn tourists Birmingham is not renowned for its beauty (thanks guys) but this only made the journalist keener to explore.

The article reads “Immediately we are interested. Ugly cities are fascinating, just as rough as the TV series set in British locations.”

From this super charming compliment, things got progressively worse for Brum’s profile in Finland.  They wrote:

“Birmingham has been a rugged industrial town, sooty and smoky.

“The city fathers demolished everything that the Luftwaffe had not destroyed.

“The city is full of ugly new buildings, the most famous of which is the Bullring shopping centre.”

You call this architecture?

But it’s so iconic?

Think it can’t get any worse?  Think again.  They also made a swipe at the city’s multiculturalism, something Birmingham has always been fiercely proud of:

“And of course it is full of Pakistanis, Indians, Arabs, Caribbeans.”

But not wanting to leave Brummies feeling depressed about their ugly city, the article was able to draw one positive: “such places” as Birmingham may not be great, but apparently it’s better than Liverpool.


BCU says the article probably meant “interesting” rather than ugly. How could this be deemed ugly?!

“Who knows, the new Beatles may be born in such places – indeed they came from the dreary Liverpool.”

Senior English Language lecturer at BCU, Dr Ursula Lutzky, is fluent in Finnish and reckons the journalists probably don’t mean to offend.

She said: “While the English translation may at first reading appear slightly harsh, the implication from a Finnish perspective may be that Birmingham has some sort of rugged charm, in a potentially positive aesthetic sense.

“Thus, the Finnish original appears more neutral in its description – a neutrality that is lost in translation and that may also pertain to the reference to ethnic diversity.

“In general, the Finnish tone tends to be matter-of-fact and this specific text may indeed be meant to intrigue and interest the reader.”

So there you go, next time someone from Finland calls you ugly, they probably mean it in a “positive aesthetic sense.”