Before 2019, Sault Ste. Marie native Roy Rissanen had no idea he would appear as a man who would catch the eye of no less than three Finnish women, co-starring on a Finnish TV reality show.
Rissanen is one of four men currently appearing on a program entitled Maajussille morsian maailmalla, a spin-off from Maajussille morsian.
Basically, that means Farmer Wants a Wife, Rissanen said, speaking to SooToday in a telephone interview from his Canadian home in Halifax.
“It’s been surreal. They replay episodes throughout the week and I get messages on social media saying ‘Hi, I just saw you on TV!,’” Rissanen chuckled.
The original series, which has run in Finland for 13 seasons, stars real-life men and women (not actors) playing the dating game, incorporating all the drama and fun of a reality show which so many viewers enjoy.
The new spin-off series involves Rissanen, fellow Finnish-Canadian Matthew Almusa of Saskatchewan, ‘Mustafa’ from Turkey, who previously lived in Finland, and ‘Stefano’ from Lebanon, who fell in love with Finland during business trips.
The original series is taped in Finland with residents of that country, the new spin-off attempting to play matchmaker between Finnish residents with Finns (or people of Finnish descent) living abroad.
Rissanen delivers most of his conversation on TV in English, with Finnish subtitles.
“My Finnish is not bad. It’s coming back a little bit. I can hold a basic conversation.”
There are versions of the show in other countries, including Australia.
“They find these ‘farmers,’ to use the word loosely, anybody that’s connected to the land somehow. We do an introductory episode to introduce these farmers. That runs on TV and the invitation is put out there for ladies, or men if they have female farmers, to write in if they’re interested in meeting these farmers,” Rissanen said, explaining the show’s premise.
Rissanen estimated he received about 100 letters.
“It was quite flattering to get that much of a response.”
“So, all those letters come in, and out of those letters, you select eight of those people and you speed date with them (taped at a location, such as a resort). You get five minutes with each one, then you pick four, then you pick three out of those four to spend a week at your home, on a farm, generally doing everyday work to see if they’re interested in living that kind of lifestyle.”
“These girls might not have farm experience, but they like the guy, and they get experience on what it’s like to live on a farm with them. You spend a day with each one of the three girls. At the end of that week you select one of them that wants to stay with you and hopefully things go well after that. At the end of the show you pick one you want to try to pursue something with and hopefully it goes well from there,” Rissanen said.
There’s no real life marriage ceremony at the end of a TV season, but Rissanen said “I’ve known of a few people (who have formed a real, lasting relationship as a result of starring in the show)...there’s one couple who just had their first child, there are people who are still together.”
“Every one of the three ladies I've met has been a fantastic person...I’d like to see if I can meet somebody nice,” said the separated father of one teenaged son.
The cast and crew finished filming their fourth episode of the 11-episode saga in January 2020 before COVID put things on hold, the fifth episode scheduled to air in Finland this week.
The show is still airing, the last episode to air May 6 on Finland's MTV3 channel, so Rissanen couldn't reveal whether he found love on the show or not (that would have been a major spoiler!)
“I’m really looking forward to the ones they filmed in the Sault. We had such a good time, so much good footage. I think it’s going to come across very well for people in Finland,” Rissanen said.
Rissanen said a business connection made him aware of the reality show.
He expressed his interest in the production, and the rest is history.
“We began shooting in July 2019. We filmed for three days in Sault Ste. Marie as the introductory episode...then we (all four men currently starring in the show) went to Finland in the fall of 2019 (to receive letters from women interested in pursuing a friendship, possibly a relationship).”
“We brought these three ladies in on Remembrance Day (in 2019). Then we went out to Pine Island...I basically borrowed my aunt and uncle’s cottage on Pine Island, and we spent some time on St. Joe’s Island (to serve as the ‘farm’ setting for the show),” Rissanen said.
“My plan (before COVID, and now a ‘wait and see’ situation), in retirement, is to come back to the Sault and open up a Finnish-themed bed and breakfast on Pine Island or Goulais Bay, on the waterfront, to have guests come and go, cook Finnish delicacies and hang out with people.”
That scenario is presented on the TV show.
Another part of the program was taped at the Sault's Ontario Finnish Resthome Association (OFRA), in which the visiting Finnish women met and spoke with Finnish OFRA residents who were thrilled to meet folks from their homeland.
Rissanen, 48, was born and raised in the Sault, his parents Finnish immigrants who met and married in this community.
A White Pines Collegiate graduate, Rissanen joined the Royal Canadian Navy after high school, serving along Canada’s east and west coasts, eventually leaving the navy and settling in Halifax, where he has worked in real estate and property management for the last 20 years.
Like almost all Sault natives who have left the community for educational, vocational or personal reasons (or all three), Rissanen said the Sault will “always be home.”
“I always try to get there at least once a year, doing the drive from Halifax. We stop at St. Joe’s Island, at my uncle’s camp on Pine Island, grab a sauna and a swim, and usually our first stop in the Sault is to buy some Italian sausage, visit a relative’s house to light up the barbecue and relax.”
“Every time I get to the Sault, I’ve got an unwritten rule that I have to have at least one sauna a day,” Rissanen said, stating there seems to be a shortage of quality saunas in Nova Scotia.
Aspects of his experiences in Finland which have impressed Rissanen include:
- The availability of saunas (not surprisingly), with 3.3 million saunas in a country with a population of 5.5 million people
- Finland’s low homelessness rate due to ‘housing first initiatives,’ (with only 5,000 homeless people in the country)
- That the Finnish consume 12 kilograms of coffee per person per year (compared to Canada’s 6.2 kilograms of coffee per person per year, despite the seemingly omnipresent Tim Hortons coffee cup), with coffee always served at Finnish restaurants after a meal (not before)
- The quality of the food, even good quality candy
- The "stillness" and quality of the air
- The level of physical activity (more people, including the elderly, prefer to walk instead of driving or taking public transit)
- A lower level of stress within society, with a greater work-life balance
More information (click on 'translate' if your device has that option) on the show can be found here