A foreigner in Finland
I have been living in Finland now for 9 months in the whole. I learned a lot about the country during that time. I learned how Finnish people are, with their habits, routines, tools etc. But most of all I learned to love Finland.
Here I have collected some things about Finland which were really new to me - but also to other foreigners in Finland, who I got to know during the time here. They are observations I made that were just funny or different for me and should be understood in a positive way only. Here they are, just randomly collected.
The Coffee obsession… Before I came to Finland I didn’t drink coffee at all. But after saying 'No' to the question 'Haluatko kahvia?' (Do you want coffee?) for the hundredth time, I finally succumbed the peer pressure and answered 'Kyllä, kiitos' (Yes, please). As at home the coffee is so different than here, I gave up on it again when I returned home. I prefer the Finnish filter coffee over the machine coffee from home which for example my parents can’t understand at all. They had really big problems to get used to the coffee here, when they visited me. Also in the Finland edition (which was published in spring 2017) of Das Magazin, a Swiss magazine, Mikael Krogerus writes that for people in Switzerland every Swiss gas station coffee would taste like an espresso from a barista compared to the Finnish coffee. It’s all about what you’re used to, I guess. :-)
No, don’t bless you… Why people don’t say 'Terveydeksi' when somebody sneezes? For me it feels really rude not to do it but eventually I had to stop doing it here in Finland because some people even get embarrassed when I wish them blessing and health when they sneeze.
Woolly warm socks…The first thing I got when I arrived in Finland were woollen self-knitted socks. My mentor is often wearing them in the office – even in summer – and I think every Finn owns at least one pair. They are another option to house shoes in Finland.
Card-Payment… Oh how much I wish that I would have a Finnish bank card. How cool is that to go to the kioski counter and draw your card just to pay a 1E Snickers bar? Coins are SO out. Not only my name (which is common in Finland for women way older than me) but also the fact that I was always paying by card made me look like a grandmother. In Finland most young people are really modern and mostly pay by card only.
The toilet shower… Sorry for broaching this embarrassing subject but I have actually had some funny conversations about this one. In Finland there is a little shower head next to every toilet. Quite weird at the beginning but actually really handy. Finns are the ones with the cleanest butts in Europe, I guess! :-)
Plate rack cupboards (Yes, I googled this expression.)… With this tool you don’t have to dry your dishes anymore, you can just place them in the cupboard and let them dry there. Very handy indeed. Anyway, I’m getting used to it still. For me it seems horrible just to place the wet dishes in the cupboard and let the water drip down to the kitchen board.
The Vacuum cleaner sound… I have realised this through observing Finnish people speak to each other. I was really surprised, when I also read about it in that Finland edition of Das Magazin, which I already mentioned above. There, in one of his articles called 'Ruhe, bitte' Mikael Krogerus writes: „Ich antworte, indem ich durch die gespitzten Lippen scharf Luft einziehe, sodass ein kurzer, heller Staubsaugerlaut ertönt. Wollte man Finnisch aus irgendeinem Grund auf einen einzigen Laut reduzieren, so wäre es dieser.“
So, what he’s saying is that to agree with his uncle, he breathes in sharply through his mouth with round lips and produces that kind of vacuum cleaner sound. Sounds funny doesn’t it? But it’s true. I have observed that many Finns do it when they say “Jooo” or “Niii” to agree with somebody. They make that kind of wisper sound.
Milk faces… In every Finnish lunch canteen there is a machine or package of milk. Milk fits surprisingly well with the lunch, I have learned in Finland. You can even get milk in the Fast Food takeaways and Kebab places. Mmmmh!
Salmiakki… A picture says more than a thousand words…
Picking berries… I was and am still so excited about how many forrest strawberries there are in Finland. Also about the blue berries: there are wild blueberries in every forrest in Finland and I just heard lately that there are so many that every inhabitant of Finland could eat 100 kg per summer. But usually everybody still eats only 8 kg averagely per year.
The whole ferry to Estonia thing… It was so funny and surprising to go to the Karaoke bar in the ship to Estonia at 10am and see how the people are already partying! When we came back with the ferry I took a nice picture which also shows the other thing about the ferries. Guess what those grannies have in their carriages?
Sleeping at daylight… One thing I REALLY don’t understand is why there are no real shutters in Finland.Only thing that I know is that I wake up when it is too bright and that in Finland it can get bright pretty early in the morning during summer. Finnish people seem to have got used to it already or then the curtains are just really good...
Brightness… When already speaking about how early it can get bright in Finland: it also gets dark really late in the night! I am so excited about the long summer days. I have discussed with Mark about this. We agreed that walking home from a bar at maybe 2AM while it’s getting bright and the birds are chirping is one of the greatest experiences you can make in Finland.
Sauna… I mean, I have been in Saunas before and yes, there are saunas all over the world. So what’s special about the saunas in Finland? For me: The peace, the mentality, the lakes. Conversations in there. That there is no weird Saunameister fidgeting around. And maybe the best thing: there is so many.
(For the Finns who might not know what a Saunameister is: the show starts at 1:30)
Supermarket casinos… Every time I walk out of the grocery shop I see some grandmas (of course also other people, but the surprising ones are the grandmas) on the gambling machines next to the pay desk. Yes, there are gambling machines in the supermarket! I swear, I have never seen that before in any other country (or maybe yes but only here I realised it?). However, I really should try my luck some time. :-)
Moped cars… I have never seen those little farts before but in Finland they seem quite popular. You can drive them with 16 years old and they can reach a speed of around 50km/h, right?
Suomipop… If you go to 50 most popular Swiss charts on Spotify (because Liechtenstein doesn’t even have its own charts) there isn’t a single German song at the moment. However, if you check the Finnish playlist you have to search for the songs which are not Finnish! There are so many Finnish songs! Which is easy to understand if you have ever listened to radio Suomipop. With that radio channel I started to love Finnish music.
These are some of my favourites:
Modesty of the people… While interviewing Maryna I realised something very great about the people in Finland: There are no people who are trying to show off how rich they are. Back home and also generally in central Europe, I think, many people always want to get more and more money and try to look like it as well. They are using super expensive cars, brand name clothes, expensive bags etc. In Finland people are happy with an average life, as Maryna said it. For them it’s not necessary to be super rich or still if some of them might be - they don’t feel the urge to show it to everybody. That’s a really exemplary behaviour, I think and we could learn a lot from the Finns.
This was the last article that I wrote during my summer job. I’m really happy about that month of exciting work at Kantti. I learned a lot and I once more realised how much I love writing. Thank you for everyone who was reading my articles.
Text and photos: Anja Kaufmann