Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Worrying again

So social services effectively told me to fuck myself...because apparently when I split up with my boyfriend I should have had money to live on...which I did, briefly, but that happened a while ago and is not really the case anymore. I'm not even asking for them to support me completely, I only want help with my rent. We went to see them just in case Kela were difficult, but Kela is looking to be the more likely option. They've told me that everything seems to be in order, and I know logically that I've given them all the necessary information and that there isn't really a reason why they shouldn't assist me, but how many other times have I been told something by the authorities here which didn't quite pan out? I have a horrible suspicion that something will crop up to ruin everything, and that really upsets me.
Now I'm waiting for Kela's decision about me, but before deciding on whether to pay housing benefits they need to decide whether I should be covered by Finnish social security. I'm quite sure I should, as I have a valid social security number, and have worked and paid taxes in this country, and they said those were the requirements. Now they have a copy of my work contract, so they know that for a fact.
I had a bit of a wobble earlier, and my emergency plan consisted of crying a lot. Now I've thought of a couple of alternative options. Tomorrow I'm going to the employment agency, who should be able to help me properly now, to see if they can hook me up with some suitable jobs. I have no idea why I didn't do that before, seeing as it's blindingly obvious, but it's definitely worth trying. Last night I also contacted a family in Turku who are seeking an English speaking au pere for three months. If that worked out it would be absolutely ideal. In the worst case scenario the employment people can sort me out under the integration law, which basically means they'll give me enough money to live on if I attend a language school for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week. This was suggested when I first arrived but I was not eligible at that time. That's not ideal for me; I'd feel like a schoolgirl, and I'd prefer to work and be a bit more productive, but if it comes to it I'd accept that.
What's really annoying me now is that when I got my social security number everyone told me that would give me the same rights as a Finnish person, and that basically I would be considered as a Finnish citizen, and it's just not true. Having the number or paying taxes here doesn't matter, they will still withhold help because I was born in a different country. That must be the only reason - I have everything in order, I have a valid number, I have worked here and am willing to continue doing so, but I'm still struggling to get help when I need it. I'm pretty sure that if I had a Finnish passport this would not happen. Emmi pointed out the injustice that some people just show up here, hold out their hands and get everything, whereas I have contributed, and would gladly continue to do so, but consistently get rejected. I know this happens in other countries too, including mine, and that there are probably many native Finnish people who find themselves with the same problems as me, just like native British people who don't get support when they need it. Sometimes I really wonder what I'm doing here. I want to stay, but sometimes it's a complete joke. I've been lucky so far - when things have been going wrong something has come up to rescue me for a little while longer - and I hope my luck doesn't run out now.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Give me money!

I really need a more regular, steady income, plus I'd like something useful to do. I'm planning to advertise in Turku, but as I don't know exactly who reads this blog I'd also like to add something here in case someone is interested.

I'd like to work as a private English/art tutor, for adults or older children. English lessons will be conversation based, but I can also explain definitions and grammatical rules. This would be most suitable for someone who already speaks some English but is hoping to improve their abilities and refine their pronunciation etc, or for someone studying for an English exam.
Art lessons can be based on whatever you want, but please bear in mind that I am a 2-dimensional artist, and therefore cannot help you to carve a beautiful statue of your wife out of granite. I would be best equipped to teach painting, drawing, art theory, and elements of art history. Art lessons would be in English, possibly with some Finnish spoken if necessary, so if you would like to improve your English aswell this could be helpful.

Prices and times are negotiable, and I am also prepared to offer long-distance language tutoring via Skype, as someone suggested that this was a viable option. Please contact me if you are interested.
I am well qualified - English is my native language, and I have had an extensive formal art education in my own country. I am also extremely passionate about this subject and would be happy to share my knowledge.

I would also be prepared to take on private babysitting or cleaning jobs, in Turku only. Children usually like me. I'm a bit Mary Poppins. Again, please contact me if you are interested.

Apart from that, it's snowing again, I have a horrendous cold, my ex boyfriend is harrassing me, this thing has decided it doesn't like paragraphs, and my back hurts. Yet I'm still happy...I'm beginning to think I've got a concussion or something.

Monday, 28 March 2011

My new favourite magazine

Kissafani. "Cat Fan" to the non-Finnish people of the world. I've just found my dream magazine for when I'm a crazy old lady with 10 cats. I found this about as funny as I found Kunto. Also, the new Facebook page is misbehaving, and has a tendency to delete things and hide the people that like it. One minute it says 7 people like it, the next it says 0, then it changes again. It's gettng rather irritating now.

Frozen on Facebook

Look over here! Frozen in Finland now has a Facebook page for you to like. Because, obviously, this just isn't enough for you. Now you can go there and write little messages of love to me, and probably read about some of the more mundane things that are happening to me. It's not very exciting yet - it was made five minutes ago - but I hope to eventually have more than two fans, one of whom is myself. So go there. Go there now!

Friday, 25 March 2011

It's back...

Ah old nemesis. Here we are again. This picture was taken today. How depressing. The five minutes it takes to walk to market square were hell today because the wind is so strong that I was nearly blinded by snowflakes being blown into my eyes. It kept going for a few hours until mid-afternoon, but there was an awful lot in a short period of time. It was pretty deep in some places. I hear that Norway has been the same today, with a sudden flurry of snow. Scandinavian springtime - what a load of bollocks.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Kela got complicated

I was warned. They sent me a letter, very thoughtfully written in English, to tell me that I apparently don't have an address here! I should go to Maistraati to register an address. Hopefully, they will not direct me again to the police station, where I will be asked for €47 to register as a resident of Finland. I simply don't have €47 to chuck around like that! Emmi told me that when a Finnish person moves they go to Maistraati to change the information, so maybe that's the only thing there, and it just got a bit confused last time. I hope this is the case because €47 is a lot of money for me, and it's a bit unfair as I'm from an EU country, and therefore have a right to be here.
The other problem is that I can't find my old work contract, and was never even given a pay slip. I hope that calling the stamp shop for confirmation that I worked there is sufficient. Things are back to going in circles. What else did I expect?
More and more I'm wondering how on earth people emigrate without some kind of support network. I'm so lucky to have various people here who help me with these things, and I'm wondering how other people without that manage. Obviously it's entirely possible because millions of people emigrate, but I have no idea how they manage. There's no resource that tells you all the stuff you need to do and all the information you need to know, and especially when foreign languages are involved it tends to get a bit mixed up. I think that's one of the reasons why things have gone round in circles so much.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Finnish piercing

I was wondering what to do today when Emmi asked if I wanted to come with her whilst she got some new piercings. She knew I'd wanted a medusa piercing (one on the cupid's bow), and so I ended up deciding to do it. However, as I already have a smiley (the flap of skin under your top lip) and the two together could easily catch on each other and be very painful, I ended up with a vertical medusa piercing. I'd seen vertical piercings on the bottom lip, but never the top, and even the guy in the shop seemed happy to be doing something a bit different!
I'd actually walked past this shop before, and the fact that there was a happy hour on piercings (€20 for anything) worried me, because a good shop shouldn't need to do that. Emmi, however, knew the place and said it was good, and my attitude was that if it looked dodgy I could let her do it and not get involved. However, the place was clean, the guy was friendly and professional, and he set up in front of each customer. In my opinion (and I have 15 piercings and 8 tattoos so I have a good amount of experience here), this is important because if they aren't prepared to show you their procedures, what are they hiding? Any good tattooist or piercer will be happy to do their preparations publicly.
At first I was unsure, purely because there was lots of shouting in Finnish and a large crowd of idiotic 14 year olds on a rebellious streak. Realistically, any shop will probably be the same here, so I decided to get over it. I got it done, the guy was great, and I am very pleased with the result.
I asked him about tattoos. He is all booked up until September, (another very good sign - no one will wait 6 months for dodgy work) but on the last Friday of each month he has a walk-in day, and he says he prefers to do smaller jobs on these days. He is looking like a contender for the Muumimamma tattoo I want, because it's small and he's obviously good at his job, plus he had a nice personality, which is what I like. I don't want to be tattooed by miserable people who don't speak for the whole time; having a friendly person to chat to is preferable. Plus when Emmi told him I wanted Muumimamma he didn't laugh, not even at my statement "Muumimamma is badass." I think I'm better off waiting until after I've been to Norway to see what my financial situation will be, but I could always take him a picture of what I want to get an idea of the price. There's another small tattoo I've been wanting for about four years now, but which has been pushed to the sidelines due to other ideas coming up, and maybe that could finally get done too, if I'm super lucky financially.
In conclusion, nice guy, good shop, and I'm happy to be back into this as it's been a long time since I've had any fresh tattoos or piercings. Now, go buy my paintings so I can get my tattoos!

Monday, 21 March 2011


I think I need some suggestions of new things to do in Turku. I've been a bit bored recently during the weekdays, and don't have anything important to do. Preferably cheap or free things seeing as I'm going to Norway in one month and seven days and should probably save some money for that. I'd much rather be going outside and doing new things, but I'm not very inspired at the moment.

Still, I do have some lovely new cultural observations:

1.) Traffic lights. Since I came here, traffic lights have baffled me. The police will warn or fine pedestrians for walking through a red light, but when there's a red light for vehicles they can drive through it if no one is crossing the street. That makes it a bit risky if you happen to reach the crossing at that time, I'm always a bit unsure whether to walk or not. And the lights get turned off at night! I said that was weird, the person I was talking to thought it made sense to save energy. Just a bit dangerous to me. Crossing the road is hard enough because I still think the traffic is backwards.

2.) Kitchens. They're all designed in exactly the same way, and it's genius! The cupboard under the sink has the bin in it, the cupboard over the sink is a draining board, and there's at least one pull-out chopping board next to the drawers. When I came here I just thought I'd been blessed with a nifty kitchen, but no! Every kitchen I've seen is the same. Where did this idea come from? Does anyone not have a kitchen like this? This is the reason why Finnish design is respected worldwide.

3.) Supermarkets. You go to the supermarket in England and have to simultaneously pack your shopping, pay for it and put your change away. Here they have clever little things to divide the end of the till up, so you wait until they've scanned all your stuff, then pay for it, then pack it in your own sweet time, and the person behind you doesn't care how long you take because their stuff just ends up on the other side, so doddery old people don't bother anyone! Why did no one in England think of this?

Finally, our housewarming party was very successful, and I'm liking how Finnish people feel obliged to bring gifts. I acquired two bottles of wine and a new phone. Imagine how much shit I'd have if I knew more than about five people! I'm going to make some new friends and then have another housewarming. Incidentally, we might have to do that, because the poor, sweet Ukrainian girl who lives here (and cannot speak Finnish or English) seemingly misunderstood when she was informed of the party, and thought that she had to go out whilst it was happening. It's very sad, considering that we'd all knocked on her door to see if she was joining us, only to find she'd gone out. So we think we need to do it again...

Saturday, 19 March 2011


It's been snowing for the past few hours, which I find a bit ridiculous. By now I'm so sick of snow that this really irritates me. In England I always wanted it to snow in winter, but being here has definitely got me over that. It makes it hard to see, it's difficult to walk on...I can't stand snow anymore.
It's still comparitively warm, so I don't think it's going to settle, but that means the ground is probably going to be sludgey and slippery, which isn't so nice. I'm assuming this is some freak weather condition because it's been a lot warmer recently, and even when I was walking in the snow I didn't feel cold, I didn't even need any gloves!
I hope it doesn't go on for a long time and start building up; it's been very nice lately to see the pavement for the first time in months. I didn't even remember that market square has cobble stones because I'd only seen it without snow for a few weeks, several months ago.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Finnish people amuse me

There hasn't been anything very notable for me to write about this week. Everything's been very normal and quite calm. Finally! We're having a housewarming party on Saturday, and the anti-social member of the household decided to stay at her mother's house that night. I can't think of many 21 year olds who'd rather hang out with their mother than go to a party, but each to their own.
Lately I've noticed some things that make me laugh about some Finnish people, so I'm writing about that intead.

1.) Accents. Most Finnish people obviously have a Finnish/Scandinavian accent when they speak English. However, I've met a lot of people who also have perfect American accents! I went to the bank on Tuesday, and the very nice man who served me had this accent, and if I had only heard him speak English and didn't know he was from Finland I definitely would have assumed he was from America. One of my flatmates also has a very American accent, another one of them sounds slightly American, and on one occasion in the post office I was also served by a man with a strong American accent. It's strange, and my only guess about why this is is that maybe people pick up bits of English from watching TV. Foreign shows on television have subtitles, not dubbing, so maybe they watch American shows, copy what they hear there, and end up with American accents. A couple of weeks after I came here I spoke to a barman who had a really Irish accent, he asked which country I thought he was from and I said Ireland before Finland! He said it was because he'd lived in France as a child and there were lots of Irish people, so when he first started to speak English he heard lots of Irish accents, and it stuck. It's still a bit of a surprise when someone goes from sounding very Finnish to very American in a split second.

2.) Sweden. What is the deal with Finnish people and Sweden? Several different people, on different occasions, have been telling me how much they hate Sweden, Swedish people, and the Swedish language, and then invite me to go to Stockholm because "it's such a nice place, we'll have a really good time." Then they complain that they go to Sweden and have to speak Swedish. I'm confused, although I would really like to go to Stockholm. I even know a Swedish speaking Finn, who also expressed hatred towards Sweden, in his case because "it's too nice. Everyone in Sweden is so nice and very good-looking, and it makes me sick." Maybe Swedish people are genuinely better than the rest of us, like the Dutch people. I've been to Holland twice, and it's lovely, but you can't help but notice how everyone is taller than you, better looking than you, more intelligent than you, and speaks more languages than you.

3.) Military service. I've been told some stories about the military service that men have to do here, and this is the first time I've heard about it because my ex boyfriend didn't want to do it, so he pretended to be crazy. It sounds so horrible, and a bit harsh considering that Finland doesn't seem to be that into joining wars, certainly not in comparison to my country or America. I have been told there are some Finnish soldiers in Afghanistan, and I hope they get some credit for what they're doing, just as British and American soldiers do. However, I'm very glad Finland can't ever enlist me for their army, because camping in a forest in -30 isn't very appealing. With 5 hours sleep in the whole week. No thanks. I want to go to Rovaniemi, find this forest and rescue those poor men. However, I do like hearing about men being in the army. Makes them seem a bit more manly.
On that subject, I hven't really been reading English news whilst I've been here, but I've heard they're sending people to Libya, and I think it's very sad. I understand something needs to be done but it would be nice if the British government stopped thinking that getting into wars is the answer to everything.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Otto Mäkilä

Today I've been to the Taidemuseo with one of my friends. The exhibition of what is apparently some of the best pieces from their collection wasn't particularly enjoyable. A few things stood out, but not many. I think part of the problem was that it was heavily landscape-based, and I don't find landscapes particularly interesting. The works were all examples of brilliant technical skill, but nothing really grabbed me, which was a shame. Finnish artists, particularly from the 19th century, seemed very into painting the countryside. I'm sure that if that kind of art caters to your tastes it would be an excellent exhibition to see, but unfortunately it was not for me.
After that we saw the Otto Mäkilä exhibition, and thankfully I enjoyed that so much more. The collection as quite extensive, and showed a really good body of work. Some pieces reminded me of Marc Chagall, others seemed to be influenced by Cubism and Futurism. It was really worth seeing. I also really liked that Mäkilä's sketchbook pages were included in the show; I always like being able to see the thought process behind an artist's work. Too often we are just presented with the final "masterpiece", and for art students it can be a bit discouraging to think that the artist was magically able to produce something so brilliant just like that whilst we cannot. Most of the time you don't get to see the initial planning, or the 10 attempts that went wrong before the final piece, so it's good to be reminded that these famous people weren't any different to us.
Once again, I end up wondering why no Finnish artists seem to be well known in my country. Do they not want to be known outside of Finland or Scandinavia? Is the market in Britain oversaturated with native artists, making it difficult for foreign artists to break through? Artists from other Western European countries and America seem to make a name for themselves, so why not Northern European artists? Using Otto Mäkilä as an example, there is no reason why his work shouldn't be as famous in England as it is in Finland. It's not offensive, it doesn't contain cultural references that people outside of Finland couldn't understand, and it's not actually so different to work that has been successful in that country. I'm starting to wonder if the artists choose not to make themselves known outside of Finland, and if that's the case, why? It's quite frustrating, because I think the work is brilliant and that people in other countries should be aware of it. When I go back to university I will have to write a dissertation, and I'm starting to think that this could be worthy subject matter - I'd really like to find out why it is this way. I'd like to find a Finnish artist or curator and ask their opinion on this. Artists from other countries are known in England, and some Finnish artists are extremely well known and respected here, so why does that not translate to somewhere else? There seems to be a good enough artistic history and tradition.
The only exception seems to be Tom of Finland, and I think his notoriety stems from the controversy surrounding his work. He does apparently have a gallery representing his work in London, and has had exhibitions in France and USA. Even so, I still had never heard of him before coming here. There's an exhibition of his work on at the moment as part of the Capital of Culture programme, which I'd be interested to see.
I'm glad I have the opportunity to learn about Finnish art, even if other people are still missing out on it. It makes me wonder how much quality art we're missing out on, and I think it's a great shame.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Kauppahalli and window shopping

I should stop going window shopping because I'm getting too many ideas. It's definitely a good thing that I'm broke. However, I did buy this very lovely purple hat, which I saw in the second hand shop yesterday but was unsure about. Only €2! Sadly it seems that the black dress I saw yesterday had since been sold, but at least the purple one was still available for now. We also went to the Salvation Army shop next to our house, and I bought a really stylish black tea/coffee cup and saucer set for 50 cents! There were several that were exactly the same but the rest were all marked as €1 per set, so I got lucky. We also found a very strange, slightly horrific red tie emblazoned with images of cartoon sheep in various sexual positions. I'm now a bit mentally scarred. Who on earth would wear such a thing? I was tempted to buy it just to make sure no one would ever wear it again.
Heli also took me to two shops I've noticed but never been into before, Cybershop and Leather Heaven. They're both the kind of places you'd expect to find in Camden, and both pretty similar to Blue Banana. Leather Heaven had a really beautiful purple dress I'm covetting just a little bit. If anyone out there thinks I deserve a new dress I will gladly accept €50 to pay for it! They also had a very sweet range of baby clothes. Cybershop was quite nice too, they had some cool legwarmers, and I've been wanting a second pair for a while now. I didn't like their clothes so much but they had a lot of appealing accessories and jewellery. When I'm able to I'd like to buy some legwarmers, but apart from that I don't think there's much I'd go out of my way to buy in there.
We also had a proper look around the Kauppahalli, which I really enjoyed. Every time I've gone to Little Britannia I've noticed interesting stuff all around but I'd never taken the time to look at it all. There are so many cool little places in there. There's lots of fresh food available, as well as foreign food products, and some places selling jewellery, bags, souvenirs for tourists, ornaments etc. I was really impressed with how many different things have been fitted in, yet it still doesn't seem overcrowded or over the top. As well as all these stalls there are a few tiny cafes and restaurants - coffee shops, a Chinese, a sushi bar, an Italian guy selling pizzas, another selling antipasto, and someone with lots of fresh salads and baguettes. It was a bit like the food section of the Stables in Camden, but with fewer pushy people yelling or waving battered chicken at you. I'm glad I made the effort to see it all because there are definitely some things I'd like to go back to. Obviously, I had to get some snacks in Little Britannia too. All in all it was a very pleasant afternoon, and I'm finding that Turku has a lot of cool, quirky places to shop if you make the effort to find them. The Hansa center dominates everything a bit, but if you look past that there are some much better places.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A good day for girly things

Today has turned out to be a lovely day. I finally got myself to Kela, and they turned out to be the most effective government agency I've had to deal with so far. Until now I've always been sent running around in circles, but Kela was fairly straightforward. I was lucky to be seen by a very good-humoured lady, who did not moan about me filling in the form with completely inaccurate information. I'm apparently too stupid to read the cost of my rent from one piece of paper and write it down on another one. I'm also apparently too stupid to know which month it is. Thankfully she just seemed to find it endearing. I'm a bit anxious that things will not go according to plan, seeing as most other official things here have been overly complicated, but I'm choosing to remain optimistic for the time being. If it fails there's still social services to fall back on, and I hear that they rarely refuse to help anyone. Fingers crossed, because if there's no way to pay my rent there's no way to stay here. If only I could have a decent, stable job and not have to worry about this kind of thing. I'd enjoy having a job, at least a few days a week, for something to do, if nothing else. Now that things are settling down for me I'm going to start making more of an effort again when it comes to finding something, because it is pretty boring not having that much to do. I should really get around to advertising as an English/art tutor.
After going there, Emmi and I went to two really nice shops. The first is only just up the street from where I live. It was a second hand shop, mainly selling clothing, but also some homeware items, and it reminded me so much of an English charity shop. I know a few people who could go completely crazy in there. As with any shops like that you had to rummage through the crap and be patient, but there were some really nice things hidden away. I bought a top/very short dress, which is simple but with a really pretty neckline, and only cost €3! I deserved a treat, and at that price I'm hardly breaking the bank. I also found two beautiful dresses, one for €10, the other for €13, which I was really excited about, and I'm really hoping my debit card arrives quickly so I can get them. One was a black, slightly EGL style dress, made of lace with long sleeves and a ribbon around the middle. The other was a bright purple asymmetric one. I think I'd need to try it on to be sure as the shape was strange; it might look amazing or it might look horrific. The black one, at least, has my name written all over it.
The next shop was a craft supply shop. Emmi is getting married in a couple of months so she needed stuff to make her wedding invitations with. I love visiting those kinds of shops, and this one had some very nice items, as well as some good quality acrylic paints and art supplies, which is good to know. There were a lot of really cool things in there, and now I've been inspired to try some more craft-type ideas, although I'm a bit unsure of where to start as I'm so used to doing more academic Fine Art work. I have had a couple of ideas this evening though. They sold jewellery-making wire in a wide range of colours, as well as wire and paper flowers, similar to those in the picture, also in a variety of colours and styles. I thought of buying some and making a necklace or bracelet for myself. They also sold papier-mache models of female busts, like mannequins, and I'd quite like to buy one and decorate it with some paper flowers, ribbon, and maybe paint. I've never really done something like that so it would be a nice experiment, and maybe if I turned out to be good at this stuff I could sell them. Even if it wasn't of high enough quality for that I'd like to have an ornament just for myself. Once my card comes I'm definitely going to look into this more, I think it would be fun to try. Going shopping might have been a bad idea, now I'm thinking of lots of things to spend money on.
Finally, Hyvää Naistenpäivä/Happy Women's Day! I'd never even heard of this until someone sent me a text saying that - I thought it was a Finnish thing similar to calendar days, but it's actually an international thing. In many countries it's a national holiday, and English lobbyists are apparently trying to get the same thing, but it was new to me. One of the girls in the house, Heli, said that in Finland it's normal to give flowers to your wife/daughter/mother/whoever, and that all day long she'd had text messages wishing her hyvää naistenpäivä. Anyway, the Ukrainian girl who lives in the house had bought some wine and chocolate for us all to have a little party with, because in her country it is a national holiday, and apparently quite a big deal. The wine was really good. I'm not normally that into red wine, but this one was spectacular! It was Bulgarian and I'm definitely going to have to hunt some down from Alko. The party was a lovely surprise, and very thoughtful of her to do. For me it was a new cultural thing too. I hear that today is Pancake Day in England, and I was slightly jealous, but I still got to do something special. It was good for us all to sit and chat together for a few hours. On the back of that Heli and I have decided to go explore second hand shops tomorrow too, seeing as I still want a new bed and some other household things, and she wants to see this clothing shop and the basement of the Salvation Army shop. It should be a nice day. Today has been great, and I hope everyone else has had a nice day, whether you were eating pancakes or being a woman!

Monday, 7 March 2011

The one where I stand up for the Finns

Whilst having a casual browse on Google - meaning I was googling myself (come on, we've all done it) - I found this discussion on, and I have to say I was absolutely shocked! The conversation seems to have been going on for about five years, and is full of negative, seemingly bitter, comments about Finland and Finnish people. Some people were making quite scary suggestions about this country being a fascist police state, which I don't really know about but still find to be slightly outrageous, but some of the comments made about Finnish people were unbelievable.
If you knew absolutely nothing about Finland and then read those messages you'd be lead to believe that Finnish people are essentially bitter, evil, alcoholic neo-Nazis who hate anything non-Finnish, refuse to accept any kind of multi-culturalism, and possess no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Based on my own experiences with Finnish people I have found the opposite to be the case.
Many people there seemed to be complaining of feeling lonely and isolated. Fair enough, I think that would be an inevitable part of moving to any new country with a different culture, but most people there seemed to blame this completely on the personalities of Finnish people. Apparently they forgot that every single person has their own personality. Of course, wherever you go, there will be unfriendly, disinterested and intolerant people, but the people discussing this were implying there was some kind of collective personality which applied to every Finnish individual.
I found many of the comments to be completely ludicrous. I have not found it insanely difficult to make friends here, and the vast majority of people who I consider to be friends here are Finnish. I only know two or three people from other countries. Several of the friends I have now contacted me through e-mail or Facebook after reading this blog, telling me they lived in Turku and inviting me to do things with them or asking to meet me. Why would such cold, unfriendly people be initiating contact like that?
It certainly wasn't because they wanted something from me. On the contrary, all the Finnish people I know have been willing and eager to help me with both personal stuff and the boring official stuff which is hard for me to handle on my own, without expecting to gain anything in return. These people have gone out of their way to assist me in multiple ways. A lady who lives in another city, and who I will probably never meet, sent me two packages of cutlery and oven gloves, just because I needed them and she didn't. One particular person I met through this blog shortly after I came here has acted as my friend, babysitter, and translator, despite having her own life and problems to deal with, and she has never complained once. She is among a number of people here who have done more for me than I could ever have expected or asked for, and even when this experience is over, I will remain forever grateful to them for giving me so much help during a difficult time. They all know who they are, and they can be sure that if they ever need the favour repaid I would not hesitate for a moment.
Another point made several times in that discussion was that Finnish women are apparently extremely wary and jealous of foreign women, whether they are single or not, and that Finnish women have directly told foreign women that they feel this way. Since coming to this country I have been both in a long term relationship and single, and I know single and attached women here, so I think I can view this from all sides. I can honestly say that no woman I know here has ever acted jealously towards me or seemed to be threatened by me. The ones with partners have never been irrationally suspicious or jealous about me talking to or being around their boyfriends, nor have single women acted like I'm out to steal all the Finnish men from them. If anyone has had these feelings towards me, they've disguised them very well and deserve an Oscar.
Other comments were made about Finns, particularly men, being incapable of having a committed, loving relationship. I only have one person to judge that on, and that didn't exactly work out right, but I'm not going to claim that every Finnish man is exactly the same. I suspect that that is what some of the ladies making those comments were doing - one relationship went wrong so they made a sweeping generalisation. Realistically, as in every country, there will be some men who are no good and some who are wonderful. The other Finnish men I know with partners seem to be doing well enough when it comes to maintaining a good relationship.
I have also met a few people who I found to be unpleasant. However, that would happen anywhere, and the number of pleasant people I have met far outweighs a few people who I disliked.
At least a few people in that discussion seemed to be a bit more positive towards this country and its people, but they were clearly a minority. It's inevitable that some people will have negative experiences here, but it was so strange that the comments made were vastly different to my own experiences and conclusions. I think it's very sad that those people have such a miserable and hateful point of view, and it's very ironic that alongside these narrow-minded generalisations many of them complained about Finnish people being racist and intolerant. Why they remain in this dreadful, secret-police riddled country with these evil bastards is a mystery to me. It's a shame that these ideas are being touted on the internet because there already seem to be some misconceptions about Finland. I have been asked by English people how I got the right to live in a "communist soviet country." They weren't joking either.
Bloody hell. All of this has exhausted me a bit, but I was too shocked to not mention it. I was just going to watch a film and go to bed, I have to get up early in the morning to go to Kela.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Reflective walk

I decided to go for a short walk near the church this afternoon to ease my mind for a bit. It was a good idea - soothing and peaceful. I don't think I've ever paid much attention to the area directly around the church, except to set off fireworks on New Years Eve. It was strange that, despite being in the middle of the city, it was very quiet around there. It's set back from the main roads slightly, so perhaps that explains why. It was a bit too chilly to be wandering around for too long, but at least the sun was shining and there's much less ice and snow on the ground at the moment.
I sketched the statue of Per Brahe too, but suffered the usual problem of the ink in my pen freezing. On Wikipedia I found a photograph of the statue that was taken in 1900. It's funny how the background doesn't seem to have changed much since then. I also noticed I've now filled the Muumimamma sketchbook I bought on that first trip to Helsinki. That was when everything got a bit weird in my life. Maybe now it can stop.
It was nice to have some quiet time to just think about things. I happened to bump into someone I know too, and I realised that Turku is becoming quite familiar and homely now. I think this is a good place for me to be, despite certain claims that my life would be better in Helsinki. I don't think that's true.
As I've said before, there's been way too much chaos in my personal life recently, and I really want it all to end now. I can't believe it's been dragged out for so long. When I wander around Turku like this I realise that, regardless of the circumstances or the past, this is the place for me right now, and there's nowhere I'd rather be than right where I am. I've made the correct choice, I'm sure of it. It's been a struggle at times, but a worthwhile one if it means I can have a peaceful time here. I've met so many people, seen the reality of some things for the first time, and worked out what I really want. I feel motivated to do, and get, what I want, so I'm going to get everything in my life in order. Then go back to England and make a mess again!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Something I didn't like

I had a new experience I didn't like yesterday. I don't know if this is a common occurence, but I hope it is not.
I was just about to go out yesterday afternoon to meet another new friend, when the doorbell rang. I answered it and a middle-aged lady was there. I thought she might have been one of the other girl's mums, but when I said hello she gave me a piece of paper written in Finnish, I didn't really understand it but at the bottom it said €1-5. As she wasn't the smartest or cleanest looking person I've ever seen, I guessed she was begging for money, so I shut the door again. I understand some people get themselves into unfortunate situations, and sometimes I do give money or a snack to homeless people, but I found it a bit outrageous that she had the audacity to get into a private building and go door to door, begging. She must have waited for someone to go in or out of the front door and then gone inside.
I hope this kind of thing doesn't happen a lot; it's ridiculous for someone to think they can just turn up at a stranger's door, disturb people in their own homes, and expect some money. I don't have anything to give at the moment anyway, but even if I did that kind of rudeness would annoy me too much to do anything for that person.
After that I went to meet a new friend. We have a mutual friend from England, which I guess was how he started to read this blog. It was nice to hear about how things are in a Finnish university - mainly there's a lot of drinking, so that's not so different to my university. I also impressed him with an explanation of pub golf - I can see that catching on in Finland!
An unfortunate thing about bars here is that if you went to the pub at 4pm on a Wednesday in England you'd expect it to be quite quiet and low-key, and if you're a girl on your own you don't expect any trouble or unwanted attention - here the pub was already full, to the point that people had to stand, and a very creepy man decided to hit on me. No thanks. Luckily a friendly gay man started chatting to me in a bid to protect me. I was very glad when Tero turned up and I didn't have to try to get rid of the creepy men...

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Mixed day

I had a nice afternoon, finally meeting an English person who lives here, plus her Finnish husband and their son. It was quite nice to hear a real live English voice, not just on the phone or Skype. They were very nice, and their little boy is the cutest thing I ever saw. That's coming from someone who isn't that keen on small children. I think that through these new friends I'll be able to meet a few more British people, as they seem to be quite involved with the little crew of expatriates in Turku. Not that there's anything wrong with Finnish people; it's just nice to spend time with people from the same culture and background as me who understand exactly what it's like to be in my position. As they've lived here a lot longer than I have they're also able to give me some help and advice on various things. We also went to Little Britannia and I got pickled onion flavoured Space Raiders, although my Finnish flatmates still find pickled onions crisps to be a completely confusing, and quite disgusting, concept. They are very wrong.
This evening went a bit more to shit. A certain person still seems to have little better to do than to fuck with me. I was really upset earlier, but after getting home and chatting for a couple of hours with my flatmates I feel better, and I realise that there's not much for me to be upset over, as there are plenty of people who will take care of me and see the good in me. That individual will always try to convince me that I'm responsible for anything going wrong - his behaviour, the weather, nuclear war...
I can see I'm in a much better position now. He tried to convince me I've fucked up my life by ending up here, reminding me constantly that if I'd stayed in London I'd have graduated in a few months. Yeah, fair point, but look at what's happening instead. I'm painting and selling artwork regularly, I'm writing, and about 100 people each day are paying attention to that, I live in a city and country I've grown to love, I'm learning and having new experiences all the time, making a bunch of new friends, and there are some opportunities in place for getting work into exhibitions and galleries. So I pretty much have the life I always wanted, and have been working towards gaining since I was 13 or 14 years old. Problem?
I'm well aware, more than anybody else, that coming here was not the most considered or sensible idea, and things certainly did not work out as they were intended to. It's really hard sometimes, but it could be a hell of a lot worse. Perseverance has done a lot for me recently. I also know that whenever I feel a bit shaken up or insecure, I tend to rant like this on here, partially to prove a point to myself, and partially in the hope that someone will tell me everything's ok. Like my best friend said to me a while ago, you're never really alone, and sometimes just knowing someone is thinking of you somewhere is enough to make you feel ok again.
Being in Finland, and this day in particular, has made me realise that there are plenty of good people in the world, and a lot of people do want to help, however they can, without it needing to benefit them. Whether you're as low as you can go, or you just need a bit of help with something small, there are people who want to do something for you. Maybe you just have to be lucky enough to find them. I think I've been lucky.