Friday, 29 July 2011

These people will never understand me

I have written numerous entries about all the Finnish things which simply make no sense to me. Therefore, I thought it was about time I wrote about a few things that Finnish people don't understand about me and my country. I'm sure all of these things are very normal in my country, but Finnish people really don't get them.

1.) My aversion to the sauna
I'm not actually sure if other English people would exactly share my views on this, but I find sauna very unappealing, and Finnish people cannot understand why. In my country, we don't get naked with our friends and family, unless you're a nudist. Therefore, the idea of doing that in a hot, sweaty little room really doesn't work for me. It's not as though I've never seen naked people before - in art schools in England life drawing is a very normal activity, which is usually strongly encouraged, and that involves staring at a naked person for hours at a time. As a result, I'm also perfectly capable of seeing a naked body in non-sexual terms, so that isn't the issue. I just find the idea of everyone getting naked together a bit weird. I don't want to see my friends naked, I don't want them to see me naked. In England the only other person who is likely to see you naked is your partner. Maybe I wouldn't mind doing it so much if I was with a partner, but I don't have one right now anyway.
Unfortunately, sauna is so normal and so loved in this country that Finnish people find my feelings unbelievable. On a couple of occasions when I've talked about this, Finnish people have been very pushy and quite rude about it. One particular conversation I had made me think that it's unsurprising that a lot of foreign people consider the Finns to be intolerant. I know that's not the case, and that the person in question was just very shocked, but I ended up feeling like I was being punished.

2.) Chip sandwiches
Finnish people do not understand the beauty of putting a potato based product between pieces of bread or toast. I'm not one for crisp sandwiches, which are very popular with English children, but sandwiches with chips, potato wedges or hash browns are beautiful things to me. Yesterday I was discussing this with Emmi, and I told her that the night before I'd had a hash brown sandwich with loads of butter and garlic mayonnaise, and her response was to tell me that I'm quite disgusting. Sadly they weren't real hash browns, but I've found a brand of röstiperunat which are almost identical. In the city I come from there's a cafe which sells a Vegetarian Melt, consisting of either vegetarian sausages, hash browns, or both, in a baguette smothered with melted cheese. That's one reason to be glad I'll be staying there when I first get to England.

3.) School uniforms
I think pretty much every school in England has a uniform, but Finnish people find the idea quite unpleasant. Most people have argued that it doesn't allow the child any sense of individuality. I disagree - I managed to cultivate a perfectly good sense of individuality and creativity, despite wearing a uniform for 11 years. Plus you don't have to wear it 24 hours a day. Emmi said she thought it was unfair as some people might not have enough money to buy a uniform, which is a fair point, but at the school I went to, and presumably others too, they ran a second hand uniform shop. Anyone could donate pieces of uniform which they grew out of or no longer needed, and others could buy them for a much lower price than in the shops. I think uniforms also make everyone equal. No one can be bullied for the way they dress.

4.) Christmas food
I found the traditional Finnish Christmas food to be a bit odd. Very tasty, but it didn't seem very Christmassy to me as it was so different to what I'd normally eat. Similarly, when I showed Emma and Tommi a photo my parents emailed to me of their Christmas meal, they laughed for ages. Essentially, it's a very elaborate roast, but as that's very foreign to the people here they found it quite bizarre. I enjoyed the food I had last year, but I did miss the English meal, and I'll be very grateful to have it again this year.

5.) Salt & Vinegar crisps
This is the most popular flavour of crisps in my country, and I absolutely love them - they're definitely my favourite. Finnish people think it's a very strange flavour to have. They have similar thoughts on pickled onion flavoured crisps, which are also quite popular. When I first came here I did buy a bag of salt & vinegar crisps, but they tasted all wrong, which is why I've stuck to buying proper ones from England in the Kauppahalli. In this country I understand that sour cream is the most popular flavour, but I don't find them very appealing, even though they are available in England.

If I think of anything else I'll write about this again. Or if any Finnish people reading this have a suggestion of something "weird" from England, I'll try to explain it for you.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Xenophobe's guide to the Finns

If you want to know about what I have to put up with every day, I recommend this book. Emmi had mentioned it to me a while ago, and yesterday we found some copies in Suomalainen Kirjakauppa. It's written by a Finnish woman, and it's all very funny, but also true. Just looking through it in the shop gave me answers to a few things. For example, I've been wondering why people in a cold country want to eat so much ice cream. Answer: to ensure they are still the leading consumers of ice cream in the world! Plus, it means beating Sweden at something, and that's always worthwhile. We both found it funny, and I should probably buy a copy sometime. I learned from the book that if a Finnish person makes a promise they will stick to it, and the only way they'll break it is if they happen to die. Even that is considered to be a poor excuse.
Happily, there's also a Xenophobe's guide to the English. I want that one too. It points out that the people of my glorious nation share "a collective dislike of anyone who 'goes too far'." I can't say that it's not true. That book reminds everyone of some important qualities of an English person - moderation and indifference. Good point.
Seeing these books, and remembering how many times I've written about Finnish things that I just don't understand, I've been thinking recently of the things that Finnish people don't understand about me/England. I'll get to that tomorrow, I've been writing a mental list.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Dark nights

I've noticed that the nights are getting dark again. Daylight still lasts for quite a long time, but the period where it never really got dark seems to be over. I find it a bit sad. Whilst the nights were light I found them creepy, but now that they're gone it seems a shame. It was very interesting to me because it was something brand new, and something specific to this part of the world. It always amazed me.
At least I'll be leaving the country before it goes back to the dark days of winter. It feels too early for summer to start disappearing.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Went to Tampere

I went to Tampere yesterday, which was lovely. I saw this church from the train, and wondered if I'd accidentally gone to St Petersburg. Oddly I didn't take many photos.
Tampere was very nice, and I thought it looked rather like Oslo, or at least the part of Oslo that I saw when I was there. There's a flower festival going on there at the moment, so there were lots of plants everywhere, which made it look beautiful. I liked Tampere better than Oslo, and it had a lot more interesting stuff there. Although it was nice, I still like Turku more. Turku gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling. I won't be running away to live in Tampere just yet.
Mainly we wandered around the streets, so I got a good feel for the place. We went on a big wheel in the kauppatori, but unfortunately phones/cameras were not permitted so I couldn't take any pictures of the lovely view.
I was told that every year students from Tampere go to Turku with shovels in an attempt to detach us from the rest of Finland. Disgraceful! Why would they want to get rid of the best part of this country?
We also went to a very nice park just outside of the center, where there was a beautiful lake, and some sort of botanical garden. It wasn't too busy; very peaceful and quiet.
For once my travel plans did not turn into a disaster. On the way home I was talking to a very nice man, who dragged me onto the platform for a cigarette when the train stopped somewhere. I forgot that smoking on railway platforms is still allowed in this country. The conductor was a very nice lady, who didn't mind at all, and even came to let us know when we needed to get back onto the train. Excellent. The journey between the two places doesn't even take that long, so it all went well.
I'm very happy that I went there, as I had a very nice day. It's a good thing for me to see some new places in this country before I leave. This was totally worth spending all my money.

Monday, 18 July 2011

My birthday and Botellon

It was my birthday on Saturday! Woo! The picture is of the delicious cake that my flatmate Iida made as a present for me. She made it a week early, so obviously it's gone now. It was very kind of her, and tasted wonderful.
Luckily the weather was quite decent on my birthday, so my friends and I went to Botellon, a huge drinking party in Kupittaa park. It originates from a Spanish thing where young people decided that bars were too expensive, so they made their environment a bar, and just drank in public. In Turku it's now an annual event. We went there in the evening, and like a genius, I'd been drinking all day so I fell asleep in the middle of the park quite early. The less said about that the better, but I understand I'm not the only one. One of my friends kindly half dragged, half carried me back home at midnight. Yesterday I was rather hungover, what a surprise.
Apart from that, I had a really good day, and lots of my friends came to see me, which was really nice. I'm very glad that I've met so many people here who care enough to turn up. It makes me feel loved. There were a lot of people in the park, even more than I expected, although I knew it was a big event. It was really busy and there seemed to be a nice atmosphere. I'm very happy with how everything turned out, because I spent lots of time with my friends and had fun, which is what really matters. It was a really good weekend. The hangover was totally worth it.
Next weekend should also be exciting, as on Sunday I'm going to Tampere for the day to visit someone. I've never been there before, so I'm looking forward to seeing a new part of Finland.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

A midnight walk

Last night I decided to have a late night stroll, and ended up wandering near to where I used to work, my first job in Turku.
First of all, I got quite a surprise. I worked there during December, when everything was covered in snow, so I had absolutely no idea that that area had quite a lot of trees and grass. I'd never seen it before! I'm glad I went in that direction because I got the chance to see it in quite a different light.
Being around there brought up plenty of memories for me. Winter was quite a dark and miserable time - it literally was that way, and also felt that way as there were a lot of problems around that time. Being near there made me both happy and sad. It was around that time that I first started to feel like I really loved Turku, and that it was somewhere I would like to call my home. I remember one particular morning, quite early, when I'd only had to be there for one hour. I was walking home, seeing the cathedral in the distance, seeing the roads in and out of the city, and the train tracks, it was extremely cold but very clear and sunny, and I remember thinking how beautiful it all was. I got that feeling last night too.
I also felt quite sad because I thought of how my first few months here were in some ways wasted, just like many before I came to Finland. Maybe they needed to be wasted so I could be so happy and appreciative of everything I have now, and especially everything I've gained since coming to Turku. I'm so grateful for how things have turned out. This is definitely one of the happiest times of my life.
Whilst I worked there I was staying with Emma and Tommi most of the time, and little did I know that every time I walked back to their house I was walking straight past my future home, the place where I live now. I actually walked past my current home on the first morning I was ever in Turku. I never would have guessed. It goes to show you never can tell how things will turn out.

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Thank God for the weekend

As I said previously, this has not been the best week ever, but I think the weekend is going to be a big improvement and at least mean it ends well.
Last night I went with two of my flatmates, Heli and Iida, to one of the riverboat bars in Turku. We only had one drink, but it was fun because I've never been on one of them before. They are really popular, and it actually took a very long time for us to find a boat with space available. There was a really nice atmosphere around the river because lots of people were there on the banks drinking. It was good for us to do something pleasant after spending all week dealing the with stealing.
I think that today will also be a really enjoyable day. Iida works as a chef, and today she's making me an early birthday strawberry pie! She would have done it next week but she'll be working all weekend, but today we can do it together. It's a lovely thought and I'm looking forward to it very much. Then if I can scrape some money together we can all go out again tonight. Iida and Heli are encouraging me to do this by collecting empty drinks cans and recycling them...
One unfortunate piece of news though is that I now have a flight back to England booked for the 5th of September. That, very sadly, will be the end of my time in Finland, for now at least. I'm a bit upset, but I knew this time would come eventually, and I know it's better to finish the last year of university. It's just hard to leave when I love Turku and love how my life has turned out here. This really has been a crazy, wonderful experience.
My mother booked the flight for me, and the most tragic part of it all as that she sent me an email asking me for my passport number and my name! My own mother!

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Trouble, trouble, trouble

Sadly I haven't really enjoyed my week off as there's been so much drama and trouble. It seems like there's something every single day. The main thing has been that one member of my household has developed a habit of stealing food and alcohol. A couple of days ago the culprit burst into tears and confessed all. We had suspected her anyway, as she was the only person who didn't seem remotely concerned by all this, but still, it's created a lot of tension. She's made it worse for herself by, so far, failing to replace the many items she has stolen from everyone else, being unable to give any explanation for her behaviour, despite claiming that she can't stop thinking about what she's done, and generally causing a lot of hurt by lying to our faces, and leading others to become suspicious and think badly of each other.
Aside from that there's been arguments, a car crash, unpleasant blog comments, and more unwanted contact from my ex boyfriend. So this week just gets better and better. I wish I was working so I at least had a distraction.
Today I'm feeling quite miserable; all this is getting a bit too much. I'm trying to stay optimistic that it will all blow over soon. I've got a few things to look forward to, for example my birthday next weekend, hopefully getting a new tattoo before the month is out, and a trip to Tampere, and I just hope that these things won't get ruined by further problems. Right now I'd like to get far away from here and just forget what is going on. I haven't had such an unpleasant week in a while.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Dear critic(s)

So I've noticed this week there suddenly seems to be an influx of comments intended to put me/what I have to say down, and generally needlessly complain. They're all anonymous, and I expect they are coming from only one person who has taken an irrational dislike to this blog, but of course I can't say for sure. Some of them I have just deleted as I have nothing to say in response, some I have left as I had something to say in reply.
What I will say generally is this: if you disagree with something I have written, and wish to make that point in a civil, dignified manner, please do so. If, however, you wish to comment in a sneering, critical tone, please don't bother. I'll either delete what you have to say, or tell you exactly where you can go.
What I write here concerns my opinions, observations, and experiences. At times I may say something incorrect, or write something as a result of misinformation. I have never claimed that this is absolutely 100% accurate. It's one thing to point out something I probably don't know, tell me more about something I mention, or to make a helpful correction, but it's quite another to intentionally write something insulting, or knowingly word your comment in a way that inevitably comes off as insulting. Personal attacks are also ridiculous.
I don't know who has been writing these comments, and frankly, I don't really care. If you are the kind of person with nothing better to do than attack strangers on the internet, you are far beneath me, and will certainly not succeed in upsetting me. If you find what I write so distasteful or unpleasant that you can't just let it go, you might find it easier to stop reading it. Because I'm going to write whatever I want, regardless of how you feel about it.

Well, now I've cleared that one up, we can hopefully all move on to nicer things.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

So this is "normal"

I've had a brilliant week. I'm so happy that I've got this new job, not only from a financial point of view, but also that I now have some structure and routine in my life. Being unemployed for a long time is extremely boring. It's so nice to get up first thing in the morning, and have a purpose for the day. This was exactly what I needed.
I'm really enjoying the work - the family are all very nice, and the children are generally well behaved. I feel welcome in their home, and I don't have to do anything too extreme or taxing. It has been quite tiring this week, but I suppose it's a shock to my system to have to be up early and do lots of things after such a long time spent being idle. It's just a shame that this job, or something similar, never came up before now, as it's so perfect for me. I actually have all of the next week off because the children are going for a holiday, which is a bit disappointing as I'd like to be doing something. At least now I have a bit of money so I can actually do something nice, not just sit around at home.
Another nice thing about my work is that it's in the countryside, which is so different to what there is in my country, and it's quite a good experience to see this. I'm not really a countryside person, but it's interesting to see somewhere so different to Turku, and to have a change of scenery for a few hours each day. The downside is that I'm covered in insect bites as the weather has been extremely hot this week and bugs are everywhere.
On Thursday this week I went to visit Emma's sister at her home. She and her family live in Hirvensalo, which is an island connected to Turku by a bridge. I'd never been there before, but it's a very pretty area, which lots of trees and greenery. I doubt I'd choose to live there, but it was a nice place to visit, and it must be good for children living there as there's so much space. Hirvensalo is very suburban, whereas I'd much rather be in the city. I had a very nice dinner with them, and saw their home, which is lovely. It was nice to do something different and meet someone new.
On Friday Emmi and I went to see the medieval market that's being held in Turku this weekend. Unfortunately, that was the one time there was a heavy downpour of rain, and we got soaked. It's so hot that we dried off relatively quickly. We didn't buy anything, but there were lots of pretty craft items for sale, and it was good to see people dressed in costumes from the middle ages. We also saw a large hog roast, which didn't impress me much, being a vegetarian. I'm glad we went to have a look; it's a pretty big deal here and attracted a lot of attention. Many people had mentioned it to me and recommended it, so it was worth having a look.
I hope the next week will be equally enjoyable, and that I find something interesting to occupy myself. As I now have a travel card for buses, paid for by my employers, perhaps I can take a trip to Naantali or somewhere else nearby.
Plus it's my birthday in two weeks! All gifts and cash donations will be accepted, haha.