espoo, finland - anonymous' reflections after years there in their 20s

posted by anonymous on 01/08/14.

2

How much time have you spent in Finland?

I lived there for 3.5 years and have visited numerous times since 2003. Probably 4+ years spent there total.

How old were you when you came to Finland? Where were you before?

I was 25 at the time. Before this I spent most of my time in SLC, Utah. Born in Florida though and my family travelled tons.

What brought you to Finland? What made you choose Finland over any other place you could've gone?

My boyfriend (met in Everquest) was Finnish. He was more settled than I was at the point at which we decided to live together, thus I moved to him. I didn't actually move to live with him until sometime after we were engaged (moved to Finland in January of 2005.)

Describe the city you live in in Finland and your impressions of it.

I lived in Espoo (Olari to be precise) a suburbia of Helsinki. We lived in a nice spot, close to the sea and a forest for riding bikes. A lot of families around, shops, gyms etc. Espoo, like much of Finland, has horrible architecture. I think my first query was whether I was moving to Soviet Russia (due to the austerity of the architecture). I find it very convenient to live there though. Close to Helsinki but not too close.

How does the city you live in compare to other cities in Finland? What drew you to the city you live in over other cities in Finland?

My husband already had an apartment here, so thus I didn't have much of a choice. As for comparison, most cities in Finland should have quotations around them. It's not a very big place!

What are the people of Finland like? In what ways are they different than people in other places you've lived?

Finns are extremely introverted and very judgmental people to those who step out of bounds (or just those who have perceived to be stepping out of bounds). You will never have someone approach you in public (unless they are drunk/desperate), nor will they smile at you or even look you in the eyes. You'll spend much of your time with your eyes averted from others. As for stepping out of bounds; it is apparently very bad to set off the stealing alarm in stores (as literally the whole store stops to stare) or to talk on the phone in a public place (people will scold or stare at you). In more private social situations this lessons though, especially if alcohol is involved. Finns can be downright jovial with a glass or two of wine down; and downright loving with a bottle down.

I've never encountered a society that felt so severely introverted. (I've been to 40+ countries). As an aside, I found being in Finland very lonely (even with numerous friends), primarily due to the lack of society interaction. I really missed talking to random people in coffee queues or on elevators (my neighbours and I didn't greet each other for 3 years).

Was making friends and meeting people in Finland in general easy or difficult?

It was easy in situations preset up, such as school, work or via family friends. It was extremely difficult to have random encounters/friendships made My social life evolved primarily via family friends and school/work. In fact, 100% from this.

I found it took a lot more effort to make friends and upon leaving really only keep in touch with two friends.

How does your race, nationality, gender, accent, etc. affect how you are treated or how people react to meeting you in Finland? Positively? Negatively?

Gender, zero difference. Accent, zero difference. Race, well.. treated better for it (I am white). At the border it took 1 hour to process my visa whilst a poor middle easter bloke next to me had been waiting for months and still couldn't get his wife in the country.

How does the language barrier affect you (if it all)?

Not at all. Except for that when learning Finnish, a lot of Finns would annoyingly switch to english when I was trying to practice!

Do you have any observations or stories to share about dating, relationships, gender norms, or sex in Finland?

As for gender.. I was walking in a small seaside town one day when an older lady walked past me. My husband, after a bit, turns and says, "oh, that was our president btw". That was quite curious for me!

Dating (I never did, but have friends who did) was very open and a bit difficult for me to fully understand/accept after growing up in a very closed minded culture (even though I was a catholic in utah). Basically, if you are in a bar past 3AM, you were looking for a hookup. People were just safe about it and it was considered fine. No one cared if you had been with 5 or 55 people. Really relaxing actually.

As for chivalry, it is officially dead in Finland. My husband was great, the first time we met his friends he didn't introduce me, just let me sit there until I spoke up. And as for door opening, "Women are equal in Finland, why would I insult you by opening the door?"

Any social/cultural advice for others who might come to Finland? How do people in Finland socialize differently than other places you've been?

Accept their culture for what it is and focus on appreciating what is best (their infrastructure and services are hands down the best I've ever encountered).

What sort of work/school do you do in Finland? What's it like working (or studying) in Finland compared to what it was like where you lived before?

School was a Media Lab at a local well known art university (TAIK), Work was as a designer in the games industry. I would say it's just about like anywhere else, except for that Finns will literally not raise their hands in class and a teacher, more often than not, will find themselves sitting dumbly whilst no one answers.

I loved working with Finns. They did what they promised and were good at it. No politics, no bickering, just work done.

Does your money go further or not as far as it does in other countries and cities? Are you able to afford a better standard of living than in other places you've lived, or able to afford less?

Taxes were high, we were lucky that we had an apartment already and a car or I am not sure how well we would have done. Standard of living was very high, but the food left something serious to be desired.

What things are more expensive than you are used to and what things are cheaper?

Everything was significantly more expensive.

How much is an average rent for an apartment? A beer at a bar? A meal at a restaurant?

Not sure on apartment, beer was like €7, meal €30? We didn't eat out too much, after spending a year foraying into the Finnish restaurant scene I gave up. I had a few favourites and the rest were just cooker cutters (I think they even used the same vendor).

Any good stories you can think of that you haven't mentioned yet?

Finns are very anti everyone but Finns. Regardless of race/country of origin/etc. I had a moment where my husband was parking for a festival and I was directing him into the spot. The spot was slightly illegal (a bit too close to a cross walk), but Helsinki was absolutely heaving and numerous cars were parked the same. A few Finns walked up and said, "In Finland we follow the parking laws". I just gaped at him as I was directing my Finnish husband. Still wish I would have said something.

What are your favorite things about Finland? Least favorite?

Favourite: Definitely the infrastructure (banks/mobile/internet/transport) - it was soooo cheap and sooo good.

Least Favourite: Food & public introvercy.

What things about Finland surprised you?

How amazing the sauna was!

What do you miss while living in Finland (could be something tangible or a cultural/social phenomena)?

Stupid things like weird sweets from the states that I never ate there anyway. Good restaurants! My family.

Would you recommend Finland as a place to live, travel to, or neither?

I think for most westerners, Finland will be a temporary place to live. It comes across as quite depressing due to the extremely long dark spells and very low level of cloud cover that is over the city almost 90% of the year (we call it the shelf and it sits at the height of a 10 story building).

If you are looking for natural beauty, Finland is great to travel to. But, honestly, Sweden/Norway would be better for the price. If you are looking for culture, go elsewhere. The country is too young to offer the history you are seeking.

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