10 things I’ve (re)learned after having relocated to Helsinki, Finland
Some of you might already know that I spent a big chunk of my twenties residing in a beautiful vibrant little beach town called Sayulita. Sayulita is located in the state of Nayarit on the Pacific coast of Mexico, just an hour North of Puerto Vallarta. Sayulita is a very magical town and holds a strong energetic pull. I can talk about Sayulita for days, so I’m just going to leave it at that for now and make a completely different blog post about Sayulita and its magic later on. So when I say that Sayulita is a small town, I mean REALLY, really small. If you go visit and ask a random person in town (given that it’s a local, not a tourist), “hey do you know Eva from Finland”, the odds are quite high that the person does know me or know of me. This will perhaps give you a better idea of what I am referring to when I say small.
Living on the other side of the world in a completely different culture, mindset and country with a different language, different customs and traditions truly left its mark on me and it definitely shaped me as a person a lot. In all honesty I am somewhat Mexecuted (all my Sayulita friends will understand this expression) for the rest of my life. What that means is I am kind of “fucked” as my heart is torn between two different places. Life tends to have a plan and I am simply following it as it is, so you will never know where it will take you, you’ll just have to flow with it.
So flowing with life is what I did. It’s funny now thinking back of a time when I swore I’d never return to Finland, well, I guess they’re right when they say never say never. It’s been an interesting journey to come back to this lifestyle and there’s definitely been some adjustment issues and challenges trying to mold back into this kind of living. I mean for starters, it’s cold as FUCK or at least right now. Well, luckily there are good things too. So I made a fun little list of some of the things that I’ve noticed after having returned back to Finland. Some of them I obviously knew before too, but I guess I am wearing a new pair of goggles after having lived in Mexico.
The funny thing is though, that Helsinki, Finland and Sayulita, Mexico are the complete opposites, in every.single.way. Lemme give you a few examples for starters: Finland: cold Mexico: hot, Finland: organized, Mexico: not organized, Finland: don’t salute your neighbors, Mexico: tell the coconut man about your dental issues. And the list goes on and on. So this blog post is a collection of these little observations and differences for you to enjoy. Please keep in mind that these are my personal remarks and I hope you take them with a grain of salt. My intention is not to offend anyone that represents either part of the two cultures and I truly love both cultures, countries and customs a lot. So here ya go:
1. People expect you to always be on time, they get upset if you’re 5 min late
Okay, seriously Mirkku, take a chill pill, scroll thru the gram, 5 minutes is only 5 minutes. If we were in Mex, I wouldn’t have even left my house yet. Sure sure sure, some of you might argue that it’s selfish and rude to make someone wait and I get it… but 5 minutes, seriously!? Anyways, I’ve noticed as a custom you’re supposed to let the person know that you’re meeting that you’re 5 minutes late. This will make it more tolerable and acceptable. Anyways, some of you Sayulitans might smile.
2. People mean what they say
So you know when you bump in to a person on the streets of Sayulita that you somehow (weird huh) haven’t seen in a while and you say to each other “we should catch up and hang out sometime, maybe grab a coffee”. When you say this in Finland they will literally pull out their calendar and set a date. It’s kinda nice to know that you can trust what someone is saying they actually mean and people don’t just say things to because it sounds nice.
3. There is no small talk
I love small talk. I love chit chatting about random things, talking to strangers and I truly enjoy it. It’s a nice way to acknowledge the other person and exchange some words or thoughts. Not just that, it will make time pass way faster if you’re in a bus, elevator or anywhere were you might be waiting for something. But unfortunately Finns don’t do it, they keep to themselves and think that you’re crazy person if you talk to them. I am trying my best tho and will keep chatting, even if they think I am crazy and have no friends (sometimes that’s the assumption). Luckily, however, there has been some positive change lately as Helsinki is becoming more international and the traveling Finns might not be completely turned off if you start talking to them.
4. November equals death, it’s simply the worst month. Run. Escape. Avoid it at all costs
As much as some people in Sayulita might hate the rainy season of July through Sept, lemme tell ya you haven’t experienced November in Finland. I made the novice mistake of coming here in November (dumb dumb) and holy fuck, what the actual fuck was that. Not only was it cold, but the worst thing was the lack of light. Because there is none. NONE. Let me repeat that and let it sink in. No daylight. Well, maybe like a couple hours each day, but nearly no day light. It’s the complete opposite in June though, the sun won’t set and the sun is shining 24/7. The thing for me is that the amount of light has a direct correlation with my mood and energy level. I felt as if someone had just pulled the plug on me. So my advise is, if you live in Finland and want to feel like a human being, escape November. There’s not really any other way. I already made my escape plan and next November you’ll find me in Sayulita sipping margs, doing yoga and soaking in the sun. Come with if you also need to escape this crazy month that people somehow survive. Srsly how do they do it?
5. The tap water is pretty amazing
The drinking water in Finland is the cleanest water on planet earth. I shit you not. It’s cleaner than the bottled water you buy in grocery stores anywhere and we even use it to flush down the poo poo and pee pee. Yes, that same drinkable, beautiful, delicious water goes down the toilet. This is one of the cool things about living in an organized place, little perks like drinkable, clean water. In Sayulita there are days when there just simply isn’t ANY water in the entire town, for days. When you live in a place like Sayulita, you learn to truly appreciate the things Finns take for granted. So wow on the tap water in Finland.
6. The trash bins are super small
This might be a weird observation, but why the heck are Finnish trash bins so tiny!? I mean, you have to constantly be emptying them. In Mexico and the US they have BIG trash bins that can take a lot of trash. Anyways, minor detail but still something I’ve noticed.
7. People are afraid of germs
I don’t know if this is just me, but I’ve noticed that when people in Finland drop something on the floor (in their homes) or even on the table, they decide that it’s not edible anymore. Maybe I’ve acquired a stomach of steel living in Mex, but why wouldn’t I eat something that just fell on the table for a second? Another weird thing is how people obsess over the best before dates, I mean, they’re recommendations. It’s just something printed on the product because of legislation, but it doesn’t automatically mean that the item has spoiled at that specific date. Smell it, taste it and you’ll figure it out. I don’t know, this might be a personality thing and has nothing to do with culture.
8. There are systems and apps for everything
Finnish people are Very (with a capital V) efficient. There are apps for everything and systems for everything. Every process is simple and quick and user friendly. Mobile Pay this, order your bus card with that, order food with Wolt and book your yoga class with that. I mean holy smokes.
9. Everything is so clean, there’s no dust
So fresh and so clean clean. Ha! Well, yes, in Sayulita you see people constantly sweeping the streets and watering the streets for dust control. Nope not in Finland, there are machines for this too.
10. You don’t get cat called
Even if Sayulita is a melting pot for many different cultures and has a lot of expats (or immigrants, however you wanna look at it), as a blonde woman you’ll most like encounter some sort of sexual harassment, cat calling or machismo nearly on a daily basis. Not in Finland though. Even if it’s not completely equal and there’s still a lot of work to be done, such as equal pay and the employment of women in a fertile age, I’d say it’s still a pretty decent situation to be a woman living in Finland. You very seldom have to worry for your safety or get annoyed by someone whistling at you when walking down the street to go buy an ice cream (funny weird lil fact: Finns eat the most icecream in the world).
So those are just some of the things I’ve noticed. If you have some observations yourself feel free to drop a line in the comment section below.