Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Finnish Flirtation

At some point in time this topic needed to be written about, so, here it is.

It is apparent, even after a little over six months of being here, I have no idea what Finnish flirting is. Take this as a sample of my complete and utter lack of comprehension on the subject:

My friends and I were at Flow Festival earlier this summer. As we were standing in a row, chatting (it was all girls), a man approaches me. He doesn't say anything but looks me in the eye and smiles while motioning for me to move out of his way. I stand my ground, since I'm not really sure why he isn't just going around us (there were only five of us or so there, not a huge amount) and give him the raised eyebrow of, "seriously?" Eventually he goes around us. I think nothing more about it.

A few minutes later my Finnish Irish girlfriend turns to me and says, "uh, you know he was trying to flirt with you, right?" Wait, what!? How does motioning for me to get out of his way somehow translate into flirting?


According to several of my girlfriends (some of them Finnish, others have just been living here long enough to understand the "methodology" behind this godforsaken tactic), anything that actually has a Finnish man approaching you and interacting with you is indeed, fact, flirting.

He's looking you in the eye? Flirting.

He's asking you some question? Flirting.

He acknowledges your presence in some relatively meaningful way? (i.e. he didn't just trip over you and say sorry or some other possibly inane thing)? Flirting.

Crap. I was gonna be in trouble.

So, chewing on this, I stored it in the back of my mind and kind of forgot about it. If Finnish men were this subtle about their flirting habits it was clear I was either going to have to be the aggressor (which generally speaking I have little problems with doing), or I would have to watch really carefully. Time would tell which would win out.

The answer? Neither. I've still not successfully dated a Finnish man here, and seems at the current rate, I won't.

And don't get me wrong, it's not necessarily from lack of trying. I did put in some amount of effort into the thing at a certain time. Then decided it wasn't worth the work. At the end of the day, culture aside, if a guy likes you, he's going to respond. No one should have to put in this amount of effort. Seemed fishy. So I let it go. End of that story.

Well, a horribly opposite situation happened to me a few days ago, to once again prove my ineptness at understanding the Finnish flirtation situation.

I was at the gym, running on the treadmill. This is a common thing and I do it several times a week.

Unfortunately this particular time, a profusely sweaty lady decided she wanted to run next to me. I wouldn't have minded (hey, generally speaking it's a free enough country and people can run wherever they want, sweaty or otherwise), but this woman's BO (body odor) was toxic. We're talking clouds of noxious gas.

As soon as she stepped onto the neighboring treadmill I knew I was in for an unpleasant experience. And there was nothing I could do about it, since I really wanted my run and I'm not a big enough jerk to get off the treadmill I'm currently on to move a few treadmills down to start a new route. I was just going to have to bear it.

And bear through I definitely did. But it was painful. Really painful. Because she decided, of all things to do...sprint laps. Arm-flapping, fast-paced, more-BO-sweat-inducing...sprint laps.

And she kept getting on and off the treadmill to check her heart rate.

As soon as she hit the treadmill, I politely turned my head the other way, which happened to be facing a Finnish man who was on the other neighboring treadmill to my right. I'd seen this guy before - pretty nondescript, really. Tall, maybe 6 foot 5 / 196 centimeters, give or take, brown hair, five o'clock shadow, mid-thigh length shorts, and a whatever tshirt (I think it had a Nike slogan on it or something). Despite the fact that he's always only walking, he gets pretty sweaty and has a hilariously small forest green towel to mop his head. Anyway, he's unoffensive in all ways - doesn't smell, doesn't make any noise, doesn't even really play with his phone. He just walks for an hour and leaves.

Anyway, during this attack of the inescapable deadly fumes, I turned towards him, not having anywhere else to go. Also I wanted to somehow reassure him that the smell was not coming from me (generally speaking he should have already known this - I'd been running next to him for the past 20 minutes and we'd been on neighboring machines in the past...but still...I wanted this person to know that that smell? Definitely not me.). I accidentally caught his eye for a second and looked away. I didn't mean to do it, but it happened as I was trying to turn my head away from the poisonous gas that was seeping in my direction (despite my turning on my machine's air flow).

This continued for the next 20 minutes or so. In an attempt not to catch his eye again, I just looked at his treadmill machine screen, the mirror in front of him, anywhere except his general person.

...but I could tell I'd already made the mistake. He thought I was interested. Because he was turning his head towards me every now and then, like maybe he wanted to talk. Damnit! Not what I meant, guy!

I then silently vowed that no matter how long this girl was going to keep up her malodorous aeration, I was going to run for longer. I was going to continue to run until this guy ran out of his walking time.
Because there was absolutely no way that I was going to allow a talking situation to occur. No sir.

Thankfully his walking routine ended about 5 minutes later. And I still had a good 10-15 minutes left on my run. And the girl with the toxic fumes left about 5 minutes after he did. Oh thank god, peaceful running time again. I let out a stifled sigh of relief.

Apparently this culture isn't going to let me off easy. I can't seem to attract the ones I do want to date and the ones I don't? Wrong signals all the time.

But this particular situation made me think...how many times had I accidentally signaled to someone that I was interested and just not known it? Or the other way around, how many times had I been flirted with and just not picked up on it?

...the wonders of this will never cease.

I've tried to get the DL from my girlfriends about how to tell when a Finnish guy is into you and their unanimous answer has been: he's talking to you.

Thanks, girls...really helpful.

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