Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Things I learned about Finn

I figured I should write a summary of the things I learned in Finland, about Finland. So, let's just call this:

Things I learned about Finn:

  1. It really is that cold year-round. I don't care what they say about their summers being amazing, even if the sun is shining and the sun never technically sets, if the temperature never gets above +20C for more than a few days during the entire summer, I don't care, it's just not anything but winter to me.
  2. Finnish men really are that quiet. Now notice that I wrote Finnish men, not Finnish people. Finnish women are actually quite open and curious and are relatively easy to become friends with. Finnish men on the other hand, are almost completely unapproachable unless they're drunk or have studied/traveled extensively abroad. Not a generalization, just the unfortunate truth.
  3. They really do drink that much. Yes, the drinking culture really is what they say it is. People really do drink as much as they say they do. When you're going to meet friends you go and meet for a drink: there's nowhere else to meet unless you're going to dinner (which is expensive and somehow not as common as you would think). People's apartments are typically too small to host parties so...to the bar!
  4. Their transportation system is incredibly efficient and runs on time. Never before have I met a system that ran so well. Really. I'm sure there are other systems like it but I've never been on them. It's incredible. Do not underestimate the power of small numbers and efficiency. I never will again.
  5. Their banking system is also incredibly efficient and awesome. My money has never felt so secure or easily accessible as with the system they have here and it's incredible. Thank you efficiency. I'm keeping my account and already I'm missing the benefits I had.
  6. Their food isn't particularly tasty but it is high quality. Food is expensive. And not flavorful. But it is incredibly high-quality. Their produce may mostly not be grown there but everything that is grown there is incredible: cucumbers, tomatoes, berries, potatoes, rutabaga...incredible. The freshness and abundance of their water supply is what does it. Trust me on this one. 
  7. Their cities are clean and recycling is at a maximum. I've never seen a more efficient recycling program. My building at work was to the level that we had 0% rubbish. I mean that literally - everything was either biodegradable or energy waste (meaning it was burned and turned into a different kind of fuel). 0% waste. It was maybe a slight annoyance to separate your trash into 15 different recycle bins when you get downstairs but I'd willingly trade that any day in order to save the planet.
  8. The 2% immigration thing? Actually pretty cool. Surprisingly, racism isn't a huge thing there, all things considered. Yes, there was and will be incidents (and I'd heard of them), but generally there is acceptance, silence, and if anything, interest. And it makes us weirdo immigrants band together in a wonderful way. So I say: pretty nice. Plus they let us straight into their system. I'm not only part of their pension system now (for life), I could have also qualified for unemployment.
  9. Finns really are wonderful people. Once you get to know Finns, they're wonderful people. They're funny, talkative, and fascinating to talk to. You just need to break through the barrier. Once that happens, friends for life. Really, this is true.
And finally...

Helsinki really is one of the easiest places to live.

All things considered, it was one of the easiest transitions I could have made. Everything is clean, everyone is polite, everyone speaks English (except maybe the bus drivers, who are oddly mostly Estonian), everything is efficient, no one demands things of you, no one is rude (not even when drunk)...

...there aren't a lot of things to complain about. Yes the food is expensive and it's not very flavorful, but there are ways to get around that. And yes, the taxation is high but you get incredible medical services and governmental services in the exchange. And yes, the nightlife may not be amazing in comparison to some of Europe's larger cities but you learn to make your own fun and do it yourself. 

What living in Helsinki made me realize is something I already knew: it's not the place you live in necessarily, it's the people you're with and the way the place you live facilitates your being with them. And Helsinki made it easy to be with the people I love. Transportation was fabulous, money was easy, services were efficient. Everything was in its place.

And I didn't need any more "things" to make this better. In fact, it was better living simpler. When I first moved to Helsinki I tried pushing against it and found a lot of the material goods lacking but the longer I stayed the more I saw I just didn't need as much as I thought. So there you have it.

I would move back in a heartbeat.

Now I know why it is consistently voted within the top 10 places to live in the world, every year. Yes the weather may deter some of you, but really, you're missing out on the best parts. 

So, forgive me all my doubts, I was so wrong about you, Finland. I'm glad I gave you the chance and finally, saw what you were about. I will never forget you.

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