1. It’s July and you’re wearing a jacket
My plan to visit Finland mid-July seemed foolproof. For the first time in a decade I was going to my home country smack in the middle of summer! What could possibly go wrong?
The weather, of course. The temperature hovered below twenty degrees Celsius – low sixties Fahrenheit – with some rain and thunderstorms. I mean, what the fuck? This was summer? Everyone kept telling me how the entire June had been hot, which was a cold comfort, literally.
2. The sun seems to never set
It’s easy to lose track of time, when 10 pm looks like a cloudy afternoon. Me like!
3. Every single house comes with a sauna
And every kitchen with a coffee maker, a built-in cutting board, a built-in dish rack inside a cupboard over the sink, and…
Back in the day, babies were born in saunas
4. It speaks fluent English – until
You know that arrogant European tourist, who expects people to speak their language wherever they go? Well, you won’t have to learn Finnish to know what the hell we want from you. It’s a fringe language and we know it’s our job to make ourselves understood. It’s common for kids to study several languages in school. English is expected of everyone – you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone under 50 who cannot converse in English. But some things will inevitably get mixed up. Like, when “valleys” is translated into “hills”. Oh well.
5. You get off the bus at “Kuusmiehenkaari – Sexmansbågen”
What? How are you supposed to read that? The names of everything are long and exhausting, twice (Finnish and SWEDISH! Useful, right?). It’s kind of like trying to read Turkish or Malay. But fear not, getting around is easy enough. In Helsinki, all the buses and trams have electrical signboards announcing the next stop – so you only need to remember the first few letters of your destination.
I’m sure orange was a really hot color in the 80’s…but I would have gone with plain silver
6. People pick up the phone by saying their name (when they don’t know who’s calling)
Saying just “Hello” would be considered kind of rude. Only a hillbilly would do that.
7. It plays by the rules
Whether it’s waiting for the green lights to cross the street or buying a tram ticket when no one is checking…it’s a pretty obedient society. Street crime is close to none. In the small towns no one would snatch your bag if you offered it. You really don’t have to give a shit about your stuff.
8. The ladies in huge black skirts and frilly tops ain’t headed for a renaissance fair
They are Finnish gypsies. Oh yeah. It’s a small ethnic minority here. Traditionally horse traders, fortune tellers, and artists, these days the gypsies have mostly main-stream professions. The men wear black pants, and match them with a seemingly random top, like an Adidas jacket. There’s always been some friction between gypsies and the general public, but it’s nothing compared to the discrimination and human rights violations that go on in central Europe.
9. The cashier says hello! No exceptions
You know the kind of service you get in the average supermarket or pharmacy in NYC? I’m talking of the people who take pride in giving customers attitude because they really don’t give a flying fuck about their job. You simply cannot find that here.
Rudolph is food.
10. Reindeer meat, rye bread, licorice candy, sour milk…
…is sold in every corner store.
11. Just when you give up all hope, summer appears
And then it’s all ice cream and short shorts in a warm bright night. Awesome!