I’ve been away from my home country for almost 7 years. 7 years! How did that happen?! Anyway, it’s inevitable that being away for so long will mean you forget about how certain things work in your own country and that certain things change and that you therefore might be in for a bit of a culture shock.
I’ve been back in Finland for just over 4 months now, having lived in London and Edinburgh where I met my husband and had two kids. Ever since I’ve been back I’ve been noting down things that are different from when I left, things that are strange from a British perspective and things that have surprised me. Before we start I just want you to keep in mind that many of these are just my observations and shouldn’t be taken too seriously! 🙂
1. Free public transport
This is such a great thing that I think every city should copy! It’s so, so nice not having to worry about paying for public transport when you have a million other things to think about when out and about with kids. I’ve actually only paid for public transport once since I always tend to have a buggy with me (with a kid in it). Something good about having children haha!
2. Who cares if it’s raining
The weather gets a bit more extreme here in Finland compared to the UK but still people seem to brave the conditions a lot more. A bit of rain, snow or cold weather isn’t an excuse to not go outside, whereas in the UK schools will close if you spot a snowflake in the sky. As a kid I remember having PE classes outside in -15 degrees and Lana’s nursery will go out to the park in pretty much any weather. The trick is just to dress properly – which I’m still learning…Just the other day I picked Lana up from the park where her group was and she was sitting/lying in a puddle playing…But it didn’t matter because she was covered in rainproof clothing!
3. The land of stinges
You don’t have to worry about paying anything extra if you’re out with friends, cause in Finland every smallest item on the menu can be split and there’s no need for one person to pick up the bill or to just split the bill in equal parts. For example, if there’s three of you sharing a bottle of wine the price of the bottle will be divided between the three of you. And it’s not a hassle for the waiter as it’s easy to do on the till. Finland is the promised land for stingy people haha!
4. Early lunch eaters
So here people actually go for lunch between 11am and 12pm – which sounds slightly crazy to someone coming from the UK. I guess the reason behind the early lunch is that many people here start work at 8am, whereas in the UK you’d start at 9am. But what I can’t understand is that if you eat your lunch at 11am you would need another one at 3pm right? And then dinner, which would mean you’re eating one extra meal and that all Finnish people should be fat. Hmm.
5. Trusting people
Finland is a very safe place to live, but I had forgotten how trusting people are here. Prams and buggies are left outside when going for a coffee, playgroup, shop etc. – sometimes even with a sleeping child in it. You’ll see restaurants leaving their outdoor seating chairs outside over night and shops leaving stuff for sale unattended outside the shop. There are Helsinki bikes that anyone can use everywhere without people destroying them (well you have to register online and pay for it though). People are just generally more relaxed about leaving bags and laptops unattended when going to the toilet. I have to add here though that we live in one of the nicest areas of Helsinki, so perhaps some of these examples wouldn’t be applicable everywhere!
6. You’ll find it online
I knew Finland is an advanced country when it comes to technology, but I’ve still been surprised by how much is done online now compared to 7 years ago. For example. I purchased home insurance online in less than 5 minutes. Same thing when I sorted out our electricity – online, in 2 minutes. I can browse my own and the kids’ health data and prescriptions online. Lana’s nursery stuff is done through Helsinki City’s electronic case management service. Applying for benefits and checking the status of your applications is done online. You get the drill.
7. Sorry can you speak English
It’s been nice to come back and notice that Helsinki is more multicultural and that English is heard even more often on the streets. As a matter of fact I’ve been served only in English in many restaurants and cafes. Also in play parks, where I spend most of my days, you hear a lot of English and other languages, which is nice and will make Matthew and Lana fit in better too.
8. Simpsons mania
Not sure who thought it was a good idea, but you simply cannot turn on the TV here without the Simpsons being on – whether it be in the morning, during the day or in the evening. Why Finland, why?
9. Film freaks
Speaking of TV, I’ve noticed another peculiar (and slightly annoying) thing; there are films on on pretty much every single channel at 9pm. This might sound great to some of you, but not to someone like me who doesn’t have time to watch a film every night (not to mention focus on something for two hours) and would prefer more manageable chunks in the form of TV series. Plus it seems like the films are being recycled and shared from channel to channel – so if you miss one you can be sure to find it on another channel a day or a week later.
10. Damn post
I tend to order most things online since it’s just not that fun going shopping with a squirmy baby or an unpredictable 3-year-old. In the UK I got used to most parcels being delivered to my door (for a small fee or even free), and to even being able to choose an hourly slot or to cancel last minute (I’m speaking to you, DPD <3) Here in Finland I thought something was wrong when I ordered my first parcel and had to go and pick it up myself. And a lot of parcels are delivered to my post office, which is a 15-minute walk away! There is a closer one so not sure why it’s mine hmm. Thankfully you can choose to have many parcels delivered at other pick-up points – but you still have to pick it up yourself, unless you’re willing to pay a lot extra.
11. Parks for dogs
I actually wouldn’t have reacted on this one hadn’t Matthew’s parents pointed it out when they were here. So basically there are specific parks where you can take your dogs here in Finland – which I guess isn’t very common in the UK as I never came across one and neither has Matthew’s parents. Near where we live is even a public dog swimming pool – I just thought it was a nice fountain-type thing.
That’s it! Anything you found surprising? Familiar? Strange?
x Nina x