A few things you should know before moving to Finland
A little bit about the Finns
Today I decided to share a little about the Finns, especially for people who are interested in visiting the country, or have met Finns and have been surprised by their social side.
When I first met Finns, I have to say that I did feel a bit ill at ease. I have always been a very talkative person, always have something to discuss, which can actually be annoying to some. Some of my friends, and teachers now that I think about it, used to call me "chatter box". I would say there is nothing wrong about that, especially since my social side was also applauded sometimes, when people would refer new comers to me for the social information they could need.
But with the Finns, not all of them though, lucky me, small talk is a foreign behaviour. You may walk into a room full of people, be greeted with a hello, but then no one will talk for half an hour. What to take from that is not that they are not interested, or have nothing to say. Mostly that for most they will only talk when they have something important to say. That's only a little time to get used to, but remember that this is not impolite behaviour, this is a cultural behaviour, that most foreigners should be aware of.
One thing for sure though, if like me you only speak very little Finnish, or none come to that, you will not feel embarrassed because you cannot understand what people are talking about, or because you don't know what to say.
Take me going to Finland with my boyfriend. I felt brilliant when no one was talking. I also learned a new language: the point at objects and mime what you want to say. We actually had a very interesting time, funny time even, when my boyfriend asked his mom to ask me to bring him coffee. If most of the population will be able to speak English, it's important to know that not all of them will. My boyfriend's parents don't. So there we are. My boyfriend is outside, changing the tyres on the car (yes, in Finland there are 2 types of tyres, to be used at the right season, one regular for the summer, and one with studs for the winter. It's really important they are used accordingly; and the last time my boyfriend had been to Finland it had been winter...) So, he's outside, working on the car, and his mum has gone to the shop. I'm staying in with his dad, who's asleep, no need to chat with anyone... TV in English... internet, I'm in my element.Suddenly his mum comes back, and brings me my jacket, and my scarf. OK, what's happening? She drags me to the kitchen, and shows me a cup of coffee. First I think she is offering me coffee, but then the jacket makes no sense. I finally understand the whole meaning of it when she points outside the window and says my boyfriend's name. So she wants me to bring him coffee. And there we go, outside, with coffee for him. By the time we get there he tells me that he felt stupid after he realised that his mum doesn't speak English and I don't speak Finnish... Though he should have known, 2 clever women together, we could only find a solution. Anyway, all this to say that there will always be a way to get the message, even if you can't speak the language. If you have the internet at hand, there is a great online dictionary site, that translate Finnish in different languages, including English and french (and many more) making it extra convenient for me: www.sanakirja.org Just select the languages you wish to have the words translated into, but be careful the choices are in Finnish, which makes it a bit tricky. Though if you are going to Finland, I believe you should know the name of your country or language in Finnish.For a little help (though this only covers Europe unfortunately) http://www.geocities.com/paivirentz/country.html
Now, before you decide to go to Finland, I believe that thinking about the season is a good thing. Yes, the south of the country will still have a relatively traditional weather, with an average -5 degrees (Celsius) in the winter in Helsinki, but a temperature that is average -20 in the northern parts of the country. On the other hand, Finland has a very warm and sunny summer. So if you can make a choice, that is if you are planning a holiday, I would say that you need to think about what time you would prefer to go. I have been advised to go in June for a 1st visit for example. I finally went in September. (One week later I was in France, Brittany, and had a 20 degrees higher temperature...) Still, I LOVED it! If you need to go for work, you will have less choices about the season, I still believe it's important that you inform yourself about the differences between winter and summer life if you are going to be there for a long time.
Now, there is another part of the social Finland that particularly attracts me. I have always been very interested in the rights for women, and equality between gender. And I can't help loving the fact that Finland was the 2nd country in the world giving women the right to vote, and the 1st European country doing it. Women in Finland were given the right to vote and to stand in Parliament in 1906. Nowadays, more than one third of the members of the Finnish Parliament or women, with a woman President since 2000. This, along with the victory against their massive neighbour (Russia) to gain their independence in 1917, are two traits of the Finnish culture that make me love this country!
Hoping that this can make some of you want to discover more, for next time I will look more into the rules of employment in Finland.