Pussi. Sounds offensive right? The word ‘pussi’ means ‘bag’ in the Finnish language. You can imagine how often you will hear it in common conversation. Every time you’re at the supermarket or every time you’re shopping for… well, anything. For Finns it’s nothing to say pussi this or pussi that, but for this foreigner it still grabs my attention every time I hear it. Imagine a mother talking to her child in the store about packing the groceries…
The language is pretty fun and interesting at times and that description applies to my overall Finnish experience so far. I decided to put this post together because there are some significant differences to what I am used to and I thought it would be fun to document a few. That and I haven’t posted much about my experience and I have to start somewhere! So let’s start with one of the things I love the most:
Metal is EVERYWHERE. And I mean it! There are metal posters all over the place advertising this show or that, there are advertisements in the subways, on the sides of trams and buses and the list goes on and on. It’s impressively cool to see how normal metal is to every day life here.
There was an episode where I was shopping at the supermarket and Metallica came on. It wasn’t that big of a deal because Metallica is fairly main stream but for me to hear a track from Ride The Lightning while you’re picking out tomato sauce is pretty awesome- an experience everyone should have at least once in their lives. I’ve also had the opportunity to hear some obscure death metal in stores that are the equivalent to Target in America. Buying deodorant and banging your head at the same time? Check!
Reliable Public Transportation. …and not just reliable, but the ‘best’ in all of Europe according to a recent study. From trams to buses to subways, Helsinki’s public transportation system runs on time to the minute. It’s such a stark contrast to NYC’s public transportation where the only time it was worth while to look at a schedule was when taking a bus on a Sunday… and even then I’ve been left standing in the cold for (literally) many hours. In Helsinki if a bus leaves at 5:07pm, you need to be on the bus at 5:06pm because the doors are going to shut on time.
Trams are also a new thing for me, although they are in most of the bustling metropolises in Europe. I can tell you that there is nothing cooler than going to some random tram stop and having a digital sign that shows you an accurate time in minutes as to when the next tram will arrive. Ok there is something cooler- the app on my iPhone that has the satellite information so I don’t have to wait out in the cold.
Shit is expensive. A beer in central NYC is $6. A beer in central Helsinki is 6€. Conversion rate applied the price is $8.02. And that’s not the most expensive part! Food in a restaurant has a hefty tax along with it causing sliders to cost 24€ or a decent burger to cost 15€. To be fair, the food in the supermarket is significantly cheaper. OJ for instance is less than 1€ for a litter. My electricity, cell service, television service and pretty much all my bills for the house have dropped 60%-70%.
So I guess I can deal with a few ridiculously high priced meals out with my wife since a lot of the big expenses I’m used to have been reduced so much. But I would warn any tourists that it’s going to be a shock when you think you’ll be eating in restaurants for most of your meals!
Finnish people are friendly. I mean really friendly… those that you actually talk to. Every city in the world has its jerk-offs but that aside, even the strangers I talk to are really nice. No one actually wants anything from you and no one tries to get over on you. I was told a while back that Finns are very reserved and quiet. This has not been the case for me at all… maybe it’s because I primarily hang out with metalheads?
It’s incrediblty clean. Except for the pee on the street, I don’t think I’ve ever been anywhere as clean as this. Peeing on the street is totally legal here which I find quite useful, although I have not had to use this to my advantage since New Year’s Eve 2008. That aside you won’t really find any garbage laying around in the street. The vast majority of Finns simply don’t liter, and those who do are so few that the street cleaners get it cleaned up very quickly.
Coming from a place where they pile thousands of bags of garbage on the side of the street every couple of days (often allowing it to ferment for many hours to reach their optimal smell), the cleanliness of Helsinki is very refreshing. This brings me to my next point:
Finns recycle everything. Seriously! And they give you the incentive to recycle cans & bottles. When I go to recycle the cans from drinking a few beers with friends on the weekend I walk away with somewhere between 5€-10€! Then imagine that I have SEVEN different types of garbage to make sure everything gets recycled properly! It’s incredible how much they care about the environment and it definitely makes me feel good being able to contribute!
Buy your beer before you plan on drinking it! This is actually quite important- you can’t buy beer in a store after 9pm. Hard liquor is heavily regulated so you can only buy it in a special location and they’re typically not open past 8pm on a week day and they aren’t open at all on Sundays. I’ve been so used to buying what I want when I want it that this has been a difficult adjustment. Imagine its 10pm and you feel like having a beer… the only place you’re going to be able to get one is in a bar if you haven’t stocked up!
Flags only fly on Holidays. Finns believe it is nationalistic (bad word) to fly your country’s flag every day, so you will have a hard time finding it anywhere besides a government building on any given day. What’s really cool about this concept though is that when it is a holiday you’ll find more flags than in the US where I’m pretty sure there’s a flag every 5 feet… that’s a thing right? Anyway, it’s really an interesting sight. Most days you don’t see any flags at all and you don’t think about it and then ‘BAM!’ you know when it’s a holiday for sure!
I guess that’s all I’ll write for now. I have my first doctor’s appointment on Monday and I think next time I write something about experiences here I’ll talk about immigration stress… or the lack thereof. More soon!