Finland VS Portugal
Every time you travel to a new country, the place you live or you used to live suddenly becomes a magical place. Small things you haven´t noticed before it starts to matter (like a lot!). When I left Portugal for this volunteering experience in Seinäjoki, Finland, I knew that I would face many challenges. In fact, that´s what I wanted the most: to experience what´s different. I support the idea that “different” doesn´t mean wrong.
Everything in a culture is a matter of perspective; I believe we should be open-minded to accept new habits and lifestyles. That´s what this article is all about: my first week in Seinäjoki. I´ll share with you what impressed the most and what´s being harder at this point. The first weeks are the most challenging ones. Your body starts to feel the change, such as with day light, cold weather, food and time tables. The cultural impact is often strongest in the first weeks and this is the best time for me to reflect about new habits.
When I met Finnish people, they kept asking me about how was I dealing with cold weather and snow. As many of you might know, Portugal it´s known by “warm and nice” temperatures, even in the winter. Well, let me explain to you that I feel colder in Portugal, than in Finland. Why is that? Because even though in Finland there are snow and low temperatures, buildings are prepared for the cold weather. In Portugal that doesn’t happen at all. For me 7 degrees in Portugal is the same as -1 degrees in Finland, there is much more humidity and wind. However, Portugal still has a lot of light during the winter time and that´s a plus. In conclusion, I really like cold weather in Finland but I understand people who live here permanently struggle with this. I am only a foreigner here, so I enjoy it!
In my opinion, Portugal is also known for its gastronomy. Every tourist in Portugal praises our food, wine, beer and its prices. Portuguese weather allows the country to produce its own vegetables, fruits and so many other foods. In Finland that is not very likely to happen. Why? Because of cold weather.
Food prices in Finland are also very high! Every single time I go to the supermarket I feel shocked with the high prices. For example, four tomatoes can cost 1€60 and a box of 250g of chicken meat costs, more a less, 4€. In Portugal I would buy a lot of tomatoes for that price and a bigger amount of meat.
I am having lunch time in the office canteen/restaurant and this was the start of a hard relation. Soups are cooked with milk and it also can have sugar, mustard or boiled eggs. Portuguese soup is cooked with water, vegetables, salt and a dash of olive oil. At lunch time eating salads and drinking milk are also very common behaviors around here.
Schedule is another matter I would like to highlight. Finish people start to work very early which means they will also feel hungry very soon. Lunch time happens at 11 a.m. and dinner time at 5/6 p.m. Even though Portuguese people start to work early, they will eat a second breakfast at 11 a.m. and only have lunch at 1 or 2 p.m. Dinner time is also different. Sometimes Portuguese people have dinner at 10.30 p.m. but the normal time to start having dinner (at least for me) it´s at 8 p.m.
Summing up, food is my biggest challenge in Finland. Furthermore, cakes and sweets are very good around here and I don´t want to return to Portugal with ten more pounds!
Punctual, organized non stressed people
Being punctual in Finland is something very normal and common (and it should be like that everywhere!). If people are counting on you, you should respect timetables. Well, that doesn´t really happen in Portugal. When I write this, I don´t mean to say that everyone is like that, but most of the people I had the chance to work or study with are just late all the time. In Finland people are always punctual! In consequence, they drive very slowly (because of the ice too), they enjoy their time on the wheel, they don´t stress and they don´t say any mean things to the other drivers. In Portugal, since people are always late, they drive like fast furious movies, they get angry easily and they don´t really care about the driving rules. I must say that drivers in Finland are very careful with pedestrians. Every time I want to cross the road, they will just let me pass!
At work people are shy but very polite. They have a few break times to drink tea, coffee and eat some cookies all together. Even the “big boss” joins the workers during that time and where I work, he brings some cakes as well. For me, that´s amazing! I´ve worked in some places where the “big bosses” were amazing and friendly people but I also worked in places where bosses weren´t like that. I think it might be a matter of luck.
I also believe that Portuguese people very driven by emotions, while in Finland they tend to hide their feelings.
Finnish is hard to learn but not impossible! I am having Finnish classes and I will do my best to learn it. Words are hard to understand, as well as letters. In my work place I am used to listen to people speaking in Finnish and that´s a positive thing for me. I already know one important word “noni”. Finnish people use this one for every situation; you just need to adjust your voice tone.
I have never seen a library like this before! It’s true that in Portugal there is this very famous Lello library, also known as the Harry Potter library. Anyway, this Alvar Aalto construction is impressive. The place has a lot of light, big windows, silent rooms, small wall holes where you can take a nap or just read a book, movies and video games rooms and even a piano. The books are mainly in finnish but there are also English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, etc. This library offers you the possibility of borrowing CD and DVD.
Bikes that are not stolen
Bikes are everywhere! Bikes everywhere with no lockers! How is that possible? I am still trying to understand if sometimes they don’t really get robbed. My country has amazing things as well but you should never leave a bike or anything just like that. Someone will steal it from you. Also, don´t leave your house door opened or someone will go inside.
Finland VS Portugal
Final result: Every country has good and not so good things. I love the country I was born, it is my home. Finland is now my second home. So, let´s all be friends and enjoy good things around here!