Attitude

Olympic Games, World Cups and The Euros. Those are among the most interesting events in recent history that have lacked a considerable amount of Finnish colours, as in Finland has not been represented in a major football (soccer) tournament since the Olympic games in 1980, which were held in the now defunct USSR. The Finnish national team has at times been rather close to making it to the “big games”, however always lacking the “final push” to win important games so as to qualify for the tournaments. Nevertheless, we Finns are not ones to give up easy, nor do we listen to commonsense.

Most cities abroad, when hit by a blizzard, go into “lock-down”; Airports, schools, stores, you name it, close down and people tend to not go outside if it is not mandatory for them to do so. When Helsinki gets a ton of snow (as expected) it’s business as usual, no big deal. Still, even though, I am a full-fledged Finn and do manage well in this climate that has been given to us, even I wouldn’t think of going out to play football in this weather (and this has nothing to do with the fact that I am more of an Ice Hockey fan).

It had not even crossed my mind that when I went outdoors for a walk with my camera that I would run into kids running around the fields, first clearing the pitches of snow and afterwards kicking the ball around. It was as if the players did not notice that Siberia was moving to Helsinki flake by flake, already occupying most of the football pitches with large amounts of snow. I for one enormously enjoy being indoors and staying warm, heck, I even skipped ice hockey practices as a kid, simply because I did not feel like going outside, which is why it is hard to get my head around why these youngsters would go outside, during a blizzard and play football?! In shorts! (They did have long johns underneath, but still!)

To my understanding the main club of Helsinki, HJK, travels abroad, seeking warmth and holding their training camps in more desirable destinations, but I also know that there are a number of indoor training facilities at the disposal of these young Ronaldinhos running around in the snow here. I would have to assume that there are not enough facilities to cater to these seemingly enthusiastic football prodigies, or that these guys really enjoy some fresh air. Be it as it may, I have to say that, even though, I have given football in Finland a hard time, I have to respect these dudes for doing their thing, rain or shine, kinda like the U.S. Postal Service (Ok, for the postal service it’s probably more of a marketing motto).

Regardless of the fact that we have not seen Finland in tournaments in a long time, I have a strong feeling that that is going to change in the future. It has to. It’s a long and rocky road, but we have already seen positive outcomes of the Finnish training system, Teemu Pukki and Joel Pohjanpalo to name a few prospects. With this amount of attitude and perseverance these guys have even in their training, if we manage to add a bit more skill into that, I think we will be seeing Finland in the major tournaments once more in the future.

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Changes

It’s been a while since I last wrote here, me being mainly preoccupied by other things in my life. Probably the biggest change that has happened during my “radio silence” is that I no longer reside in Germany, but in Finland, yet again.

I left Berlin on the 23rd of December, arriving in Finland nearly directly for Christmas. The last weeks that I spent in Berlin were without a doubt one of the most, sentimental or tough ones I had yet gone through, because it really felt, and still feels, that I merely left behind 1,5 years of my life in Berlin. Living abroad I can say, cheesy at it may sound, changed me for the better. I was already a rather independent person as well as outgoing, but being able to live in a new country and moreover being able to integrate into that culture was something I will never forget. I truly started to feel like a Berliner, not a random tourist living in Berlin, but a Berliner.

It is an odd feeling when one returns to their “own culture” and country, these “reverse cultureshock” symptoms are very familiar for people who have lived abroad for a period of time. I myself luckily was preoccupied with a bunch of things, when I returned to Finland, not having time to sink into my own thoughts about this sudden change in my surroundings. The Holiday season kept me from thinking about the life I had in Berlin and comparing it to my life in Finland. It is only now that I am here, back in Helsinki, writing this that I have had the time to fully start to understand my experiences abroad, and actually that was the plan. During this Spring, whilst I am writing my Bachelors thesis, I will also have a critical look on the Finnish culture and see whether I really want to spend the rest of my life in this country or would I consider living abroad again.

My initial feelings being back up north ( as in North Europe), are a bit mixed. To a certain extent I enjoy how clear and easy everything is, considering everyday issues such as bureaucracy since here everything can be done swiftly online, whereas in Berlin I had to queue in physical offices often to get things done. This said, the whole “efficiency” of everything also brings to mind a very “black and white” society. What I mean by this is that, everything is regulated and there is no “middle ground” in anything, or so it feels. Laws and rules are to be followed to a T, and while this is a mostly a good thing, preventing our “peace loving” society from going into chaos, it does also make the whole country feel a bit dull.

During my stay in Berlin I learned to understand more fully that up north, as in the Nordics, people are not trusted as much to make decisions by themselves but there are laws and guidelines to tell them what they should do and when. Me being a young student, the most notable difference is the alcohol legislation. In Berlin if a person wanted to buy a beer, it was up to them to decide when they wanted to buy it or if they felt like going to a club later than usual and leave in the morning they could do so. In Finland, alcohol is sold between 9 AM and 9 PM, after which if you want to have a casual beer, you have to head to a pub or a bar, which close at 1.30 AM or at latest 3.30 AM. Now I understand that the culture here is very different, but it just takes time to realise again that I am living in a country with very strict control from the state. Control does not always have to be associated with negative thoughts, the state here has a lot of control over people, but on the flip side of the coin the state also helps its citizens a lot. For this I do love Finland. Nevertheless, it will take me a bit of time to get re-integrated into my own culture, if I want to do this that is.

It is funny to see how many stereotypes about cultures actually are rather true. I was for a walk in the city center, here in Helsinki, and started to notice that people rarely look each other in the eyes, but rather keep their heads low and tried in all situations not to draw attention to themselves. Now, I am not saying I would be terribly different from said street dwellers, but I just found it funny how silent we indeed are as a people. The culture itself is not going to change, that is up to each and every individual themselves to decide how they want to act. Finns will for a long time be the silent, “shyish” but trustworthy people of the North.I at least will try to challenge myself to continue breaking those stereotypes, striking conversations with strangers and being even more polite, to begin with.

Only time will tell, where I will find myself after this spring. The biggest challenge for me this spring is to write my thesis and start to wonder what to do next. I am strongly considering applying for masters programmes here in Finland and at least in Germany, but beginning a working career would not be out of the question either if the right opportunity were to come along.

The next blog posts will be far more “lighter” topic wise, as I will try to get back on track with taking photos and such, but I will also be heavily preoccupied with my thesis work, so we will see how often I am able to post stuff online.

To end the first post of the year,  here are a couple of pictures taken during the past month, one being the last one from Berlin and the others depicting my up north home-town.