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.
This post was due already a couple a weeks ago, but because of technical difficulties, a lengthy post that I wrote on a cold October night never saw the light of day i.e. never made its way onto the world wide web. Sometimes my life feels rather hectic, even though when observing from a far, it isn’t, perhaps it is just my own mind that makes everything so difficult and complicated in my small world, but at times I feel that I need to unwind.
I often clear my head by going for long walks during chilly autumn nights, thinking about the past, present and future. One evening as I headed out, a scarf around my neck, a beanie on my head and a camera in my hand, I reminisced about a lot of things as I took deep breaths of the fresh air outside. It’s funny how climate can bring to our mind our own past sometimes, as if those things had happened just yesterday.
As I walked in my local park, that had gone silent for the winter, inhabited now only by small bunnies running mindlessly through the leaf covered scene, I remembered how I always linked autumn to anticipating something. I remember how as a small kid I waited eagerly for the leaves to fall and the colder weathers to come, because with cold weather came ice and with ice came ice hockey. Even though I have had periods in my life when hockey hasn’t been that important, as a kid it was. Partly because that was where all of your friends also were, on the ice. Only now as I’m a bit older I’ve noticed that in fact my oldest and most trustworthy friends were indeed my line mates as I was 6 or 7. Some of my friends continued to play hockey, I didn’t, I moved onto skiing, downhill that is.
When I started to ski and film my friends for snowboard videos and stuff (LINK), I got into new fun circles for which I am to this day still damn grateful. Every autumn as the weather started to get colder, we watched ,nearly non-stop, the webcam of our local ski center, to see if the snow-cannons had started to paint the slopes white, and when they did start to cover the hill with what was more Ice than snow, we headed to the center to film something. Waiting for the ski season to start was for a long time a part of my autumn, but that changed once I moved to Helsinki, and especially now that I live in Berlin.
Sure,I could have continued to ski in Helsinki, but it would’ve been way too much of a hassle to travel to the nearby towns, with public transport, not to mention not having the familiar faces of my “crew” there. As if by accident my road started to lead back to my former hobby, although this time to the rafters. A good friend of mine started to lure me into going to see the hockey matches in Helsinki, needless to say it didn’t take long for me to be hooked again to ice hockey. As the hockey season starts usually around September, this “spectator sport” started to be the new thing that I awaited to begin during autumns, we even went to see my team’s (IFK Helsinki) training matches in August, because at times it felt that the season couldn’t come quick enough. Needless to say, I haven’t been to IFK’s games in a while having moved to Berlin.
I have tried to follow both my team’s games and the local Berlin team’s games here, but it hasn’t felt the same. I do still watch the Finnish league (and the NHL , if they didn’t have a lockout season), but nowadays I’ve noticed I enjoy spending a lot of time with my camera. Even on that cold October night, as I was kicking the maple leaf piles with my feet in the empty park, I had my Sony with me. I perhaps lacked the anticipation of something “seasonal” but I have a continuous hobby now, which is surprisingly chill and allows me to clear my head as well. Dwelling through the park, snapping photos and enjoying the lack of noises is just bliss at times. That night I spent a good few hours walking around, stopping now and again to sit on a bench to observe the wild life that had still stayed in the park for the upcoming winter.
I believe Nietzsche once said ” All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking” and I do believe he is on to something there, since at least for me, when I walk alone in the evenings I am able to clear my head of the less useful thoughts and focus on the good ones, which is something that for me is hard to do at times when surrounded by people. I might have walked out that night out of the door, with a big stressful mess of different thoughts, but returned with a much calmer mind and even a couple of nice photos, all thanks to a “sleeping” park and a late evening walk. I also know now that I do not need to have anything to anticipate during the autumn anymore, sure skiing would be fun, but in the end, taking pictures or writing nonsense isn’t a bad hobby either, and you can do it anytime of the year.
In the modern world work is often associated with stress, however for me the past few months have been everything else than stress! I have enjoyed my work a lot to be honest. Now even though I cannot say I share the stress phenomenon with my fellow workers in the world, I can still say that I have become a nine to six worker, meaning that most of my days are spent at the office. Those rare days, sometimes referred to as the weekends, when I do not find myself drinking coffees at the office, I try to make the most of my free time i.e. spend it with friends and perhaps enjoy the night life of Berlin. This is a rather fun lifestyle, have to admit, however the lack of spare time has led to my camera feeling (if it felt anything) lonely on these cold autumn nights. Like a bad lover I had neglected my camera for a long time, but luckily for my Sony, I had enough energy on Sunday to actually go and take a walk in the city and try to take some decent memories of the darkening September nights.
After meeting a couple of good friends for a Sunday drink at Alexanderplatz and having a must have Döner at Mehringdamm (Mustafa’s to be precise), I took the U-Bahn towards the RingBahn which I would normally use to get home a bit quicker. This time however as I reached S-Bhf Tempelhof, I decided to walk outside the ring (funnily enough probably the first time in a month that I step outside the ring) and see if there would be anything of interest to take images of.
Having walked for 15 seemingly long minutes, I hadn’t seen anything that would have sparked my interest…that is until I saw a van, an old neglected delivery van. Perhaps it’s the fact of seeing too many shiny things that made that rusty old van seem like a cool target for snapping a couple of quick photos, or then it was just the fact that I wanted to photograph just basically anything so that I wouldn’t have to go back home empty carded (see what I did there..) . Snip Snap went the shutter and back went the camera into the bag, I was done with the van and moving forward like a determined bargain hunter at post-holiday sales destined to find something cool.
I came to a seemingly normal looking crossroad and just for the fun of it took a couple o’ images to go, before continuing to the normally crowded, but now what was like a wasteland, parking lot of Ikea. There wasn’t a lot of things to take photos of, since the tumbleweeds were moving too fast for me, but I managed to get a couple of pics of the empty lot that belonged to the Swedish Adult-Lego store.
As I came closer to the highway, I already knew that I wanted to take a couple of images having the shutter open for a longer time, and even though it is in nooooo means original to take pics like that… I still think these few highway photos turned out to be the nicest of the bunch, making my Sunday worth while. Having no other pedestrians bothering me as I set up my camera to capture this chilly September night in the form of a couple of flashing photos; it was perfect.
I could now simply put my camera back in my messenger bag and head home, knowing that I at least had one decent pic to take with me. So as to not overwork your imagination, I have attached the photos of the night in a chronological order below so that you too can take a short virtual walk between Tempelhof and Südkreuz on a fresh autumn night.