Posts Tagged With: culture shock

…and then life happened.

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Sick baby ūüė¶

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Remember a couple weeks ago when I blogged about a new schedule, and how I was going to start it this week? And how I said I wanted to start a regular blog feature? I was all set, even had an editorial calendar planned out. I got a couple of blog posts ahead, then went on vacation. I figured this past Monday, I’d schedule a quick Tuesday post and finish a half-complete Thursday post.

And then life happened.

We were in Lapland last week (blog posts and photos coming soon!), and arrived home Monday morning about 9:30. Baby J had had a slight cough during most of our trip, and Friday afternoon it developed into a deep, phlegmy cough. By Sunday he was moaning with every breath. He had been sick like this back in December, so I wasn’t too worried – he seemed fine otherwise, even pausing the moaning and coughing fits to flirt with strangers sitting nearby.

However, by Monday afternoon he had stopped nursing. He wouldn’t take milk or water or solids – nothing was getting past his lips. Then he became rather listless. I called the doctor and was able to get an appointment for 3:30 that afternoon.

The doctor listened to his chest and immediately recommended we take Baby J to the hospital. In Pori, an hour away, because our local hospital doesn’t have pediatric facilities. In fact, he said, I’m going to call an ambulance to take him, just in case. Cue parental panic attack.

We spent Monday and Tuesday night in the hospital, where Baby J was hooked up to a heart rate/blood oxygen monitor and oxygen. We were able to go home Wednesday, with a promise to administer a breathing treatment every 2-3 hours and bring him back in if he took a turn for the worse.

One of the issues with being ill in a country where you don’t speak the language is that you don’t always fully understand what’s going on. You’re never really sure if things are lost in translation, if the words you say are understood, or if you understood what they are saying correctly.¬† I had the same issue while in the hospital after having Baby J. One nurse kept using “she” instead of “he,” which is a simple mistake and not a big deal, but what if she was saying “do this” instead of “don’t do this”? You really can’t be sure sometimes, and it requires you to place absolute trust in the hospital staff. You get minimal information, because they can’t do in depth explanations about what’s going on. He needs this medicine, but they can’t tell you why or what it’s for. Please understand that this isn’t a gripe about the Finnish medical system, its just a fact of life, living (or even traveling) anywhere where you don’t speak the language and requiring medical care. It can be scary and confusing. We’re so used to being able to know everything about a diagnosis, googling for any additional information we feel we need, knowing what questions to ask the doctor. It’s difficult being so helpless, especially when it’s your baby that’s sick.

We know Baby J didn’t have the flu or a viral infection. Other than being told his bronchial tubes were¬† inflamed, I have no idea what the official diagnosis is. Hopefully the breathing treatments we’re giving him will make him all better.

And in the meantime, Baby J is getting lots of cuddles.


Categories: Baby J, Parenthood | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

The Illusion of Modesty (TMI alert)

TMI alert – Seriously, you have officially been warned. ¬†This post deals with going to the gynecologist. ¬†Stop reading now if you can’t handle it.

A visit to the gynecologist in Finland (and France from what I hear, and possibly the rest of Europe) is a different experience than a visit in the US.

In the US, when a woman goes to the gynecologist, she is put in a room and left alone. ¬†There is usually a curtain she can hide behind to undress, and then she goes and sits on the exam table with a paper “shirt” that opens in the front¬†and a paper rectangle that she drapes across her lap. ¬†Then the doctor comes in and the exam starts – during which he/she will push the paper shirt apart and examine the breasts and push the drape up to perform a pelvic exam.

Embed from Getty Images

I’ve always been amused by this sham of modesty. Why do you have this paper draped across your lap when the doctor is just going to be all up in your business? ¬†I’ve always assumed that it’s a disassociative thing, separating the woman (face) from the bits. ¬†Whether it’s for the doctor’s benefit or the woman’s, I don’t know.

Here in Finland, though, there is no modesty to be had. ¬†In my first gynecological visit here, I was surprised when the doctor said, “take off your clothes and lay down,” and then sat there all but watching me. ¬†I stripped down in a corner, stacked my clothes, and asked if there was a drape or anything I should have. ¬†She looked confused and gestured to the table.

Then came the funny part. ¬†I’m laying there, naked from the waist down, legs in stirrups, and I realize the window in front of me is open. ¬†The window with the perfect view into the office building next door. ¬†Where anyone inside could basically see…everything, should they choose to look. ¬†I stifled a giggle. ¬†Things are certainly different here!

Fast forward a bit, and I’m pregnant. ¬†I’ve been seeing the same public health nurse my entire pregnancy, and I feel quite comfortable with her. ¬†However, due to the size of our town, they don’t offer childbirth classes in English. ¬†My nurse said she would do an abbreviated class with me, but I decided to also contact a doula based in Helsinki who offered online childbirth classes in English. ¬†It wasn’t that I didn’t trust my nurse, but the doula (a Finn) had lived in the US for several years, and had given birth both in Finland and the US, so she was able to understand my (US based) knowledge of the delivery process (hospital stay, etc) and describe the Finnish process to someone who wasn’t familiar with it.

Between the two women, I feel like I have a fairly good handle on things, but there have been some funny-strange moments, again related to false modesty. ¬†In the US, everything is so very clinical – technical terms are used to describe things. ¬†Here, whether it’s because of a language barrier or simply because of fewer puritanical hangups, the technical terms are not always used. ¬†I’ve heard “pee hole” instead of “urethra.” ¬†I was told when I pushed that it was like when I “poo.” ¬†Although I get a good giggle out of these instances, I feel both more comfortable and uncomfortable at the plain speaking.

All of this is to say, I think the US system provides nothing more than an illusion of modesty. ¬†Your doctor is going to see your parts, what purpose does the drape serve? ¬†The doctor knows the plain words, why bother with the technical terms? ¬†Is it for his/her comfort, or the patient’s?

Baby J update ‚Äď 12 Days to go!¬†I‚Äôm blogging every day until I give birth, so you‚Äôll know when the baby is born!

Categories: Random | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Random Thoughts at 35 weeks

33 days to go! ¬†I have a whole slew of random things to share, so this is kind of a long post. ¬†But if you’re curious about how the Finnish maternity system might operate as opposed to the US system, continue reading.

First up – I haven’t shared with you my pregnancy card. ¬†It’s very interesting! ¬†You’re given this multi-fold card at the maternity clinic on your first visit, and you bring it with you each visit. ¬†The midwife (and doctor) record all your information, vitals taken at each visit, test results, etc, on the card. ¬†It’s neat to be able to pull it out and see how I’ve progressed each visit, and of course, it seems awfully handy to have in case of an emergency. ¬†We’ll of course take it to the hospital with us – again, handy. ¬†I’m sure everything is in a computer somewhere, but it’s nice to have the info at home.

Finnish Maternity Card - front

The maternity card

Finnish Maternity Card

Several folds create a booklet

Finnish Maternity Card - unfolded

Here it is folded open – I blurred it some, because I don’t know what’s delicate information and what’s not. The first panel has your name, and contact info for the clinic and hospital. Second panel has blood type, test results, sonogram results. Third and fourth panel include blood pressure, hemoglobin, weight, etc.

Finnish Maternity Card - details

A non-blurred view – first column is fundal measurement, and further across is baby’s heartbeat and activity level.

Finnish Maternity Card - growth chart

The graph of baby’s growth, or fundal measurement to week. Currently on the “high normal” line, TYVM

On to the random…

We finally got the car seat and stroller! ¬†Unfortunately, we have not gotten the car seat base – you know, the part that keeps the car seat *in* the car? ¬†Our car, based on the year, should have come with these Isofix brackets, which¬†apparently keeps the seat in the car minus the seat belt. ¬†So we bought the base, went out to the car…and we don’t have the brackets. ¬†Went right back into the store and returned it, tried to get the other kind of base, the kind that is held in place by a seat belt – this base is on back order. ¬†So, yeah, issues. ¬†Apparently the Isofix was optional, as opposed to standard, in cars from 2002-2005. ¬†We’re now looking into getting the brackets installed in the car. ¬†Fingers crossed we get it done before, you know, we need it.

We had a quick informal prenatal class with the midwife yesterday, since they only do prenatal classes in Finnish. ¬†She also talked some about what to expect in the hospital – again, we couldn’t do a hospital tour, I think because they only do them in Finnish, since I’ve heard of others doing it. ¬†I feel about as ready as I can be, although I still want to study up on delivering a baby by myself in an emergency – or on the side of the road. ¬†I’m still more freaked out about actually caring for an infant than giving birth to one, although I can feel the nerves starting.

Speaking of giving birth on the side of the road…. ¬†We did a dry run to the hospital yesterday, to make sure we know where we’re going. ¬†It took 45 minutes at noon, following the speed limit. ¬†It might only take 30 minutes if there’s no traffic and we trust we can get out of any speeding tickets we get on the way. ¬†I’ve heard you can get out of the fines if you’re in labor. ¬†Let’s hope it’s true. ¬†Of course, if Stephen is at work when I go into labor, that will add an additional 20-25 minutes to the commute.

Additionally, apparently the taxi service here in town is well versed in pregnant women going to the hospital. ¬†They have a minivan-type vehicle to take you there, and put you first in line for pickup. ¬†Wonder if *they* know how to deliver babies on the side of the road? ¬†Actually, it seems the way to go – at least then you don’t have to worry about cleaning up amniotic (and other) fluids out of your own car! ¬†ūüėČ

I remain healthy, everything is going well with the pregnancy. My weight gain has gone down since my last appointment, so that’s good. ¬†Haven’t *lost* weight, just haven’t gained as much week over week. ¬†Probably because my appetite has been nonexistent over the last few weeks. ¬†I’m hungry in the morning, and I have my standard apple and piece of toast with peanut butter. ¬†Then through the day I snack on some prunes and dates (prunes for obvious reasons, dates because of this study). ¬†And getting through those are tough, because I’m really not hungry. ¬†And lunch? ¬†I force myself to eat a little something because I know I need to, but I don’t enjoy it. ¬†Dinner is a bit better – probably because I didn’t have much of a lunch…

I was on the fence about buying a nursing pillow, and deciding which one to buy if I got one. ¬†Like with everything else, everyone has their favorites. ¬†Unfortunately, it’s not like we can run out to Target real quick and get one (or a different brand) if we decide we want it – we actually have to plan in advance. ¬†A couple of weeks ago we went to a baby store in The Big City and I was looking at the Boppy again. ¬†It was 69 euros (compared to about $30 in the US) and I just couldn’t justify it. ¬†The saleswoman pointed me to the other brand they carried, the Doomoo, and they had both a Boppy sized pillow and a slightly larger one that could be used as a nursing pillow and¬†a sleeping pillow for me, now. ¬†It’s the same shape as a Boppy, just longer, and filled with micro-beads, so it’s a little more malleable. ¬† Stephen made the executive decision that I would get the larger pillow. ¬†That afternoon, when I laid down and curled up with it on the bed to rest, I wondered why the hell I had resisted getting a sleeping pillow for so long. ¬†I was in L-O-V-E.

I found some things out during the prenatal class that I thought I’d share, for those in the US who find it interesting:

  • We will likely have three midwives in the room for delivery, but we won’t see a doctor unless I get an epidural or there are complications.
  • All midwives in Finland are women – there are no male midwives. ¬†I don’t know if that’s a law, or if men are simply not interested in becoming midwives.
  • We have it in our birth plan that we don’t want forceps used – Stephen has a deviated septum from forceps being used on him. ¬†Our midwife said they very rarely use forceps here – there are about 3 uses per year, she said. ¬†3!
  • The cost for a natural birth is 2250‚ā¨. ¬†This includes everything, including epidurals, and this is the price for paying out of pocket, sans insurance. ¬†It’s actually gone up quite a bit in the last year – she said last year it was about 1400‚ā¨! ¬†A c-section costs 5840‚ā¨.
  • Assuming everything goes okay, and I don’t have any complications, I will likely stay in the hospital 3-4 days, at a cost of 39‚ā¨ a day.

Regarding¬†doctors and midwives…. ¬†So the town has a maternity clinic that all pregnant women use. ¬†There’s only the one in town, as far as I know, and luckily it’s about a five minute walk from our apartment. ¬†As far as I can tell, there are two prenatal midwives, but there are also several other women in the office – I’m not sure of their function, but it seems some of them may only be there to do things like take blood and check your blood pressure – the stuff a nurse would do in the US. ¬†There are also a couple of doctors – I’ve seen two – who apparently are only there to perform sonograms (not some lowly tech!) and gynecological exams. ¬†So over the course of my pregnancy so far, I’ve seen the doctor three times – each time for a sonogram. ¬†And I will be seeing one next week for a pelvic. ¬†Other than that, I only see the midwife. ¬†Now, I’m not sure how¬†“midwife” here equates to “midwife” in the US, so when I use the term “midwife” it may not be what you’re thinking of. ¬†As far as I can tell (with my very minimal knowledge of the UK system), midwives here are similar to midwives in the UK. ¬†You don’t have an OBGYN, you have a midwife.

Oh, and because this is Finland, there is no waiting in the doctor’s office for an hour. ¬†Your appointment is at 9:30, you will see the midwife at 9:30. ¬†Finns are *very* punctual. ¬†ūüėÄ

Well, that’s about it for now, although it’s certainly plenty. ¬†Happy Tuesday!


Categories: Here Comes Baby | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments

The Negatives of Living Abroad

One thing about living in a foreign country is that I’m very conscious about what I say about my host country. ¬†I think about what I would want to say if I was back home and a foreigner expressed negative views about my country. ¬†“If you don’t like it, leave.” ¬†Of course, it’s not always that simple, I know. ¬†But there’s certainly a bit of that protective instinct that takes over, even if you agree with the what the person is saying.

In general, I try to stay positive about my stay in Finland. ¬†I actually really do like this country – I love how safe it is, I love the spring and summer seasons, I love that I can get anywhere in town I need to go just by walking. ¬†I love the quietness of Finland, where there’s not a need to fill every silence with words. ¬†I love long summer days and having 20 hours of daylight. ¬†I love the random crazy holidays and competitions and television shows, the ones that make you go, “Only in Finland.”

I try very hard to defend this country when others say negative things, and I get very uncomfortable when fellow Americans say unfair things. ¬†Have I said negative things? ¬†Of course I have. ¬†You can’t live somewhere and not occasionally express displeasure about your lot in life. ¬†First World Problems like “I can’t find Italian Ice” and “I wish we were closer to The Big City.” ¬†And of course I miss things about living in the US – being able to go to the grocery store at midnight on a Sunday, being able to find just about anything I could possibly be looking for, going to Target. ¬†But negativity doesn’t make living abroad any easier, and it doesn’t account for all the great things that come with being an expat.

So, yes, I could start a category labeled “Things I can’t find in Finland” and fill it with a hundred posts. ¬†But I’m not going to. ¬†When I do complain, as I did in my last post, I try to do it with an ironic tone and convey that my complaint is really about nothing substantial. ¬†Can I live without Italian Ice? ¬†Of course I can. ¬†I can live without a lot of things, I’ve found. ¬†Tostitos Hint of Lime chips. ¬†Jiffy peanut butter. ¬†Good Tex-Mex. ¬†I’ve learned how to substitute for things I can’t find, thanks to the Internet, and how to make my own Bisquick, limeade concentrate, egg nog. ¬†I’ve survived two years without¬†Wheat Thins and Thin Trisquits, I’m sure I can survive another couple.


Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Foods I miss as an ex-pat

There are certain things we can’t get here in Finland. ¬†What, you’re surprised by that? ¬†I’ve found¬†substitutes¬†and DIY recipes and made do with things that don’t taste quite right, but here are some things I miss dearly:

Goat Cheese. ¬†The goat cheese here is…not right. ¬†It doesn’t have that creamy texture, it’s more like a brie texture. ¬†One of my favorite treats is spreading goat cheese on dried figs and wrapping some prosciutto around it. ¬†There is no “spreading goat cheese” around here.

Spaghetti Squash. ¬†God, I miss spaghetti squash. ¬†I think when we get back to the States, Stephen may get sick of spaghetti squash, because it seems all I can do lately is think about it. ¬†They have honeydew melons in the grocery store, which look exactly like spaghetti squash, which just makes it worse. ¬†It’s like they’re teasing me…

*Not* spaghetti squash...

*Not* spaghetti squash…

Yellow Squash. ¬†I know a lot of people don’t like yellow squash, but I do. ¬†I can take a yellow squash and a zucchini and make a meal of it. ¬†I can get¬†zucchini¬†here, at least, but I do miss yellow squash.

Monterrey Jack cheese. ¬†Mexican food just isn’t the same without it.

Portobello mushrooms. ¬†You can get 500 different varieties of mushrooms, especially in the fall when everyone goes foraging in the forest, but I have yet to see portobellos…

Velveeta. ¬†I’ve got a serious hankering for White Trash Dip (aka Rotel Dip).

Sushi. ¬†God, I miss sushi. ¬†I can get it when I go to the “Big Town” an hour away, but here in town? ¬†Forget about it.

Every single ex-pat, without fail, regardless of country of origin or where they currently live, misses something from home. ¬†Tex-Mex appears frequently, which I can relate to. ¬†The other thing I see a lot of is a craving for¬†Kraft Mac & Cheese. ¬†I have the solution!!! ¬†And it doesn’t involve a huge, heavy box, or a half-assed DIY mix that’s good but not-quite-right. ¬†Are you ready?

Go to Costco, Sam’s Club, what have you, and buy a Massive Pack of Kraft Mac and Cheese. ¬†(My friend bought two 15-packs for us before we left the States.) ¬†Open all boxes. ¬†Remove cheese packets. ¬†Put packets in large ziplock bag. ¬†Tear instructions from one box. ¬†Put in ziplock bag with the cheese packets. ¬†Throw everything else away. ¬†Yes, including the pasta. ¬†Pack in suitcase. ¬†See how little room that takes up? ¬†Now, when you get a hankering, buy some pasta (I think the Blue Box has about 6.5-7 oz of pasta in them), butter, and milk (I use wine instead of milk, which I highly recommend), and make yo’self some Mac and Cheese! ¬†Now, I can’t take credit for this, this was totally my friend’s idea, but it works perfectly. ¬†I brought 30 packets of cheese over in my suitcase, and it barely took up any room. ¬†(We included a tear out of the box just in case there were any security questions about this weird orange powder…) ¬†Now, keep in mind, this will work just as well with your Shells and Cheese, if you prefer that.

You don’t have to be an ex-pat to miss (and not be able to get) certain foods. ¬†New Englanders living in Colorado probably miss good fresh clam chowder or lobster. ¬†Southerners living in Ohio probably miss sweet tea. ¬†Food is so intrinsic to who we are, our personal history, our sense of self, that we experience true nostalgia when we can’t get certain things.

So, what foods do you miss that you can’t get?

Categories: Food | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

24\7? Forget it!


One of the things I’ve had to get used to living in Finland is that grocery stores actually CLOSE.¬† 6pm on Saturdays. Closed on holidays. ¬†I can always tell when there’s a holiday the next day because there are 20 times as many people at the grocery store, and they’re buying…milk and bread. ¬†God, I wish I was kidding about that. ¬†But there you go – it happens in Finland, too. ¬†One time, I was behind a guy with nothing in his basket except 12 cartons of milk and 6 loaves of bread. ¬†Hand to God.

The store closing for a day shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but I’ve learned not to trust the meat here in Finland more than a day. ¬†I don’t buy meat until the day I’m going to use it, because if I buy it the day before, it tends to be…yucky. ¬†So I have to do extra planning when there’s a holiday, maybe make a casserole the night before so we can have leftovers, or plan on frozen pizza.

Last weekend was Easter Weekend, and here in Finland, both Good Friday and Easter Monday are holidays. ¬†Oh, and Easter Sunday, too, of course. ¬†So three days of grocery store closures over the course of a 4 day weekend. ¬†Luckily, we went out of town, so I didn’t have to do the Mass Pre-Holiday Grocery Trip. ¬†However, I ran into a bit of an issue. ¬†Stephen’s work sent out an email with the store hours, what would be closed, what would be open, and when. ¬†According to this email, the stores would be open from 12-6 on Monday. ¬†So, I figured we’d get home from our trip on Sunday evening, grab some take out, and I’d go grocery shopping on Monday. ¬†No biggie.

Except (you knew that was coming, right?). ¬†Except I drive to the grocery store and find it closed up tighter than…well, something closed up tightly.

There are a few gas stations that have a small grocery store inside, so I drove over to one of those (the one that was a little bit further away, because I knew it was bigger than the one closer to where I was). ¬†I walk in, and find…the grocery part closed. ¬†Oh, but there’s this other tiny little grocery on the other side of the gas station that’s open. ¬†It’s probably about 20 feet long by 10 feet wide. ¬†And there are about 25 people inside. ¬†What options do I have? ¬†None. ¬†So I go in and see if I can figure out something for dinner. ¬†Chicken. ¬†Tortillas. ¬†A quick mental inventory and I knew we still had some shredded cheese at home. Tacos it is.

So now I’ve got another issue, and that is, I won’t have the car again to go shopping until the weekend. ¬†There’s only so much I can carry home with me while walking, and that does not include milk, soda, big cereal boxes, or (the most important item, as we were running out) toilet paper. ¬†So this week ended up being one of those weeks where I visit the grocery store every day to get the stuff I would have otherwise gotten in one trip, and making Stephen stop on his way home to buy the bulky/heavy stuff.

Oh, I know, I need to quit my bitchin’. ¬†The truth is, I like that stores close here. ¬†I like that holidays are exactly that – holidays when no one has to work (except those in gas stations and kebab restaurants). ¬†I like that there’s not “May Day Mania” and “Epiphany Extravaganza” sales. ¬†It goes with the whole slower pace of life.

As long as I can plan for it… (whoever sent that¬†erroneous¬†information at Stephen’s work – I’ve got my evil eye on you.)

New in my zazzle store:  Took this great picture last week with my new zoom lens, on a morning when the trees were all frosty from the cold.  At the top of the picture is the Church of the Holy Cross in Old Town Rauma; colorful Finnish homes in the foreground.

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 4 Comments

Puhutko suomea?

Learning Finnish is hard. ¬†Anyone will tell you that. ¬†The teacher will tell you that. ¬†The Checkout Girl at the grocery store will tell you that. ¬†The nurse will tell you that. ¬†(All of those examples have told me that.) ¬†It is noted as one of the most difficult languages to learn. ¬†It is completely foreign for English speakers – which, I know, is a stupid statement to make, obviously it’s completely foreign, duh! ¬†What I mean by that is, there is no commonality to languages we’re more exposed to.

Many Americans know a spattering of Latin and Germanic language, including Spanish, French, Italian, and German. ¬†Even a little bit of Swedish, because it’s similar. ¬†Take, for example, sal (Spanish), salz¬†(German), sel¬†(French), sale (Italian),¬†salt¬†(Swedish). ¬†If you say the words aloud, and can narrow it down based on context (e.g., a list of ingredients), you could probably figure out that it means salt. ¬†The Finnish word for salt is suolaa.

Finnish grammar is particularly difficult, with what seems like hundreds of different verb endings depending on the tense, mood, active/passive, affirmative/negative… ¬†The verb puhua (to speak), in the first person, can be puhun (I speak), en puhu (I don’t speak), puhuin (I spoke), en puhunut (I didn’t speak), puhuisin (I would speak), en puhuisi (I would not speak)…and it goes on and on.

The Finnish textbook – all in Finnish

In the Summer, I took an introductory Finnish class. ¬†My first issue with the class (and, it seems, most classes) is that the book is entirely in Finnish. ¬†There is no translation, so in order to know what the book is saying, you have to look it all up. ¬†Which…I don’t know, it just ticks me off. ¬† I mean, what’s the point, if I don’t know what it’s saying? ¬†On top of that, the class was taught in Finnish. ¬†I know that’s the best way to learn, but if I can’t understand her when she says, “Do you understand?,” then there’s going to be a problem. ¬†Yes, she would speak English quite a bit, because we were all obviously so lost, but the idea was to teach it in Finnish.

For some reason, I latched onto the numbers. ¬†Man, I could recite my numbers 0-1000 without thinking about it. ¬†I was so proud of myself, so excited. ¬†I had learned something, and I got it. ¬†Then the teacher came in the next class and said, “So we learned the numbers, but that’s not how people actually say them. ¬†Let’s learn the spoken Finnish.”


And that’s another issue with Finnish. ¬†There’s Finnish, then there’s Spoken Finnish. ¬†And then there’s the fact that the town I live in has it’s own dialect that is completely different (there are several different Finnish dialects, I believe). ¬†Want an example?

  • English: ¬†Feel yourself at home. (I’m guessing this is kind of like make yourself at home?)
  • Finnish: ¬†Ole kuin kotonasi.
  • Spoken Finnish (Helsinki): ¬†Oo niinku kotonas.
  • Rauma dialect: ¬†Ol niingon gotonas.

Oh, shoot me now.

The one really good thing about Finnish is, the pronunciation is really easy. ¬†Every letter is pronounced (no silent letters!), and the accent is always at the beginning of the word. ¬†The only thing an English speaker needs to know in order to pronounce Finnish is that the a is like Ma and Pa, e is like hay, i is like weed, j is a y as in you, y is like the beginning of ew,¬†√§ is like hat, and¬†√∂ is…kind of like long o meets uh. ¬†Even the h is pronounced in cases like kahdeksan. ¬†In Finnish, like in German, words are put together to form compound words. ¬†Over time, you get to the point where you see the different words in the compound word, so you know how to pronounce it. ¬†Remember, the accent is always on the first¬†syllable, and that includes every word in the compound word. ¬†The word √§lykkyysosam√§√§r√§ is composed of three words: ¬†√§lykkyys, osa, and m√§√§r√§. ¬†So the word actually has three accents. ¬†Try pronouncing it! ¬†It really is easy, once you get the hang of it. ¬†(Want to know what it means? ¬†IQ.)

This fall, they were offering a morning Finnish class that was more about daily phrases, and it didn’t use the book. ¬†And it specifically said it was taught in English. ¬†So I signed up, along with several other people I know, hoping to get useful phrases like, “Can you help me?” and “Where is ____?” and “How much is it?” ¬†And I have gotten those phrases, but there are other issues in the class that are frustrating. ¬†Plus, once I ask those things in Finnish, how am I supposed to know what they say back to me?

I always said that if I moved to a foreign country, I would learn the language. ¬†I would not expect to be able to communicate if I didn’t. ¬†I would not expect the people of that country to speak English. ¬†But here’s the thing – most people in Finland do speak English. ¬†At least enough to ask “Can you help me?” and “Where is ____?” and “How much is it?” ¬†At least enough that I don’t worry too much about being in a crisis and not being able to communicate. ¬†I’ve met some Finns who speak better English than me! ¬†Learning Finnish is not a¬†necessity¬†to get around here. ¬†Yes, it would be wonderful to be able to read signs and understand the radio and read the newspaper, but to communicate, it’s really not needed.

Finnish is spoken by about 6 million people worldwide. ¬†I will be here in Finland for another year or two. ¬†I can’t help but wonder if learning Finnish should be something I spend my time on.

I have tons of time, I know. ¬†But even still, I could spend that time writing, or working on a different language I would get more use out of in the future, like French or Spanish. ¬†I could save myself the frustration of class – not a frustration with the language, but a frustration with the class. ¬†Walking out of class irritated with my brain fried isn’t all that fun. ¬†I should be enjoying new experiences, not hating them.

I know a guy who speaks English, French, and Spanish, learned Chinese in six months without a problem, but has given up on Finnish.  And I think I have, too.

I can say hello, and goodbye (it’s the same word, which is helpful!). ¬†Kiitos is Thank you (and Please). ¬†Anteeksi is Excuse me. ¬†But my favorite is Puhutko Englantia. ¬†It means, “Do you speak English?”

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , | 14 Comments

4 Finland Links (and 1 Italian Link)

There have been several news articles, blog posts, and mentions of Finland online lately, and I’ve wanted to share them. Why not share them all at once?!

The Independent, a British newspaper, recently published an article: AAA to Y* of Finland.¬†The subtitle is ‚ÄúFinland is now the last eurozone country to hold a triple-A credit rating. So, why are things so rosy in the Scandinavian state?‚ÄĚ The alphabetical list includes C for Coffee (although,¬†I’ve¬†heard the coffee here is pretty atrocious – I don‚Äôt drink coffee, so I can‚Äôt give you my opinion); G is for Games (Did you know Angry Birds came from Finland?); L is for Lakes (187,888 lakes, to be exact); and W is for Wife Carrying World Championships¬†(I seriously want Stephen to agree to hoist me over his shoulder and carry me in a race). And yes, the article is only to Y, because the letter Z does not exist in the Finnish alphabet.

Life in Finland reviewed the book ¬†A Year in South Karelia, a book written by and about a Canadian in Finland. I haven‚Äôt been here nearly as long as either Michael Child or the Life in Finland blogger, but I, too, can already relate to some of the things mentioned – the ‚Äúparking puck,‚ÄĚ the ‚ÄúFinnish ‚ÄėNon-smile,‚Äô‚ÄĚ and I absolutely must know more about the bathroom incident‚Ķ Dying to read the book, if anyone is looking for a future gift for me‚Ķ

This isn’t about Finland, but it ties in. According to Amusing Planet, the Village of Viganella in Italy is so deep in a valley, the mountains block the sun completely from November 11-February 2 each year. That’s no direct sunlight Рin other words, we get more direct sunlight here in Western Finland in December than this village in Italy! Of course, some engineers have designed this gigantic mirror that reflects the sunlight into the town square for 6 hours a day Рnot really possible in Finland…

Found this blog post from steverp, who reposted it from Trapped in Finland: How to be Happy in Finland. Number 1 – Don‚Äôt learn Finnish. I keep meaning to write a blog post about that‚Ķ I think the most important one, though, is Number 5 – Don‚Äôt surrender to negativity. ‚ÄúFinland is not tough for foreigners, it‚Äôs tough for everybody. Perhaps the effect of these problems is amplified for foreigners because they are away from home, their comfort zone, but I really don‚Äôt think these challenges are due to racism or xenophobia.‚ÄĚ Sure, he‚Äôs talking more about public institutions and systems, which I don‚Äôt really take much part of, but it‚Äôs still a good point to remember. Things are tough sometimes, but they seem tougher because we‚Äôre out of our element, our comfort zone. One of the things I always remind myself to do when I‚Äôm not happy with something, is to take it out of context. If something is odd to me, I ask myself, ‚ÄúYes, it‚Äôs odd, but removing any expectation, is it okay?‚ÄĚ Because it‚Äôs the expectation that‚Äôs the killer.

And finally, this is a rather old post, but I dig it. Float trips are awesome. I really need to find out when this is and attend next year. I give you: Keljakellunta, Beer Floating in Helsinki. Video below is probably NSFW:

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

No, I *don’t* understand the words coming out of your mouth

I’m glad I’m not picky. ¬†Living in Finland, not understanding the language, means that quite often, I simply pick something up without knowing what it is and figure, What’s the worst that could happen? ¬†Meals or drinks in cafes, what I hope is shelf paper in the grocery store…medicine at the pharmacy…

Luckily, pretty much all of the restaurants here have menus in English and English-speaking waitstaff. ¬†Some of the smaller cafes, on the other hand, don’t. ¬†The food is generally on display though – salads, sandwiches, quiches – so it’s often quite simple to just point and nod. ¬†I do it all the time. ¬†“What’s that?” my friend will ask me as I take a forkful. I usually just shrug my shoulders. ¬†“I don’t know – it looked good.” ¬†And, quite often, it is. ¬†I honestly can’t think of a time when I wanted to spit something out after tasting it. ¬†Food is food, and I¬†love¬†food – even if I don’t know what I’m eating!

I know, getting medicine without knowing what your getting – bad idea. ¬†Again, the pharmacists usually speak English decently enough to get what you need. ¬†Last time, I was looking for allergy medication. ¬†Unlike in the States, where I would read the labels and compare dosage and hours and prices, here I just grab whatever the pharmacist holds out to me. “Sure, that’ll work, what’s the worst that could happen? ¬†So, how do I take this? ¬† Twice a day? ¬†Cool.” ¬†I figure that’s the most important thing, right?

Today I had to get cough drops. ¬†I had already been told that the cough drops here were…not good. ¬†But I needed them. ¬†So I asked the pharmacist. ¬†She handed me a box and said, “Tablets.” ¬†I think she means it pills, and I try to clear it up. “I’m looking for something to suck on. ¬†Like…(wracking brain for simple terms) like candy.” ¬†She nodded. “Yes, that’s it.” ¬†Okie-dokie. ¬†I got home and looked at them:

Would *you* want to put these in your mouth?

Those look like *yummy* cough drops, don’t they? ¬†I shrug. ¬†What’s the worst that could happen?

I tried. ¬†I really did. ¬†I held that thing in my mouth for about 10 seconds, trying to convince myself it wasn’t that bad. ¬†But you know what? ¬†It was. ¬†It was that bad, and worse. ¬†So if anyone back home is putting together a care package…HALLS!!

I recently “liked” the Facebook page for the City of Rauma…which, of course, posts in Finnish. ¬†Lucky for me, Facebook has a nifty “See Translation” option. ¬†Unlucky for me, neither Bing Translate nor Google Translate work for shit on Finnish. ¬†Take, for example, this translation for something they posted yesterday:

Huomenna pääsee taas iltatorille!

Iltatorit ja sunnuntaikirppikset alkavat torstaina 28.6. ja jatkuvat 2.8. saakka tiistaisin ja torstaisin. Pitsiviikolla iltatorit järjestetään poikkeuksellisesti maanantaina, keskiviikkona ja torstaina.

Myyntiaika alkaa klo 16 ja päättyy klo 20, ohjelmaa torilla on joka kerta eri teemoin klo 17-19 välillä. Tarkemmat tiedot eri iltojen esiintyjistä:

Tomorrow is, on the other hand, in the evening the square!On Thursday, the markets will start in the evening and sunnuntaikirppikset 25.5. and continue for 2.8. on Tuesday and Thursday until. The week will be held on Monday evening, on an exceptional basis, a lace squares, on Wednesday and Thursday. 

Sales begin at 16 and ends at 20, the program must be made each time in different markets with different between 17 to 19: 00. For detailed information about the different iltojen of the artists: (Translated by Bing)


Yeah, that makes a ton of sense, right?

So, I know something is going on in the square this evening – actually, it looks like something will be going on every Tuesday and Thursday evening from now through August 2nd. ¬†And then there’s something about Monday and Wednesday, and lace is mentioned (Rauma has a big Lace Week festival in July), so I’m thinking during Lace Week, what is normally happening on Tuesday and Thursday will be happening on Monday and Wednesday. ¬†Okay. ¬†It starts at 4pm (16) and ends at 8, but then there’s something about something from 5-7pm, and I can’t figure out what.

Well, let’s go see what this is all about, shall we? ¬†I took a little stroll down to the square, and yes, there were vendors set up selling things. ¬†A few of the produce stands were still up, and there were a couple of “pre-made goods” such as jewelry and knit clothing. ¬†But most of the tables were flea-market type merchandise – mismatched china, random shot glasses, out-of-date clothing, old books.

There was also a stage set up, and a woman started singing about 5pm, so I guess the 5-7pm part is a performer of some sort.

So there you go. ¬†Oh – and there’s a little train going around town now, too. ¬†That was also on the Facebook page: ¬†Kake City can again be seen out and about in a newsletter sent to train to the streets! ¬†City train leaves the hour in front of the restaurant, and to bring to the attention of the passengers to the city of La Bamban attractions under the leadership of the Finnish version of the Guide. ¬†Mmmm-hmmm…what she said. ¬†(La Bamba is a restaurant in town.)

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

170 degrees in the shade

After four months, I’ve finally gone to a public sauna.

The sauna, and the boys on the side working on the grill.

Stephen and I and two friends went to a local sauna with some other Company people. ¬†I had no idea what to expect. ¬†We knew to wear swimsuits (although most saunas are nude, this one isn’t). I’ve read enough about saunas to know how they operate, and that in Finland it’s customary to go take a dip in the lake to cool down. ¬†I know I’ve been in saunas before at the gym, but this was a different experience. ¬†But more on the sauna later.

While the sauna was heating up, I got to talking to a few of the other people there, including a 14 year old French girl. ¬†She found out I spoke English and wanted to practice hers, and practice she did! ¬†She found out I was from America (was that not obvious?) and she got so excited – “I want to visit America so much. ¬†I want to be famous and go to America.” ¬†I asked her where in America she wanted to visit, expecting to hear New York, or LA, or maybe Texas.


…ummmmm… ¬†“Why Missouri?” I asked.

“I don’t know, we just learned about it in school and I want to visit there, there’s not a lot of people so there’s lots of room.”

Well, there you go.

“Plus I like the desserts.”

“The desserts?”

She wasn’t sure if she had the right word, so she asked her mom in French, then she said, “Yes, the desserts, I think that is the word.”

“Like, what you eat after dinner?”


Now I’m the one confused, and I’ve actually¬†been¬†to Missouri! ¬†“What kinds of desserts do they have?”

“Uuuummmmmm……I can’t think of them now,” she said, slightly embarrassed, I think, about not being able to come up with the English words she needed.

So, I’m still wondering – is Missouri famous for a dessert that I don’t know about?

Okay, onto the sauna part of the evening…

(Read about the Finnish Sauna and customs here)

At most saunas, from my understanding , you shower before you get in, and then you shower after you’re done, and sometimes you shower in the middle to cool down. ¬†The place we were at didn’t have showers, however.

When I entered the sauna, I was instructed to douse myself with water, “to get the sweating process going.” ¬† I got wet and then sat on a wooden bench, sweating, with six other people. ¬†Now, when you say you were sitting hip to hip with people on either side of you, and all of you are literally dripping sweat, it sounds a little odd, right? ¬†But it wasn’t so bad.

After a few minutes (maybe five? ¬†certainly not more than 10) we got up and stepped outside to cool off. ¬†It was, after all, about 80¬į in there. ¬†That’s Celsius, people. ¬†Before you go and convert it, I can tell you that’s about 175¬įF. ¬†It was…warm.

Now, a lot of saunas are set on the water Рin this case a lake Рwhich makes the cooling off process even easier.  Just go jump in!  I was a little hesitant, because I was actually fairly chilled simply stepping outside.  That was a bit of a surprise РI thought the heat from the sauna would make me a little more impervious to the cold than it did.  But, hey, when in Rome, right?  So off I went to the lake.

That water was¬†cold. ¬†About 14¬į (57F) I think someone said. ¬†Which, really, was about the same temperature as the air, but it certainly felt colder. ¬†I got about waist deep and simply couldn’t go any further. ¬†(“Armpits!” as my friend would say!) ¬†But after a few minutes, it didn’t feel so bad. ¬†I think that was more because I was numb, but hey…

Back into the sauna. ¬†Back out to the lake. ¬†I figured the second time would be easier – It wasn’t. ¬†One more turn, sauna, lake, then we called it a night.

Just to prove I did it!

Some thoughts on my first sauna:

  • At this point, I don’t really “get it.” ¬†I didn’t feel more relaxed, I didn’t feel cleaner, I didn’t feel as if impurities had been drawn (sweated) out of me. ¬†I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. ¬†It was just kind of¬†meh.
  • But, of course, I will try it again. ¬†Maybe going in with a better idea of what to expect will help me to enjoy it more.
  • Honestly, at this point, I far prefer going from hot tub to cold pool. ¬†I feel like you retain more of the heat from the hot tub in the cold pool, and it’s more refreshing. ¬†I wouldn’t say the cold lake after the sauna was refreshing, more that it was shocking. ¬†Of course, maybe that’s the point.

So, sauna lovers Рam I doing something wrong?  Did I have unrealistic expectations?  What should I do next time to ensure I enjoy it more?

Categories: Finland | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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