Culture shocks for Finns

Half a year has passed since the start of the studies in Jyväskylä University. I had quite a change since I moved to Joensuu to live with my boyfriend while studying in Jyväskylä and now I am travelling back and forth between these two cities. After living in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, it has been quite a change to settle myself into living in smaller cities (well I know that in the World’s scale Helsinki is not on the top, but still in Finnish standard it is ranged a Big City). I have realized that even as a Finnish person it is possible to experience some culture shocks. Naturally this culture shock is not in word by word definition as I am native speaker and I am adopted to the culture, but still there are some things that keep me wondering how come there are such differences in Finland.

Jyväskylä during the fall

I had assumed that in Eastern and Middle Finland people are really talkative (again in Finnish standards) and they will start a conversation easier compared to people living in Helsinki. First morning this already proved to be wrong when I tried to greet my neighbor in the stairway. He just mumbled something back. I wonder why people don’t tend to greet here. On the other hand, once you start talking to someone, they are extremely warm and hearty. I was never told “welcome to Helsinki” when I told people that I moved there. Here I have been told “welcome” so many times and even the major of Joensuu send us a letter to welcome us in Joensuu!

Joensuu when the first snow fell


Joensuu in October

Another polite manner is people greeting the bus driver everywhere outside Helsinki-region. They also thank the driver as they step out of the bus. I have no idea why this politeness has not spread to Helsinki as well. I believe that this small manner makes the bus trip more pleasant both for the driver as well as to travelers.

Biking is common in these two cities. I thought that I was biking a lot when I lived in Helsinki since it mostly was the quickest mean to move around, but it proved to be wrong. People in Joensuu and Jyväskylä bike everywhere. Mostly I think it is due to the circumstances – the public transportation is not very good if one wants move around the cities. It was a great surpriseto see so many people biking all year round. And especially in Jyväskylä where the hills are so steep! A year ago I would not have believed that I would be one of those bikers since I used to hate winter biking because it is slippery and cold, but now even I bought winter tires for my bike for the first time after getting tips from the local people in Joensuu. Now I enjoy the winter biking for the first time and it is fun!

Overall I have truly enjoyed living in ‘country side’. I think it has widened my perspective about Finland and Finnish people. I learned that one can survive without ten different coffee shops, I even think that it might be better just to have one since then you are sure that you will find allyour friends there. But on the contrary there are some negative sides. In Finland the mentality of people in Eastern Finland is said to be quite negative and pessimistic. It is argued that people tend to always think the worst. I think I have also partly felt that atmosphere, too. The frequent cut downs are hitting Joensuu quite hard. Probably the biggest lost was the Finnish government decision to cut down the support for railway traffic from Joensuu to everywhere else except to the direction of Helsinki. When you look from the Helsinki perspective, it seems that if there are not enough of travelers so you just cut it down. Nobody cares about these railway lines. But actually it matters quite a lot for a city like Joensuu. It feels like they are trying to trap us inside the city and the only direction would be either move out or stay in and don’t travel. I feel bad thinking what kind of trouble it will do for the city. I truly hope that somehow the connections from Joensuu will be solved and who know maybe the efficient bus lines will be better after all? At least I try to keep up the spirit.

All in all it is worthwhile to see Finland from other perspectives. And at least we have a white Christmas. That’s what we wish for the southern Finland too. We will see. Merry Christmas to everyone and happy holidays! We all deserve them. Let’s get back to business on January then.



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