Life in the big smoke

Things I notice about Finland after living in the UK

1. The showers

I was staying in my brother’s lovely, but typical, Helsinki flat. The bathroom is small, the shower installed in a corner. At a glance you wouldn’t think there is anything special about it, unless you take the geeky LED shower-head that makes the whole thing slightly more disco-like into account. But let’s ignore the disco effect for now, because it doesn’t really mean much for this story. It doesn’t explain why I had to quickly leap out of the shower, swear a bit and then turn the temperature down to slightly below lukewarm. The water was just too hot. I’m clearly not used to good showers anymore. I caught myself thinking, “my god this shower is like hotel-awesome”. Then I realised all showers in Finland are like this and that I’ve moved to a country where it’s perfectly normal to spend around thirty minutes trying to get your hair wet and then the hot water runs out.

2. Crossing the street

In Finland people wait until the light turns green and then they cross the street. They do this even though they can see that the cars have a red light and have stopped. They don’t cross too early. They wait obediently for the green man. After almost five years in London this confuses me. “Look there are no cars” I want to say. “There is absolutely no reason to wait”. But something was holding me back from jaywalking in Helsinki. No one else was crossing the street dangerously.

3. The price of alcohol

So there I was at the airport on Sunday afternoon. Slightly jittery after a couple of intense days. And actually terrified because of all this talk of the big storm. I don’t like flying very much. The thought of flying into the early hours of the worst storm since 1987 didn’t exactly fill me with joy. I was starving and thought, maybe a glass of wine with my very late lunch will be exactly what I need.

By the time I got to the cafe I was ravenous, tried and nervous. I ordered. The woman behind the till asked me if I wanted a large glass of wine. I didn’t really think twice about this. These were exceptional times. I said yes and she said “thank you very much”. This confused me slightly. Why thank me? Then I saw the bill, 40 euros for a salad, a yoghurt, a bottle of water and a glass of wine. The wine was half of that bill. I drank it slowly, promising myself that if I survived the plane journey I would remember that alcohol is expensive in Finland and even more expensive in airports.

4. Rudeness

This is something I wouldn’t necessarily have picked up on before I moved to the UK where you apologise when someone else walks into you in the street. I like the fact that people are polite, apologise, open doors, say thank you and please and ask about how you are. Perhaps because I’ve grown used to it I now notice and become annoyed by rudeness.

The plane landed bumpily and we all survived. As we were waiting to exit the plane I noticed a young couple with a small baby. It took a while for the flow of people to start moving out of the plane. The family was a couple of rows ahead of me, trying to get out. The dad got out into the aisle first and the mum was waiting to follow, baby strapped onto her front. Then a young woman pushes past, cramming between them, without looking, caring or apologising. I don’t know about you, but in stressful situations like these people can really annoy you. This woman really annoyed me. I wanted to walk up to her and say – hey, did you notice that family you just forced yourself past, why didn’t you even apologise for separating them and invading their space. Perhaps because I was annoyed I noticed her as we made our way into the airport where she ran toward one of the toilets. I guess in some situations you’re not really aware of your surroundings, other things are more important (we’ve all been there).

A final note about the flight. We were strapped in with the seatbelt sign on for about 40 minutes before we landed. It was bumpy. The landing was a bit hairy. But at some point during those turbulent minutes I had a thought. Planes are amazing. They can cope with this storm. The pilots are coping with this storm. This is an amazing way to travel. Perhaps the best way to cure a fear of flying is to fly in really bad weather and realise it’s not actually that dangerous.

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