Finnische Flagge im Wind

Exchange with Santa

NB! Dieser Artikel wurde von Jacek Stec  – polnischer Austauschstudent in Vaasa – als Gastautor geschrieben und mit seiner Genehmigung veröffentlicht.

”In Finland – there are only: snow, frost, darkness, forests, cold “Lappi” girls, reindeers and lakes. And you are going there for five long autumn and winter months…? And what is this Vaasa?” This was a reaction of one friend of mine, when I announced to him that I am leaving for Vaasa – Finland – for an Erasmus Scholarship. 

Frankly speaking, I did not knew much more about Finland and, I have to admit, nothing about Vaasa. It was only by chance that I ended down here for my Erasmus period, the only things that came to my mind when I heard this name were: Polish King Zygmunt (Sigismund) III Waza (for some time also king of Sweden – and Finland too) and soup (waza – in Polish means the piece of pottery one use to serve it). So it is obvious that such comment of my friend made me a little afraid of my trip. That feeling was even deepened when I learned that in Vaasa there live only c. 57,000 inhabitants – a similar amount to my home city (and also University I am studying at). So I was almost sure that it is going to be the most unattractive and dullest period of my life. Nevertheless, as it was to appear later, the reality was “a little bit” different.

It was a very hot August day when I arrived in Vaasa, and I was really afraid whether I had arrived in the proper place because I was expecting – if not a snow – so at least quite lower temperature. And then it did started, my experience of Finland, the Finns, being an exchange student and at last but not least, studying at University of Vaasa.

Finland… is sometimes very cold and dark….

I did not knew much about the country of my destination, little about its history; that it is as big as Poland, there are only c. 5 m. inhabitants, Santa Claus lives in Lapland (there I learned that he is very commercial and has artificial beard – I do not believe in him anymore), I knew about Helsinki, Tampere, Turku, Rovaniemi, Lahti & Kuopio (due to World Cup in Ski Jumps) and … since a short time also about Vaasa, and not much more… 

During my stay here I learned that there is something more than that. I spent here a very nice and hot August, while I was learning Finnish, spending a great time with nice people, both Finns and exchange students, and travelling a lot all around the country. And I found it extremely pleasant to go on forest trips, sauna evenings (there could be a long story told about sauna experiences) and swimming in the sea afterwards. 

From this travels (I have been in many places – from Muonio – on far north – to Helsinki- on the south) I can draw some conclusions. Finnish nature is unique and breathtaking, one really can not get fed up with admiring these beautiful lakes, picturesque landscapes and lack of human beings around. And also if it happened to you to see “revontulet” (northern lights) you will remember it for a long time. The second conclusion is about Finnish cities – you can be both captivated by their charm and tiny size (as Vaasa). On the other hand you can feel a bit disappointed if you expect Helsinki to be a huge metropolis – I found it strange to do the whole and complete sightseeing in one or two days. 

However during my stay here I saw the second face of Finnish nature and climate. We had quite a rainy and chilly autumn which could make everyone a bit depressed and very early, already on the 4th October, winter announced itself with the first snow. 

It will sound unbelievable, but now (November) it is better. There is permanent snow on the ground, no mud, a bit chilly but no wind, and a bit brighter in night due to the snow reflection. Everything is covered by snow, which gives a extraordinary and magical impression.

Nevertheless, the weather and darkness can be depressive nowadays here, and it is getting colder and colder every day, but it is said to be the worst time in February, so those of you who are going to spend here a winter bring your warm clothes.

Finnish people…

… are too sophisticated beings to be described in few words… shy, quiet or reserved. A good example is my Finnish flatmate. We introduced ourselves to each other, and had a small talk when we met the first time. And when I met him next time and had another small talk, I realized the essence of Finnish character – it was two weeks after our first meeting. But now he is surprising me again, we have quite interesting conversations, and he shows no sign of boredom nor the will to end at all. I think that Finns need a time to get closer and to know you, and will not become informal until they find a proper moment (even if it takes a long time). They respect the other’s privacy and want you to respect theirs.

And they take care of the thing they have, so the effect is that they drive quite old-fashioned cars and bikes, they say they do not need to buy a new one if the old is still working, which attitude cannot be seen as common in other countries, I think.

And one very important thing, especially for boys, the girls are really beautiful here and comparing to average, are less shy… I love Finland for that. And the Finns like weekends, sauna and “olut” (beer) very much.

Finnish language… original… weird… strange

In my Finnish manual I could read the sentence – “Finnish language is not difficult, it is different” – only a Finn could have said that. I had a different opinion at the beginning of my adventure with this language, especially trying to pronounce e.g. käyttöliittymäratkaisuissa (I have not slightest idea what it means, even a Finn had troubles with translating it into English, but it sounds nice, doesn’t it). And one more thing was about to discourage me from learning Finnish – that “Finnish has no Future” – until I realized it dealt with the grammatical Future Tense. But now after a couple of hours of courses, many chats with Finnish people and getting to know more of Finnish, I have to say that it is very nice, original and quite logically built “tool of communication”. However it is not a piece of cake, and also some phrases like “Minä rakastan sinua” (“I love you”) – sounds rather like declaration of war to foreigners than affectionate declaration of love.

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