06. maaliskuuta 2009

We`re a rowdy bunch, international students. Loud, malcontent, perpetually critical. Judging by the amount of (otherwise legitimate) grievances we are constantly bringing to the fore, one would think our relationship with the adoptive country is quite acrimonious.
    That could not be further from the truth. Most of us decided to stay because we like it here. That may not always be self evident, as we are not the type to sit around and sing odes to the motherland, but the reason why we try to improve things is not that we believe they are terrible, but because they could be better.
    I decided to conduct an in-no-way-representative poll over lunch and came up with a shortlist of the little quirks and details that make us love Finland and call this quite unlikely destination home.

1. Summer nights, or lack thereof. In the winter this place looks like Mordor. Or Bolvangar. Or wherever lord Voldemort spends his holidays. But in the summer, on a clear day, Helsinki may just possibly be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Especially the nights. A darkless, white night has an indescribable quality to it.
2. Cake! Runebergin torttu, laskiaispulla and pancakes on Thursdays. Some may call it an excuse for a sugar rush, but I firmly believe the Finns have the right idea. When celebrating, fireworks are only so enjoyable. Even if we`re just celebrating Thursdays.
3. Saunas. How cliche. And yet, once you`ve been in a Finnish sauna you will forever scoff at those failed, lukewarm attempts people call saunas abroad.
4. No nonsense. Finland does not seem to do opulent and snobbish. Strindberg, I understand, is meant to be a posh cafe. It is self-service. I rest my case.
5. Salmiakki. Never before has one nation so passionately loved something that tastes so similar to battery acid and called it candy. We use it as a Fenno-metre. Once you`ve started popping salmiakki, you`re a goner. You`re turning Finnish. It is also exceptionally suitable for playing practical jokes on unsuspecting friends from abroad.
6. The word sähköpostiosoite. Because it exists. Because you could have just called it e-mail, but you didn`t. You chose to say sähköpostiosoite.
7. The welfare state. Any society that displays this much respect for human dignity and believes nobody should ever have to be hungry, sick or live on the streets deserves two thumbs up.
8. Nokia. Because they used to make rubber boots and now make the most durable, high-tech, stylish mobile phones on the planet. It is a personal ambition of mine to one day own a pair of Nokia rubber boots, if they ever made them in size 34.
9. Frozen seas. To this day, my brain refuses to register the idea that the sea can freeze over and be safe to walk on. I have been here for three years, I would still not dare to walk on the frozen sea. Where I come from, gigantic, salty bodies of water are not meant to turn into ice.
10. Finlandia, the song. While it may seem like I am scraping the barrel, I genuinely believe it is a very touching song.

Irina Subulica

The writer is a Romanian degree student.