Thursday, May 29, 2008

These are a few of my favourite Finns...

I am the kind of person who takes an immediate liking to something, and also sometimes an immediate disliking. I have been wrong so, so many times in my first impressions that it doesn’t even embarrass me anymore. I have been advised, and I have goaded myself to fight this natural instinct to rate anything too quickly. I work on that, I think I am getting better… really slowly, really really slowly.

One thing that I was NOT wrong about in my first instinctive reaction was how I felt about the Finns. Not many people would agree to the epithet ‘cute’, but that is the first word that comes to my mind. People might find the Finns a little too straight, but for me it validates my own natural tendency and like here begets like. I liked them when I first walked into this country (actually, I must pat myself on the back. I had no opinion of the Finns when I first visited… I actually formed the opinion on my real arrival to Finland which happened to be the 2nd trip. It might not count because I probably made up my mind on the first weekend but trying to use positive reinforcement here so please let’s just go along).

Here are some things that I see around and find adorable….

Escalators are for kissing… Finns are not big on public display of affection (atleast when sober). But there is something exceptional about escalators, especially those from a subway platform. It’s on those that they feel this strong urge to kiss their partners…. Just something I see :)

How they say ‘plus’ before saying the temperature as if it is such a rarity :). Like my favourite one, it’s plus 40 in Delhi in summer. Well it could not have been minus 40 right? I am so used to the minus being out of the ordinary that I would say it’s 10 degrees, not plus 10… In my head it is the Finnish twist to the metric system. The default is that temperature will be below freezing, so if it is ‘plus’ it deserves a super special mention. It’s like we Indians saying, it was MINUS 2 at night in Chandigarh… Perspectives, perspectives…

Summer holiday (not an exclusive Finnish concept, but I saw it here first)…. The legitimacy, the expectation, the build up, the universal applicability… not restricted to children or those not ‘serious’ about their careers… it is such a cute question ‘What will you do on your summer holiday’...

The amazing paradoxical combination of humility and nationalism... They care enough about protecting their language & making everything available in it to translate almost any foreign language book in it. They hold concepts like sauna, summer holiday, Lapland in almost religious reverence. But yet are so humble & self deprecating about their country. ‘Ofcourse must be tough to come here after living in India’, ‘ofcourse no one wants to holiday in Finland’… how beautiful is the mix and how seamless…

Baby hair… Even grown up Finns have baby hair, soft and downy… I love it….

How fast they walk… ok I admit it, all the Finnish grannies taking a leisurely stroll walk faster than me going to work….I was initially a bit surprised, even tried to be competitive. No, every single person walking a kilometer behind me will NOT overtake me in the next 5 minutes… I tried, really did…But eventually, I gave up… they walk fast… period…

Talk Finnish to everyone at first… yes I thought it a bit strange at first. Shop assistants, bus drivers etc all talk to you in Finnish even when you are so obviously not a Finn… puzzled me to begin with, is this their way of saying that you should learn Finnish if you live in this country? But no, I realized eventually, it’s not that at all. When they see you, the colour of your skin and hair and eyes doesn’t strike them, they don’t judge or classify you. They just talk in the way most natural to them, they just talk in the language they know best. They talking Finnish to me is not their way of saying ‘hey keep up or get out’… it just tells me they feel natural and comfortable around me and don’t pigeonhole me anywhere…

Does it make you want to know them?

3 comments:

Artemis Fowl III said...

its a unique thing that i am seeing the culture of another nation through your eyes, a pair of eyes that looks at things like i do... its pretty nice... i cannot think of people based on classifications... its good to know that somewhere in the world there are people in the world who share the same blissful inability...

i can tell you why i find this a good experience. whenever you meet people from a different culture/background, your first impressions are bound to be mostly inacurrate... it is because our premises are based on our culture, not theirs... but in this case, i can form a separate set of premises to form first impression and compare them with my benchmarks...

so from the vicarious experiences i have had from you, i feel that finland is a place where people live as they are supposed to live in an evolved society... it a society where basic needs of each individual are taken care of... unlike here in india where basic needs take up our time-effort-mindspace, which obviously has socio-economic repurcussions...

i am a kind of guy who will say sorry to a waiter if i have tripped him by mistake... i expect such a thing to be appreciated in finland and not in india... this is what somehow creates a disconnect between me and indian society... my mind is not hierarchical, but indian society is... finland is not... on the other hand, i connect to the indian mentality of fighting for everything... given strict competition in finland or anywhere, i would survive because i grew up in india...

it is said that when in rome, live like the romans do... but sometimes i feel that you need to find a rome where you can live the way you it is natural to you... so i can understand why you love those finns!

nisha said...

nice! left me smiling..esp the summer holiday bit :)

Twilight Fairy said...

I just love Finland. Have been there myself!

http://finntimes.blogspot.com