Please come to Finland with me and share my experiences…here are some photos from the plane to start with.
I’ve now been in Finland for a week and am enjoying being here. I look at the scenery around me (lots of lakes and pine trees) and tell myself that I’m in Finland many times to make sure I appreciate every minute. I have taken myself for a few bike rides and appreciated the cycle routes and wonderful nature I see.
For those who don’t know, I am here for part of my nursing studies on exchange with Lapland University of Applied sciences in Rovaniemi. I arrived at Tampere airport on August 8th, three weeks before term to immerse myself in the culture and language and hopefully learn a bit of Finnish before I get into the hospital (though I’m told it’s a very difficult language to the English to learn, and now I’m here I can see why! Very different pronunciation with the same alphabet, differences between written and spoken Finnish and the language structure is quite different), and have a holiday. I am staying with a Finnish family who have three small kids, Noel 5 and a half, Naomi 4 and Nerissa one and a half. Their parents are Laura and Miika. I know them through a mutual friend I met during my gap year, who put us in contact as a potential place to stay before I went to University up north. They are wonderful and have taken me into their family, inviting me to everything they do, family and social events. Fortunately for me they speak good English, pretty much fluent. So although we speak in English all the time, I can learn a lot from them asking to translate words and discussing how Finnish works as a language. Here are a few pictures…
The first day I was there (I arrived about 10pm friday night (8pm uk time)) we went to the Mall in the morning to get a Finnish phone and a few other pieces I needed (my shower gel had somehow opened during transit so I lost most of it, but fortunately it was contained in my wash bag!). Late afternoon we travelled about an hour or so to Miika’s family reunion at a church retreat house on the lake. I met his parents who had been missionaries in Ethiopia, some of his cousins and aunts and uncles. They were all friendly and talked to me in English if they could. I did end up being the photographer for their family photo, so was ladened with Canons, phones, ipads and everything else that can take a photo! They were very grateful, and I felt part of the event, if only for a few minutes :). It was a beautiful place, with Sauna, small jetty onto the lake and a small rowing boat which we took out for a short trip. Unlike the UK, Saunas are very normal in Finland (they are Finnish after all) and every family and public swimming area has one, or access to one. Separate male and female though as they don’t wear anything, I have yet to go so far!
Church on Sunday was in the afternoon at 4pm. It was Lutherin but somewhat relaxed, with a bit of formality doing communion, but modern worship and a few songs in English. Laura was kind enough to translate the sermon for me, pretty much word for word. The people were friendly, but shy, though I did take the opportunity to speak to Laura’s mum who was a missionary in Indonesia. She spoke fluent English so I wanted to hear all about it!
Many people who say hi (not a lot because Finnish people are quite shy) always do so in Finnish, I smile at them and then say “Hello!”, which is followed by a laugh and a smile from them, and repetition of what they’ve just said into English. I don’t like not being able to converse even at the most simple level, but hopefully at some stage I will be able to hold a basic conversation.
My weekdays are spent at home trying to learn Finnish from a course book I bought in Tampere and listening to the accompanying audio. I’ve managed to learn the alphabet with Finnish pronunciation, numbers, and some basic words. I am gradually being able to pick up familiar sounds or words when listening to conversation, but written and spoken Finnish is different- spoken shortens words- so when I learn/read from the course book it’s different to hearing conversation, increasing the challenge.
The family goes out between 7/8am and come home around 4pm, which is good for me as I have a good part of the day in quiet and then by the time I need company again they are around. The kids do seem to cry a lot though, mostly when they don’t get their way, and Noel has loads of energy and seems to shout most things, so it’s quite noisy, but I enjoy them being around.
I managed to meet up with my friend Laura (yes same name as host mum) whom I met during my gap year. It was great to see her after two years and catch up again. I visited her place in Tampere, getting a lift in with Laura when she went to work, and then we went into the centre, where I bought the course book and other bits. The town is quite European looking, with an open square, all cobbled. There is a council building and theatre, independent shops and then larger shopping centres off side streets. I will take some pictures next time I’m there are post them.
A few more pics to save you reading more…
I hope this has given you a flavour of my first week in Finland. Of course there’s much more I can write, but I hope the pictures say more, and I don’t have to write as much!