During the last couple of weeks I travelled a bit around Europe to speak at the ECM conference in Belfast, a quick visit in London, attend the ITB summit and fair in Berlin and finish off with a final stopover in Hamburg.
During those trips I met many people and replied to the same questions a million times. Here goes a quick summary of things.
Why did you come to Finland? And how did you get stuck there?
Well, that’s pretty simple. In January 2005 I visited Helsinki and Kuusamo with my parents and immediately had a feeling that told me to come back and live here someday. So I chose my home university in Germany because I knew I could come to Helsinki for exchange (a comparable programme wasn’t available in Finland at the time) – and so I did. In May 2010 I came to Helsinki and have not left since. Instead of returning to Germany for one semester I fought a dauntless battle with bureaucracy and managed to complete my studies in Helsinki. That’s why I initially chose Finland?
What do you like about it so much?
Helsinki is a beautiful city, I love the proximity to nature without the loss of a capital city feeling to it. Walking by the seaside or around my “backyard” Töölönlahti gives me total peace of mind.
It’s small and compact, so it’s easy to get around. I like that it doesn’t take me forever to get from one end of the city to another. Life here is comfortable and easygoing.
Isn’t it really cold all the time?
The weather is a thing here I really like. The climate is better for my brain, hair, skin and mood. I don’t take heat and humidity very well, so my general physical well-being has improved a lot – to start with. I don’t mind the cold, usually it’s paired with a lot of snow and often bright blue sky and sunshine. Only the long wait for springtime can be a bit harsh, by the beginning of May it’s still not green!
What are the people like?
It is being said that Finns are a very quiet and reserved nation, and to a certain extent that is true. You will rarely be randomly talked to. That is a quality I highly value, as I’m not a big fan of smalltalk and answering generic questions with the same staged enthusiasm (hence this post). But if people talk to you, they are genuinely interested and topics quickly go beyond the usual. They are honest and straight forward, often have a great dry humour.
It’s expensive, right?
Yes. Well, you always gotta put things in perspective. Of course, alcohol in particular and general cost of living is high, but you a) get used to it quickly, b) it mostly relates to salaries around here and c) the high standard of living (infrastructure, social benefits) pays it back to you. So yes, it’s not cheap, but nobody really whines about it.
Rent is high if you compare it to Berlin, but it’s low when you compare it to London. So, make of that what you want. Public transport is cheap when you compare it to both aforementioned cities. Perspective, people, perspective!