Cold (Freezer-like Winters)
When I think of Finland, the first image that comes to mind is its freezing cold weather. Having spent my entire life in a climate where the most frigid temperatures I’ve encountered were around 23 degrees Celsius, the Finnish cold hit me like a blast from a freezer. The prolonged and freezing days were an adjustment that required a lot of patience. Adapting to the icy winds and snow-covered landscapes took time, but I gradually came to appreciate the beauty and serenity of winter in Finland.
In my journey of embracing Finnishness, one of the most intriguing cultural differences I encountered revolved around punctuality and time. In Finland, being on time is a way of showing respect and consideration for others. This was quite a departure from what I was used to back home in Nigeria, where the concept of “African time” often reigned supreme.
Back in Nigeria, being fashionably late was almost a cultural norm. Events rarely started on time, and there was a relaxed approach to schedules. If an event was set to begin at 4:00 PM, it was more likely to start around 5:00 PM or even later. This gave attendees ample time to prepare, socialize, and make their grand entrance. The notion of being fashionably late wasn’t just about time; it was about making a statement and leaving a lasting impression.
However, upon arriving in Finland, I quickly realized that punctuality was a matter of great importance. Appointments, meetings, and even casual get-togethers adhered strictly to the designated times. Initially, this was a source of frustration for me. I had to adjust my mindset and reconfigure my internal clock to synchronize with the Finnish pace of life.
In time, I came to understand the reasoning behind this punctuality-driven culture. It wasn’t just about adhering to schedules; it was a display of respect for each other’s time and a commitment to efficiency. My perspective shifted from seeing punctuality as a rigid constraint to viewing it as a way to create a harmonious and well-organized society.
While adapting to this new perspective, I couldn’t help but reflect on the contrast between Finnish punctuality and the Nigerian “African time” mentality. In both cases, the approach to time reflected the cultural values and priorities of the respective societies. In Finland, punctuality embodies the idea that time is valuable, and by honoring commitments, you contribute to the smooth functioning of the collective. On the other hand, the more relaxed attitude towards time in Nigeria reflects a focus on human connection, flexibility, and embracing the unexpected.
Safety in Finland is a treasure that extends beyond just material protection. Unlike some places I’ve been around the world, where harassment and insecurity are persistent worries, Finland offered me a sense of serenity. As a woman, being able to move around freely without fearing harassment or danger is a remarkable privilege. This newfound freedom was something I learned to cherish and value immensely during my time in this Finland.
In a world that’s increasingly interconnected, stepping into Finland felt like entering a parallel universe where the rules of social engagement had been rewritten. As an international student from Nigeria, a culture deeply rooted in community and collective identity, the solitude and emphasis on individuality in Finland were bewildering to me.
Living in Finland has been a big change for me. In my home country, people are close-knit and community-focused. But here, it’s different. People value their personal space and time alone. It is hard. It is easy to feel alone and slip into depression because it seemed like everyone was keeping to themselves. Even though there are many people around, it’s like there’s a wall between us. This feeling does not go away and it can be a tough journey. Adapting to this new way of life has shown me that learning about a new culture isn’t always easy or comfortable.
As someone accustomed to the hustle and bustle of a city with over 10 million residents, Finland’s appreciation for nature was a revelation. The breathtaking landscapes, serene lakes, and lush forests that stretch as far as the eye can see have instilled in me a newfound appreciation for the beauty and tranquility of the natural world. It is quite fascinating on how going to the forest is a culture here and how relaxing this mundane activity can be.
Finnish society’s dedication to sustainability is a beacon that shines brightly in our world today. From reducing paper usage to a comprehensive recycling system and excellent public transportation, Finland has inspired me to reconsider my own ecological footprint. The availability of well-connected public transport systems has also led me to rethink the necessity of owning a car, contributing to a greener lifestyle.
My journey as an international student in Finland has been a rollercoaster of cultural immersion, adaptation, and growth. From the strict adherence to punctuality to the serene embrace of nature, the Finnish way of life has forever changed my perspective. While the challenges were many, the rewards of embracing a new culture, fostering personal growth, and gaining a deeper appreciation for the world around me have made every step of this journey worthwhile. As I continue to navigate the nuances of Finnishness, I’m reminded that every experience, no matter how different, has the potential to enrich our lives in unimaginable ways.