A North American 20-Something’s Ethnocentric Travel Guide to Finland

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They say that your twenties are your selfish years – the time where it’s okay not to feel guilty about the things we eat, do or say, because we have the effective excuse of claiming that we are in the process of growing and finding ourselves. This means that anything is possible, like sexual experimentation, surviving on Ramen and quitting our jobs to travel the world.

Although North Americans are pretty basic when it comes to travel and tend to stick to the regular spots of Mexico, Dominican Republic, or other parts of N.A, when we do choose to hop across the pond to skip throughout Europe, we tend to do so with a ethnocentric mentality. We view everything through our Americanized goggles, because North Americans are set on doing things the North American way. We believe that if things work for us, they should work for everyone and differences don’t add up as we stare at our new surroundings through Instagram filters.

But if you’re one of those brave enough to cross rare and unconventional tourist spots off your list, you might want to try the Nordic countries, known for their socially progressive cultures, the Northern Lights, folk music and Santa Claus. But be warned, they may induce culture shock to the regular ethnocentric mind.

So to aid caution, here is A North American 20-Something’s Travel Guide To Finland For The Ethnocentric:

  • “Moi” means hello and “Kiitos” means thank you. Those are basically the only words you need to know. Everything else sounds like a glitchy Morse code in verbal form. And everyone is named either Jarkko or Oskari, so calling a blonde haired, blue-eyed stranger either one of those off the jump is probably not a long shot.

  • People only seem to speak English when they’re drunk. Which is a lot, because no one turns up more than the Fins. And the turn up is more than the soft North American partying, involving a few frat parties, Hennypalooza or a Molly-induced after hours. Alcoholism is a huge issue that impacts the majority of the country. It’s a culture. The drinking age is 18, beer is sold in convenient stores, police don’t seem to care if you drink in public and almost every day, night and event is an excuse to binge drink to the point of blacking out completely and passing out somewhere. Anywhere. In the summertime, parks and festival grounds are scattered with groups of people from teens to seniors, pounding back bottle after bottle and scattering them throughout the gorgeous parks surrounded by gorgeous architecture. And the cold months pack rowdy Fins into bars and clubs where the intoxicated citizens dance painfully offbeat, until their legs give out. But despite making horrible decisions (which is an almost guarantee as no one seems to be aware of their limits,) no one holds it against each other. Because they understand. They’ve all been there. Nudity, puking in the street, peeing on themselves. Everything’s blessed. But all is fun and games until you die. That’s right, drinking is the leading cause of death in Finnish men…And yes, in case you were wondering, they drink more than Finlandia vodka. You’ve never partied hard unless you’ve partied with a Fin.

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  • The capital of Finland is Helsinki. People from Helsinki love Helsinki and are convinced it is the best city in the world. Do not challenge their belief on this.
  • Don’t expect your favourite cuisines. People here love to eat the most basic of foods – like French fries with chopped up bits of hotdog as if the salty bland pile is some sort of delicacy. And also a lot of kabob. Endless kabob. There’s literally a kabob spot on every street. They also chow down on a lot of sausages, but they don’t use a bun. They just walk around eating large sausages in their grip, causing you to whisper “pause” quietly to yourself. And if you order a pepperoni pizza delivery, expect a flat, cardboard mess with weird things like tuna and peppers on it. Basically, they’re food just sucks. :(

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  • The sun never officially sets in the summertime. It’s relatively light all night long until it’s full on daylight again by 4a.m. This makes the process of all-night partying a very easy task. And with a eventful summer stacked with outdoor culture, art and music festivals, there’s always something to do and you may find yourself up for three days on a boat with in the middle of the Gulf of Finland singing classic rock tunes with drunken middle aged European men. Because those things just happen.
  • But the winter months are dark, cold, wet and grey. Very depressing. So much so that the whole country is basically on suicide watch. There are approximately 24.6 suicides per 100,000 population per year in Finland, which is actually a lot, considering the entire countries population is around 5.4 million.  Mental illness is a serious issue impacting all Nordic countries, but Finland has the greater suicide rate of them all – a fact that any Fins will openly admit with an odd sort of actuality and contentment.
  • Drugs aren’t so common and are of considerably low worth when found. North American’s looking for quality herb probably won’t find anything up to their standards and the purchase of backwoods is a separate mission on its own. The Finnish people are a country of drinkers. No need for too much else.
  • Females think it’s okay to dress like this
  • The majority of Fins have naturally platinum blonde with blue eyes. A society of walking, talking Barbie and Kens. There is literally a white woman with blonde hair and blue eyes on the cover of every magazine and newspaper every day.
  • Finland’s most famous artist is a rapper named Cheek, who sells out stadiums, makes teenage girls and moms all over the country high-pitch scream, who raps in Finnish and is basically the country’s version of Drake:

  • In fact, the majority of the artists on the radio are all Finnish singing artists. The country is very nationalistic and are proud of their homegrown talent. They headline their own festivals, sell the most records and rule their own charts.
  • You’ll have the opportunity to save some pocket change, because there are no taxes on anything you buy. And when splurging on meals in various restaurants throughout the country, there’s no need to tip your waitresses. They don’t expect your 10%.
  • Saunas are more than just a warm way to relax after a cold evening – they are a religious experience and deep rooted in Finnish culture. There’s nothing Finnish people like more than getting naked with their friends in a hot steamy room. Unless of course, that’s getting naked with their friends in a hot steamy room with alcohol.

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  • Prepare yourself for racism. And I’m not just talking white girls that drop an n-bomb or two while rapping along to their favourite DMX tracks when they’re dying each other’s hair on their Friday night slumber parties. I’m talking full on skin heads rocking confederate flag t-shirts like it’s their business.
  • Condoms are super cheap. I’m talking 2 euros for a box. Unfortunately, they don’t have trusty Trojans or Magnums. I will not comment on why that is…
  • You’ll probably end up extremely jealous of the 20-somethings your age who are not drowning in debt and don’t have to pay rent. That’s because post-secondary is free (aka. No student loans), and they’re given free apartment throughout their studies (aka. No rent). Kind of makes you wonder why they would have any reason to off themselves doesn’t it?
  • Rent a bike, because Finland is a bike country. There are more low riders on the road then cars and there’s no greater way than getting from  tourist sites to smoky pubs than by riding over the cobblestone on your two-wheeler. There are literally bike parking lots and you probably won’t ever have to worry about a bike lock, because people in Finland don’t seem to worry too much about theft. They’re a pretty trusting group of people. Bikes will save you from the overpriced taxis as well. Yes, the majority of the cabs are Mercedes Benz’s, but the fair is just as luxury. For most cab companies, the meter starts running at 9.50 euros, which equals to almost $14 Canadian.

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  • 99% of the country is made up for forested land and the architecture is deep-rooted in Viking history. It’s quite stunning.
  • If you don’t smoke cigarettes, bring a mask/scarf/fan when walking the city centre streets, as the area is usually involved into a toxic cloud of second-hand smoke. Everyone and their twelve year old child smokes cigarettes.
  • Fins have a lot of self pride. Anyone who isn’t a Fin is labelled as foreign, but that’s okay. Because it’s their country and they can live like they want to.

 

Kiitos for the stay, Finland.

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