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Other long forgotten differences of life here, and there

January 17, 2013

I am known to walk around with a notebook and a pen close by at all times. I have learned that when I have a good idea, I must write it down or risk losing it forever. This also includes recording those subtle differences I have noticed between here and where I come from.

Right-handed players are rare! I was (am) one! Do you play hockey, ringette, racquet sport, golf or baseball? I throw, shoot, golf and bat right-handed and so do a lot of people I know, but not in Finland! The Mr. is right-handed – but he shoots left in hockey. He golfs right, but it took him a very long time to figure out which hand he really was, because he could swing well from both sides. If you look at the stats of many of the higher level men’s and women’s hockey teams in Finland, the majority of them shoot left. It’s rather baffling actually and I’d like to know why so many players shoot from the left in Finland. Being right-handed can have its advantages – like maybe more ice time! I played hockey the first winter I loved here and on a team of 26 girls, only two of us shot right. Even with my inexperience, I was put on second line defense – for my size and because I was right-handed!

Class lengths in schools are an hour, which actually means 45 minutes. This was something I found out rather by surprise when I was in my first teaching job. So lessons had to be crammed into 45 minutes. I do teach as a freelancer though and for me an hour is an hour and I charge for an hour – not 45 minutes.

Time changes in the spring and the fall are not enforced the same weekend as they are in North America – so sometimes there is only a six-hour time difference between here and home.

Winter in Finland begins when there is snow on the ground; it is not dependent on the calendar. For me seasons will always officially begin on the calendar days they are marked on. The season is not always weather dependent in my honest opinion.

Speaking of calendars, the calendar week in Finland begins on a Monday! Keep this in mind if you give calendars as gifts to people in other countries. At home the calendar week begins on a Sunday. One year I sent my mom a fabulous Finnish nature calendar and she said she had to hide the calendar part because she kept getting her days screwed up!

Finland is metric, period. Trying to speak feet, inches, miles and pounds to a Finn (in general) will get you nowhere. You will get a blank stare in many cases. I have even adjusted my slang to make it more metric among the Finnish crowd, though I can still get away with talking about a “foot of snow” with Canuck friends.

When I lived in Sudbury to go to school I never had to wave down a bus because they always stopped automatically if someone was standing at a stop. Here in Finland if you want to stop a bus you have to wave it down. I felt like such a dork the first few years! It was like, “Why are you waving your hand, fool?”

Construction season is year round here. I will never forget how shocked I was to see an apartment building being built in late December up in Rovaniemi. The only thing you won’t find a lot of in the winter is road work and construction, for obvious reasons. House building slows down a little in winter, but it never stops.

It was heaven to begin cross-country skiing here. Not only is it free, you can ski on lit trails in the winter. Ever wonder why the Nordic countries have been home to some of history’s best skiers? Why the infrastructure to support skiing during those dark winters is a default -> lights. Paying to ski (cross-country), as I would have to do in some places at home, makes it exclusive. I am glad my tax paying money and my membership fee to Suomen Latu go to support a fantastic outdoor hobby that is (and should be) open to all.

Of course the range of car brands is different here, but I do remember making an observation about transport trucks and dump trucks – they have no “nose” here. Think about the standard North American looking truck and compare it to this:

A dump truck. Photo credit: Anneli Salo (Wikipedia's entry on "kuormaauto")

A dump truck. Photo credit: Anneli Salo (Wikipedia’s entry on “kuormaauto”)

Transport trucks. Used with permission (Jarkko Hosike, Transport Hosike, Rutava, Finland)

Transport trucks. Used with permission (Jarkko Hosike, Transport Hosike, Rutava, Finland)

I’ve exhausted my list for the moment… What else can you think of?

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. anonymous permalink
    January 17, 2013 4:36 pm

    Umm… “Shooting left” in hockey refers to blade position, which is almost always opposite the handedness of a person. Why that is becomes very clear when you handle the stick with one hand. In many other sports one does not “shoot”, so the handedness is described instead.

    A school hour is 45 minutes so that the students get to release their energy, play, use the bathoom and get ready for the next class.

    Daylight savings time has become useless irritation since the EU, because the changes happen so late in the fall and so early in the spring. There’s no point really – especially in a modern society that makes use of artificial light.

    “Winter” describes a season which is both the time of the year and a kind of longer-term weather condition (on the ground), the latter being less formal and more figurative.

    First day of the week

    Inches are sometimes used informally but then again, so is “vaaksa“.

    When waving a bus, actual waving is rarely necessary.

    The cross-country skiing success is mostly over and was at it’s highest when it was also considered a mode of transport rather than simply a sport. Of course, some of the success was by former soldiers who during the war not only used skis but also amphetamines, etc.

    Apparently the lack of nose on trucks has something to do with permitted vehicle lengths.

    • January 18, 2013 12:44 pm

      Fair enough on the handedness thing, but really – I have never seen so many left-shooting players in my life. I feel like a minority! 😀 When you go to a sports store there are more lefty sticks than right… Very weird feeling because it is the other way around at home in Canada.

      Ah, didn’t realize the lack of noses on trucks were part of the law. Interesting….

      • anonymous permalink
        January 18, 2013 8:23 pm

        Well, left-handed people are a minority. 🙂 No proper stats but some 9-15%. If stores keep their stocks based on demand and/or are a little slow to fill the shelves or a bit low on goods…

        Sure, you’re allowed drive a long-nosed truck, but since the maximum length is limited, you’re wasting one or two meters of space that could be used to transport goods.

  2. Erin Swift permalink
    January 17, 2013 6:36 pm

    Many Finns are lactose intolerance (seems to come from a long genetic history of being so) and you can find lactose free everything in every single grocery store. I have also noticed that Finns generally eat their dessert with a spoon – even when it’s a cake. Canadians almost always use a fork…unless it’s ice cream!

    • anonymous permalink
      January 28, 2013 6:42 pm

      Or it could be that it’s not about genetics…

      That spoon thing is easy: Desserts are a part of the coffee culture in Finland.

    • Bombum permalink
      February 1, 2013 5:47 pm

      Yeah, I think people use spoons since they need them to stir the coffee anyway. The proper way to eat the dessert usually is to use a fork, though. Not that almost anyone cares about it here…

  3. Martti K. permalink
    January 17, 2013 9:44 pm

    I was under the impression that cillymeters and cillygrades have been used in Canada for decades and what is more important been taught in schools.

    • January 18, 2013 12:49 pm

      When I was a kid Martti, I remember the Canadian Metric Commission being established to teach people about the Metric system. So yes, we are brought Metris so to say, but there is still the fall back to the Imperial system. Go into the stores and everything is still sold by the pound (produce especially), in spite of the labelling being metric (but also includes the Imperial measures on the same package). A bottle of standard beer in Canada is 341ml – but is about 12 fluid ounces… You can buy anything in Canada in a nice rounded amount (i.e. 500ml) because the market is so tied to the US.

      • anonymous permalink
        January 19, 2013 9:20 pm

        The container industry has slowly if not actually standardized then consolidated so that there are also some noninteger imperial vessels*. Some products have round number markings in both systems (but possibly only either one selected according to the intended market) for the same container, which would be impossible if one of them wasn’t simply low-balled.

        *) not yet destroyed by the rebel scum

  4. January 20, 2013 11:32 am

    The calendar! I bought a Finnish one last year, and spent almost all year completely screwing days up. Thank goodness someone from the States bought me a “normal” calendar this year for Christmas!

    • anonymous permalink
      January 23, 2013 8:40 pm

      But the US calendar doesn’t have the important red days marked…

      By the way, isn’t Sunday considered weekend in the US? Why is it then that the calendars start a week with it?

      • January 28, 2013 10:34 am

        I just read that there is an ISO standard 8601 that considers Monday the first day of the week. (I didn’t know there was a standard for that.) But they site indicated that US (and I can say Canada) still consider Sunday the first day of the week. Important days are marked on calendars in Canada and the US – but not in red like our calendars here…

      • Bombum permalink
        February 1, 2013 5:50 pm

        Isn’t Sunday officially the first day of the week in Finland as well?

      • February 3, 2013 11:47 am

        According to the ISO 8601 standard, it is not: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monday#Position_in_the_week

  5. Sonia permalink
    February 7, 2013 8:42 am

    Some differences (within Europe though):

    – doors open to the outside, often in veeery narrow places too (so watch out!) and locks are mainly monopolized (Abloy). Every Finn has a problem to lock a door with (other) logic.
    – not letting pedestrians cross the road on pedestrian crossing – walkers will rather show the car driver “just go” than dare to step on the street. With a reason!
    – Post is not coming on Saturdays, packages are (mainly) not delivered home (unless you pay within the country)
    – windows are still double-triple glass, even the thermal technology has been around for a while
    – outer shutters for windows are unknown, but could be handy in the summer time (keep cool and dark). The technology reaches to electrical, timer-operated, integrated shutters
    – you still need the rubber knob in the sink, even there is an advanced technology available (to pull a handle closing it). The little hand shower delivered with each tap.
    – use of traffic signs: you rather need to prohibit something to be noticed. There is a sign “you have to drive straight ahead”. Finns rather put two signs “turn right – prohibited, turn left prohibited”. So?
    – you can pay even the tinest sum with a credit card/bank card.

    That’s it for the time being.

    • anonymous permalink
      February 8, 2013 4:02 pm

      I think the doors opening to the outside is a fire safety issue. You want people to be able to get out even when there’s a crowd pushing to get out.
      If there are double doors like in an apartment, they obviously have to open in different directions.

      • Erin Swift permalink
        February 8, 2013 5:44 pm

        true – it’s Finnish fire regulations. it is the same in Canada – at least for public buildings.

  6. Sonia permalink
    February 11, 2013 11:46 am

    Well, and a piece of cake for burglars.

    I can well understand public buildings regulations (and they won’t be worse elsewhere), but are inhabitants of one flat a crowd? Especially with the old-fashioned two direction doors?

    In addition, room doors (within a flat or office) are opening in the less reasonable direction, being often in the way, so that is puzzling me.

  7. Petri permalink
    February 21, 2013 11:55 am

    Fire safety aside, also:
    Doors open in certain way because of insulation, obviously you people haven’t noticed the sealant in out side door frames, having the door open inwards would suck in the wind through the cracks.
    And sound proofing door (sound proof + extra insulation) in flats has to open inside, obviously.

    Abloy are used because there is no reason to choose any other locks as Abloy has ever been picked by only one (finnish) burglar in the world and the device he used is held tightly by the police (in criminal devices for police to see only – museum) never to be released on public.
    Also those doors you attempt to burgle(?) are solid wood so you might as well go through the wall or windows.
    And since Abloy has patents on locks they know immediately from their records if someone has requested a copy of a key of the flat when theft is reported which is also a reason why making a key on a new Abloy lock is costly business (aside from having a monopoly on making a key for a few years).
    Hence large ‘talo yhtiöt’ use Abloy, they know immediately by calling to Abloy if there’s an extra set of keys circling around.
    Old Abloy locks (older then 5-10) years are a different matter as Abloy cannot monitor key requests for those; they can be made by any cobbler in the super markets.

    Many things here are made the way they are for a reason and changing something that works (or is given) is often out of the question and Finland is no exception in that regard. 😉

  8. doopy permalink
    April 26, 2013 12:55 am

    Some Imperial measures are used in Finland, though. For example, TV screen size is measured in inches as well as car tires. Hardly anyone would understand their sizes in centimeters.

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