Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Where's the perfection?

We, Poles, are obsessed with being perfect in any field of activity. And if we are not or don't have something which is or works perfectly well we of course make biggest complains in the world. We always think that if something doesn't work properly or isn't proper in a way we think it should be, it is because we are poor, lazy, post-communist or any other argument works fine. To complain on everything is our national trait and I think it is in many cases because we, as a society are simply narrow-minded, we don't know the world and have huge complex about being a post-communist country, poorer than the Western Europe - towards which we are running breathlessly. We complain on our public transportation system, that busses and trams are not on time, we complain on our sport facilities that we don't have the fanciest aqua parks and that there is not enough of them only those old swimming pools, we make our home perfectly - the walls have to be as smooth as possible and whiter than white, best bathrooms and kitchens and so on and so fort. The list os long.
And now I'm living in one of best developed and richest countries in the world famous from its transportation system and highest living standards and satisfaction. And well? It is really hard not to complain. So far I'm using only trams from the public transport variety of busses, subway and light rail. And it is actually a rule that trams are not on time. And especially if YOU HAVE TO BE somewhere ON TIME. Recently I was waiting with Wanda for 20 minutes for a tram to get home. But it happens so often I stopped to check the schedule. But here people (those tough Finns, who survived the harshest winters) are somehow very patient and very calm. And - oh sweet irony! - recently in one English language paper I've read that the Finns are the most satisfied among the European countries in case of public transportation. Well, yes, while standing at the tram stop and waiting and waiting and feeling more and more irritated I started to look at the people. They seemed not to be annoyed, they simply were waiting. And while walking back home I've met my neighbor and I told him about that 20 minutes. And he was calm and relaxed too. He said, well yes, they sometimes get stuck somewhere and come late. Yes, I said and quickly changed the topic to something more pleasant. I didn't want to be matched with a complaining Pole...
Another example today on the police station. Here you go to the police to get ID cards, so I went, cause as a Finnish permanent resident I should have a Finnish ID. The building looked inside like any ordinary Polish bureau or department or registry office. But the "interior design" is not that important. I went there (with Wanda of course), I took a number from this machine (I had to ask someone, which button should I press if I apply for an ID card - Finnish language makes me illiterate person, but about this I'm write in a separate post), I looked at it - 136, then I looked at the number currently being on screen - 96. Well, yes. I didn't wait. I left. I'll try another day in the morning. I was not annoyed or irritated. It made me actually feel better (what a Schadenfreude!) that in Poland things are not so bad. We are not Russia - as many of the depressed Poles think, we are Europe! We have to cure our complexes, we have to learn to enjoy what we have good and nice.
And tonight I went swimming to the oldest swimming pool in Helsinki, from the 20., in downtown. And again - it didn't look like a five star spa. It was an old and old-fashion swimming pool with pretty cold water and very modest sauna.
And I could give you countless examples about how this rich but modest society lives and doesn't complain. They teach me good lessons almost every day.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Easy driver

That's me! Yeah! I'm driving. I know it's maybe not a very fact I should share with you on the blog about Helsinki, but it is in fact something important in my life here. First of all I never drove myself before - besides taking some refreshing classes in Poland last summer (being constantly stick in a traffic jam and getting numb limb from pressing the pedal, ugh!) and doing my driving license ten years ago. But here finally I started driving by myself. And I couldn't find a better place for that. Helsinki is a dreamplace for newbies like me. In several places in downtown you have to drive no faster than 30 and in other is 40 up to 50 and a rule means A RULE - no one drives faster. And it's the same outside the center - on a highway if they say 80 or 100 - it means exactly 80 or 100 in all vehicles on the road. Heavens! It seems to me like no one is in a rush, no one is irritated - and believe me - I'm still making those irritated mistakes on the road. But anyway even my husband told me today - you are driving all right! Yep, here I am!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

culture shock

One day while playing in a park with our kids I was talking to my friend - she's from Mexico and our daughters are in the same group in a day care. And while freezing from the cold wind (it was no more than 5C plus that wind, so I guess it made close to zero temperature) she said: you know, I've heard here in the winter people use something like a stroller but with no wheels and the kids sit in and you can pull it. It's great for the snowy weather. Yeah, well, I know it - I said. We use them in Poland too.
Any guessing, what she has mentioned? ;)
It's funny to meet people from countries with different climate.

Friday, October 14, 2011


Just wanted to say many many thanks for all your comments! I'm reading all of them and they make me feel my posting is worth something. So, keep sharing your thoughts!
Today I stayed at home with Wanda, she's coughing a lot for couple of days. We went to a doctor, it's just a common cold, but at least we've got a coughing remedy. I asked for vitamin D :) since soon there won't be much sun any more... And of course the health care system works perfectly. All the service is in English, no queues and waiting time, nice and tidy. Or we were lucky today! Anyway, have a nice weekend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

looking for an apartment

Friends and family are constantly asking us about an apartment, did we get a new one already, do we search for one? Well, not so fast.
We are still in this studio or one room apartment we've got from the bank (Adam's employer). With no deadline for using it, but definitely it shouldn't be for roughly five years. Besides, it's way too small for us. I still keep some of my stuff in boxes (those, which I packed in May in the States), cause there is no room for it.
To find an apartment first you have to register in some real-estate agencies, that is you fill an on-line application, where they ask you about your preferences but also about your incomes, employment, your finnish social security number. Well, yes, if you don't have one, you cannot apply. And after that you have to wait until they start to send you offers. For me all of this goes somehow awry. And way too slow. But I hope we will get a new apartment before Easter...

Monday, October 10, 2011


Toady after school Wanda started to count in English: one, two, three, four, five! And again and again. She said, they counted at school. And she sang something like : happy you, happy you. Finally I asked her, was it happy birthday to you? and I sang this for her. She said yes and than she said, Miss Xenia brought a cake and she had birthday today. She says let's go and bye-bye and yummy. And while still crying before I leave her there, she seems to like that place. Whenever she plays duplo, the little figures are doing what she's doing at school - they play play-doh, have little tables and go washing hands. And she asked me to draw Miss Xenia and Tim - the other teacher. So, it makes me feel good :)

Feminism at work

Today I really started to like this country. And it was not because of November kind of weather with rain and wind and 8 degrees Celsius. It was because one sentence I've heard today morning. It happened in Kela office, that is in a social affairs department. I was filling out a form applying for a child care allowance (those almost 500 euro a month this beautiful country pays stay-at-home-mothers) with an assistance of a nice clerk. There were some questions about if I am employed - no, if I am unemployed - no, hm, I said - I'm just not working but I'm not register as an unemployed. And then I've heard: yes, you are not unemployed, you are taking care of your child at home and this is the money Kela pays for this care. Wow! Have you ever heard something like that? In Poland there were only some empty talks among politicians about how much is woman's work at home worth. In the States probably never this sort of question appeared even in an imagination of any politician. And here? Voila! Being at home with a little child is a job to do and for this not easy job you get some money. Easy. No wonder there is so many kids everywhere and families, which consist mostly of at least two kids and very often of three. At least this is what I've noticed living here for a month. But still what I've heard, many new mothers are getting back to work after the nine or eleven months of maternity allowance. It is a country for women - president is a woman, bishop of Helsinki is a woman and the fertility rate is 1.86 children born per woman, comparing to Poland 1.4 (and for the metropolitan areas only 1.3).

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Empty land

It is empty indeed. First who noticed this fact was Adam when we were going by tram to Wanda's day care. It was Friday morning, before 9 am. The tram route goes right through the downtown, next to the railway station, next to a subway line, right on the main street. And there was no crowd on board, there was no crowd on the streets, there was no traffic jam. Simply: no people. Or not that many you would expect. Where were they? Still asleep or already at work or maybe there is just not that many of them? I don't know, but comparing to the huge and never-ending traffic jam in Gdansk or Warsaw there were empty streets.
On Saturday we went to the country side. The day was gorgeous, warm and sunny and full of colors. We went to the West to the village named Fiskars - yes, the same which is famous worldwide of their scissors and knives. By the way - there is no production in Finland any more. But it is in the US, Canada, Sweden, China... It's about hour and a half from Helsinki. Soon after we left the city we were on a highway surrounded by fields, forests, meadows and some sparsely populated villages or better to say couple of remote houses. All the houses were made from wood, all of them in the same dark reddish color, all of them amazingly well preserved. Funny, but that landscape looked very much like one somewhere in Pennsylvania or New York state. You drove and drove and there was nothing around, no towns, no villages, no people, even no cars only those wooden houses somewhere up the hill, hidden by the trees.
Oh, and Fiskars. So, it's a small and old village where centuries ago the iron work began. That Saturday they had a slow food farmers market and this is why we went there. They have even a small museum with an exhibition of all the old knives and houses where they show, how the life was not that long ago. And it was hard. For example the peasants families baked breads once a year (!!!) and in every house there was a long wooden stick hang from the ceiling, where all the breads hang. This is why the traditional Finnish loaf is round, quite flat and with a hole inside. Why had they bake them just once a year? Because in many houses there was no space for a big stove. Anyway, in such an old house Wanda and I could make our own small bread and bake it and eat it with hand made butter. Simple but nice tourist attraction.

Some facts from Wikipedia:
Around 5.4 million people reside in Finland, with the majority concentrated in the southern region.[6] It is the eighth largest country in Europe in terms of area and the most sparsely populated country in the European UnionFinland has an average population density of 17 inhabitants per square kilometre.[6] This is the third-lowest population density of any European country, behind those of Norway and Iceland.

To compare Poland has 122 inhabitants per square km