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Then he approached me so much, I could almost feel his breath on my face: “Yes, you have brown hair and eyes but you are way too white.” Said this dude after hearing where I am coming from.

“I can see you girls are of another race”, says my friend’s neighbor while we were walking together in the neighborhood. We are white Caucasian just like this neighbor.

“Are you Italian? You have brown hair and the shape of your nose is weird”. I hear at a seminar. No I’m not Italian, but close enough. I really don’t want to make conversation with you because you are rude. You just don’t comment on a random person’s outer appearance.

Plus the countless questions of where I am from and what I am doing here, some followed by suggestion to dye my hair blonde so I could be more like the locals. The fact that I speak the language fluently and I had no cultural shock whatsoever upon moving to Finland does not count. Now I should alter my looks. What next? Am I supposed to spend few thousands euros to get that weird nose fixed, too?

I am well aware of the fact though that my skin complexion worked in my favor here because otherwise I would have got nastier remarks and I think even faced violence as some of people I know did. But was negatively amazed to see how far people’s ignorance and stupidity can go. If you have a problem with the simple fact that a person has brown hair and most of people around are blonde then you don’t deserve the slightest drop of attention. To me this mentality of “change your outer appearance to blend it” is the most obvious form of following the herd. And I’ve never been good with that. It never crosses my mind to ask people about their background when we first meet and it’s definitely out of the question to make comments on their outer appearance. There are plenty of other subjects to open a conversation with and saying one of the above denotes lack of imagination.

Yes, I heard the excuse “but we are a small country and blah, blah”. That excuse would have worked maybe 50 years ago. It’s 2017 so snap out of it. People are moving around and I really hate to hear somebody playing the naive card “but what are you doing here?”. There are very few reasons why a person would choose a country and I’m definitely not interested in any of them. If they mentioned it fine, but I wouldn’t ask. Because it’s not my business.

As for dyeing my hair blonde to “fit in” let me tell you something: I would definitely hate having blonde hair. First, I really love my natural brown hair and I rarely dye it because there is no need to. If I choose so, then I would choose a color which is close to my natural one because blonde doesn’t fit me at all. Second, dyeing my hair blonde would take a significant toll on it because of the bleaching treatment, not to mention that I need to do that every time my hair grows because it looks hideous to have it half of two colors. I really don’t want to pour chemicals on my head and destroy my hair because of some people’s ignorance.

 

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Some Finnish newspaper published today an article how EU decided that Finland has to reduce emission by 39 percent in the next decade. At first glance it looks more like a sanctimonious thing to do, become green and save the planet but in practice it is a macabre joke which will make your life harder. And here I mean the average to poor person if we are to speak from a financial point of view because we all know these regulations won’t take into consideration rich people and the EU buffoons.

These regulations will include forcing people to switch to other types of energy which are considered green but they are so expensive and inefficient as they can’t serve efficiently all people. And some of them do lots of damage although the so called environmentalists “skip” talking about it. For example, the alternatives to light bulbs, which are very expensive and some of them poisonous for the environment. This concerns also other household appliances and cars. And not to mention regulations about food which I think it will lead at some point to banning meat or taxing it so badly only the rich could afford it.

These regulations reminded me a lot about communist Romania. Back then meat was a luxury, you couldn’t find in shops, besides the bad quality one like pig hooves and canned meat which actually contained fat and grinded stuff which I’m not sure you’d like to know what it was. Car owners had very strict regulations and you could drive your car only on certain days. Also food was rationed drastically and most of the times people had to bribe in order to get more food. The official statistics never mention it but people did die of hunger in communist Romania. Also warm water was a luxury; I remember we sometimes had to take showers in cold water during the winter which was not nice at all. We did sometime heat up water but that was also a challenge because it was an adventure to get gas for the cooker, too. Also we did wear winter clothes inside because the heating was cut and the lights went out at 8 or 9 in the evening. Of course, these regulations did not apply to the rich, usually members of the almighty party.

The circumstances are different now as the restrictions in the communist regime had to do with other factors and not emissions. I really don’t want to think that these regulations would reach this point but I do have my doubts because the alternatives are not thought on a realistic scale. Most of the requirements for saving energy are very expensive and many people cannot even afford them. Or maybe that’s the idea. As I have said, the absurd regulations will hit the poor ones not the bureaucrats.

Or as one of my friends mentioned as a joke when reading about these regulations: “Maybe we should switch to living in clay huts and shit in a hole dug behind the hut. And eat grass. You cannot get more greener than that!”

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Yesterday, I had a brief talk with my flatmate about her study period in Finland and from one subject to another we started talking about things one hears hundreds of times while studying or moving here. I don’t take these things as an insult but after hearing them so many times, it gets tiring and at one point not all people have friendly intentions when they ask you about your background and motives for being here.

  1. Where are you from?

I hear this one almost all the time. In my first years here it was normal as I was studying in an international environment and met people from all over the world so we did ask each other a lot where are we from. Nowadays people ask me where am I from because of my accent. Sometimes they don’t even bother and take a wild guess: are you Russian or Estonian? Or some start talking to me in Russian all of a sudden which make me have a complete block because I don’t speak nor do I understand Russian. Other guesses regarding my nationality were Italian and Spanish. I think the closest is Italian.

I do not mind the question but given the nasty reputation that Romanians have (lots of thanks to Finnish media for that), I do have some hesitation when answering, also depending on whom is asking. The nastiest reactions I got were from older people when upon finding out where am I from they stopped talking to me and ignored me completely. I remember in particularly two cases, an older lady and a man, who looked at me so disgusted, if spitting was allowed, I think I would have gotten a phlegm on my face. Once an older guy, after hearing my country of birth, he got so close to me, started staring at my face analyzing every feature: “Yes, you have brown eyes but you are too white for a Romanian.” In fact, my eyes are hazel and yes, Romanians are white unless you don’t mean a certain minority and I guess he meant just that.

  1. Why did you come here? Why did you choose this country? What are you doing here?

It’s quite difficult to reply to these questions because, besides family ties, I do have other reasons I am here but I really don’t want to explain them to strangers, they wouldn’t listen anyway. My Romanian friend told me that some persons ask with a kind of annoyance in their voice which implies “oh no, again a foreigner, what the heck are they doing here?”. I didn’t really pay attention to it but it might be very well be. They usually shut up when I mention family ties.

  1. You speak Finnish so well!

I do take this as a compliment but sometimes it goes too far. For example, I barely manage to say “hello, nice to meet you” to a stranger and they immediately jump to the conclusion that I talk Finnish very well. I know they are trying to be polite but it’s just ridiculous. Wait until we talk about life’s deep philosophical matters and nuclear energy. Then tell me how god my Finnish is.

I do know though that I make mistakes and my language is not as good as some claim. There were at least three persons who criticized my language skills. One of them did it in a very constructive manner and I appreciated that a lot (she is a teacher afterall). The other two were just being assholes. One of them cannot speak anything else besides Finnish and the other just English but for him is perfectly ok to make fun of people who are trying to learn other languages than English.

  1. Do you like it here?

Of course, I do otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

  1. What do you think about Finland?

Again if I start a long endless discussion about things I like in Finland (and there are lots of them) my interlocutor would probably get bored so I just say “it’s nice”. End of story. If they want to know more, they can ask. I’ll gladly answer.

 

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Found today this article about an owner of a strawberry farm which claims that he hasn’t had a Finnish worker in 16 years. Why? Apparently Finns are not interested in physical work, it’s too harsh and the pay is very low. Instead he brings seasonal foreign workers from other countries to do the job.

I also browsed through the comments just to see people throwing lots of shit in today’s Finnish young people saying that they are too lazy and entitled, they’d rather get social support than do work or complain that the pay is low. I was not amazed by this because nowadays it seems like a national sport to throw shit in the young generation.

I don’t know about others, there might be people who really don’t want to do that kind of work but the people I know, Finns, my friends would do this kind of job. You know what seems to be the problem? They can’t get it! And I’ll give you an example. Few summers ago, me and my husband were unemployed and looking for work. We did apply and even called at these strawberries farms in the hope that we can spend our summer picking strawberries and get some income. Unfortunately, some owners never replied to us and others said right away that they have enough people, although during the whole summer they were still announcing vacancies. I did apply 3 summers in a row at several strawberry farms and I never got a job.

I’m not scared of physical work and I can do it very well as I grew up at a farm and physical work was what we did during summers since I was a kid, including strawberry picking and even harsher work like hay stacking, spading and loosening. You’d think they favor foreigners like the dude in the article but still even if I have foreign background, I wasn’t chosen.

One of the problems mentioned was the pay which is low in the case of strawberry picking. It is true but given the fact that some pay 9 euros per hour (which is considered low by Finnish standards), I would not say it bothered me. I had jobs in Finland which paid me 6 euros per hour and I still did them. And my work colleagues were Finnish. I highly doubt all Finnish youngsters would say no to 9 euros per hour as these readers claim. There might be people who would refuse because the cost of living in Finland is very high and you need to cover your expenses somehow, a low salary won’t be enough but it would be suitable for young summer workers.

I would really like to know how many young people did apply for these jobs only to be rejected. I didn’t read all the comments but I found few persons there who had the same experience as I did. I also wonder how much does this dude pay per hour as it wasn’t mentioned. If the pay goes under 5 euros/h then it might be quite a problem because you can’t really live with that kind of salary in Finland. Also many young people do not have yet drivers license or a car and the farm might be very far for them to reach and also the employer offers accommodation and food only to foreigners. If these apply then it’s quite hypocritical and stupid to blame Finnish youngsters of being lazy.

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In Finland we have the so-called student financial aid. The student financial aid is not much, it can reach around 500 euros a month and it includes financial aid plus rent aid and the sum depends a lot on several factors such as the year when the studies began, the rent and so on. Some “brilliants” from the government thought that cutting student financial aid and forcing students to take loans would be a great idea to save budget money in the long run. The student financial aid is not big at all and many students do actually take loans, go to work or are helped by parents. But still student financial aid is indeed very helpful and many students from poor families can make a future thanks to it as otherwise they would have no chance to study. Even if there are no tuition fees, living costs are very high around here.

What kind of shocked me was the nasty reaction of some people who were actually supporting these cuts. The comments mentioned that: “back in my day we didn’t have such thing, nowadays the youth is so spoiled and useless”, “students are some lazy shits who know nothing but to get drunk and party”, “get a fucking job if you want to study – blue collar jobs are not good for you?”, “why don’t you study an area that gets you a safe job afterwards?”, “students extend their studies forever and get money for free”.

These claims are the most stupid i have ever read. And here is why:

“back in my day we didn’t have such thing, nowadays the youth is so spoiled and useless”

Dear jealous nostalgic, back in your days things were different. Unemployment and uncertainity wasn’t so bad as nowadays and you could afford to take a loan. Nowadays, there is no thing such as a “safe field” that guarantees you a 100% job after graduation. You might get a job, but most of the time is temporary – meaning non-stable job. We are not spoiled or useless. Times have changed and you should get your head out of your posterior and update yourself. We live in 2016 not in 1970.

“students are some lazy shits who know nothing but to get drunk and party”

This student here worked her ass off to get the degrees she has. Sometimes i had classes from 8 to 20 with 10 min. break between them and 24 exams per year plus mountains of books and courses to read. You could lose a course because you missed it 2 times. That was my bachelor degree. During my master’s i learned Finnish languange in parallel with my MA courses. Add to that culture courses and Swedish languange plus optional courses. Plus my master’s thesis. My second MA was done in Finnish (after only 3 years of studying Finnish language), plus my secondary subject was Finnish languange and culture, courses for the natives who were becoming teachers – those harsh courses in Finnish linguistics, that were not piece of cake at all. Plus optional courses and the second thesis to write. I had no time for social life and no money for partying or getting drunk. And for your information, i hate both of them. I prefer quiet evenings with friends and watching movies or playing games. So, much for your “lazy” students.

“get a fucking job if you want to study – blue collar jobs are not good for you?”

Studying full-time and having a job is extremely challenging and in my case almost impossible. During my BA studies, it was out of the question. I was rotting at class and in the library. Free time was sleeping and eating. While in Finland, i did get summer jobs to finance my studies but they were extremely hard to get and the ones i got were with some help from my husband. And they were blue collar jobs – and no, i’m not ashamed to do them. Besides is very hard to get a job that has a flexible schedule. After that, i was very lucky to get a job in my field and have understanding teachers who ignored the fact that i was missing some of the lectures.

“why don’t you study an area that gets you a safe job afterwards?”

What study field will give you a secure job nowadays? Perhaps healthcare or IT, to give some examples, but not everybody is fit, can or want to become an engineer or a doctor. And it’s good like that. We can’t have a society full of doctors and IT specialists. Also my area is not at all a useless one, since i’m trained to be a museum professional. I always loved this field and in my opinion a world which doesn’t care about it’s heritage is dead.

And unfortunately, i know people who were supposed to have a “safe” degree and the jobs they got afterwards were temporary or completely different from their studies. Because upon finishing their studies, their field was not in demand anymore.

“students extend their studies forever and get money for free”

This one is partially true, there are some people who linger on a degree for 10 years but they don’t get money for it. The financial aid is given a certain number of months and you need to have 5 credits per month to get it. No credits = no money. Also, the degrees are now limited to a certain number of years and if you don’t finish in time you need to explain that to your own department in a formal manner. The department might accept it or not. And if you want to study in another field – as far as i know – you won’t get financial aid anymore if you finished all your aid months.

To be honest, people spewing this nonsense are far beyond reality because if one knew a bit about student life and aid rules, one wouldn’t make such claims. And besides, the financial aid is not free money, you will pay it back after graduation in taxes, presuming that you will get a job and i doubt that many people will be unemployed all their lives.

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The subject of this post started from a situation I’ve bumped into quite many times namely people who make fun of women driving and say that women don’t need to drive anyway. Because they don’t know anything about cars, they are bad at driving etc. I don’t want to discuss which gender is the best at driving since this is not the point of this post but I do want to bring forward the necessity of driving and owning a car nowadays.

I was also very ambivalent about driving and I got my driver’s license quite late, around 26. I can’t say I hate or love driving. For me it was just a matter of practicality, something I needed to do because of the circumstances. While living in Romania, I said I will never need to drive or own a car. Because I lived in the capital and it was much cheaper and safe for my sanity to use public transport. Driving there is very chaotic due to bad drivers (both genders included), infernal traffic and shortage of parking places.

The situation changed completely when I moved to Finland. I live in the middle of nowhere. The closest food shop is 10 km away and other services much further than that. There is no public transport, no buses stop there. I was always dependent on somebody to drive me wherever I needed to go and it was really frustrating especially in my first years here when the schedule was already planned for you. Sudden trips to the library and grocery store were out of the question. Then I started applying for jobs and almost all of them required a driver’s license and some even wanted you to own a car. I was even rejected from two jobs because I didn’t have a driver’s license.

Here not everybody lives in a big city but usually in villages near a city or in the middle of nowhere. The situation gets even worse if you go north. You can drive for hundreds of kilometers just to arrive in the most forgotten place on earth. And people live there. Public transportation is nonexistent in some places and even if it is, the buses go so rarely that is frustrating. It has been quite a scandal when the railways wanted to take some regional trains out of circulation. A regional train that connects small towns and villages and without, people would have been in difficulties.

I dare to say that public transportation here is not very efficient if you live in a small, remoted place and it’s also very expensive. Now, Finnish railways lowered ticket prices but recently when we went somewhere we used a car and shared the gas money, if we were more people travelling. For you to get an idea about the prices: me and my husband paid around 180 euros for train tickets to Helsinki and back from our place (and I have student discount). Without it, we would have paid 240 euros train tickets! With the car it would have been 60 euros for gas two-way. Now, do the math and see my point.

So, it is quite stupid to bark at women on the driving issue. It’s not about who is better driver or not. Driving here is a necessity. And I would say owning a car although the taxes and repairs are very expensive. But if you are in the aforementioned conditions you really don’t have a choice.

We have cases in our family and I’ve heard some in which the woman never bothered to get a driver’s license because it’s supposed that the man is driving. Well, two summers ago our neighbor got a severe case of food poisoning lending him is hospital for several weeks and his wife called for our help because she couldn’t get to work. She doesn’t have a license and there is no bus going from our place to where she works. My driving instructor told me about a 50 and smth. year old lady who came to take her license because her husband died and she couldn’t get anywhere (also living in a small village).

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Surfing around internet, I bumped into a comment which went along the lines that living in a socialist state makes you basically an idiot who lives on welfare studying feminist poetry, drinking Starbucks coffee and uploading photos on Instagram from your iPhone. According to this person, people living on welfare are some lazy hipsters who live large on other people’s money. The problem is that this person doesn’t have the slightest idea how is to live on welfare in a so-called socialist state because otherwise he wouldn’t spew this kind of nonsense.

Fortunately enough, I’ve never lived on welfare but I know very well a case who did. And it was far from the description above. I’m talking about welfare in Finland, about a Finnish citizen. I really don’t know exactly how much welfare one can get now but few years ago, a single person without dependents got around 600 euros. And I doubt the sum has gone up. Add to that help with the rent and you might get something of 800 euros. Some people might think that it’s a lot of money but that’s not the case if you live in Finland.

Finland is one of the most expensive country in the Eurozone (ask Google) and living here with 800 euros without any kind of help is far from hipstering on Instagram and at Starbucks. The average rent for this person was between 450-500 euros/month (and that’s cheap). Food was about 150-200 euros per month (no eating or going out at all). And about 100 euros was left for products of basic hygiene, clothes, Internet and phone (which by the way, was not a smartphone). And there you have all your 800 euros.

I will add that the respective person was not on welfare because of his choice but because of losing his job and having difficulties with finding another one. Also in those 800 euros I didn’t mention expenses for public transportation, doctor costs (whatever one might say healthcare in Finland is not for free), medicine (in case of sickness). Going out, travelling and even buying new clothes was out of the question.

So, I wonder where did this idiot get the idea that people living on welfare are some lazy entitled shits who spend their time taking photos and drinking overpriced coffee. It might be they have other source of money than welfare because not having a job and living on welfare here without any help is very rough. And unfortunately there are people around here who have salaries under 1000 euros/month. Yeah, surviving on that is really “fun” especially after you pay the bills, plan your groceries counting the last cent and hope you won’t get sick.

P.S. I did notice that many people tend to jump at your throat if you live on welfare because they immediately assume you are lazy. These idiots are also the ones who yell that welfare should be banned and people should just get off their asses and go to work. Newsflash: many people nowadays lose their jobs and some get sick. And it’s not their fault. It’s easy to yell get a job but quite difficult to find one. In my opinion, welfare is good and at least you don’t end on the streets. In my former country, if you lost your job you did end on the streets because welfare is nonexistent.

But i guess it’s easy to bark from behind the screen at people who are less lucky than you.

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