The normal life

Although I have amazing adventures here in Finland, I sometimes forget that I also have a normal everyday life here in Turku. I go to school, I have practical training, I go to yoga, I run a lot and I hang out with friends and other people.

My life here differs not that much from my life I live in Netherlands. The major difference is that I use English a lot more than Dutch. Also every now and then, I even start speaking in Finnish or German. Mostly I do the last two when I’m at parties or I want to surprise someone with my language skills. I try to avoid using Dutch, I only use it when I’m contacting my family or when someone else favors it. I’m not traveling 1500km to Finland to just use Dutch all the time, I want to learn Finnish and sharpen my English. In the meantime, I sometimes practice my German because of the Austrians and Germans who live in Turku.

Also the way I go out differs somewhat. In Netherlands I mostly go out in bars, pubs or at a friend’s place. Here I  normally go out in clubs and in spare situations at a friend’s place. But then only to have a pre-party to go to the club. It is not that my attitude changed here in Finland, I just follow the group in somewhat. If everyone is going out in the club, I’ll join them. But still someone makes me more happy if they say we go out in a bar or pub. I’m too social to only dance while going out. I love to have good (or awkward) conversations at the pub or playing games. Every game will do, from Monopoly to social games. I also like to go to clubs, but not as often as most students go around here.Rozijn3

I like to spend some time on my own, luckily I find the time and the possibility here to do so. Most of the time I listen to music, play a computer game, read a book or watch a movie. Although the latter I most often do at my practical placement. The youngsters over there watch every weekend a movie. I touches me that they always search for a movie in English or with English subtitles (although they also search for the Dutch ones). In this way the try to include me in, otherwise they think the struggle with Finnish would be too hard for me. The youngsters over there are a little to shy to talk to me in English, but they started to do it more and more. The same applies for the workers, but they are a little less shy. In the meantime I learn a lot of the welfare system of Finland and experience it myself. The main difference is in my opinion, that we try in the Netherlands to fit the child in to the system, while in Finland they try to fit the system to the child. They talk with the children instead of about the children, like in the Netherlands. Also I learn a lot of new card games at my practical placement. Playing cards with them helps them to feel  more comfortable with me, also they are encouraged to use English a lot more (which also benefits them at school). This helps me a lot to start conversations with them over what they want to do with their life and the time they have with us.

And one of the best things I do here every week is visiting the sauna, oh man I love that one. I wish I had my own sauna back home. I really love Finnish sauna culture. In Netherlands we think sauna is a luxury item. In Finland is just a basic need.

Text & picture: Maurice Rozijn

Karelian pot

The last day when my parents were in Finland was a lazy one. My parents already packed most of their stuff because they were leaving early the next day. But the evening ended with a bang as we were going to eat some traditional Finnish food at my Finnish friend’s place. The Finnish friends I’m talking about are a lesbian couple, and the dish they where making was a Karelian hotpot. The most readers will think, “whatever”. But for a Dutch this is a very funny combination of words. Pot in Dutch is also a nickname for lesbians. We most often mean it in a kind and funny way. But the jokes are much more funnier in Dutch than in English so I spare you the translation. But I can I assure you that we three had fun all day.

When we were there it was a happy reunion for all because my parents and friends were happy to see each other again. My parents also gave them some presents, a bottle of dropshot (liquorice booze) and a chocolate letter. A present we give people at 5 December to celebrate a children’s holiday. Traditionally we give the first letter of someone’s first name. Giving the whole name in chocolate is seen as a show of, so we don’t do that. After explaining this to them we took seats at the table to let the Finnish food excursion begin.

Like I said before, the dish was a Karelian hot lesbian– uhm pot. Strange Dutch jokes kicked in again. Because the girls and I are vegetarian, we ate the veggie variant. My parents were the only meat-eaters so they ate the traditional way, with meat. They also served it with mashed potatoes. Unfortunately for them, in the Netherlands it is made in the exact same way. So that was not exclusively Finnish. Also the Karelian hotpot tasted similar to a Dutch dish. This prompt the discussion of how many things Finnish and Dutch cultures share. Like the honesty and the directness Finnish and Dutch people have. Also our punctuality is the same and both languages are hard to learn for foreigners.

The next course, Karelian pies with eggbutter and Finnish breadcheese with mashed berries was a familiar thing for us Dutch. The eggbutter we also know, but we also add mayonaise and soy sauce to it and use it as topping for toasts or bread. Because in the Netherlands we have a real cheesculture, we tried and discussed the breadcheese a lot. In the Netherlands we use the same cheese on bread or to eat out of hand. But the Finns have different cheese for that.

The dessert prompt the real cultural differences. Apart that Finns use heavy rye in almost everything, we use soft wheat. So the Finnish rolled cake was made with rye. For us this is quite heavy, but we liked it anyway. Also Finns drink the coffee or tea with the dessert, were Dutch drink it after. The way it served is also quite different. In the Netherlands, the hostess cuts and serves the cake. In Finland it is self-service. My parents and I felt really uncomfortable with this because in our culture self-service cutting is regarded as greedy and a show of bad manner. Luckily for us, my Finnish friends understand that we felt uncomfortable about it without a word, so it was served the Dutch way. The rest of the evening we did everything the Finnish way, so this little part of the Dutch way wasn’t that insulting for my Finnish friends. I know them, so I know it wouldn’t.

My Finnish friends, my parents and I really enjoyed the evening. I already know very much about Finnish culture and customs, but it is so amazing that we have so much in common. Eventhough the Netherlands  and Finland are so far apart from each other. Maybe it has something to do with the old Hanze cities and trade spirit of the Netherlands, but I don’t know for sure. I know that it surprises me every time it happens. But luckily for me there are also some big cultural differences so I have the feeling I’m in another country aside the language. Maybe that’s the reason I like the Finns, we are quite alike, but also quite different.

Text: Maurice Rozijn

Dutch on the Rocks

Rozijn1 I went to Kurjenrahkan national park to go hiking with a Swiss guy. We both like to hike and we also went together to Ruissalo. We already tried to go to the national park on 3 different occasions with ESN, but unfortunately for us it was full all the 3 times so we went this time on our own.

Lucky for us, a woman who works at my practical placement lives nearby and she has written down for us a route which we could follow to see the best parts of the park. Also she wrote down how to get there and how to get home again. We decided to go early so we could enjoy the park and hiking the whole day. Also we had to party with some crazy Finnish lesbians I adore, so we needed all the time in the park we could get. And after we had bought bananas and croissants, we went to the bus and off we go to the park.

The park itself was amazing, when we were walking to the viewing tower we walked on some grass fields and we were there completely alone – something I never experience in the Netherlands because you encounter always some other people. There was also no trace of human civilization in the whole vicinity, except us. In Switzerland this also never happens so we were litterly astonished by this fact and we both realized how deserted Finland actually is. But unlike the Swiss, we Dutch are also not that used to height differences. We have small hills, but the Netherlands is pretty flat. Actually a pancake has more hight differences than the Netherlands. So with every big hill we encountered or big rocks, I went crazy. I had to climb them and I had the feeling I was standing on a mountain. Sometimes I even screamed: Let’s climb this mountain! and away I was. This was to much enjoyment of the Swiss who knew better what the definition of mountain actually was. Of course I know how real mountains look like, but still I had the feeling I was climbing mountains all the time. The rocks we encountered in the forest which was also pretty fascinating. We don’t have them either in the Netherlands, only small stones but not the big rocks. The Swiss guy also was pretty fascinating by this fact. Of course I had to climb some of them to make awesome pictures with them. Don’t think I was that obsessed with the rocks that I climbed every one of them, but still I did it a lot. If I did climb on all rocks I have to do it the rest of my life. Remember that Finland is one big rock. This fact is also quite amazing if you realize I come from a country which ground is actually one big clay pit.Rozijn2

The national park was really amazing and I want to come back to it for sure. I also know again one of the many many reasons I have to love Finland. Sometimes when I walked there I had the feeling that I was walking in the world of the Lord of the Rings. But then again, this feeling was no surprise for every diehard fan. The Lord of the Rings is based on Finnish mythology (Kalevala). It is a slight shame that the 3 parts of the Lord of the Rings were filmed in New-Zealand. Filming in the beauty of Finnish nature, which give birth to the story after all, would give the movies so much extras.

Text & photos: Maurice Rozijn