Studying abroad in Turku is in fact my third abroad experience, and since I have lived in foreign countries before, I was already acquainted with the fact that I would get to know a new culture. It has never been extremely difficult to adapt to a new culture for me, but there are always certain things, that are completely different to the way “things go” in your home country. Let me give you some examples:
No matter where you go in Turku or Helsinki or Finland in general, you will always see the fanciest hair colors on people! Be it blue, green, pink, yellow grey or even all colors together, when it comes to hair color creativity these people know no boundaries. Those people are very confident in my view and I like that a lot, because in Germany it is often the case that you get stared at when you look “different”, so only few “dare” to go extreme when it comes to dying their hair.
Also, Finnish people are very sportive. I mean, VERY sportive. You see jogging people everywhere, and no matter where you are, people are wearing fitness clothes, at all times! What surprised me where the “outdoor gyms” where you can train with your own body weight outside, for free of course. This is quite nice, and there are several of these spots around Turku.
But what was most outstanding for me to experience here is the Finnish culture of silence and little (if any) small talk. I have read and heard so many times that Finns are quite reserved and do not speak too much. But when I went to a restaurant and tried to make some small talk with the waitress, she just would not react and only took our order. One could have taken it as an unfriendly gesture, but for me it was just a little awkward, a situation I had to get used to, because I knew about this before. Where I come from, people often just chat when queuing for something, sitting in a restaurant, or whatever. But that is obviously not common at all here. However, after moments of awkwardness, I started to enjoy the “silent” moments. Actually, it is quite nice to sit besides someone and not talk at all, just taking in the moment. You don’t feel pressured to get the conversation going, so it is not awkward anymore. What I have learned is that if the Finnish people remain silent, they are happy.
Text & pictures: Sarah Bückmann