In my home country, I live in city three times bigger than Turku (comparing number of inhabitants), so this semester was like summer in quiet cottage. I expected differences, but few things still surprised me.
First thing- space and greenness. Similar sized towns in my country are more… dense. More concrete and bricks. But here, in Turku there is plenty of green areas, a lot of space; low, wooden buildings- citizen-friend place. What surprised me the most, berries and heathers grow everywhere. Parks, squares, even by main roads- a little piece of Finnish forest is literally everywhere. The fact, that living 20 minutes by foot from city centre, I can pick up berries, just on my way to university, (of course, there are better places to pick up berries than city) shocked me really hard.
Second- bikes. Bikes are everywhere. Without bike you are no one here. Public transportation is not that convenient, as it could be- but why one should develop it more, if you can get to almost any place in town by bike in 30 minutes? Fast, cheap (which is pretty unusual in Finland) and healthy. Any time, any conditions- Finns don’t have time for caring about rain or ice. They just ride. Also streets are traffic-free. When I see rush hours in Turku I can only laugh. And be jealous, because I’m used to waste a lot of time and nerves in traffic jams in my home city. Here- empty, wide streets. Perfect for cycling!
Third- some more about cars, bikes and pedestrians. As cyclist or pedestrian you can feel in Finland like some kind of ‘ubermensch’, master race over car-driving peasants. Drivers will give you right of way anytime and everywhere, even when you don’t want to cross street, just passing by pedestrian crossing. And it is on almost ridiculous level- sometimes car stops to let you go, even when it is the only car on that street for last and next 15 minutes. Drivers seem not to care, if there is no one after them, if you as pedestrian, can eat three-meal dinner in the middle of the street, beacause it is empty. No, they will let you go.
Fourth- Everyone is calm, everything (ok, almost) is in order. There is no space for chaos on each of 338 424 km² of Finnish land. That makes everything quite clear to understand, predictable, but also hmmm…. A bit boring? Maybe not, I haven’t experienced boredom yet here, in Finland.
Of course, I can write much more about differences in everyday life I can point. Those four are in my opinion, easiest to see and most characteristic to this place. Finland is great!
Text & photo: Wojciech Lasota