To be completely frank I was petrified that I would not like Finland. I seem to gravitate toward Latin-based countries or those with an interesting indigenous story and I was worried it would feel cold and sterile like Austria. My only reference point has been Petri and Ikea – and oh wait Ikea is from Sweden and Finland is not technically part of Scandinavia because it is a different culture.
I have been afraid that I will return to Canada and need to admit to Petri that I really did not enjoy his country.
To be fair I think it is partly his fault, he warned me that Finns were not outgoing and probably would not talk to me, he also warned me that everything was so expensive and I could not find a beer under $10.
I adore Petri but he was oh so wrong.
I have only spent a few days in Helsinki but I already have a completely different perspective on Finland. After a quick bus ride from the airport to the city centre it appeared that the hotel was a bit difficult to find. Locals get an A+ for stopping to see if the tourist with the map, luggage and confused look knew where they were going.
I have only encountered lovely, helpful people. Traveling on my own can be daunting but I have become a pro at sitting at a bar and talking to strangers. While checking out the microbrewery across the street from my hotel I met these lovely guys celebrating a friend’s birthday and a generous bartender who tried to teach me how to pronounce Finnish words.
An unexpected but memorable point was learning that one of my new friends was pagan as it was the religion of his ancestors the vikings, taught me all about the connection between paganism and nature and then with an amusing turn of events also shared that he loved MacGyver so much he had a tattoo. The best part was that he laughed along when I was laughing so hard I was crying.
Who says Finns aren’t friendly?
Even under all the snow I can see that Helsinki is a beautiful city. I have heard from many people that they believe beautiful design isn’t meant for special occasions or only for the rich. Everyone should be able to enjoy beautiful things every day.
It starts with the city, it really is wonderful to wander around and just people watch but it can be distracting as my head is always up looking at the architecture. Fortunately Helsinki isn’t a dangerous city so I don’t have to watch out for being mugged.
As for the price, it is true this is not a bargain destination but it is nowhere near as expensive as London and frankly, it is much more interesting and the food so far has been much better. This has been a pleasant surprise, I am really looking forward to seeing the rest of Finland.