Tekstissään Shalom kirjoittaa teemoista, jotka hänen havaintojen mukaan toistuvat suomalaisten perheiden elämässä. Näitä teemoja ovat perheen merkitys, jalkapallo sekä terveellinen ruoka.
As of the publication of this blog it has been exactly one month since my arrival in Finland. The shear amounts of sights and activities that I have managed to fit into those mere 30 days, would have been unimaginable for me had I been in the States during the summer. From the wide variety of architectural styles and sceneries, new foods, family escapades and also the sauna: an invention gifted to us by the Norse Gods themselves, my visit to Finland has a been a captivating and life changing experience.
From the time that we departed Helsinki airport to the time that we departed the Sofia Retreat Center, I had a strong impression that we were still somewhere in the U.S., because of the modern and western structure of the city. But my perspective of Finland, furthermore Helsinki, took a 180 degree turn once my host family drove me to their house, that is when I first felt that I was exposed to the “real” Finland. But it is not until almost a month later that I have gotten the chance to explore the many corners and quirks of this Nordic country that I can truly attest to the fact that I’ve only visited this country once, but it’s like I’ve been here twice because I've seen the real Finland and also a really fine land.
Although I’ve had my fair share of experiences there are a multitude of recurrent themes that I have noticed throughout my trip. Those themes being; family, football and food.
Just like in the States, family is a vital cornerstone of the Finnish culture. Although the children here have a great amount of freedom and are always enjoying their independence, they are also heavily attached to their families. Many activities are done as a family, and family time is plentiful. It comes in many forms ranging from daily game nights, movie nights, bike rides, hikes, road trips, and summer cottage visits. I was lucky enough to visit two summer homes during my trip: once at my host grandmothers summer home in Puolanka, and also at my host grandfather’s cottage in Pajulankylä. In both instances My family and I went fishing, hiking in the forest, grilling sausages and also took part in the most Finnish activity: going to Sauna and swimming in a lake. However, my most memorable moment with my family wasn’t on the road, around a campfire or in the sauna, but on a couch when we gathered together to watch the final game of the Fifa Confederations cup. It was there where I felt like I was still with my family in America, because we were all together enjoying and marveling at the spectacle that was a football (soccer) game.
Another recurrent theme I saw throughout my stay here was how the Finnish people are so captivated with football, commonly known to Americans as soccer. At every single park or green area I have visited throughout the country without exception, included a football field. It was not just your standard run of the mill dirt patch with a netless goalpost, but an actual marked turf field with goals which were open to the public. Finns are truly in love with this game, and they are truly dedicated to it. In fact, my host brothers play on their local soccer team IF Gnistan, and they also have very in depth conversations with me about football games and tactics. In mid-July, all the teams competed in a tournament called the Helsinki cup. I was astonished at the size of the crowds of spectators at a children's soccer tournament. Besides from football, Finns also enjoy participating in multiple activities, for example my brothers played football, but also participated and are very decorated in BMX racing and downhill biking, as well as skateboarding. The host siblings of some other AFS grantees compete in Go-Kart racing, equestrians, and basketball as well as floorball. I am jealous of Finland’s 5th place ranking on the World Happiness Report which is probably due to the Finns’ willingness to participate in physical activities and the healthy diets they effortlessly eat.
This experience has really opened my eyes to how healthy eating can be easy and tasteful. In America, healthy eating is normally quite expensive and distasteful. But the Finns have a lively diet which is anchored by many fish, meat, and potato dishes. These healthy foods are made more popular because throughout Finland and mainly the capital city, Helsinki vegan/vegetarian diets and lifestyle are widely becoming more accepted and adopted. Around the city, it is hard to find a restaurant without a vegan or vegetarian option, and it is also rare to go down a street without a vegan restaurants, such as Roots Helsinki, which doubles also a yoga studio. I plan on adopting many aspects of the Finnish diet as well as other Finnish ways of life into my personal and family lives.
Pictures and text: Shalom