I have recently moved to Finland. What a beautiful place! I have moved literally from the equator to the pole. This is a tectonic shift for me and while I am all for change and ‘not being in your comfort zone’ I am going to be honest and say that I am not enjoying it as much as I would’ve wanted to or am trying to. First up, the language barrier….which I must say I was theoretically aware would hamper my life here but this much! Second, the ache in my heart for leaving the familiar is not going away. Although I was at my wits’ end with my previous job and the city’s living standards had become economically prohibitive for me; I miss the people I had. They were my family away from family. I will never be able to replace that love. Third, the absence of clarity about what did I come here to do!
I have come here to get a doctoral degree. The effort of applying and getting through and then taking all the pains to finally get it done is the reason why my last blog post was in November. I have not been a good student ever in my life but I have been a good researcher or so I think. Getting a PhD was a natural course of action for me. I had to do it to move ahead professionally. I had to do it because I personally needed to feel like an innovative researcher and not just a buffoon sitting at a desk and refurbishing old ideas in an office for international grants. I guess every researcher has to do it for survival at some point in their career or another but I was just starting out and didn’t want to end up there so soon.
So yeah! Major change has happened in my life. As I type this, I can see snow fall from my window. Where I come from, it is so hot in the afternoons that a freshly washed and relatively wet pair of hardcore denims will dry to a crisp in an hour. Max. The biggest difference between here and back home is the people. Since the population is meager here, there is such less human interaction that it is alright with everyone if you don’t speak a sentence for an entire day. I have done it…I know. Having read these characteristics about the Finnish people I was pretty much excited to be in a city that is famous for absence of small talk because let’s face it…it’s the worst. However, even I, a self-proclaimed misanthrope and a certified introvert, has found it a bit too much to bear the silence. The Finns and everyone in general has so far been helpful in situations where I have needed so I can’t ccomplain. I have embarrassed myself enough number of times in front of everyone but that’s the best part about being in a new city…no one knows you and you know no one.
Major embarrassing moments have been:
- Getting lost: This is possibly the most common thing that happens to almost everyone who is born without a natural sense of direction. I was taken to the nearest supermarket on my first day here by a nice colleague of mine. She told me the easiest and the most direct route from my house to the main road and I very confidently agreed to have understood it all. Knowing myself I should’ve written it all down and made a pseudo map for myself but I didn’t. On the way back I got lost. We had hardly walked for 5 minutes to reach the market (a 500 m distance probably) but when I had been walking around for 15 minutes on the way back I realized I have erred. I stopped a random pedestrian to ask for directions….that was the biggest eye opener for the Finnish shyness. I asked him nicely but in English that I am looking for my home and he just froze. On the roadside. He didn’t look at me clearly because he didn’t understand me. And he didn’t respond to me. I apologized and understood that what they said wasn’t untrue. I do confess that since that moment whoever I have encountered has been more or less helpful.
- The shopping cart incident: My first day in the supermarket. I went to buy some essentials for the house and just to explore the area a bit. I have never found shopping to be a particularly fun activity in my life ever. But this one was both exhausting and hilarious. First thing that I told myself when I landed here was that there’s no way that I am not going to get embarrassed and there’s no way I am going to let my embarrassing gaffes become a roadblock in my will to fit in. I am such an outsider here that I didn’t even know how to pull out a shopping cart from the shopping cart collective that is chained and displayed outside the supermarket. I went with my head held high and started pulling it vigorously. After a couple of nasty looks I gathered this was not how you do it. I went and asked the polite guy behind the counter who could barely understand my accent to help me. Once inside I almost burst out laughing at myself. There was nothing anywhere around me that was written in a language I could comprehend. I was completely lost. And then I was saved by the holy cow. Once I saw a cow on the carton I realized that it doesn’t matter what you understand…symbols for most of things are common globally. A cow on the carton implies it’s milk and an orange on the carton indicates it’s orange juice. My happiness reached a peak when I saw bottles of Dove, Nivea and other familiar brands in another aisle. Thank god for global trade!
- Among other things: I got lost in the university despite walking around with a map. I slipped and fell into a pile of snow because I decided to take a bloody short cut to my home. I shamelessly barged into a bank without appointment because I wanted to book an appointment but that was unacceptable to them and I was politely escorted out and told to call on the landline, hold for 25 minutes to speak to an executive and then go to the bank as opposed to just walk into a bank that is right in front of my house standing like a forbidden fruit. I have no idea how to dispose of garbage here and that’s just an embarrassing situation waiting to happen. I can feel it!
I am sure life is going to be full of hilarious anecdotes for my friends and family as long as I am here. I hope to learn so much and enjoy the life on this cold and far away foreign land as much as I can.
I guess writing did help! Someone suggested I write as much as possible to feel less alone and depressed in graduate school and I hope it will help me. I feel much better from the time when I started writing this entry.