Finland is a country that is so familiar yet so foreign to me. I have to admit the idea of going there did not fascinate me greatly and I would have never ended up there, until an offer to participate in a summer school and later, a 3-month exchanged period in Turku, Finland appear on my university bulletin board. It also had a lower requirement for student’s grades to apply to and I was not very good at my studies. Finland was my only option out of so many lists of countries and I said to myself instead of staying here and living the routine life, why not ‘Finnish’ myself for the first time?
After 12 hours of flight from Singapore to Helsinki, I finally reached Helsinki and what a beautiful city it was to my first impression. Raised in big cities like Kuala Lumpur, I could have never imagined Helsinki is exactly the Eden Garden to my personal taste. Amazing city vibe in the center, lots of greens and very little skyscrapers compared to my home city, surprisingly, which is a good change to my eyes!
I may not be able to take the extreme Finnish cold very well, but it has certainly taught me to be punctual in doing everything and spend every day productively since shops are closed after 3pm in summer. It has trained me to ditch my procrastination habit where I was so used to when living in a tropical country, where food is widely available 24 hours per day and outdoor activities are generally not affected by the weather condition. It has made me realize that outdoor activities, which the Finns love, are of utmost importance in our daily life to keep us refreshing and recharged to survive for another day. For sunny days in Finland are so limited that the people take every single moment of the warmer days very seriously and embrace it to the fullest. For the first time in my life, as a university student, I was also given the chance even though I was a foreigner to suggest ideas to the local tourism department and our ideas have been taken seriously and implemented to improve local tourisms, the active cooperation between the residents and the municipality is encouraging and certainly reinforces what builds a country in the first place- the local community.
The land of Santa Claus, the country that invented the world famous Angry Bird games and above all, the country that is most famously known for its pride and joy, Nokia, which has dominated the phone market for more than half a century, all these from an approximately 5 million population with little dependence from other countries were definitely a “Journey to the West” experience for me, as one very famous classical Chinese novel is titled to refer to as a journey to enlightenment.
Finland was an important life lesson to my 21 years of journey, not only did I experience many things for the first time, it remains until now the only Western country that I have ever lived in, and fallen in love with. Ever since that, moving to Finland is one of my highest priorities in life. I can go for snowboarding, skiing in the cold winter days, pay a visit to Santa Claus to satisfy the childish side of mine which we all have, while having the possibility to catch the Northern Lights up North in Lapland, kayaking in the lake in summer and appreciate the beauty of nature in the Finnish national parks and do some amazing hiking there in warmer days. At night, I will have a very Finnish time soaking myself in the healthy sauna while having a cold beer and chewing the famous local candy Salmiakki in my mouth. Owning a boat is also inexpensive and rather common to many Finns and apart from the winter days, I can imagine myself cruising around the river and the Baltic sea to do some fishing with a few friends. A small crowd and conversations over some beers in the nature could never go wrong, could it?
To “Finnish” yourself or not- that is the question. I did that and I can safely say I have realized the gems to live a combination of productive, competitive yet healthy, carefree and happy life. These combinations do not coincide very often.
To say I have a particular favourite part in Finland would be one of the toughest tasks in my life. I like all parts of the country equally and I have nothing but compliments to all of them. Kiitos (thank you), Finland for enlightening me with your Finnish values on how to spend my time wisely with no regrets, at all in 3 month time.
About the Author: Yik Wai Chee: A young Malaysian traveller on a continuous mission to explore numerous pleasures offered by different parts of the world.
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