Archive for October, 2009

This one’s on request of Suzanne.

From “Thirsty Thursday” in college to Thursday evening post-work happy hours, Americans seem to have declared Thursday the official weekday of drinking. It seems reasonable enough: just one more day in the workweek, so relax, have a drink, and stick it out for one more day until the weekend.

It’s not exactly a secret that the Finns enjoy a drink or two…or many, many more. However, the “official” happy hour, when drinks are cheapest here, takes place on keskiviikko [Wednesday]. Everyone goes out, enjoys themselves…and goes back to work for two more days.

Call me the ignorant American, but I don’t get it. It seems to me that with two more days of work in the week, it would be time to hit the books and get everything you haven’t finished yet done before the weekend (though perhaps this is just my workstyle). When everything is sort of set and you just need to tie up loose ends on Friday, Thursday seems like the evening you could, in good conscience, enjoy a beer at the pub.

Perhaps a Wednesday happy hour is what Finns might do when Americans just congratulate themselves on “hump day,” that is, the hump of the week (everything downhill from here). They can always keep up the celebration the rest of the week. And how they do…and that, my friends, will be a story for another day.


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Day three of the 7-day blog challenge.

I’ve shown many of you this video, but if you have yet to watch it, it still makes me laugh. Maybe that means I have no life. I don’t care.

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PRISMAOne thing I really dislike about contemporary American society is the big-box store. Wal-Mart, Best Buy, you know the drill. Every suburban megaplex is the same: warehouse-sized stores that probably take as much energy to heat or air-condition them for every half-hour as I need for every 3 weeks, a mind-numbing selection of generic (fill in the blank) items made by underpaid workers in an overpopulated country with shabby wage standards…again, you know the drill. My confession? I love Prisma.

Prisma is Finland’s answer to Target, and in some cases, its answer to Super Wal-Mart (the ones with grocery stores in them). If all the signs said “Bargain!” instead of “Tarjous!” and the appliances for sale didn’t fit Europlug Type C electrical outlets, you’d think we were in the middle of Tennessee…or Ohio…or Colorado…or any other state hosting big-box stores…which is any and all of them…

On one hand, this type of store seems very out of place in such a (seemingly) progressive-thinking Nordic country. For that reason, it almost seems funny, and harmless. But I can’t pretend…on both train trips I’ve taken outside Helsinki (to Turku and Kilpisjärvi) and on my bus ride to the airport last week, what did I see in large mall-like buildings reappearing along the highway? Prisma. Tarjoustalo. S-Market. Etc. Etc. Etc. The Finns have a reputation for being reserved and modest people. I read an article in the Christian Science Monitor about how, from these traits, the Finns can set an example for Americans during this time of economic crisis. But take a second to read the subsequent letters to the editor…you’ll see one by an American living in Tampere, Finland, bemoaning the Americanization of Finnish consumption patterns in the younger generation.

I don’t know if I’ve been here long enough to assess this trend myself. But like I said, I’ve seen these places along the highway more than I expected to. Clearly, the “Prisma phenomenon” is bigger than the average foreigner may realize. I feel that I should hate Prisma on principle. Yet, when I walk through its automatic glass doors, I feel–and how embarrassing to say this–at home.

So what is this? A sign of only lukewarm and/ or nominal opposition to a retail and consumption system? Do I want to have my cake and eat it to, that is, say I hate the big boxes but simultaneously reap their benefits? How American would that be? Or is oddly normal for foreigners to feel strangely comforted by traces of the good, the bad, and the ugly from their home country? Readers (all one of you a day–yeah, WordPress gives me statistics): have any thoughts, similar experiences?

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Day one of my 7-day blog post challenge. I’m not feeling very creative today, so I’m going to make a stream-of conscious list of random thoughts.

  • It’s raining. It’s been raining for 2 weeks. Welcome to Finland.
  • It’s dark. I post this at 8:07pm local time and it’s been dark for 3.5 hours. Welcome to Finland.
  • Or should I say it is 20:07 local time?
  • I miss apple cider.
  • I miss pumpkin.

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Last week I temporarily fled Finland to prepare for and attend my friend Leah’s wedding in Ohio.  After the reception, my other friends Maeve and Carolyn and I read advice columns and horoscopes in our hotel room, as is our tradition.

We consulted that great literary publication Elle magazine astrology for our weekend forecasts and advice. Unfortunately the online link has since changed, so I can’t show it to you, but I can tell you that Elle suggested that Virgos like myself begin a new outlet for sharing and expressing ideas. Specifically, it told me to start a blog, and to update it every day for a week.

I already have a blog. I can’t remember why Elle thinks I should update it every day for a week. But, Elle astrologers, I hereby accept your challenge. Reader, I can’t say I’ll write something long, insightful, or profound every day, but maybe you’re the better for it. See you tomorrow for post #1 of 7!

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My first collection of valokuvat [photographs] is up! Click on the “Images” tab above, or, go straight to it.

Words about Kilpisjärvi soon, I promise!

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