Kulttuurierot! (Finnish for “Cultural Differences”)

At the grocery store today I asked one of the clerks if he spoke English. He said “a little” and so I asked if they had half-and-half. I could tell he didn’t know what that meant, so I explained “half cream half milk.” There isn’t a product in Finland that matches that description.  I now have a container of 1% milk and one of unprocessed/unpasteurized milk. I’m combining them into my own half-assed half-and-half. It’s not even legal to sell unpasteurized milk at grocery stores in the U.S.

Products I take for granted in California:  eight or nine different kinds of lettuces; a variety of tomatoes; twenty (?) types of apples easily available at the grocery store … here, I can only get rather flimsy kinds of lettuce, limited tomato choices (it is summer after all) and a few kinds of apples.

I can’t find a whole chicken (but you can get them already cut into pieces.) I’m sure I could find all-purpose flour, but so far no luck. I’ve been using a wheat-type flour with the hulls still in it (and yeah, it’s good, and makes a decent pan of biscuits.) I asked for cornmeal, but it’s a finer grind than what I buy in the U.S. When I mix it with the flour-with-the-hulls, it makes a delicious cornbread.

The Finns remove their shoes when they go inside the house. Therefore, I do, too. But I’ve never liked that sensation of being barefoot — I feel exposed, as if I’ve taken off my shirt.

The 24 hour clock is used. I’ve been in Finland for 25 days and only now do I look at the clock on the microwave (or the one on the dashboard of the car) and see “6:30” when it reads “18:30”. We had a BBQ last night to celebrate Midsummer (what they call the solstice) and it began at 20h. When that email came around I saw 9 PM. We sat down to eat at 21:45h, and of course it’s still daylight outside. Can’t say I’ve grown accustomed to that yet.

And then there are the expected differences like the metric system: driving 100 km/hour; gasoline (petrol) is quoted in liters (1,95 €) * that translates into a gasoline price of about $9/gal (ouch); converting road signs from kilometers into miles and so on.

*No, that’s not a typo. Commas are used when quoting money, not periods.

The Finns aren’t effusive; in fact, they can appear unfriendly, but that’s just my perception because I’m familiar with the animation of American faces. Once I speak to the Finns they’re kind and eager to help. They don’t mind long pauses in conversation. This has taken some getting used to.  I’ve realized it’s nice to speak with someone where there’s space to think and consider what’s being discussed.

None of these things I’ve mentioned are complaints; they’re part of the fun of learning about this culture.

What do I dislike about Finland? I can’t buy whole coffee beans, only the already-ground kind. But, hey, this is the best gripe I can come up with…

Juhli monimuotoisuutta (celebrate diversity!)

3 thoughts on “Kulttuurierot! (Finnish for “Cultural Differences”)

  1. Well Bart, not to brag or anything, but as I write this I’m drinking a cup of French Roast from freshly ground beans…..and I’m acutely feeling your pain my friend!


  2. A most interesting post, Bart. You didn’t mention salt. If Finland is salt free, I could never visit!



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