Category Archives: Finland

Public Transport Etiquette!

So far living in Helsinki never required me to buy a car or even get a driving license.

I have lived always in a near to the center area reachable by public transport but public transport even amazing as it is in Helsinki has its plus and minuses.

The lovely service that Helsinki city offers is amazing compared to a country like Lebanon where each one own a car and such basic service as public transport is non-existant!

Helsinki public transport though has a curse and it is the behavior of people sometimes in it’s tram’s! Now, no i am not talking about the screaming drunken guy in the back. I have no issue with that he is part of the “city” but i have an issue with you sir or madam taking two seats or more and not moving for an elderly person or for many other reasons listed below.

So here comes anyhow the public transport bible people :

1- Wait for others to exit before going in and leave space by standing on the side of the doors.

2- Have manners and stand up for older people and give them ur seat.

3- Kindly and i beg you do not stand on the door, please go in take a seat and sit down, relax and chill! Leave kindly the area near the door free for people to move in and out! We are all living like you by the minute!

4- If you think that not buying a ticket will save u those 3 euros then you are so wrong, pay the damn ticket! I hate it as much as you do but until Helsinki offers public transport free like Tallinn you and i got to pay because i dont want to see humiliated by the blue people.

5- When you are in a tram it is not a shame to speak to a stranger or have a conversation. We do take the same ride same time each day for years so you can say Hello sometimes. It is not weired at least in my opinion.

6- Please if you would like to just stand in the metro stairs then do it on the right, leave the left side open for the ones like me that want to run up and down to loose weight 😉

That is most of it folks, easy! Will update this again when less angry 😉
Meanwhile, an image can tell a million word…

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Where is really Home?

The basic reference of the word home comes as follows.
/hoʊm/noun, adjective, adverb, verb, homed, hom⋅ing
1. a house, apartment, or other shelter that is the usual residence of a person, family, or household.
2. the place in which one’s domestic affections are centered.
3. any place of residence or refuge: a heavenly home.
4. a person’s native place or own country.

I have been for the last 7 years now in this northern part of the planet trying to figure out really what is home. Is it really true that when you are an immigrant to a new country, it’s like you are reborn. Is it true that you do the baby steps again, you build yourself, you integrate, you learn?  But does that make where you are now, your home?

As hard as it was to learn how to adapt, work, communicate in a new culture. Finland became my home! Every aspect of its society affect me, from its politics, to the little things of everyday life, even to the way i think. I have become “Finlandized”

When i came to Helsinki, i fell in love with the peace, with the system, the mentality of the Finns, their appreciation of everything given to them, their modesty, and the real democracy and freedom. This freedom and democracy is something people in the Arab world seems to be eager to have now, the youth of the Arab world are revolting to be able to live free, have jobs, a good life, standards, infrastructure, development and “democracy”.

But democracy cannot sadly be given in matters of days or even months, as i see after my experience here in Scandinavia, it is given by the way people  are raised, people learn to live  it, learn to be free, they learn to be given these rights. Our choices are ours, we are responsible of our actions.  The way you behave to respect  other humans even if different from you is the real democracy, the way you live is the real democracy.

Responsible for our actions is something that the Finns take seriously, they stand up to their country. I always say that the nationalism in Finland is not a curse, i wish my real home country was as nationalistic as we are here or patriotic and not divided over religion, over foreign interests or assets.

It is not the flag put on every building, it is not the love to “Lihapulla” or “Makkara” or the love to the “Suomi T-Paita” that makes Finns nationalistic really in my opinion, it is the way they are proud of their country, or the way they are proud of what they have built from the welfare state to the way how they  handle any breach of their air space or to the way they respect the value of a citizen. You can feel safe in Finland.

Many might say i am wrong, but i appreciate the love people have to their nation even though it is changing and maybe not toward the best. But well Home is a place where you are valued as a human, where you are treated with respect, where you are not scared from the police like the case in most of the Arab world. Home is the place where you can say to a certain extent what comes to your mind without fearing to lose your job or get in trouble. Yes! I know it is not the paradise, Finns still tend not to like being criticized and it is one of their weakness but the reality I feel home here and i am blessed to feel so. Domi ego sum!

A tale of a winter!

In Finland, change happens.  Change of seasons, and it is noticeable. Winter turn to spring, and you can feel it and taste it. Winter was rather harsh the last 2 years compared to years before.

But since i mentioned winter, i wanted to write about how do we survive it here. These little tips, come from the little i have learned when dealing with the great cold of the north.

Winter tips that i have learned that i would like to share :

  • Watch out from black ice that forms and the eye cannot see.
  • Walk using the top of your toes when you are walking on ice.
  • Do not try the trick of sticking your tongue to any metals 🙂
  • Use layers of clothe, they are the only ones to keep you warm.
  • Cognac and vodka or Jaloviina are your friends!
  • Wool is your best type of clothe. 
  • Listen to the advice of your spouse if they are Finns, they know better!
  • Finnish men do not like wearing a hat, but don’t be Finn on that one. A hat will save you. 
  • Do not think of Fashion, or how to look cool! cool and fashionable are not in Finnish dictionary during the dark winter month.
  • Buy a UV light, dark days can be devastating to you.
  • Appreciate your winter holiday’s and head to  a sunny destination.
  • Sports are huge part of winter, you can find all kind of winter sports here.
  • Use your camera to take these amazing nature pics, because it tend to get beautiful!

That is most of the advices i have, coming at this time when winter is on its end and spring is coming toward Finland, at least i wish 🙂

Talking about spring here are few pics i took from Helsinki & Finland during this winter! P.s if you ever plan to visit Finland, you should come twice, during the darkness and during the light seasons.

The Hours

” Happy Birthday me!” 1 year older and a 100 wiser, is a popular proverb from back home.

It has been again a while, but thanks for a week of holiday’s or well sickness in bed that I managed to come back here.

I have so much to write about, and really don’t know where to start but well I will let the words fall one after the other.

There has been so many events lately happening in where I come from and where I am today, Finland lack no action as some of you might think! There has been elections, a strong win for the True Finns party and awesome celebration’s after with the golden win in the ice hockey championship, Finland defeated Sweden 6-1 in that game and that my Helsinki became a mini Beirut, I actually did hear enough car horns on those 2 days of festivities to compensate on the 4 years of silence!

The events in the middle east lately, Lebanon and Syria fill a lot of my free time, watching all kind of media sources and following up but comparing my new home to my ex-home is  taking  a toll when I mostly check the Lebanese media, Finland is a fair place even if I sometimes fear what the future hides us here with the win of the True Finns and the rise of the extreme right-wing . I admired this nation since I came back in 2006 for things that differs it from the corrupted, sickening Middle East.

I  see though beautiful things that makes me grateful, like the excellent medical system that showed its care to me this week.

But let’s, go back to the hottest zone on earth, the land of the Arab spring. Is this spring still kicking? It seems many believe that it is fading. I see that it will fade but will rise again, the people want change but what is this change.
Coming from that region, I have enough knowledge of the people and their ways. This might not be fair, but I believe that hunting down the leaders will not make much effect, democracy and I mean the one I enjoy daily is taught, it comes from learning and understanding and respecting the values of humans, animals, ourselves. something we lack!

I see lots of young Arab youth on Twitter, Facebook revolting but the dreams they aim for need one thing they forget: A system of education and time and hours. nothing changes in one day, there will be chaos then perfection, it is the way life works.

These freedoms and democracies comes from rising above selfishness and working hard to build a sustainable system for all, equal citizens. But well, that spring is still very young and we will live to see its future. Meanwhile,I wish that the western societies become more supportive to those young groups forming there, the Arab spring youth of Egypt, of Lebanon, and sadly the youth of Syria are dying fighting for a better future without tyranny. Europe and the west, should do more.

While all this uncovers, and the future becomes clear I keep counting the hours and days I spend  comparing this world to that world.

Will write again soon, meanwhile I enjoy the peace and stability wishing that one day,the youth of my home country will taste the beauty of this real democracy!

A year of change, a year since that winter!

Wow! What a year it has been since my last post here.

You might think that this blog is dead! Well, you are wrong. big time wrong.

The Finnish experience is on and on and that winter in my last post is way gone, but hell the current winter isn’t going anywhere. A bit of spring shows today though in Helsinki.
A year has passed and i have been busy with life, integrating, adapting, cooking, going on holiday’s, dreaming of how a democratic Middle east will look. Dictators have fallen, others have risen, majorities became minorities, disasters that shatter the heart have taken place in great nations. and even a nuclear fear populated by the world media that sparked the Finns to empty the pharmacies of Jodi Tablets.
But my Finland, is the same except of course Timo Soini is a powerful leader with 17.2 % of the voters wanting him to lead them to the new Finland, the nation of perfection.

Anyhow, before going into politics, I could talk a bit about how did Finland change in my eyes in the last year, last summer was extremely hot, the fans ran out from the stores, the Finns were sun worshipers again, nobody stayed indoors, the terraces were full of the happy Finns, but then …

Came winter again, a harsh one with -0C and much below for more then a 100 day, skins have dried, hearts have shaken, minds gone nuts, but all what i did was work. Working at night in Finland is scary for a lebanese soul sometimes.

In Lebanon, we are hyper, active, too sociable, and imagine the peace of the night of Helsinki, tasks are there to be done but the night is quiet, really quiet. sometimes at least!

But this year also, has been full of surprises, of hours spent watching Aljazeera, watching a new world being born, a new middle east, Tunis and Egypt got rid of their pain in the ass aka dictators, these brave nations youth showed that they are too eager for democracy, for change. Hoping few others will follow.

But what they forgot, that the democracy has taken the west years and decades to be learned, it is not something that you get after toppling a dictator in a matter of weeks, this is gonna be a long process and eduction will play a huge role in it. The future will show us great success in the region if the youth of these nations take control and know how to go from here.

As for the disasters of this year, the upcoming Finnish elections will be one heck of a disaster with the True Finns leading. It seems that the trend of blaming the minorities for the problems of the majorities, has become a habit in the Finnish society, leader like Soini tend to fool the people into following them promising them a better Finland (without modern art???!!! ).

What is wrong with today’s Finland ? That answer i keep it for my next long post. And i promise it will be before the upcoming heated elections.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for my following post dedicated to the brave nation of Japan.

Like a fairytale winter

Again, after a long period of inactivity due to the human laziness and life! I came back…

In my last post, I was mentioning a wish, my wish was to get a real winter and god what have i asked for! I ended up getting the full package, a winter that i have never seen here in Finland! A winter that amazed me with its beauty and froze my heart and soul with its cold but it was all white and glittery and it still goes on.

We had a season of Joy and wonderful Holiday in Vimpeli, where my parents in law live and it’s just so spacious and huge and all frozen, from the lake to the roads and fields. it was a unique Christmas, all white full of great time of relaxation after a busy month at work. Then came the new year and it’s festivities in Helsinki, The traditional fireworks overlooking the city from the rock. Finland keeps impressing me more and more, It would be great to share more with you about my great experiences here so far, and specially not blogging daily!

The winter came fast, it hit us hard with -25C in Helsinki for some days and snow covering the streets and the cars all over. But then came the sunshine and the green warm weather of Beirut, I left after the New Year to visit my parents and family in Lebanon where i spent a week of great time and memories! It was so fun to go back and picture the city of Beirut in a  different way, to notice the things i miss there and to appreciate the good life standards we have here, the social system and the good benefits of a hard-working society. I  was still impressed with the good weather which was not a winter as i expected Lebanon to be at this period of the year. It was a simple spring!

Coming back to here, i met the first time in my life the Winter Wonderland, the fairytale place on earth.

In this fairytale place, you will see the trees all white, the city all white, the trams all white and frosty. It was something really to share. I let these pictures below taken by Maiku talk …

Winter Wonderland!

Amazing!

I will try to share more blog posts from Lebanon and Finland soon! Stay tuned …

I want that Helsinki back!

When i arrived to Finland in 2006,and in the period before getting here, when i was hanging out with the few Finns i knew back then , the first conversation and question that was asked to me was:”Will you handle the cold?”.

Today, i wonder if these Finns were talking of a fantasy land. Finland is not cold, not for these 3 years i have been here. Finns used to tell me, you need double pants, its -20C at least and so on and lots of snow which was exciting for me coming from a warm country but …

That weather bearely showed itself to me, i remember seing -20C for 7 days in my second year and it was an achievemnt, i remember the freezing cables of the tram, the clear view of everything.

An article in YLE made me think of this post.

When now, Finns speak to me i feel some sadness in their eyes, it’s like they miss that snow, cold degrees and freezing cold and i understand it. my heart ake for the snow, i think most of my readers from Middle east will not understand why somebody would like cold so much. Imagine living in Saudi arabia without sand or desert!

The fact is that Finnish nature is at it’s glory in winter, can’t ignore that, this country’s soul is it’s winter and the Finns are so proud of surviving it’s long period and still excelling in having services and a society enduring all the hard winters in history, like the one of 1987 where the coldest was -34C. not to mention how proud they are of the “Talvisota” or winter war that they celebrate it’s 70 anniversary this month.

I look today outside, it’s +8, a Christmas without snow, seems like possible this year again for 2 years on a row. When i came here, i had in mind the image of a morning christmas looking from a window like a child visiting santa’s land to the snow but i have never seen it so far!

The global warming has hit us, and it hit us hard.

For a country, leading in recycling and enviromental care, even there is still lots to do here but there is a will and comitement from the Finns to save the globe it’s an unfair thing that their winter, beautiful winter has been stolen.

Yes! Our Finnish winter has been stolen by the global warming. we have barely snow in January an now we live in a Britain-like until then!

Finland lives as a dark country for arround 6-8 month a year, but it had light always by the whiteness on the ground and by the northen lights of the sky. now, it’s simply gray!

So, i take this post to ask you to spread global awarness and support the effort being done in Copenhagen to stop the global warming and give me then the Finland of my dreams, the Finland that they told me about, the cold, the snow, the freeze, the ice and the nature! I look, for the day that my wife will wake up look from the window and tell me: “honey! this is the winter i told you about.”

Sasi, with swine flu edition!

P.s: Marika just told me how to put snow falling on my blog 🙂 Kiitos Maiku!