Friday, December 22, 2006

More observations of Finland

  • When you ride the tram in Helsinki, you pay in one of three ways. 1. You have a travel card that provides unlimited rides for a monthly fee. (This is what I do. It's about 40 euro a month.) 2. You have an account with credit on your travel card that you debit on a machine when you get on. 3. You buy a ticket for 2 euro from the driver. If you do option #1 or #2, no one checks on you---it's the honor system. Occasionally, there will be blue-jacketed tram employees that will board the tram three or four at a time. They seem to come out of nowhere and board, just to catch you if you don't have a valid ticket or travel card. If they catch you, it's a 66 euro fine. I don't know how they collect that.
  • Question: What do you think ananas means in Finnish? Hint: You can find it in the fruit section of the grocery. Answer: pineapple. The Finnish word for banana is banaani.
  • Lots of people, even adults have these plastic shapes hanging down from their jacket on a piece of string. For the longest time I didn't know what these were. One morning a few weeks ago, each seat on the tram had one for us. It is a reflector that dangles off your jacket and rotates around, alerting drivers of your presence in the long northern nights.
  • FMI gave each of us a present for the holidays: a new backpack. The Division of Atmospheric Science at the university gave us a wooden mug for drinking shots. Based on the amount of alcohol at the division Christmas party, I understand.
  • Two nights ago was the Christmas dinner party for senior researchers at FMI. It was held in the penthouse suite with rooftop access overlooking the city and two saunas. What a great time to socialize with the other senior scientists at the institute! I must have hopped in and out of the sauna about 8 times over the course of the night, sometimes going out onto the balcony (0 deg C) to cool off. One woman shared the sauna with us, choosing to remain toweled most of the time. Many of the men chose to remain naked, even in her presence. Sauna is not a sexual thing to the Finns, so this is typical, although becoming less common. Even 15 years ago, coed sauna time was more common, including among family members. In today's politically correct world, this institution has been undergoing change, to separate sauna times for men and women.


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