Yesterday was my one-year anniversary of landing in Helsinki. I have been reflecting on this anniversary a lot lately---how my perceptions have changed about the US and Finland and how my own life has changed.
1) I haven't taken any Finnish language classes, so given that, I am surprised that I do as well as I do, but that is still much less than I need to be if I wanted to be more fully functional. The Finns make it easy on us non-natives, though. Nearly everyone can speak some English, so getting by is relatively easy and it doesn't motivate me well to take a Finnish class.
2) When I first got here, I would find myself fascinated by every little thing I would see. My head would be turning, just looking at words on signs, trying to understand them, or seeing new things that I never saw before. I am less like that, but I still find a lot of little joys in each day from looking around and noticing the environment I am in.
3) I never had a cell phone in the US, and didn't see a need for one. Now, I have a Nokia phone that I can read my email and surf the web on. It is a pretty amazing device.
Nokia is a Finnish company, and I read that 97% of Finnish households had at least one cell phone. When I told that to someone they replied, "Oh, is it that low?" So, yes, cell phones (called mobile phones in Europe) are quite prevalent.
4) Movie theatres sell assigned seats to see the movies here in Finland, and the movies run for months. For example, Casino Royale ran for 6-8 months in Finnish theatres, and theatres would still be crowded months after its premiere. You can still see the Simpsons movie in the theatre, four months after it premiered. In contrast, movie tickets are general admission (open seating) in the US, and movies tend to be shown for not much more than a few weeks before being replaced by other movies.
5) No car and loving it! Public transportation is so good here, there's no need to have a car. Furthermore, bicyclists have their own trails, some of which are even marked on the sidewalk. (This can be particularly confusing for new visitors to Helsinki---watch for the bicycle lanes on the sidewalks.)
6) I had to move to Finland to meet the Australian woman of my dreams.