Tuesday, January 20, 2015


I am going to dedicate this post to answering some of my students' questions. Many of the questions were about food and stores.  We are living in the middle of Helsinki, which is the capital of Finland. It isn't a large city like, New York City, but is definitely a city nonetheless, and about half a million people live here. There is probably a grocery store about every 2 or 3 blocks. However, most of them are very small.

We travel to the city center if we want a lot of things because the store there is the largest (we think). However, this grocery store is still only about half the size of our major stores at home. This is because there is less choice on products. So instead of having almost a whole aisle of salad dressings, you have maybe 10 to choose from. Personally I like this better. It is way easier to make decisions and I doubt there is as much waste. One very interesting thing we have found in the grocery store is that whole plants are sold, such as lettuce and herbs. People must have grow lights at home because there certainly isn't enough sunlight to just put them on their window sills. (The sunlight is presently from 9:00AM to 4:00PM.....and getting longer!)
These are all whole plants waiting for someones home!

The majority of the stores are very small, except in the main downtown part of the city. The only really large store is called Stockman's. It has about 7 floors and carries most everything. It also has a restaurant and a very large bookstore. It is a beautiful building.
Stockmans is the lighted up building in the back
One of your questions is "what is the food like?" From what I can tell it seems that the people around here eat a lot of soups and stews. Fish is especially popular and salmon is sold everywhere. I'm never quite sure what meat we are buying because I haven't learned the words yet, but there is type of meat that I know. "Poro" means reindeer. The Finnish people in the northern part of the country raise reindeer and it is a meat that many people eat. I had my first reindeer in a soup I ordered and it was delicious.
Smoked reindeer soup

This was not the reindeer that I ate!
Finland uses euros as currency. The euro, , is the official currency of the eurozone, which consists of 19 of the 28 member states of the European Union: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania,Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. (wikipedia,2015) The exchange rate changes daily but as of today the rate exchange is 1.16 dollar equals 1 euro. When we first got here 1.30 dollars equaled one euro. The money itself is very similar to ours except that coins are used until you get to 5 euros. They have also gotten rid of 1 cents so when you buy things they are rounded up or down by 5's.

Garrett asked me about the night sky. Unfortunately, I have seem very little of it. Since we are in the city there are many lights and we have had few clear days. It is usually either snowing or raining. I will give you more information on that after I get out of the city.

There are lots of things to do here. There is a zoo close by, an amusement park (which is closed in the winter), many parks and tons of museums. The parks are well used and we see many people jogging. My husband and I walk whenever we can and, believe it or not, we have started jogging. Not like you, Forest, ours is more of a snail pace! The other weekend we had about 6 inches of snow and all the children were out with their sleds, people cross country skied, and a man brought his horse and sleigh to the park to sell rides to anyone interested.

David I don't believe I have offended anyone yet. I did get rather strange looks when I said "nakemiin" to people as we left. It means, "good-bye." However, I have since learned that it is a very old fashioned word! Most people say "hei hei or moi moi." Which leads me to the word for this post; Hyvaa. This means good. So until the next post nakemiin......oops I mean moi moi!! And be hyvaa!!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Communicating in Finland

When you think about it isn’t it amazing that we have so many languages. According to the Linguistic Society of America there are 6,909 different languages today in our world and in Europe alone there are 230 different spoken languages. Isn’t that amazing?
I have always loved languages and at certain times of my life have tried to learn them. I had Spanish in school from 3rd grade to 8th grade, studied German in high school and took one semester of French in college. Before I went to Japan I tried to learn some Japanese (not very successfully) and I have been learning Finnish for the last 6 months.

Finnish is very different from all the other languages I know. It is considered a very difficult language to learn and I would have to agree. However, before talking about the language lets get familiar with where Finland is on a map. It is a nordic country in Northern Europe. Finland is bordered on the west by Sweden, Norway to the north, Russia on the east and Estonia in the south. Finland has only been an independent nation since 1917. In the past it has been controlled by Sweden and Russia. I will have another post about its history but this is important when looking at Finland’s national languages. You see they have 2 official languages. Around 90% of the citizens speak Finnish, and around 6% speak Swedish. There is also a language that the Sami people speak. They live in the far north area of Finland called Lapland. Their language is distantly related to Finnish.

So the majority of signs, instructions and information are in both Finnish and Swedish and NOT English. While I have visited many countries that don’t give information in English this is the first time I totally don’t understand what is going on. It makes for some very interesting dilemmas. For instance, take the grocery store. Many things have pictures on them but that doesn’t always help. My husband, Dan, and I decided that oatmeal would be a good cheap hearty breakfast that we could have while here. I bought a package that had a picture of what looked like oatmeal. The first morning we went to use it I had to decipher the instructions on the back. Thank goodness for Google Translate. However, I found out that I had bought buckwheat. Have any of you ever eaten buckwheat? We have only used the shells in our garden as a mulch! Anyway, we cooked it up (after translating the metric measurements into English ones!). It wasn’t bad with some brown sugar (at least that’s what we think it is) and some lingonberry jam (tastes like cranberries) and some milk (fat-free, low fat, whole??? more words).
Doesn't this look like a picture of oatmeal!

Luckily for us most everyone here speaks English. They learn it in school and get to practice it through tourists like us and television shows. They have lots of American and British TV shows on in English with Finnish subtitles underneath. I have been watching the subtitles and am always excited when I understand something.

However, I think that it is important to try and learn the language of the place where you are. It is respectful and fun. The other day the weather was really bad and I got to say to the woman that we were buying scarves from, “Kurja ilma tanaan.” That means, “Miserable weather today.” See the time studying the Pimsleur Method wasn’t all in vain!
So everyday we have tried to make a goal of learning more words. Dan has been writing them on his hand, which I don’t approve of. (I had to add that because of all the times I have told my students not to write on their hands). The first few days every time he wanted to say thank-you he had to look at his hand! Yes..it was a little weird.
Don't do this!!

So, I will give you a word for each blog I post, and when I get back into the classroom with you, my students, I will give you a multiple choice quiz. The winners will get some kind of Finnish prize, not buckwheat, I promise.

The word this blog is……. Anteeksi    It means “Sorry” or “Excuse me.” Phonetically you pronounce it “On taxi”. I think this is a good first word to learn, don’t you? Until my next blog.