There are things in your life that you think you won’t ever be able to do, like going into a cold lake straight from sauna or being selected to an international program where you get to spend a whole month knowing a country and a great group of people with similar interests as you. But both these things happened to the majority of the FCP participants since we arrived in Finland (and those on the group who still hadn’t dived into the icy lake have two weeks left to try it).
I had the opportunity to do the sauna/lake thing in my family weekend, with the great Hynynen-Keränen family, as well as eating elk, fishing (not for the faint of heart) and tons of other amazing things. I also got the opportunity to visit a farm owned by relatives of the Keränens, where I got my hand all licked over by a cow, after watching the athletics world championships and Pitkämäki getting the silver with Laura, Pirkko and their amazing children. But the most important part of the weekend was the opportunity to understand Finnish people and how they relate to each other emotionally.
Coming from a Latin and Southern European background, I used to think I was too “Nordic” compared to everyone back home, but I changed my mind since I got here. After all, it felt strange not being supposed to even touch people on the shoulder. It was still a cultural shock for me when I got to see how my wonderful Finnish family hugged much more frequently their dogs instead of each other – and it still is. “Tear down this wall!” seemed like a difficult mantra to follow on the first days (I’m not a fan of Reagan, but apparently quoting someone famous is usually a plus), specially when it came down to European issues and the problems we face nowadays in this corner of the world.
But I have to say that the wall is coming down slowly and my Finnish family really contributed for me to understand the different ways of showing affection that a Finn uses. By offering you food and really insisting on you to try it; by laughing a lot at the table, over the not-that-strong-coffee; by telling you – and really meaning it – “it is very good to have you here”; by being completely comfortable in the silence. And for breaking down the cultural barrier and giving you a really tight hug on the goodbye.
I could have written about the beautiful nature that I’ve been in contact in the last weekend, or the great successful Finnish companies I met in the past few days or even the honesty and openness of Finnish politicians and their political system. But when I was leaving Laura and Pirkko’s farm, as I was entering the red family car, Laura tried her best to tell me something in English while she could still catch me. “Write something beautiful about this place”, was the last thing she said. The most beautiful thing Finland showed me so far was how to relate to people in different ways that I – a bit too emotional Portuguese girl – am used to. So, Laura, I tried my best.