It may sometimes be complicated to live abroad because of the cultural aspect, BUT, don’t be afraid.
Last year, I went to Finland for my Erasmus. I stayed in Turku (2 hours by bus from Helsinki) for 6 months, and I tried to fit in well in the Finnish culture. Before going there, I checked some tips and tricks about this unknown country on the internet. The same way I read stereotypes about the Portuguese before coming here, I also read a lot of funny (and other not funny) things about the Finns…
Let’s talk about stereotypes. I was thinking that the Finnish people were rude, impolite, and unable to share their feelings. I considered that they were old bears listening to metal music and drinking vodka the entire day. It’s true that the Finnish language is not as beautiful as the French language, and that it sounds unpleasant, BUT I will give you some good reasons to visit Finland anyway.
First, they all have a sauna in their houses. This is a really good advantage. They are a little bit crazy because most of the time, after the sauna, they all jump in the cold water (in the lake, the Baltic Sea, snow or whatever). They always go naked to the sauna, even if they do it with business associates because it gives them the possibility to forget the hierarchy.
About the daylight, in June and July, the sun doesn’t drop below the horizon and the temperature is around thirty degrees, you can party all night long without feeling that it’s time to sleep! the winter, on the contrary, is really hard. The temperatures are around minus thirty degrees you can walk on the frozen Baltic Sea. It is snowing all the time and you can build a snowman and throw snowballs on your friends. It was in Finland that I saw the quietest and most beautiful landscapes I have seen in my life. Everything seems blue (the sky and the sea) white (the snow) and green (the forest). Landscapes are gigantic and huge.
It’s easy to go on a trip around Finland because there are a lot of countries. I went to Russia, Lapland, Aland Island, Sweden, Latvia, and Estonia. I also used a Couchsurfing website to meet people in each city where I stayed, and visited tourist attractions and other places “not meant” for tourists.
It’s hard to make friends with a Finn. I do not mean this against the people themselves, just in a cultural sense. They usually don’t speak too much and boys are shy, they never hit on you. Which means it is girls’ turn to go and make a move on them, and well, why not? – For me, and having a double of actor Channing Tatum in my English course, this was not a problem.
One of the stereotypes about Finns is truly true… They LOVE VODKA. In some bars or places you can ask to have a bucket with a cocktail of vodka inside. Most of the students (even me) take a cheap ferry (to go to Estonia or Latvia) and buy alcohol Duty-free – meaning that we can buy alcohol and not pay any taxes.
So, to conclude, I would say that any experience can be a good experience to have. It may sometimes be complicated to live abroad because of the cultural aspect, BUT, don’t be afraid, I can say in full honesty that this kind of program has given me one of the best experiences in my life. This is the opportunity to meet some new friends, and to feel free!
Students’ Union French Volunteer
Project co-financed by ERASMUS+