Little Culture Shocks

Dear Hometown,

I think we started off on the wrong foot. This was a long, long time ago and I’ve held onto my first impression of you relentlessly, not wanting to give you a second chance. But I now apologize if I seem to take you for granted. Deep down, I don’t. I really am very appreciative of all the good things you’ve offered me along the years: safety, clean air and food, a good level of education, laws that protect me.

Like that one time when I was renting an apartment in Paris, you would never had let me get deceived in the way that I was. A normal-looking apartment turned out to be visibly moldy on one entire wall, which had been covered by book shelfs during the viewing. That wouldn’t fly in your court. Consumers have rights and real estate agents aren’t crooked. In Paris, I was stuck with a binding three year rental agreement with no one to stand up for me but myself.

Let me explain what went wrong in our relationship. It was the little culture shocks. The tiny ones that I’m sure you don’t even notice you’re doing. I know, I know I’m being picky, everyone has their faults and I shouldn’t have judged you immediately. I know I’m not perfect, either. I probably do a lot of annoying things all the time. (Like complain about you.)

First of all, you have a tendency to come off a bit cold. I know you don’t do it intentionally, but maybe you should pay attention to it, it’s your biggest flaw. Have you noticed that the past four or five summers have had the temperatures of a mild winter? Please do something about that for next summer. Just saying.

Second, no offense but your cooking isn’t great. I appreciate that you have an advanced sense of hygiene when it comes to food, but that’s pretty much the limit to your cooking skills (and mine too, I will admit). You are way too into fast food and preserved ready-made meals.

I can’t remember the last time I actually ate the fruit I buy instead of throwing it straight into the trash can. I know the climate and the distance from the rest of the world make it hard to get fresh fruit here, and it’s also why you have to price it so high, but oh boy would I love to have some every now and then, if not daily. I’ve noticed that your friends don’t seem to mind though, they seem content with what you have to offer. So maybe I’m alone on this.

I still remember that day in the school cafeteria. I was just under 9 years old and I was so new here that I even still had a tan from my previous hometown. It was mid-winter. I had gone to a new school in a new country (your country) and could barely form sentences in your language. Everything was bewildering and I was already in shock. Snow, darkness, so many weird layers of winter clothes, those thin slippers all the kids wore indoors, the way things were handled that seemed obvious to everyone else.

A boy was sitting at a table with a plateful of something black. The free warm lunch your schools provided. When he realized I didn’t know what it was, he said to me, in a teasing voice, “These are pancakes made of pigs’ blood!” I didn’t know if I should believe him or not, but just to be on the safe side, I didn’t eat any. I later found out it was true.

Third, the other cultural misunderstandings. The worst was winter sports day in that first school, during the very first months. I wonder if you still remember it. That was where it all spiraled off in the wrong direction and our relationship never fully recovered.

The teacher was ill and there was a substitute. Only I didn’t know what a substitute was because I didn’t understand the word in your language. Have you ever realized that “sijainen” (substitute) sounds similar to “sian” (a conjugation of “pig”)? I thought all the other kids were openly calling the teacher a pig!!! No one thought to explain anything to me or to ask me if I even knew how to ski. I didn’t. We had bought the skis the previous evening and I had tried them on. That was all the experience I had.

It turned out, winter sports day meant having a cross-country skiing competition in a forest park area of sorts. It was a bit of a way from the school. As I couldn’t ski, I was obviously the last one. I got lost. My skiing shoe fell off and I was trying to walk in the snow with one foot on my ski and the other just clad in a woolen sock. At some point I noticed that everyone had left. No one waited for me! Not even the teacher! I would probably still be there if it wasn’t for a girl, one single girl, who noticed me and helped me. I didn’t even know the way back to school. We arrived several hours late and were told off. I guess no one told the substitute I had just arrived from the other side of the globe. Maybe they didn’t think it was important or maybe they just forgot me.

I never wanted to ski after that. Or do any other winter sports. Or have anything to do with winter or snow. I wasn’t impressed with your people’s compassion, empathy or helpfulness, either. Why didn’t you teach your children to reach out to one another when they needed help? Didn’t you think it was important?

You never seemed to understand where I was coming from (both literally and not). I wanted to leave you as soon as I grew up, and I did. I joined the airline business and flew away. I dumped you and never once looked back. But out of a spontaneous decision, I came back and here I am. A bit awkward, isn’t it? Trying to rekindle a flame that wasn’t really there to start with.

But I want you to know that I still do appreciate you. It’s not your fault that you don’t understand me. And it’s not my fault that I don’t understand you. Maybe we can still live together. Leave the past in the past and try to start anew.

What do you say, should we give it another shot? As long as I don’t have to ski.

85 responses to “Little Culture Shocks

  1. Nicely put. (Though with so much snow, I would still give ski a chance)
    (I used to love it in France)
    An my apologies for the Paris flat. There are crooks everywhere I’m afraid.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Understandable. Only waterski then? 😉
        I can understand your feelings about Paris.
        Friends of mine from High school went to study in Montpellier. Loved it. Unfortunately I haven’t been there. Too many places to see and so little time… Take care.

        Liked by 1 person

          • Erasmus? Wow. That is way after my time, but I’ve always felt it was a wonderful initiative. The best way for Europeans to get to know each other. Trés bien. (What did you study? Have I asked that before?) A bientôt

            Liked by 1 person

              • This is a very interesting observation. South Africans are also touting for free education and we already have the problem in some corporates that there are too many Chiefs and not enough Indians (top-heavy management structures). Also, the right people are not always in the right positions. I studied law and now I think I should have taken up an apprenticeship to qualify as a plumber or an electrician.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Yes, that is interesting. Sounds a bit similar to what’s going on over here. People sometimes forget that free things do come with a price. Anyway, I’m paying for the education now as working taxpayer.
                  I sometimes wonder what I might’ve become if we’d had internet back then and the chance to do some research on all the options available. I didn’t really know what to study so I went to business school. Most people there were more driven than me or had better social connections and they always got the job, instead of me. In a small country like this with fewer job opportunities than qualified applicants, family and friends are always favored, too. Hard to compete with that. (And the positions aren’t always filled with the most competent applicant.)
                  But then, I found my niche in the travel industry and many of my jobs were my ”dream jobs” at the time, though ”only” customer service and nothing to do with what I studied. Life is a series of decisions, snowballing to the next one 😊

                  Liked by 1 person

              • I went to a Business school in Lyon, and then an MBA in the States. But my focus was always Marketing.
                That problem is becoming world-wide. Even in the third world. Not enough jobs for masters degrees. And plumbers and carpenters are scarce… Tsss. Upside down.
                Bon week-end mon amie.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. Oooh, what a lovely letter. I’m sure he will understand you better now. 🙂 And what a nice gesture for an improvement of your relationship!

    I’m so sorry for your trauma from your first days in your new country. These things are forever. Saying it out loud like this can often bring it more into perspective. I hope it did.

    Even though I’ll NEVER forgive my parents for forgetting to pack my swimwear for the camping week and I couldn’t swim in the river with others. (When amore heard this he said: “How far away were you? I’d bring it to you!”)

    And yeah, who would want to ski on flat terrain while there are HILLS just waiting for you to ski down from. 😉 This was always my biggest questions for the Scandinavians.

    The only thing I don’t quite believe is that real estate agents aren’t at least a little bit crooked. Aren’t they everywhere?

    What a lovely post and good riddance for you of some feelings that might not feel the best. Yesterday I wrote a poem right off my chest. Isn’t blogging cool? 😉

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, blogging is cool 😊 It’s freedom, really! This space here is mine, all mine, to use how I want to!!! 😁
      There aren’t any big enough hills here, or a few but not that many. It’s quite flat. And no mountains! In Finland at least.
      Trauma is the right word. It left a scar and a bad taste in my mouth. ”So this is what life here is going to be like, great…”
      Thanks MM for understanding me! 💕

      Liked by 2 people

  3. A great piece. Many of the experiences mentioned in the post resemble mine in my early years in Norway. I knew nothing about skiing or any kind of winter sport and I’m still bad at skiing today. I’ve come to terms with that, I’m a runner, that should be good enough. In Norway we also have that kind of food, it’s called “blood pudding” in Norwegian. I’ve never tasted it and will never ever do it in my life. I’m attached to Australia for some reasons and I love the country. I even considered immigrating to Australia at one point but the suggestion was sadly rejected by other members in the family. Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts on this subject. Greatly appreciated 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Isabelle! I remember reading your post about skiing and how you no longer felt it was a personal failure on your part not to love it. That clicked for me, I feel the same! I’m done apologizing for not being the same as everyone else here. And I would immigrate to Australia in a heartbeat if I could get the rest of the family to come too… (Oh and then there’s the small matter of getting a visa, too…) Thanks for reading and writing your thoughts for me to read! 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      • You know I’m working on my Master Thesis which is about the grammatical differences between British, American and Australian English, and the main focus is AusE. It says something about my passion about Australia 😁

        Liked by 1 person

  4. As I’ve read your blog over the years, I’ve absorbed the way you keep your distance from your “new country” at times, but now I have a better idea of the source of your frustrations there. Of course, I knew about the cold and snow aversion, but all those childhood difficulties would put a rather lasting damper on things! And yet you returned … someday you will have to tell us that story – what pulled you back and made you stay?

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thanks Lexi for reading my posts so carefully over the years 💕 What a joy it is to have met other bloggers here like you, you are a gem!
      I do have many stories untold yet, some will remain so and maybe some will end up on the blog. Thanks for the suggestion for a blog post of why I returned. Maybe I’ll get there.
      I keep my distance partly because the reader can’t know my thoughts about being here if I write in the ’normal’ tone, calling myself a local and ’one of them’. And it’s important for me to tell the reader that, so they understand me correctly. I honestly never felt like I fit in here and it never felt like home. In many ways, I’m like a TCK, though my parents were no diplomats and we didn’t move to several countries one after another. But reading up on TCK’s a few years ago gave me the realisation that my feelings are in fact normal! Spending your formative years abroad, most TCK’s don’t feel like they are returning ”home” when they return to their parents’ home country. I don’t know why the feeling has stayed and I haven’t slowly blended in, along the years… maybe that’s normal too. I always had the feeling I could make a home anywhere so I’m surprised at myself for doing it here, of all places. And again, there is nothing wrong with ’here’, I do appreciate the good things! 😊
      Quite a long reply, yikes!!
      Have a great weekend!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Love this. As a Parisian I can tell you that I had the same love / hate relationship with Paris, but with me it went in phases. Lived as a child, hated it during my college years, to the point of refusing to speak French for five years, and now in the love stage, even though I haven’t been there in ages.

    Coming back is always weird though. I rarely do, but when I came back to Hungary (and I was only here for five years) it was the exact same thing you described. Everyone expects you to know, and you’re still trying to figure things out, who belongs where and with whom. To them it’s so normal, they don’t really notice how hard they make it for us.

    And skiing is evil. I had to go skiing every weekend for five years starting when I was seven, and I’d always end up fighting with everyone. Hated it. Finally put my foot down when
    I hit my teens. Tried it again when I was twenty-three, and huge fights ensued. Some people were not made for that life. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • So happy you can relate (or sorry might be more appropriate 😂) It felt like a lot of Parisians had a love/hate relationship with the city, and people elsewhere in France just didn’t see the charm at all.

      And that’s the thing: people just expect you to blend in, without explanations. They can’t know, if they haven’t experienced it. I think what makes it hard for me is that I’m Finnish. So people really don’t understand. They think I have the same life experiences as them, but I don’t, and the experiences are what make us who we are, they define us. Where you come from, ie where your first memories are from, define your identity, too. I sometimes think, naively so, that it would be easier if I was half some other ethnicity. Because then people would go ”Oh, you have a multicultural upbringing, you must see things differently from me then”. But since I’m a Finn, they think I must be just like them. Because in a small country like this, they all watched the same tv shows as kids, had the same experiences and so on. When I try to tell them who I am, they seem to think I am bragging or being arrogant! Which seems ridiculous to me. So I keep quiet. And then I feel like I’m pretending to be someone else and it’s depressing… Having said all that, having a multicultural background is a blessing, I so believe that and I’m very happy and proud of it. (In your travels here, have you ever noticed how taking pride in yourself is severely frowned upon in Finnish culture?)

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes to the last part, and totally agree with the rest. I’m French with a very French name (this guy once said, “there’s nothing more French than your name,” and he was from Brittany. But I have very few cultural references. In Germany I was more intent on keeping up with the American culture I was missing from going back and forth, but I rejected Germany from the start. Even though I started writing in it again here, as therapy. And Hungary was never my country to claim, but people see me as one of them. But no one understands your experience, unless they’ve been through it as well.

        I’ve had bragging and arrogant in Germany (so I really acted on it), confusion in France, and showing off in Hungary. I get a pass in Finland, because I’m a foreigner. But we are definitely meeting up when I’m back! We have to keep each other’s sanity.

        Liked by 1 person

        • The bragging/showing off thing is so sad because that really isn’t the point, is it?! And a lot of people also don’t get WHY it’s important for me that people see me for who I am and don’t confuse me with another type of person.
          Hahah, yes, we should meet up! Send me a message a bit in advance ☺️

          Liked by 1 person

          • Great! About the meeting up. 🙂 Will definitely send you a message.

            People don’t understand is the problem. They can only relate to their own little world. And for us it’s natural to make references to the places we lived in, automatically pronounce things the native way. The way we see things, the references we miss, and the stuff we know.

            Had a very interesting conversation with someone who’s very right wing (if they lived in Finland they’d vote for Perus Suomalainen). And that person was basically saying how they are not used to darker skinned people. I explained how
            I grew up, that there was so much variety. And how that’s such a good thing. They accepted that I think like this because I’m used to it, “but we’re not.” Which is all kinds of interesting.

            I’ll send you an email in a minute. As I have some stuff to tell you. 😀

            And we could talk about this for hours, which I’m sure we will.

            Liked by 1 person

  6. Aww, hugs to the 9 year old you! This is such a shock for someone that comes from an extremely empathetic and hospitable culture such as myself that the teachers and students ignored you while on this skiing trip! Luckily it didn’t end up in a dangerous situation for you. Is it just assumed that every kid knows how to ski in Finland? Strange that the teacher didn’t bother to ask, especially when they must have known that you were new.. This cold-distant nature of Finns was hard for me to get used to as well. I never cultivated any good friendship with Finns while I was living there. There are a lot of things to appreciate of course – but also many aspects of life there can be difficult. Your blog post is so timely (again!! 😀 ) considering that I recently read an article by a Nepalese friend living in Finland on how he finds it hard to believe that Finland ranked the highest on “world’s happiest countries” this year. Unfortunately the article is in Nepali, but he raises some valid points such as lack of warmth among people, high suicide rates, and cold-distant nature which can be a problem in inter-personal relationships. Not to mention the weather hahah.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Pooja! It’s so easy to speak with you because you’ve been here, you know what I’m talking about! 😊In retrospect, I’m pretty amazed at how the school handled it. They probably never even knew what happened, it was like I never existed. I’m not trying to sound dramatic, but honestly I could have died out there that day when I was nine. I was completely lost and walking around in knee-deep snow in a strange area without any shoes on, in Finnish mid-winter. If I had understood Finnish, I might’ve realized what the day was going to be about beforehand. But as I didn’t understand anything and could barely express myself in Finnish, I had no idea. I was like a farm animal they were taking to the slaughterhouse, happily unaware of my fate… The girl who helped me was a quiet one, one of the ones that get teased for being nerds. I bumped into her later on in life in another school, as chance would have it. Life is very random.
      Anyway, oh yes, the happiness report… don’t get me started!! 😂Apparently they used indicators such as lack of corruption to measure happiness. Nepotism is a form of corruption that is doing very well in Finland, though of course it could be much worse. But anyway, who decided that THAT was the secret to happiness??! It’s ridiculous! Surely social connections and relationships are important? Geez…
      Thanks, Pooja, for chatting! 💜💜

      Liked by 2 people

  7. I think I can empathize a little: I was nine when my family moved to a neighborhood that I detest to this day. I was moved from a different part of New York City & had the accent to prove it. Wrong ethnic group, etc. But poor you with the skiing and language! You clearly thrived so well that you were able to choose to return. Kudos to your resilience!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Linda. I can imagine that being the ”wrong” ethnicity could be hard to deal with as a kid (and even as an adult). And the accent, yes, I completely understand that. I remember as a kid in Finland ordering food at a restaurant. The food had an English name, just to sound more tempting I guess. I pronounced it the way you are supposed to and the waiter didn’t understand me. But it’s on your menu!! I repeated until I finally understood that I had to pronounce it the Finnish way, letter by letter. Then she understood. Sigh…

      Like

  8. Oh, my heart made a twist when reading about you, lost in the woods while “skiing”. This is a fear that every child may have – and living it through must be painful. Ooh, the whole skiing thing has lost its charm – without even provoking it first :))
    Such a lovely letter, Snow! I wish, the hometown could answer – and in the same gentle manner 🙂 Second chances are always worth it! Especially if you have to live with him for a while now 🙂 Always creating survival strategies, I know from my own experience. Staying creative always, hehe.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Oh my… What a piece… And I thought I had problem with my own sense of belonging to where I live. This bitter sweet account has… The taste of blood pancake!! (Seriously??!).

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Such a lovely letter 🙂 but it broke my heart to read the part where you got lost in the forest and the possibility of a bad ending.
    On another note, there’s a dessert in Portugal that’s made with pig’s blood too. It’s like a pudding made of sugar, bread crumbs, almonds, walnuts, raisins and boiled pork blood…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Do you like the dessert? What’s it called? 😊 Interesting thought to put blood into a dessert!!!
      Thanks for reading, Ines! Yes, my first impression of folks around here wasn’t very good, being left in the forest in my socks. And it’s been hard to repair that first impression! 😧

      Liked by 1 person

      • I failed to mention that it is a regional dessert from the north of Portugal, not something you would casually find in a restaurant menu or served in a school cafeteria. 😉 It’s more like something you would eat at your grandma’s house. That’s what happen to me, I tried the dessert as a kid – without knowing what it was – when visiting some old lady from my family (my grandmother’s cousin? I can’t remember). The memory I have is that it was very sugary and sticky in the teeth. 😀 Then we brought some home and when I asked my mother what is was exactly, I didn’t want to eat more!
        It’s called ‘Papas de sarrabulho’ for both the sweet and the savory dishes. The sweet one is what I described to you in my previous comment. The savory dish is made of pig & chicken meat, pig’s blood, sausages and bread crumbs. I never had this one.
        There are quite a lot of dishes in Portugal that use pig (or chicken) blood, as well as the guts of the pig. It’s quite disgusting but I think the reason why those dishes were created was to avoid the waste – once they killed an animal they would try to cook as many parts as possible. Back then there wasn’t as many animals as today and meat was very expensive. At least that’s the only explanation I can think about that makes sense – not sure if it’s the right one! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • That’s very interesting! Over here, I think the reason for this dish (and many others) was also that food was scarce and you had to eat anything you could find. Now they are considered “traditional” Finnish dishes. But you won’t find them on the menu of a restaurant either! Schools, hospitals and so on: yes. It’s cheap to produce, after all…
          Oh but to use blood in a dessert still sounds so… unappetizing! 😳Happy to hear I wouldn’t accidentally stumble upon it as a tourist in Portugal! 😅With all the delicious dishes you have there, yummy pastries and fresh produce ☺️

          Liked by 1 person

  11. I completely understand the new hometown dilemma. Going to another country that doesn’t speak the language you’re accustomed to is scary for a kid. But I’m glad you’re willing to give it another shot!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your thoughts! It was bewildering and I still remember it all too well. Everything I knew was suddenly reversed, shaken, and turned upside down. Recovery is slow, even 30 years later…
      😊

      Like

  12. Pingback: Ephemeral | The Snow Melts Somewhere·

  13. Now the recent post makes a whole lot more sense. I can’t believe that there wasn’t any accountability in the school, even given it was a substitute teacher. No head counts in the snow? It is heartbreaking to read and I can fully understand why you hate skiing. I am with Manja on the cross country skiing, not fun at all, when there are hills to ski down. As much as I love snow/winter/cold etc etc, I hold the secret that I hated skiing for the time I went and got stuck on my own in thigh-deep snow, wandering about on my own, but I was a 16 year not a tender 9 year old, and I wasn’t surrounded by foreign language either. Still not a fan of cross country skiing, but downhill is fun. I do have to work at it though….
    What strength and resilience you had, to get through those early times, in Finland. That feeling of being lost and alone can be very tramatic, and no doubt gives you more empathy for others who might be facing similar challenges in fitting in. I am glad to read that you took on the challenge to return to Finland.
    As I think I might have mentioned, I know of some folk who have gone back and forth between Australia and Denmark several times, trying to find that elusive ‘home’, but home has changed some much from their last trip, they can’t easily fit in with society. Finallly though, they seem settled in retirement in Australia, being involved with the ex-pat community. It makes me think that expat groups for foreign children should be mandatory. Did they offer you language assistance in the school? Or did you have to wing it yourself? It is commonly thought that children master a foreign language more rapidly than adults. Was that the case for you? And I wonder how your family reacted to the transition? ( if that is not too personal a question). If you did immigrate to Australia, would the boys face some of the same challenges that you did?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, your experience sounds similar. I tried downhill skiing once at around 14 and ended up walkingin knee-deep snow too. I didn’t realise there would be so much of it, something that seems to be obvious to people who grew up here and who recognize different types of snow just by the look of it! It felt like a repeat of my first experience and haven’t been interested in learning downhill skiing either. (Though I did try again, at 24, once. Nope, still not my thing.)
      We too used to have acquaintances who moved back and forth between Finland and Australia. I’ve also known many other expats and third culture kids during my life’s various stages.
      No, I wasn’t offered language assistance but my mum helped me in the beginning to learn to read and congugate Finnish words. I found the diphtongs especially difficult to get right. My grammar is still slightly lacking but you only notice it when I write something at work that gets proofread. English grammar is more logical than Finnish grammar!
      I learned Finnish during the first summer here, in less than half a year, so it was quick, yes. It’s definitely a big bonus to have two ”native” languages occupy your brain on a daily basis! In addition to all the foreign languages I studied and have forgotten. (I sometimes wonder if I’m really a native in either of them, English or Finnish! I think in Finnish, dream in English, prefer to read and write in English, but use Finnish at work and with friends. Feeling neither language is 100% perfect, I hear, is common for bilingual people.)
      As for the boys, I definitely would be cautious of moving when they were big enough to have developed friendships and an identity. Right now would be the right time, agewise, but otherwise I’m not really prepared for that yet. Maybe another good moment would be when they are teenagers, but then again if you want to learn another language on a native level, that’s too late. That said, I’m quite happy with their daycare over here right now. They don’t just mind the kids, they actively teach them skills and other important things they need to know, and they do fun and creative things all the time there 😊

      Like

      • Whilst it is very disappointing that they didn’t offer any help with language acquisition, the Finnish education system is to be admired and is often touted here as visionary and used as an example. Our scores are declining whilst Finnish scores are rising, so you are must be doing something right over there.
        Maybe your boys will want to come here as exchange students? A good compromise, perhaps? My own son went to Norway as an exchange student. Whilst he(and I) can’t tell the difference between different types of snow, he did enjoy skiing. Unlike his Mother, he took to it naturally!!
        Third culture kids’ – I hadn’t head that before!
        It is so obeying how yo use the languages in different ways. Dreaming in a foreign language would be so cool. If I ever achieve that, I would be very happy! Do you count in English/Finnish? That is the real test to see which language is dominant in your brain, I think.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Happy to hear your son successfully tapped into his Norwegian genes and skied like a natural! I count in Finnish but I always think of months in English. I’m embarrassed to admit that I only know the alphabet in English! I get completely mixed up if I try to recite it in Finnish, though it’s the same, with just a few added letters at the end. And I only know Christmas carols and nursery rhymes in English…

          Liked by 1 person

          • Then you are truly bilingual! It is funny how things from one’s younger life stick. I have this Japanese version of the 50’s song: “It is my party and I’ll cry if I want to,” stuck in my head from learning it as a 13 year old. It just doesn’t ever leave me. Must be a bit like the nursery rhymes/carols for you. The rhythm helps I think too, as I can sing along with quite a few Norwegian carols, just from attending club Christmas parties for about 15 or so years. I do think the alphabet is harder as saying the names of the letters, as opposed to the sounds, is not used in regular conversation.

            Liked by 1 person

            • Yes and the Finnish alphabet does something weird with V and W, not sure what but they are sometimes (?) treated like the same letter!! 😯 Finnish Christmas carols are quite slow-paced and if you really listen to the lyrics, quite depressing too – singing about how quickly life is over!!! A popular kids’ song with a cheery upbeat melody sings ”life only lasts a moment and even that moment is gloomy and dull” 😯😯😯 Knowing how sincere Finns are, I don’t think it’s meantas irony!

              Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, and I didn’t stay at the public school mentioned here for longer than a couple of months. After the first summer holiday, I changed schools and went to a private school which had a seperate class for expat kids with native-level English. I went to that school until I turned 18, completing my high school/baccalaureat there too. And so I was able to keep up my English because my classmates and I spoke English with each other all those years, sometimes mixing both languages, then switching back.

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