Monday, June 19, 2006


One of my best friends got married in Finland on Saturday, and of course I had to get there. Unfortunately, I had to get back to Cambridge immediately after the party. Because I didn't want to blow my non-existent summer holiday budget for a two-day quickie, I took the cheapest options, which meant bus to Stansted, Ryanair to Tampere, train near the wedding venue, and finally my friends picked me up and gave me a lift to the venue - and the same happened in reverse order the next day. The beautiful, wonderful wedding aside, here are a couple of things I noticed.

  • words like "please", "excuse me", "sorry" and "thank you" don't exist in the Finnish language. It is also possible that the government has introduced a new tax for the usage of these luxury items. Luckily, Finns have quickly adopted strategies to avoid these taxes and become fluent in going on with their lives without having to resort to these frills.
  • speaking of frills, the term "no-frills airline" has a deeper meaning than I had realised. Terminals are considered as a "frill", so are chairs in the corrugated steel huts they call "terminals". At least in Pirkkala where Ryanair flies to in Finland.
  • to provide their British-bound customers a proper dose of queuing practice before coming to the "land that invented the queue", the bus from Tampere city center arrives at the airport 2 hours 40 minutes before the flight to Stansted. To ensure distractionless learning, the Terminal 1 next door with all the cafes and shops is also closed during this time.
  • Ryanair apologises for no longer allowing firearms to be carried on board their planes, following a company policy that came to effect on 1st April 2003. I'm surprised, and would like to learn more about their pre-2003 policies, considering especially that after 2001, even attempts to bring sewing kits to planes have been categorised as acts of terrorism and crimes against humanity. I also wonder how many arms traders, after having thought this is just an April fools' prank, had to leave their UZIs to the security control after this new policy was implemented.
  • There are three lanes to passport control in English airports: British, other EU/EEA, all other. There are always people who find themselves in the wrong queue(s). I don't understand this. I can see how sometimes people get tired and disoriented, and as all the airports look the same, they might be confused about where they are. But surely they should still be able to remember where they are from? Or be able to check it from the cover of the passport they're holding. My advice: next time you fail to stay at home AND fail to remember where that home is AND forget how to read, ask the staff for directions and take the "all other passports" queue. It also covers "outer space". P.S. United States is NOT a member of the EU. P.S.2 EEA is short for 'European Economic Area' and not 'USA' in French.
  • I warmly recommend Finland as a travel destination, especially at this time of the year. It's warm, safe, and beautiful; the nightless nights, the nature. And also, the majority of Finnish idiots took the Ryanair flight FR2195 from Tampere to Stansted yesterday and are thus now out of the country.
  • kind advise to some of the aforementioned idiots: it's not considered as a sign of bravery to shout stupidities about "slowness in emptying the tube" in Finnish to the non-Finnish flight personnel, who are trying to ensure that the families with small children exit the plane first. Also, it doesn't count towards your alpha-male score and is not considered as "a situation where you took charge and showed initiative and leadership skills".
  • I've become ever so slightly British. I judge the status and respectability of estates based on how their lawns are cut. The wedding venue (a conference/golf hotel/castle) would get a perfect top score otherwise, but seeing a robo-mower parked at the edge of the rugged front courtyard lawn that was full of weeds and in general in a bad shape drops the score. It's not just that the lawn was overgrown; I could forgive it having some of those weeds (as they are extremely difficult to get rid of), and overlook the fact that the edges weren't trimmed and there was a more or less smooth transition from grass to gravel. I can see how the weight of snow during the winters and and the paths of melting waters in the spring contribute to the unevenness of the surface, and to the undefined overall oval-esque shape of the lawn. But the robo-mower is simply wrong. Just like with cutting hair, it's not only about getting it short, how it's cut also matters.
  • continuing this stiff upper lipped cawing (I need to stop now, or I'll start feeling like reading the Daily Telegraph): the so called "sculpture park" around the otherwise brilliant Sara Hilden museum in Tampere is a joke, not only because of the lack of interesting sculptures, but also lack of tending of the "garden". If "how to cut it" is too difficult, at least get it short. Please.
  • The world is small. I thought I could escape from my work for two days to ensure my friend gets properly married, and to meet friends. When I decided to get a drink from the venue's bar, the person in front of me in the queue turns around, turns out to be my aunt, and asks me why I'm there when I should be in Cambridge doing my PhD. :-) Forget Big Brother: he's an amateur, dilettante and a complete dabbler compared to mums, aunts, and the ladies next door. Anyway, very nice meeting them after a while and congratulations to my uncle on his "longest drive of the day" trophy!
  • Finnish summer fashion still includes sandals with socks, belt bags and t-shirts tucked into the shorts.
  • To ensure that people who return to Britain would get a smooth transition to the cold climate, the Stansted airport buses have their AC's set at 30 degrees. Conversely, to make the driver feel at home, the ones in Finland have their AC turned to 13 degrees.
  • Consider it very carefully before becoming a North Ossetian folk dancer; you will have to wear a fur hat even when parading through the main street in Tampere under the scorching sun and heat, while performing acrobatics and singing Ossetian folk tunes.
  • Finland in the summer is too beautiful to describe, and too nice to leave behind. Lack of politeness and sense of fashion, and badly mowed lawns are a small price to pay for a paradise on earth (perfect with mosquitoes).
(Pic © BAA)

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