So this is what roughly 500€ a month will get you as a students appartment. Water and heating are included. Electricity and furniture are not. The high prices for furniture and the lack of a nearby IKEA made it even easier for us to pursue our hobby of woodworking and make some furniture ourself. This results in the fact that I have grown quite fond of this appartment in a short time. The layout is realy nice, as are the big windows that can flood the room with sun. (Altough the fotographers among you might notice that I cheated a bit)
The point of this post meanwhile is not to show of our apartment but to show some distinct features that are common here but probably nowhere else. I guess every country has these, altough I do not know what we have to offer in Germany in that regard. Anyway. You know the winter is cold when you see these triple glas double frame windows:
Strikingly the big windows are not easily opened, because they don't have any preinstalled handles (there is one loose handle for all them). Which probably means it also does not get to warm in the summer – which I would consider a plus point. The heating and ventilitan in general is quite sofisticated. There are small vents next to every window that you can open to let a small amount of air in and out. Meanwhile the heaters can not be turned on the way you are used to – which means they do not get hot. You can turn them completly of and regulate the temperature in three steps but contrary from what you might expect they do net get hot when you turn them to three. But I can confirm they work – in the sense that it is warme in our flat than outside.
The kitchen also has some unique things to it. Above you see an integrated cutting bord of which we have two. I never used one of them though, because they are a little bit to low. What we use everyday instead is the ingenious dishes drying cupboard which they have everywhere around here.
Next up is the bathroom which can come up with this device:
What is it? It is useful. It is a small shower head that is fittet to the faucet. It works by turning on the faucet and then pressing the lever on the shower head. In general it is meant for cleaning, specifically your behind while you sit on the toilet. It is not as sophisticated as a japanese toilet but it does its job quite well. And other than its japanese counterpart it is very useful for other cleaning tasks in the bathroom. See this is what I mean with pragmatism around here. Anyway.
Well how to go to the sauna? Yeah, it is in the basement.
As some of you know, I know at least somethings about sauna. So this is neither my first visit to a "finnish" sauna nor my first visit to a sauna on finnish ground, therefore I feel qualyfied to tell you: the basement of this student appartement building has a good sauna. Well, ok not a great one, but it is honestly good. But surely if someone knows how to build a sauna then it is the Finns. So let's show you some details. Because you know it‘s the details.
Let‘s continue the journey with the changing cubicle. First thing you will note is that there are way more clothes hooks than people will actually fit in the cubicle or the sauna for that matter. Why? Because it is just nice if you can put you bathrobe, jacket and two towels anywhere. Also it is nicely made, covered with wooden planks. But you have to watch the details:
This is a bottle opener with a trash can next to it so you can open your beerbottle and put the crown cap right where it belongs. Nice. Next up are the showers.
Well they are showers nothing fancy about it. So let's cut to the meat…
Well, no not so quickly. Let‘s have a look at the door. Notice something? Exactly this is a heated room that is about 50°C warmer then the shower room and there is a big gap under the door. Why would you build it like this? Madness! Nope it isn‘t. This is what gives a sauna a good climate. You have to set some priorities when it comes to climate and here they favour the on in the sauna not the global one.
So here it is the heart of the matter, the sauna cabin. Nothing fancy. It is nicely made out of wood. It has a nice light and a poweful big oven with nice lava stones that can make a lot of löyly (water steam) bevor they cool down. There are some more details that make it good, some of them are not in the picture though. First of all safety. It does not look so good but the very high handrail surrounding the oven makes it almost impossible to touch it. While the low level seats are quite small, the top ones are nice and broad. Probably because everyone wants to sit where the climate is best and the heat of the löyly steam comes down first. There is acually a vent in the top, but I belive it is only open when the sauna is off. What you can not see, simply because it is not there is a hourglas. Indispensable in a German sauna. (The stupidity of using a clock while you try to relax is beyond any rational but anyway.) Also there is a very simple solution the be safely able to clean the sauna without geting electrocuted by the oven, the connection is just mounted over the floor to the wall. This is not pretty, you can see the cabels in the picture. But it works.
Another thing you can see is a big plasic bucket. While I am still offended by putting plastic in a sauna it is quite common around here. The other thing that you can not see but that is somehow related to the big bucket is the temprature, which is much lower than you might think. This thing geht’s only up 70-80°C. Like it more hot? Put more water on the oven. So simple!
So this is where we spend one of our nicest hours of the week.
One of the things that we were told during our lesson of: "How to live like a Finn" was to blend in, to adopt to the country, its people and their habits. And that for some reasons Germans can do that very well.
I wondered why that might be and my first guess was: it is a "statistical" error. The biggest group of the foreign/exchange students that is here in Oulu is from Germany hence the biggest group that would stay here or blend in very well would be from Germany. Percentage wise probably the same as from every other country but number wise the most.
After some more careful observation I think there might be other reasons. In some dimensions Finland is what Germans dreamed of raised the power of two. Let me give some examples:
In Germany we dream of having our own house with a garden. We end up with a lot of houses squashed together in a tight space. Here they not only want to have one house they often have two. A weekend house, a mökki, most of the time near the sea or a lake or a river. Not seldom on an island of its own. And they do not squash anything tightly together because they don‘t have to.
In Germany we love to do things ourselves. We love to own tools. We love to grow plants. We are proud of what we can do ourselvs and when you drive to a Baumarkt (hardware store) at the weekend it is most of the time filled with people buying things for their garden. And you will end up with no parking space close to the entrance and therefore you have to carry your stuff all the way over the whole parking-lot. Let me tell you they have a solution here. The hardware stores here are so big that you can actually drive in there (I am not kidding you) with your car and you trailer for easy loading.
You think a German 9 to 17 job is nice and tidy. You think Germans are always on time and follow the schedule? When you arrive here at the university at 7:50 the parking-lot is almost empty. When you leave at 16:30 it is almost empty. But mind you, if you arrive at 8:00 or try to leave at 16:00. Madness. Want a coffee at 8:30, 10:30 or 13:30? Good luck, the coffee kitchen will be full to the brim. Any other time, no problem.
I think we Germans love our nature, we like to go hiking, we barbecue at every weather and some of the most famous of our poems are about nature. Well here they collectively travel to their mökki for a whole month, which usually has no running water, no heating except a fireplace and often no electricity and is in the middle of nowhere but at a beautiful lake. They also collectivly take a week of during October to go hiking because nature then has the most beautiful colors.
I am also told that the Finns believe in hard working and would also wait at a red signal for pedestrians in the middle of the night while trying to cross an empty road.
So it seams to me that both societies share a lot of their core values, to a much greater extend than I expected. Although you will find some noticeable differences. For example people seem more friendly and less bothered with formalities of communication. It is not professor Latva-Aho it is at most professor Matti.
Also, and that might be an important difference, the Finns seem to be more pragmatic. This is not meant as an euphemism for something, quite the contrary. In Germany, at least this is my personal impression, we are obsessed with the process. We want to streamline every process, what want to make rules for it, document it and perfect it. Have a look at our bottle deposit system, our transparent factories or any public office. We are so obsessed with process that we often forget what is at the beginning or the end of it. I have the feeling they people here can keep that in mind a little bit better.
Well, this is it. I end again with some more pictures of the nature around here. Oh yeah, and the bed we build! You know, adapting to the local habits…
So here are some noteworthy things we encountered so far in no particular order
A lot of the people here, especially the university bureaucrats, are very friendly. When we arrived and went to get our keys for the apartment the room was full of people and it was like 30 minutes bevor closing – still the lady handing us our keys did a friendly smalltalk with us and made some jokes about how unusal it is for many foreigners that both man and women have to sign the tenancy agreement.
You might think that Germany is efficent but…:
When we arrived we decided to rent a parking space for our car in front of the building. Which we could do online in literaly 1 minute.
(You also book the washing machine and the sauna online. pretty cool.)
In the canteen every cashier serves two lanes, which works perfectly fine. They are even friendly.
In the students office they use an intranet chat to contact other offices quickly – and it works.
When you write someone an email you usually get an answer in a few hours.
It is everywere. And I mean everywhere. There are places in the university from which you can see at least 4 places in the same building that are less then 10 m away where they sell coffee. You go into a second hand clothing store, first thing you see is a coffee machine. In the tee kitchen of my department there is a dripcoffee maker with two coffeepots, a fully automatic machine (a very big one) and to top it of: a coffee grinder and an italien style expresso maker (and the brazillians really know how to use this thing). The good thing is that they use so much coffee here that they do not need to roast so dark to make it seam like it is fresh, it is fresh. Which means the coffee is generally less bitter and more tasty.
This is something that amazes me. There are hat stands (things to hang your jackets on) in the university, in the hallway and in the main halls – nothing unusal. Amazing is though, that people use them. They need no lockers and there aren‘t any.
In the canteen they serve a buffet. You get plenty, main meal, salad, something to drink, bread and butter. There is a limit to certain things, like pieces of meat and slices of bread, you can take but no one will weigh your salad or count your potatoes. And you know what? People just take as much as they need.
People drink Milk here for lunch. There are even like 4 different types, fat, low fat, fatfree, soja.
There is home-brewed beer in the canteen. But it has no alcohol. And is very sugary.
While you can buy frozen things in super small one portion packes cheese is usually available only in super big packages.
The salmon is just awesome.
We have 100 Mbit internet (not synchonous sadly) for 10€. Ok that might be due to the fact we have a student appartment but I don‘t think so.
Everything here is more broad, flat and spaceious – it feels a bit like you are in an american road movie. You even have very nice diner like resturants on the side of the roads and you can buy burgers everywhere.
The center of Oulu is more or less boring but it has some very nice corners.
The university is very confusing at first which is due to two facts: first of all it is colorful! Second you can go anywhere without going outside – which makes much sense in the winter, I guess, but it makes orientate oneself not easier.