Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Scandinavian interlude begins in Espoo Finland

So, finally starting a blog after much thought.  I moved to Finland last summer with my family from the United States.  The adjustment hasn't been all that bad so far, but I wanted to start my first post with a few thoughts on differences between living in the US and Finland.  Please forgive the stereotypes, these are just observations!

1. Gas cost! - Not only is gas 2-3x more expensive in Finland that the US, the gas here 95 octane E10, etc. gets much worse gas mileage (miles per gallon for US folks).  So, not only do you pay more at the pump, you pay in lost miles (kilometers).

2. Parking and roads - OK, well this one might not be as obvious as the gas one, but I notice that almost all the roads (not highways) are narrower than in the US and parking spots barely fit a standard 4-door car like my Camry.  Forget your big American SUV or Escalade, it won't really work in Finland.

3. Home sizes - An obvious one - with the Finnish winters, the last thing they want to do is worry about heating that 3,000 Square foot mansion like those folks in the US have.  Homes are generally smaller in Finland, but it makes sense.

4. Car bureaucracy - You had better think twice about shipping your US car to Finland.  Going through the hoops is a small nightmare.  First of all, you must make sure it clears customs and get your temporary plates.  Then you must take it to this place to have it checked to make sure it passes for Finnish standards.  They will charge you $275 Euro for a simple 45 minute test while others taking their cars for checks only get charged like $50 Euro.  Then after it passes, you must find a car shop to have the appropriate changes made - add fog lights, blinkers, etc.  Finally - you can wait for the tax assessment from Customs to be made and if you clear that you can finally get your plates and you officially have a car to drive legally in Finland  :)  The whole process takes like 3 months and will cost you around $1,000 Euros not including Winter tires that you will soon need if staying for the winters.  Good luck!

5.  Finnish Customer service - What customer service?  Nah, actually it is not that bad, just takes some time to get used to.  So, in most Finnish restaurants, shops, etc. have only a few folks working at them (with some exceptions) compared to what you may be used to in the US.  If you need something you normally need to ask them and they hope they are in a good mood.  :)  Things are just a bit slower, and they don't take as much joy in serving you.    Not a customer focused society.  However, with that said I found an awesome guy to help me service my cars at this shop in Espoo. He has been more than helpful getting the cars up to standard.

6. Eye contact & small talk - I think this one is also pretty well known.  In US even walking down the street you will easily find people smiling and greeting you when you come by.  In Finland, these daily greetings normally do not occur as people are generally more introverted and shy in public situation.  Give them alcohol and it might be another situation though. :)  Any Finns reading this - please except my apologies for the stereotype.

That it is it for now.  More to come....

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