Thursday, November 8, 2012

Excuse me

OK, so I will hopefully not get any "hate mail" from Finns for posting this. I just wanted to keep to the theme of the "observer", based on my experiences and observations living in Finland for the last year.  So, this week's topic is on manners and using "excuse me" ("anteeksi" in Finnish). Anteeksi translates into "pardon me", "excuse me" or just plain "sorry".  Finns also say the actual English words "sorry" or "oops" in other situations.

In my observations over the last year, I have noticed that Finns rarely use "excuse me" unless they pretty much accidentally run into you.  :)  If you are standing in an aisle at the store looking at something and then someone is about to come down that aisle with a shopping cart (assuming they cannot get by without you moving), they will typically stand there with a look of frustration in their face if you do not move away and let them through.  They will typically remain silent and wait for you to move out of the way.  A simple "excuse me" (anteeksi) would work wonders for me, but most folks just don't seem to want to say that in Finland.

I am not sure if it is just me, but I also notice a general lack of patience these days. Maybe, I am just stuck in Californian time.  :)  Just the other day, I went to the grocery store on a crowded Friday night.  First of all, the cars were storming in and out of the parking lot, fighting for spots and not really paying attention to anything.  I was walking through the parking lot and practically had to dodge cars that didn't seem to care or notice that I was trying to cross the road.  Then, once I got into the store itself, I could barely walk without getting trampled over by shoppers.  You would have thought they were rushing to get the last items on the shelf as if they were preparing for the apocalypse.  The reality was that Saturday was a Holiday and they were stocking up for the weekend since the stores would be closed.  However, the stores would open again on Sunday, so not the end of the world.

I don't really get annoyed anymore by the apparent rudeness of some folks in these situations.  It might not be actual rudeness in some situations, but a lack of wanting to talk.  I just try to go on with my day and keep a smile on my face when encountering these situations.  The point is that you cannot change people and cultures, you need to accept them for what they are.  Certain situations living abroad are going to seem a bit more annoying than others, but one must remember that they are no longer in their own country and they must adapt to cultural standards and norms no matter how odd they might feel.  My solution is just to keep being my polite self and smile at everyone.