Friday, March 22, 2013

Parking in Finland

Excuse me, but I need to go on a little rant now about parking in Finland.  I have been frustrated with the parking situation in Finland for sometime now and have kept quiet about it, but now I must vent a bit!  Finland is a relatively large country by European norms and is very sparsely populated.   I would expect builders here in Finland to build proper parking lots with enough space for people to park most types of cars.  Why not, since space is not that limited, with notable exception to Helsinki.  Perhaps it is the public policy to build the spaces smaller?  I am not one of these American "bigger is better" car owners with a jumbo sized SUV or Escalade. I  currently drive a mid-sized Toyota Camry family car.  There never seems to be enough space to park your car in the Helsinki-Espoo-Vantaa area (Southern Finland).  It could be the local shopping mall, your friends row home (town house) parking lot or the local Supermarket, parking is not always going to be easy.  The spots are roughly a quarter size smaller than what you would expect in the USA and making matters more difficult is that many of the parking lots are underground because of the frequent harsh weather conditions here in Finland.  When you pull into the store's underground parking lot, expect a tiny lane the usually dips down a few floors and twists and turns around hair pin corners to the bottom.  Once you are lucky enough to find a free parking spot (because spots are normally at a premium) then you can take a deep breathe and get back to your business.  There are almost never parking attendants in Finnish garages, so when you leave the lot, you usually have to pay and validate your ticket at a machine before leaving the garage unless it is a free spot.  In the case of a free (timed)  spot, you need to leave your parking disc on your dashboard.  The twenty-four hour parking disc displays the time you parked.  Most spots allow at least 1 hour if they are free.  Most folks are honest about setting their disc start time correctly when they arrive.

The winter weather also adds quite a challenge to outdoor parking.  Ice, snow and bone chilling temperatures in the early morning makes it quite the experience.  First you should spent at least 5 minutes warming up your car and scraping the ice of the windshield to ensure safe driving/parking.  Then, after arriving at one's destination, one may need to squeeze their car into an icy spot, sliding between some other cars and avoid those large clumps of snow that has been building up for weeks.  Those of us from warmer climates should definitely appreciate and not take what we have for granted.

Doesn't sound all that bad, right?  Well, if you can get past the smaller spots, tight garages and winter weather, there is the constant threat of a parking ticket.  I have received 3 parking tickets since moving to Finland.  The price in Espoo is 60 euros per ticket which is roughly 80 $, so definitely more than one would pay in the States.  Some of these tickets were my own fault for forgetting to set my parking disc, but the thing is that when you overextend your parking time or forget your disc you will almost always be popped for it.  There is no breaking the rules in Finland, they will get you almost every time.   One time my wife left the car quickly to get the change for the parking machine and in just a few minutes while she was gone, a hidden parking attendant wrote her up a ticket. It seems as if they are just sitting there and waiting, then they pounce on the opportunity to give a ticket.  In Finland it is usually very difficult to fight a ticket once it is issued.  You can attempt to email or call them, but normally they will not take the time to help or be empathetic to your situation.  Luckily, in my wife's situation, they said they allowed up to 10 minutes to get your cash, so they let her off, but that was after she emailed several times back and forth with no clear resolution.

I think that society in Finland is more geared toward public transportation.  That is probably a good thing, but some of us with families need a car which makes transportation a bit more convenient.  However, with that said I just don't understand the tight little parking spaces, strict rules about tickets and lack of parking attendants.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

March snow storm in Southern Finland

After several weeks of unseasonably warm temperatures and only light snow in February, March came in a flurry....a flurry of snow that is.  A snow storm of blizzard like conditions hit overnight and left an estimated 6-8 inches (15-20 centimeters) of snow on the ground in the morning all over South and Southwest Finland.  Mid to late February had been a bit warmer than average (for Finland) and when March rolled in many people thought that maybe Spring had sprung.  Little did they know that old man winter in Finland has a few tricks left up his sleeves.  My wife and I spent about 2-3 hours clearing our driveway and cars this morning.  Mother nature always provides the best workout.  :)

A few shots to near our neighborhood: