Homesickness, part 1: why I love Helsinki

My friend Malin and I were talking about friends, family, Luleå and Helsinki today over dinner, and for the first time I really got homesick. I was telling her about my friend Ida (one of the most fantastic people in the world, fyi) and I really started missing her and Helsinki by extension.

Finland got named the most livable country by Newsweek a while ago. The reaction to this in Finland was that people didn’t think it could be true. They thought it must be some kind of mistake. It’s hilarious, because this is a very Finnish reaction. We don’t really think that much of ourselves or our country. Don’t get me wrong, hell hath no fury if someone dares diss it, but people really don’t brag about it. It is Finland: small, cold and understated.

When people have asked me about Helsinki, I keep saying that it’s a small but cool city. That is about it. I’ve maybe mentioned Art Nouveau buildings and the archipelago (The archipelago with the most islands is the Archipelago Sea in Finland) and that’s about it.

Now, however, I’m going to put it in writing: I love Helsinki and I wouldn’t have wanted to grow up anywhere else.

Yes, I do love the Art Nouveau buildings in the southern parts of the city where I grew up. I do love the archipelago and I could not imagine living in a place that wouldn’t be near the sea. I can’t really fully describe what makes me love Helsinki. I’m much prouder to be from Helsinki than I am being Finnish.

Despite traumatic Cooper test memories from high school, I love riding my bike to the swimming stadium in the summer. Despite traumatic orienteering memories, I love the central park. I love the gigantic cinnamon buns at a café on Korkeavuorenkatu. I love going ice skating on Johanneksen kenttä and toboggan riding (no idea what the correct English verb is) in the Kaivopuisto park. I love the trams. I love the fact that the street I grew up on is the cheapest street in the Finnish version of Monopoly. I love the Academic Bookstore and the library at Rikhardinkatu. I love the Stupido record store. I love the gigs at the music club Tavastia. I love the brunch buffet at Moko Market. I love places like Bar 9, Tori, Redrum and Bar Llamas. I love the lunch at Trocadero. I love that when you wash rugs at the Kaivopuisto park, tourists stop and take photos.

Just to name a few examples.

Now that I think about it I rather like that no one has ever heard of Finland or Helsinki. I like that the ones that actually have heard of it have certainly never been there (because who would bother, right?).

It may be small, it may be cold in the winter, it may not be very media sexy. I love Helsinki. That’s enough for me.


3 Responses

  1. usch va ja fick hemlangtan nu.. Helsingfors ar en fin stad och jag blir mer och mer stolt over att det ar min hemstad for varje dag. fin blog!

  2. […] rather than months. I miss my friends and family, but I don’t really miss Finland that much. As you know, I miss Helsinki a […]

  3. “We don’t really think that much of ourselves or our country…but people really don’t brag about it.”

    I find this untrue.
    This, on the other hand…

    “Don’t get me wrong, hell hath no fury if someone dares diss it.”

    …os very true.

    I’m afraid you need to be a foreigner living in Finland before you start making the kind of statements you have.

    I am. A foreigner in Finland, that is. And have been for 22 years. I find Finns narrowminded, racist, bigoted and unbelievably proud of their country and completely unable to laugh at their selves. The current younger generations are much better so there is hope yet. Unless the Perussuomalaiset keep marching on.

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