Former Staff Member Column: Back to being a mean and sassy Finn

It was clear as I was waiting for my flight in the Frankfurt airport: I was going back home to Finland. People were speaking that strange language. They were complaining because the flight was two minutes late. They didn’t have summer clothes on, even though it was summer. Some of them were wearing jeans and long sleeve shirts; some even had a jacket on. They ordered way too much alcohol on the plane. The Finnish man next to me wanted to talk to me, but I told him I’m from the US, and I can’t speak Finnish. It didn’t help much. He told me in broken English all about Finnish hockey, and he didn’t stop until I put my headphones in.

Still, I was really excited: I was going home.

On the trip home, I realized how beautiful my country is for the first time in my life: it’s so clean and full of trees. It was great to see the natural landscape of Finland.

It felt amazing to see all my friends and family after a year. It really made me feel important when they were basically fighting over who would hang out with me first. I went through everything that happened during the year with all of my friends.

When I came to Kansas, I didn’t have a culture shock. When I came back to Finland, I did. Everything felt so small: I felt like I was in a kid’s toy store in my own home. I wondered how I was going to fit into my bathroom. Just a year ago, I thought my home in Finland was big, but I guess American homes are bigger. I also felt like everything at home — tables, beds, chairs — was lower to the ground.

I had a headache for the first couple days because of the language. It took so much energy to think in English and translate everything what people say to English in my head. It took me three days before I started to speak Finnish again.

The biggest shock was how unfriendly people were. No one was asking “how are you,” giving compliments or smiling when they saw me. Small talk and being polite just doesn’t belong here. In the U.S. I got used to the fact that everybody was so friendly and open, and I think I became more friendly and open, too. But I got back to being a mean and sassy Finn pretty quickly after I came back. Well, I guess I was like that all the time.

My friends say that I haven’t changed much during my exchange. They say that sometimes I have a funny accent when I speak Finnish, and I hand out a lot of compliments, but that’s about it.

I’m really happy and proud of my year; I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s one of those things I will never forget, and I hope I can come back someday.