Friday, April 3, 2015

Long Overdo Discussions

Its been a long time. (That's an understatement!)

I have unfinished business to discuss; including some apologizes! To my readers, I apologize for never writing about the rest of my journey. My exchange finished June of 2014, and I never wrote closing posts because leaving Finland was very hard for me. 

I didn't want to talk about it. 

I didn't want to write about it. 

I wanted to pretend it wasn't true, and therefore, I ignored the fact I was leaving. 

I thought that by NOT posting anything, I could avoid thinking about it. I could avoid writing a goodbye. I could avoid ending the journey. 

However...leaving was inevitable, and quite the journey that in itself! After MANY MANY months of avoiding this: am finally ready! I am ready to write again! (and frankly, I miss blogging!) 

Your comments were MUCH appreciated, and I promise to answer them all in due time. I was very surprised by how many readers read my posts, and were genuinely interested in my journey and the stories I had to tell.

The little success this blog has been has inspired me to write more, and to develop my own travel blog, where I can tell more stories and my experiences abroad in other countries. This new blog is in the works, but I will be sure to expose it after its development. 

This post is meant to be short and sweet, but I wanted to assure you that I read the comments written on my blog. I will be posting more, to finish telling the story I had once aspired to tell. :)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

School is OUT

So, wow...its been a LONG time since ive posted. And yes, im going to tell you my excuses before I end up starting this post!

Since the last time I posted, a lot has happen. That's the obvious. I stopped posting for a few (stupid but at the time logical) reasons. The biggest reason is because my computer is slow. It takes about 20 minutes just to TURN ON. (let alone get the internet going.) And im not a patient person for that. The second reason is because once I started making more friends, I really didn't have time. I decided to start going out more often and then in the end, I just eventually forgot about my blog...

But either way, here I am! And Im finally here to sort of walk you through what the heck has been going on throughout these past few months! (Hold on to your seats, ladies and gents; because there's a lot!) But since I think there will be so much, I think ill just make this post totally all about school. ;)


School is actually almost officially over for me! Last Monday was my last full day of school. It was actually quite depressing! I wasn't ready for it to be over! I had friends in all of my classes, and I really liked my schedule...I was completely comfortable with everything. At this point everything just felt completely normal and like I was just always there.

I knew all of the inside jokes of the school, and I knew my shortcuts through the school and I always had people to hang out with during free time. A few of my teachers and I only communicated in Finnish, and in one class I was actually DOING all of the work in Finnish. (Don't get me wrong, it wasn't nice quality work...but it was still done in Finnish.) :)

In my English class I could actually do every exercise in the class, including translating from Finnish to English and English to Finnish. I could read the passages in Finnish and summarize them into English, and I was perfectly capable and comfortable doing it.

In my Music class I was actually singing! (In front of REAL people!) And not only that, but singing DUETS! It was so outrageously unlike me, my parents could hardly believe it! Although it felt really, really uncomfortable for me, I just closed my eyes and did it. It didn't matter what I sounded like; as long as I was pushing myself out of my comfort zone, I was eventually happy with everything. :)

I guess in the end you could just say that everything completely and totally clicked at school. Which is actually quite opposite of what it was originally! I remember on the first day of school, I never wanted to go back. I hated it. Not because of the school itself or my attitude toward the school. It was just SO completely foreign to me. I was literally scared of the school! It was so old and intimidating to me, and I didn't understand a WORD anyone said!

Fast forward to that week of school, I was doing my classwork in Finnish and reading Finnish texts and summarizing them into English! It was just all such a NIGHT and DAY difference! This week at school it is Exam Week. I haven't had any exams other than my English exam. It was a partner exam, so for my partner´s sake, I went to the Exam. And to my PARTNER did better than I did! (I was so proud!) :D

It was an oral exam, and I bombed it pretty bad...for part of the exam we had to read an English text outloud to the teacher, and I kept mispronouncing the words! I read whale as, "whole" and deck as, "desk". Let alone, I also skipped a couple words because I forgot how they were pronounced! It was SO bad my teacher was smiling at me, and my partner couldn't help but LAUGH at me haha! But I guess that's what I get for speaking Finnish half the time! ;)

This Friday is my last day in the school. It is the exam hand back, and unfortunately since I only did one exam, I am only in the school to say goodbye to people and to grab my transcript. Im sort of dreading going to say goodbye to everyone, because im not quite sure how to react or what I will feel. I mean, its embarrassing to cry in front of people who I barely know, and yet have had such an impact on me this year! Its SO crazy that people you barely know could have such a huge impact in your life; and there's actually a pretty big number of people at school who have had a big impact on me this year just by doing little things. (Even if it sounds cheesy.) :)

Saturday is graduation. One of my friends invited me to go with her to watch her friends graduate. Unfortunately, I don't think I know anyone who is graduating, but I still really want to go! (And plus, I've never been inside the yellow church before.) :)

I guess this post turned out a lot longer and complex than I originally planned! But hopefully it was a pretty good update for now, at least! I tried cramming the past few months at school into a lengthy blog post! (Dont worry, Ill try to think of more creative ways to cram the past few months into another blog post.) :)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Where You Come From

Someone once told me that you learn to respect and love the place you come from once you leave it. And well, I never actually believed that until now. I never thought I would really MISS Portland. To me it was just some place stuck in the middle of rain, and it wasn't until I left this place when I realized that it didn't dampen the fueled it. Once I left Portland, Oregon, I really learned to love where I come from.

When I came to Finland, I had a really big culture shock. But I believe most of the intense shock came to me because of the culture of the city I come from; and I never thought about it that way before.

Other American Exchange Students would ask me, "Are you a hipster, or just from Portland?" And I was completely surprised, because I NEVER in a million years thought I would be mistaken as a hipster, and I certainly didn't believe I looked or acted like one at all!

I never realized how truly unique my city was until my Finnish friends would ask me, "Is that true?!" "Is this a REAL picture?!" And other American Exchange Students would make fun of me for the music I listened to and that I shopped at second hand stores!
It made me learn how to REALLY love and appreciate my city.

I was so used to thrift shopping and shopping at second hand stores. Not because I couldn't afford going to other stores, but because that was the "norm" where I lived. Everyone dressed differently, and wanted to wear things that other people didn't have. It was always what my friends and I would do together. It was fun to go thrift shopping and buying funky and unique clothes from second hand stores. It was just what everyone did, and we liked it that way.
When I came to Finland, I was absolutely embarrassed on my first day of school because I stood out SO much! NO ONE was wearing ANYTHING like I was, and I felt all over the place! (You cant even buy the style of pants I had in ANY of the stores!) I got so many odd looks and stares, and after my first week of school- I went to buy all new pants! (I don't wear any of the pants, and some T-Shirts I brought from home anymore, because I got too many odd looks and double takes!)

I was so used to people doing their own things all the time. It was totally normal to see people drumming away on the streets and preforming- just out of the blue for the JOY of it. (The money aspect was totally optional.). It just made people happy. I even had friends from school that would go to the city during the Saturday market just to play their instruments and find joy in the people stopping to listen.
It was totally normal to see kids running down the street in crazy costumes, and you wouldn't even look twice because you knew it was just something to expect. There never really was a normal day in Portland; and people seemed to like it that way. Everyone just went with the flow of things, and it was expected. You could just be yourself, and you could express yourself through anything you like. (Street art, preforming music...the ideas are endless.)
The Saturday Market was always THE place to be, if you didn't have any plans. Cheap but authentic Food Carts, Handmade goods, Artists, Street Performers and Musicians on the street...there was always something to see, and it wasn't materialistic or fast paced. It was just for the pure opportunity to show your artwork or the things you created from your own business or hobby and share it with others.
There were food carts from all sorts of other countries, and it was always my favorite to look around each cart. You could find musicians on every street, and often they were just locals who wanted to share the music they wrote with those who walked by.
Voodoo doughnuts always had a line out the door, and you could spot the pink bricks from a couple blocks away. Book stores you can get lost in for hours, and hours; and one of them even takes up an entire city block! There are 9 color coded rooms that suit every single interest when it comes to the Powel´s Book Store, and every time I go- we all spend almost the entire day just getting lost in everything it has to offer.
In Portland people just sort of ride the waves in their own way, and it is perfectly acceptable. People are all unique and do their own things, and its seen as totally and completely normal; and I never noticed it before until I left the Portland Area and saw things in a completely different way.
And when I first arrived to Finland, it actually scared me! No one particularly stood out from the rest, and people kind of followed one another and they liked it that way. It wasn't everyone doing their own thing with their own style anymore, and instead it was more like swimming with the school of fish, together. It was very different for me and I couldn't put my finger on WHY it was such a shock and so different and foreign to me, until I realized I had suffered such a big shock because of my own city´s culture.
During the first few months of my Exchange, I was actually afraid to branch off and follow my own stream in the water, away from the other "school of fish". I had never felt so awkward about doing my own thing and being myself, and I had started acting like the other kids and following exactly what they were doing, all the time, because I wasn't really sure what to do. I never felt so weird about doing things the way I used to do them, because of the double takes I would receive from doing them my own quirky way, and branching out too far from the rest! Apart from simply being different because you are the foreign exchange student, because you naturally stand out anyways. :)
 I realized that part of an Exchange isn't totally and wholeheartly adopting a new way to do everything. Its taking things, and giving things back. Although I need to respect and adopt all sorts of different aspects from the Finnish culture, I ALSO need to show my OWN culture. And how was I supposed to do that if I didn't be brave and show my different and quirky culture from the area I came from?!
Once I really decided to show my OWN culture I have learned from living by Portland, I actually started making MORE friends! People were MORE interested in talking with me, and they were interested in learning about where I came from and why I did things the way that I did them.
Its really interesting just how vast and different the cultures in the USA can be, and people would come up to me and ask me WHERE in the USA I was from, because they had never met an American that acted quite like me. And its actually a really cool feeling to know that youre a little different than the rest. :)
I miss the aspect of art from Portland. Art taking the form in singing, dancing, painting, and art on the street. Emerging local bands, and performers on the street. I remember actually playing guitar with my friends in the school hallway, and we would sing songs we wrote together and I would have friends who would actually go to Portland sometimes to share their music on the street. It wasn't that you had to be good, because it was just way to express yourself through your own way.
There was a water front and record shops; and clothing stores in the city; and of course parks to ride your bike through. Theres also a Chinatown and a Japanese garden in the city center.

I never really became TOO homesick this year, however I have gained a new appreciation for the place I come from, and I for sure do not think of Portland in the same way as I did prior to my exchange. I even wonder if I will experience reverse culture shock when I return home! :)
Before my exchange, I never thought Portland was unique, and I thought it was just a little known town that rained a lot. It didn't really mean anything to me, really! It was just sort of there. But I really DO love my city now, and even though I do not technically live IN Portland- I still consider it my city. The culture of Portland has rubbed off on me, and its what I have grown up around; what I consider normal. And I love every weird and quirky piece of it!
It makes me so much more excited to be able to pick up my guitar and get to writing music again, and it makes me excited to be able to go to the food carts again and see how the city has changed and stayed the same over the year. It makes me excited to see everyone swimming in their own sea again, and going down their own road- and I feel mighty special to be in Finland on exchange where the culture is so different and opposite from my own!
It makes me really open my eyes to both cultures, and somehow find a beautiful middle ground between each culture. The social and artistic culture I grew up with from Portland, and the more quiet and socially-conservative culture in Finland. :) It has made me a totally different person, and yet still the same in a way; which of course is the beauty of exchange! :D
It makes me excited to share just WHERE I come from with others, because the culture really IS so much different than Finland and the culture of my friends. It makes me wish that my friends would come visit me so that I can show them with their own eyes, and take them around my city and introduce them to all of the things that make my city so different and quirky from the rest. But hey, you never know...maybe someday. ;)

Sunday, March 9, 2014

True Meaning of Exchange

This is going to be about something thats been on my mind for awhile. To tell you honestly, im not sure how this is going to come out; but I just really want to get this off my chest. And I feel like this is something other Exchange Students, and even future Exchangers should hear.

I started this blog over a year ago, and A LOT has changed through out this ENTIRE experience. Ive blogged about almost everything thus far; however I feel like in this post I need to give a little, "heart to heart", Exchanger to Exchanger. ;)

I want to tell you all a story: 

7 months ago, a girl hopped on an airplane and flew to a place completly foreign and strange. She had never heard the language spoken before, and had only met a grand total of TWO people from the country she was going to. When she arrived, she took only a weeks worth of language classes with other Exchange Students before meeting her host family, and started school a day and a half after meeting them. Yepp. That girl was me. 


I came here on a total whim of faith. 

When I first started school, I was terrified to DEATH. Everyone was speaking a language I had only heard for the first time in my life a week earlier, and I had only been studying it for a few DAYS.  I didnt know a single person, and it was only my SECOND day in the city. I didn't understand a WORD the teacher was saying, and everyone looked at me like I was from another planet. I didn't understand where I needed to be a when, and I didn't understand how the school lunches worked. I was complete and total stranger to everything and everyone around me. It was the scariest day of my life! 

I was wondering WHY I was here. I thought I had made the worst mistake...and I never wanted to go back to that school again! I was asking myself WHY I did this to myself. WHY I left everything I had ever known to go to a place I had never heard the language, a country I had only met TWO people from in my entire life...I was frustrated, and I felt like I was pushed SO far out of my comfort zone, being thrown into everything way too quickly; and there wasn't ANY place I could escape and feel comfortable or understood.

BUT: I learned SO much about myself than I ever thought I could. 

I learned that I feel most comfortable when I am uncomfortable; 

and I learned that Finland was THE best thing that ever happened to me! 

After that first week of school, I started to find my feet on the ground again. I didnt feel like a turtle without its shell anymore. I started learning the ropes, slowly but surly. I started to understand what was going on around me, and it didnt feel so scary anymore.

I started learning Finnish culture. Which was so foreign and opposite of my own. It was hard at first, and I didnt understand why people did the things they did. I didnt know how to act or what to say most of the time. I didnt know how to make friends and meet people without scaring them away. I had to step back and just watch. I had to relearn how to present basic greetings and how to start conversations with people. And eventually I learned how to see things through their eyes and understand things in a way I had never seen before. And it was like I was a totally different person. 

I kept trying to study the language, and trying to learn it with everything I had. I didnt know where to start, and it was hard. I sat in class everyday making basic verb flashcards and tried to teach myself verbs and simple words. It was frustrating, and I felt like a small child again. I didnt even know the verb, "to walk"! Everything was really challenging, and it was hard because I wanted to communicate with my classmates SO badly, but didnt know how to even put together a simple sentence!

It took a long time to start picking up the language, and slowly and slowly I could start understanding what people around me were saying. Through this time in my exchange, I experienced my first EVER hockey game and even tried snowboarding for the first time! My Exchange really started taking off, and I was slowly meeting people and learning how to befriend the Finns.


It was still really challenging, and it took me a long time to make friends. I thought I was doing things wrong, and I didn't understand why I wasn't making friends- and I slowly learned throughout the whole experience that it was JUST how Finns were, and that it was how the culture in Finland was. It was really an eye-opening experience for me to realize that I really WASNT doing anything wrong, and that I just needed to keep doing what I was doing and go out and keep talking with people.

 I had my share of challenges, and down the road, I realized that as my language skills were getting better, that I didn't have friends to speak in Finnish with! I had realized that the time I was spending studying and trying to speak, was crucial time I was spending where I could have been with people and with my classmates. I knew that speaking with people was the best way to learn a language, however- with Finnish, it just wasn't realistic that I would learn enough to make good friends by ONLY speaking Finnish.

Finnish isn't exactly related to any other language, and it is opposite to English in every single way. As much as I tried to convince myself, the reality was that Foreigners can live in Finland for years and years and still struggle with Finnish. I was trying to shove the language into my head and learn it, but the reality was that I could not learn Finnish in a year.

It was difficult for me to realize, because while I was so set on learning the language...I HAD to realize that although language is a big part of exchange...I needed to take another look back to the ORIGINAL reason WHY someone becomes an exchange student.

You become an Exchange Student to open up your world. To learn a new culture. To learn how people live differently around the world, and eventually realize how beautiful and small the world really is; and that you can hold it in your hands. You become an Exchange Student to realize that everything you knew before hand was wrong, and that things aren't always the way they seem. You become an Exchange Student to befriend people from all over the world, and to learn how to appreciate things more than you did before, and with new eyes.


And I learned that I was NOT going to achieve this unless I put my guard down, (and in this case, put my notecards down) Finnish was, and STILL is a big part of my exchange...but in order to really live my Exchange to the fullest potential of what it could be, I needed to be okay with the amount of Finnish I had already learned. I needed to tell myself that I was NOT a failure.

I felt like I was hanging onto a tree branch, and I needed to let go. I felt defeated, when in fact I had done the exact opposite. I had learned to really live, and to accept.



I had learned that just because you do not learn a language fluently, it does not make you a failure as an Exchange Student; and that as long as you keep TRYING, and THRIVING- you are succeeding. I do believe language is a very important part of an Exchange, but in my case- having the mindset of being fluent in the world´s second language in ONE YEAR, was getting in the way of my original reasons for exchange and the original reasons why someone goes on exchange.

I needed to come to terms that I was NOT a failure, and that it didn't define me as an Exchange Student, and it didn't define whether or not I was just plain stupid or whether or not I was a hard worker. It didn't make me any less successful as the next exchange student, and that it was OKAY.

 Part of Exchange is giving yourself to others, and receiving knowledge back in return. Its giving your culture to someone else, and you taking theirs back with you. Its learning how to understand things you do differently, and realize that you do a lot of the same things- but in different ways. (And sometimes you even learn the way they do things are more efficient!) :)

Wrapped up in one package, Exchange is beautiful. Its rapid, and always moving. Its brutal. Hurtful. Uncomfortable. Overwhelming. Unexpected. Eye opening. Crazy. And most importantly, amazing.

Its thinking you know EXACTLY who you are and what you what to do with your life, to having NO idea who you are and why you are doing what you are doing...and in the end, you turn out being someone new. Its finding yourself, when you didn't even know you needed to be found.

Its learning how to be sure of yourself, and trusting in yourself. Its learning you can do things you never thought were possible, and learning that you can do anything you set your mind to. Its living thousands of miles away from everyone you know, and everything you have ever known...and learning you CAN do it; even though the self doubt, and doubt from everyone else.

Its uncomfortable, and at times you feel like you don't belong anywhere. Its frustrating and confusing. It feels like you are the 3rd, 4th- sometimes 6th wheel to everyone. Its feeling like you don't know what to do or what to say, ALL the time! Its feeling like you want to hide behind the security of a paper bag or inside of a cardboard box.

Its home. Its learning home isn't a place, but that its a feeling inside of you. Its gaining a grand total of 3 amazing mothers, 3 amazing fathers, 5 sisters, and 3 brothers. Its gaining new families, one of which is a family whose members are from all around each corner of the globe; who I can call at anytime. Its lifelong friendships and a couch to sleep on in countries I don't have enough fingers to count!

An Exchange isn't JUST a single year in your life...its an entire lifetime in a year; and no one can ever relate to it unless they have been through it. You gain new best friends, new families, new school, new adventures...and a new life. And this is MY beloved Finnish life. Its something I treasure more than anything I could ever imagine.
And ALL of this, wrapped up into one, big box- is the true meaning of Exchange. Exchange is something that I will always hold close to my heart. Its something that connects me to so many people around the world, and links my heart to (currently) 4 generations of Rotary Youth Exchange Students.

This year has taught me that no matter where you come from, your dreams and ambitions are valid, and that you are a product of your experiences. It has taught me that we are all connected, despite cultural differences. It has taught me to go for my own dreams and ambitions and that I can catch them and hold them in my hands, no matter how out of reach they may seem.
This year I have accomplished more than I ever thought I could! I learned how to snowboard, while being taught in another LANGUAGE. I learned how to celebrate different holidays. I learned how to cross boarders and discover different lands I never knew existed, and I learned how to love people from so many different backgrounds and places in different corners in the world.
And most importantly- I have learned that if I can get through all of these crazy things- that I can get through anything. If I can learn how to snowboard while being taught in FINNISH, and if I can give a presentation in another language, and celebrate Christmas miles and miles away from my family...I can do anything! After this year, I have zero self doubt in myself; and I feel ready to take on the world and the path ahead of me.
For a long time, I felt as though this year was a time-bomb. That it was a dream land, where I would eventually wake up at the end, and find myself in the same familiar house and bed. I felt like time was ticking down, and that at the end I would "die.". My Finnish life would disappear completely. And in a way, it IS true that my life will never be this way again. I will never be with the same people again, and I will never live like this again.
But I learned that this ISNT the case; and although I may be sad about eventually leaving Finland and my Finnish life, this isn't the end. Its only the beginning. I get to take all of these values and memories with me forever, and I get to apply them to my life, and watch where they lead me.
This year has made me ready to take on the next steps in my life, and see what adventures lay ahead of me. I learned that an Exchange never truly ends for those who pursue more. I learned that if I take what I learn from this year, and run after my future- that I can achieve whatever I pursue. I may still have a lot more to learn about life, and I may not be ready to leave Finland...but I am ready to accept that I will eventually have to leave this Wonderland of mine.

I guess the main point of this post is to really write about what not only what exchange in general means to me, but what MY personal Exchange means to me. Its not JUST what Finland or what Rotary has done for my exchange, but its what my Exchange has done for my life and how I have changed throughout this year. Its not something I can write about in a sentence or two, and its hard to sum up everything I think about Exchange in general, and my personal Exchange in Finland.
I wanted to write this post for any Exchangers who were struggling with the same issues as I have struggled with, and for future exchangers who are curious, and even people who are just wondering how my personal Exchange has inspired and changed me throughout this year. :)
Theres a quote that I love and its, "Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by...And that has made all the difference.
" I have learned to really fall in love with this quote, because I feel as though that by taking the road less traveled by, it really HAS made all of the difference in my life. Not just by choosing to be a Rotary Exchange Student, and not just by choosing to come to Finland...but everything that has been given to me and all of the little things in between. And I couldn't have asked for anything better in a million years. :)
“Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.”

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Little Creeepy Things

By living in Finland, and being able to learn about Finnish culture and the little differences between the two cultures (USA and Finland.), I have actually learned that there are some things that I just CAN NOT change about myself! They are just ingraved in me from my own culture in the USA, and they are just little things that come naturally and without thinking about.

Ive been thinking about these things a lot, and a few of them actually tend to make me laugh! Ive gotten into a few very awkward moments by doing these things, and sometimes it makes other people laugh too!

So, as you guessed it- this is going to be a post about some things about my culture from home that is unchanging about myself, other things that I have seen about Finnish culture and the Finnish ways of doing things, AND little habits that I have picked up. :)

Lets just get RIGHT into it, shall we? ;)

1.) My American Smile


Oh boy...WHERE do I start?! 

The typical American smile is smiling with your whole face. Not just with your teeth showing, but smiling so you see it in your eyes. (I dont really know how to explain it.). I ALWAYS made my last host family laugh because whenever we would take a picture, they would always comment on my smile and how "American" my smile was. :) 

I remember taking a picture with my whole class, and when I recieved the copy of the picture, I couldnt help but laugh because I was the only one with this HUGE cheesy smile on my face!

The typical Finnish smile is generally just looking at the camera with a straight face, or awkwardly cracking a small smirk, which can be taken as a smile. (And hopefully that description doesnt offend anyone!) 

Its very, very different for me! My host family couldnt help but laugh at me when they told me to try to make a picture with a, "Finnish smile". I couldnt! I physically couldnt keep a straight enough face! (I ended up looking angry or like I was taking a mug shot! I just CANT keep a straight face without looking angry!) 

I am not at all in any way trying to portray the, "Finnish smile" in a bad light. I just think that its interesting how different things can be, even when just taking a picture. :)


2.) Smiling and Waving at random people


In Finland, it is very awkward to go up and talk to a person you have never met nor seen before. Its just seen as a, "no-no". Its not done very often, and usually it makes someone pretty uncomfortable and it feels a bit creepy sometimes. 

Coming from the USA, I have a VERY VERY bad habit of waving at random people and smiling at everyone I walk by. I come from a small community, and in Oregon, I live on a big hill out in the middle of nowhere. When we drive home, we ALWAYS wave at people on the hill. When we drive past another car on the hill, we always wave at the driver. I guess its just WHAT we do.

When I came to Finland, it felt so WEIRD for me. It was suddenly CREEPY to wave at people, and I didnt know HOW to just walk passed someone without smiling or waving. 

Unfortunately, I cant seem to stop smiling at people while I walk by them. Its just something ingrained into me, and I cant seem to stop. And to tell you the truth, I dont actually want to stop! :)

It almost feels as though this is everyone´s reaction when I wave at people I don't know...or at least this is how I feel on the inside!

3.) Being loud.


I KNOW what you are thinking...and I hate to follow the stereotype...but YES. I AM loud. 

Its very interesting because before coming to Finland, I actually didnt notice how loud I REALLY was. Everything in Finland is just so quiet, and so silent.

I didnt really notice how loud I had the potential of being until I was walking down the street with another American Exchange Student, and we were turning heads everywhere we went! It wasnt that we were TRYING to talk loud, or that we were trying to get just sort of happend! 

Of course we are not meaning to attract so much attention...I guess since our culture is just that way, that we dont really realize how loud we are talking sometimes. 

This is what our faces generally look like when we realize how loud we are being...

4.) Talking with my Hands 


I always talk with my hands! Everywhere I go. No matter if I am sitting at a desk, or standing up. Even if I am whispering or trying to explain a math problem...I talk with my hands! 

I guess it just helps me explain what im saying better, and it helps me get my point across. (Im not even sure if this is something I did before I became an Exchange Student, or if I picked it up when I wasnt able to communicate!) 

I talk with my hands both when speaking Finnish AND English, and to tell you the truth, I cant really tell you why!

People tend to laugh when I am having a conversation with someone, because I talk with my hands SO much! (And they tend to laugh even HARDER when I am having a conversation with another American exchange student, because he does the same thing!)

Im guessing that this is what I must look like...

5.) We like saying names.


Im not exactly sure WHY, but when I have conversations with other Americans, I have realized that we like saying peoples NAMES a lot.

 "How are you, (insert name)", "Oh Hi, (insert name)" Annnnd you get the idea. 

 Im not sure WHY we do it, but we sure do...

I have gotten a comment or two about it, and to tell you the truth, I dont even realize when I do it!

A couple of my friends have given me this same exact facial expression when I use their names way too many times during a conversation...

6.) Eating with Both Hands


To tell you the truth, eating with both hands isnt something I am actually used to! The social "norm" in the USA is eating with one hand, and having the other hand on your lap, or just in general below the table. 

We dont actually eat with a knife in one hand, and a fork in the other! We just kind of pick up the knife if we need it, and then set it on the side of our plate again until you need it again. 

It was a little weird for me to learn how to eat with BOTH of my hands, and in a way it felt like I was multitasking for awhile! It wasnt that it was hard or anything like that; it was just different. And I had to learn how to do it. (As sad as that sounds!)

I felt like this every time I had to awkwardly eat until I finally figured out how to do it without looking silly!

7.) Not saying what you mean

This is sort of a big one. I have found that Finns say exactly what they mean; and in the USA we basically keep our opinions to ourselves and dont really explain how we REALLY feel unless you are either family or REALLY good friends with someone. (Depending on the situation and the culture of where you live in the USA.)
We dont want to hurt peoples feelings, and we feel bad being brutally honest about things unless we know the person really well or we are related to them. In Finland, people only say things if something needs to be said or needs to be talked about. So naturally, they say what they mean. 

I have learned that in American English, "How are you?" isnt actually a question. Its a greeting. You never REALLY tell the person how you are; and instead everyone answers with, "Im fine, how are you?". 

I cant really honestly think of a situation where someone tells how they are REALLY feeling when asked, "How are you?" If you honestly want to know how the person is, you would rephrase the question. 

In Finnish however, the person honestly wants to know how you are. 

I guess its just a culture difference! 

When someone has you try something and you end up not liking it..
This is a little exaggerated, but I thought it was funny: When someone insists you try something, and you don't like it- but you don't want to hurt the persons feelings!

8.) Apologizing a lot.

This one might be the BIGGEST for me, and the only I ABSOLUTLY cant change! I dont know WHY I apologize so much, but I do! I always say, "Oh, im so sorry!" or, "Im sorry!"
And people always comment on it and say, "Why are you sorry?!" and I have to reply with, "...I don't know, actually!" and then they say, "Thats weird..."
And its true! It actually makes people uncomfortable! Im not sure WHY I apologize so much, I just do; and it seems to be an American thing because the other American Exchange Students always apologize to each other all the time as well. None of us know WHY, its just something we do...we dont even realize just how MUCH we really say it!

I can imagine that we accidentally sound like this when we apologize so much...

9.) I like to talk...a lot.

In Finland, small talk doesnt really exist...and to tell you the truth, sometimes that's really hard for me! I never realized just HOW talkative I REALLY was until I came to Finland!
I have even been told by one of my Finnish friends that if I was a Super-Villain, my power would be talking someone to death haha! ;)
And im glad that Finns are so honest, because none of my friends are ever afraid to tell me to stop talking when they want some peace and quiet haha. ;)
I never noticed before how much I actually talk, and sometimes I feel quite bad about just how MUCH and how OFTEN I actually talk...

I don't know what I would do without my friend´s brutal honesty haha. ;)


10.) Casual Talking


In the USA, its really natural and normal to talk to random people. At the grocery store, at the gas station...its just something we do! We are super casual, and we like company. We like talking to people and being social.
So naturally, of course I learned pretty quick that this was NOT casual OR normal in Finland haha! :D
I had to kind of learn how to reproach people without scaring them away or coming off in a bad light. Its not something bad at all, and I think its a really good lesson that I learned about the culture in Finland!

Im betting that this is probably what a lot of people thought when I first arrived in Finland...
And that pretty much wraps up 10 cultural difference from the USA and Finland! Some of these things I had to relearn, and others I simply can not change about myself. I think its great how different the culture is between the USA and Finland; and even though some differences are bigger than others, I seriously love it- and Finland.
Ive learned so much about myself this year and I even realized things that I didn't even know were a part of my culture and myself! It has taught me to understand Finnish culture, and to notice the small and big differences between my country and the country that I am currently living in...and I wouldn't have it any other way! :D