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Old 8th September 2012, 12:42   #1
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Default Times of Finland : How I live here

Well, As the title suggests, I now live in Finland.
My work has taken me to US extensively and I've had a lot of fun. some threads do exist around here from some trips of mine. When I went back to Bangalore, I stayed relaxed coz I was kinda tired of being abroad.


The Background

One fine day, a few months ago, my boss called me up and we had a very ‘friendly’ chat.

boss: Tell me this, how long has it been since you came back to India?

me (Unsuspectingly) : 1 yr.

boss: ok. I hope you are all set to travel now.

me : duh..what??

boss: you heard me right. There is an upcoming assignment in Finland I want you to take up.

me: What? Finland?

boss: That’s right Finland. Don’t ask again.

me: aah ok..Is there no room for my preference? what are my choices?

boss: Finland it is. and your choice of answer can be yes or yes.

me: aaw. that’s a tough one. When do I travel?

boss : Apply for your visa and as soon as you get your visa you are out of here !! Muhahahahahaha !..


trust me , that laughter is still audible.

I’m sure the only song playing in his car at that time would’ve been Bhaag D K Bose -

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Old 8th September 2012, 13:24   #2
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Default Fast forward to Today

End of May 2012, I started on my journey from Bangalore,INDIA to Vaasa, FINLAND which is what i'll call home for a while now.
Now I wasn’t new to International travel and nor does the western lifestyle overwhelm me. So i was kinda relaxed. The flight chosen was a lil rubbish I must say. Bangalore to Delhi – Reached Delhi at 22:00 to take my next flight of Delhi to Helsinki at 10:30 next morning..this was a horrendous 12 hrs of wait I tell you. Lack of sleep made the wait worse. Anyway, Finnair was prompt at its timing so that helped. I had to fly onwards from Helsinki to Vaasa so another few hrs of wait at Helsinki and I had reached my upper limit of tolerance. By the time I reached Vaasa all I was ready for was some good sleep.

At Vaasa, a good friend of mine was waiting for me to pick me up. he dropped me off to the hotel. Aah..the hotel…here was a surprise I wasn’t expecting. Nobody at the front office..in fact no front office even. Then we noticed a keypad by the door. We then realized that there was a door code sent out in the reservation confirmation. This key works for all doors. It expires on the last day of reservation. Nice. Not seen this before. That reminds me to facts about Finland – there are so less number of people in Finland that having somebody sitting at reception lobby’s was a bit too much. Point noted.

When I set out to travel and I thought about Europe, I thought it would be no big deal. I really thought US, Europe all same. Not completely true. There are quite a few things to learn, I thought all I would have to do is unpack and start off. well, now that I’m in Finland and this is the place I call home..for a short while now, I guess its time to write more about all my experiences.
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Old 8th September 2012, 19:21   #3
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Default Mid air Serendipity

This is an interesting episode while on flight..

Most of the international flights (mostly to US) I’ve taken have been in the night.The protocol was very simple. Stay awake till the dinner is served, eat and sleep away. This is the best way to drown the agony of long duration flights. This time around the Finnair flight from Delhi to Helsinki was scheduled to depart at 10.30 am. I hadn’t slept the previous night coz I was spending it in the airport waiting lounge. Anyway, boarding et all went on smoothly and I got to my seat – an Aisle seat.
My neighbouring passenger was from India too. I’ve generally had little to nil conversations with my neighbouring passengers but this time around, we spoke. Him and I initially exchanged pleasantries and soon got into a conversation:

Him: This is Finnair..so expect an ontime flight.
Me: so it looks like you are a regular on this route.
Him : yeah..I live and work in Helsinki. You going to Helsinki too?
Me : not really. I go further to Vaasa.
Him : what? Where is that? What’re you gonna do there?
Me : boss says Vaasa, Finland, I nod my head and here I am.
Him : and who do you work for?
Me : L&T in Bangalore.


Now this is where it all goes into Serendipity mode..

Him : Bangalore?
Me : yes..why does it surprise you?
Him : I’m from Bangalore as well.
Me: cool..when did you land here in Delhi?
Him : last night..Jet airways.
Me: wth..same flight. me too. So where in Bangalore are you from?
Him : I’m in the northern part of Bangalore.
Me : me too !! where exactly.
Him : near KR Puram.
Me : ***..me too. Where there?
Him : there is a place called Banaswadi?
Me : you must be shitting me..I’m from around there too.
Him : really? Well , not Banaswadi really but a place close to Dodda Banaswadi..its called Horamavu.
Me : this is crazy. My house is on Hormavu mn rd.
Him : what? really? I’m a few crosses away from Home Buzz dept store.
Me : this is too much..I live bang opp to Home buzz.


Turns out him and I live around 100 mtrs away from each other in Bangalore and we meet in a flight to Helsinki !! our top cops kept on harping ‘know your neighbours’ .we never listened. He meant for the good I realize now.

I had my 1st stage of orientation of Finland, its people, its weather..all thanks to him.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 11th September 2012 at 09:03.
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Old 8th September 2012, 19:31   #4
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Default Birds eye view

Till now I never bothered to take any pix of the sky assuming that the clouds would be the only sight. Therefore I always had my camera locked up. This time around, since the flight was in the day time my buddy was going click happy on his camera and at this point, I promptly handed him my DSLR and asked him to try his hand. I took some too. Well, here they are-

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_431548.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_428421.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_428623.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_428724.jpg

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Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_430740.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_430841.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_430942.jpg

the pix of the Afghan mountains is pretty awesome and so are the pix of Helsinki City.
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Old 8th September 2012, 20:01   #5
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Default Vaasa, Finland,65100

..and then, I eventually Landed in the tiny airport in Vaasa, Finland.

What is Vaasa all about?

Well, it is a small city on the western coast of Finland. It has a population of around 60,000. It is known as the sunniest place in Finland based on the sunny hours in a year.
Incidentally a significant share of Finland’s – and of all the Nordic countries’ – energy technological industry is concentrated to the Vaasa region. The strong know-how is centred in the solutions for distributed energy production, energy distribution and consumption.
Vaasa is generally speaking an industrial town, with several industrial parks.
It is also the centre of education for all of western Finland by playing host to 3 universities. Due to this, there is a mix of all cultures in the city.
The city is quite compact and most things to see are within walking distance. The commercial center and nightlife is concentrated in the area around the market square.



History


Vaasa was an important place of governance when Finland was part of Sweden. It started in the 14th century when Korsholm castle was built near the village of Mustasaari. In 1606 the village of Mustasaari was granted city status and five years later it was renamed Wasa in honor of the Swedish royal lineage.
In 1852, the whole city was burnt down in a raging fire and in 1862, the new city came up 7 kms northwest of the old town.
Vaasa has also been the hot bed of the Finnish War in 1808-1809 and was with the Russian Empire for a while.
Eventually Vaasa also served as the temporary capital of Finland for a few months in 1918 during the Finnish Civil war.

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4355.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4356.jpg

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Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4433.jpg

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Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4461.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4462.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4463.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4464.jpg

Times of Finland : How I live here-dsc_4484.jpg
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Old 8th September 2012, 20:08   #6
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Default Accommodation

my temporary solution for accommodation was a hotel....

Times of Finland : How I live here-radisson.jpg


. but then, I eventually had to move out into a rental apartment. This is where comparison becomes inevitable. in the US, the very existence of Craiglist (online classifieds) makes life so damn easy to look up cheap and VFM accommodation. I used craigslist to look up for accommodation all the time I've lived in US. Well, this is Finland, not the US and Finland has no such active online classified. All they have for a solution for accommodation is a bunch of real estate agents. not the typical 'S L V real estate' types. (S L V is a popular name for most small businesses in Bangalore).
The most noteworthy of them in Vaasa is Pikipruukki. They control more than half the rental apartment complexes in this area. I had no choices but to fill in an application form and be wait listed. I was told to wait for their call coz they work their way down the que. I had reached Vaasa and my application wasn't approved yet.

I didn't want to stay in a hotel for long coz food is a big issue. Not that I'm a master chef. In fact I am a disaster in the kitchen. But I can just pass off to make myself food for survival. which meant I needed a kitchen. If somebody was going to suggest studio apartment hotels like Extended stay America..no..they don't exist in Vaasa, Finland. Before I got all frustrated about it, I got a call from the real estate agent that my application did get approved and I now stand a chance to get myself an apartment.

I quickly went to their website where they update the weeks availability of apartments. Happily I chose one close to my Clients' office where I was given an office space. I went to the real estate agents office and...:

me : Hey, I got a call from your office..this is Avinash..I am looking to rent an apartment.
agent : yes, I called you. We have approved your application and we can now offer you an apartment.
me : excellent ! I've made my choice. Can I get this one in the city center?
agent : hmm. no.
me : what? what do you mean you can't give that to me? I saw it this morning as available.
agent : that house got picked up yesterday morning but the list on the website is updated every weekend. I have the most updated list.
me: damn..so what next then?
agent : we have one in Gamla Vaasa.
me : where the hell is that?
agent : its about 8 kms from city center.. its called Alkulanpolku.
me : I don't want to be that far away. what other apartments are available.
agent : I do have another one slightly expensive.
me : excellent..why didn't you tell that earlier. where is this?
agent : Alkulanpolku.
me : Lady, the 2nd one..tell me where is that?
agent: Its in the same place.
me : oh no..If I let this go, what are the chances of getting one in the city center soon?
agent : No clue. I don't see one coming up anytime soon
me : alright..where are the papers where I sign?


..and thats how I live in a place called Alkulanpolku in Vaasa, Finland.

Times of Finland : How I live here-alkulanpolku.jpg

A colleague was moving back to India and I had bought all his furniture. Once we had done all the paper work, we quickly got a trailer..hitched it to another friends Ford Mondeo and moved all furniture to my new pad.
Now comes the all important bit - internet. I was told the ports were all ready and wired up and it won't take more than a 1/2 a day. So wrong I was. I went to the internet company and signed up with them and I was told that it would take 5 working days.no way...

There was no way they could reduce that lead time. Now I had a house fully furnished up..per se but I wasn't gonna live in it. I extended my stay in the hotel just for internet. I finally moved in when internet came alive.
All that was to be done was for the technician to drive up to the switch box and activate the port. that's it. But then, this guy would not work for more than 8 hrs a day and schedules work for the day and doesn't budge a bit around that schedule.

I realized one thing. Back in India, a little bit of muscling around can do wonders in such cases. I also realized that we take service providers for granted and don't really care for their time and expect them to serve us at whatever time or in whatever situation they are in.
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Old 8th September 2012, 20:17   #7
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Default Blackberry ? What the hell is that?

Long time ago, My buddy was all gung-ho about his Blackberry 8320. I showed no interest in his gibberish coz those days I thought the HTC P3300 I had was the most fantashtik phone ever. I even remember asking him "Blackberry? what the hell is it? " He kinda thought he was a Blackberry brand ambassador. I got curious and borrowed it for a few days and quite liked it. I eventually picked up a BB 8520 and abused it till it decided to die like a cockroach. damn thing just stopped one fine day. that's it. I then, went ahead and bought myself a BB 9300. Through this time I was only liking this phone better each day.

Cut to End May '12 when I eventually did reach Vaasa, All I thought was just unpack and press play..life would just continue. with that funda, I popped in the prepaid SIM card from DNA mobile network which my friend gave me and called the customer care to activate BB services..

me : I have this prepaid sim card and I need to activate blackberry services on it.
rep : excuse me? what did you want to activate? what phone do you use?
me : its a Blackberry and I have to have internet working on it. which means you have to activate it.
rep: what kinda of phone is a blackberry?
me : what? its a phone..a smart phone if you may. can you just go ahead and activate internet.
rep : sorry but I can't find any settings we have for this phone of yours. I can only suggest some manual stuff if it helps you.
me : aaw damn. yes, please give it. ...


I eventually concluded that I was speaking to somebody who was ill informed and I went to a DNA mobile brand store and...

me : Hey, I need to have internet working on this phone. I use a DNA prepaid phone. your customer care was not well informed.
rep : what phone is this?
me : its a blackberry. never seen one before?
rep : Blackberry? what the hell is that? no.. I've never seen this phone.
me : wait a minute, is it just that you haven't seen it? or it is sold in your store?
rep : I've not seen that ever so I'm not sure if anybody knows how to make it work.
me : Are you kidding me? so what do you suggest I do if I need internet and push email ?
rep : err, buy a new phone..you could pick from a range of Nokias, Samsungs or you can buy the iPhone even.
me : aaw crap......and I storm out of the store.


After much research I realized that for a country with just 5 mil population, RIM did not think it feasible to offer BB services in this country. Nokia being Finn, most Finns buy a Nokia without a blink. the iPhone has cracked the market a bit too.
I was in mood to buy another phone. In fact I still don't want to buy another phone now.
Hence, I now have a BB 9300 which works efficiently in :
1. Phone calls.
2. Text messages.
3. Alarm clock.
4. lest I forget, its my gaming console...err..sudoku for those times on the throne.

I guess I started the vicious circle by 1st asking "Blackberry ? What the hell is that? ". what goes around comes around..I totally believe in it now.

Last edited by 14000rpm : 8th September 2012 at 20:24.
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Old 11th September 2012, 10:12   #8
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Default re: Times of Finland : How I live here

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to the Travelogues Section. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 11th September 2012, 11:13   #9
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Default re: Times of Finland : How I live here

This brings back fond memories of my stay in Vantaa for one month a couple of years back. Beautiful place but i only dread the depressing winters.

I am still working on a project for a Finland based company albeit from India. So how long do you intend to stay there? I hope you are fully settled there and in case you need contacts of Indian folks there do PM me. My project counterpart has been there for more than 2 years now.
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Old 11th September 2012, 11:32   #10
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Default re: Times of Finland : How I live here

Nice accounts - please keep it coming - IMO no country is as immigrant friendly as the US, after you pass through the immigration and can drive a car that is !
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Old 11th September 2012, 12:34   #11
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Default re: Times of Finland : How I live here

How do the Europeans manage to get such a neat and clean look in their countries?
Why is this not possible in India? :(

***
You in Valdel by any chance?
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Old 11th September 2012, 12:45   #12
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Default re: Times of Finland : How I live here

Nicely written log about a new culture!! The 10th photo in the 5th post, they would have called that a extremely crowded road, right?

Waiting for more about Finnish lifestyle. I think the Nordics main hobby is fishing
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Old 11th September 2012, 12:46   #13
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Default re: Times of Finland : How I live here

O my god I can almost smell the fresh air you've been breathing ! Great pictures. Looking forward to reading your time spent in finland.
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Old 11th September 2012, 15:39   #14
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Default re: Times of Finland : How I live here

Quote:
Originally Posted by alpha1 View Post
How do the Europeans manage to get such a neat and clean look in their countries?

Why is this not possible in India? :(
Many Reasons

1. Less population
2. No pan Patti
3. Self-Discipline (most important)

I find that most Europeans have a very strong sense of nationality and pride themselves with the relation that they have with their home land. They respect history and want the legacy to continue. Unfortunately for us we are more ruled by responsibilities of our micro lives.

I liked the attitude of the executive of the broad band service provider who works a set schedule and time. He has time for his life and society. How many of us have that luxury?

Last edited by noopster : 13th September 2012 at 10:13. Reason: Fixed quote tag
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Old 11th September 2012, 16:25   #15
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Default Re: Fast forward to Today

Quote:
Originally Posted by 14000rpm View Post
At Vaasa, a good friend of mine was waiting for me to pick me up. he dropped me off to the hotel. Aah..the hotel…here was a surprise I wasn’t expecting. Nobody at the front office..in fact no front office even. Then we noticed a keypad by the door. We then realized that there was a door code sent out in the reservation confirmation. This key works for all doors. It expires on the last day of reservation. Nice. Not seen this before. That reminds me to facts about Finland – there are so less number of people in Finland that having somebody sitting at reception lobby’s was a bit too much. Point noted.
This incident brought back memories of my first trip to Sweden i had same kind of experience and was really shocked to the core. I had landed on a saturday and there was no one at reception till Monday. Imagine that!

Coming from India and that too from a big city - i was very afraid of the solitude and no human population.... I guess a cultural shock of the opposite kind --- of what Europeans get when they set foot in India.


Nice TL or should we call it a RL (Resident Log). Bring it on.
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