Fútboling in Finland: Suomi vs. USA


Ya know what? You really don’t take notice to the thousands of miniscule routine things you do during the day. All of the mindless movements and behaviors that you perform seamlessly without pause, well that is until you’re placed into a new culture. It’s a funny and humbling experience when everything that once seemed “normal” is now strange in the eyes of others. So this past week I sat down with two of my teammates, Velma (Oikarinen) and Selkku (Selina Mustajoki), to discuss opinions, thoughts and observed differences between the Finnish and American cultures. Here is our take on the two cultures as well as some firsthand experiences. Also, special shout out to Selkku’s sweet mother for letting us eat at her café. It is such a cute little place with awesome food; I suggest everyone takes a visit! (Marian Konditoria in Töölö)

Rule number one; always take your shoes off. Last year I lived with a host family, upon arrival I watched as one by one they took their shoes off before entering their home. I remember at that exact moment thinking that this was probably just a house rule they followed. Sometimes back in the U.S. a few of my friend’s moms were picky about taking your shoes off before entering the home. So naturally I complied not wanting to seem odd or strange, little did I know that this shoe thing is like some unspoken vow that every Finnish person takes.

Being in Finland for the second time you would think I have all this stuff figured out but I like to surprise myself. It’s actually a cool thing being able to learn new things every day about another culture. And at the same time I get to learn new things about myself, one being that I can’t speak a lick of Finnish (we can save those stories for another time). So the other day I went to the gym for the first time and I walk in and immediately feel confused. Let’s not get this wrong, I usually have a confused look on my face 24/7, I just wasn’t expecting to run into any problems at the gym of all places. Right when I enter the building I notice that there are a bunch of shoes hanging up on the shelves, so now I’m thinking ”ok I guess it’s cool to workout barefoot, no big deal”. I then ask velma, ”like why are there shoes on the shelves, am I missing something”. Come to find out, you’re supposed to wear separate shoes to work out in (whoopsies). So I look around make sure no one is looking and wipe my shoes clean on the rug and carry on. By the way, the floors were spotless in the gym so I definitely have a newfound appreciation for the clean shoe rule.

The “L” word: At the end of every conversation with a family member or close friend it’s not uncommon to say, ”love you”. From what I’ve heard from several teammates, this isn’t really the norm in Finland. I don’t think there is a day that goes by that I don’t use the ”L” word with my mom, dad and sister. I’m not sure if that’s a U.S thing or what but I’m thinking it plays into the more emotional side that Americans are known for. Not to say that Finns aren’t affectionate or caring, maybe there is just less of an emphasis on showing emotion. I think we all know the outgoing, loud and crazy stereotype that the Finnish people are known for;).

Small talk, does it exist here? Velma and Selkku both mentioned to me that small talk isn’t really valued as much in Finland. This is clearly evident when you walk around or travel in public places. In the U.S. it would not be unusual to strike up conversation with a stranger if you felt the need to, ya know talk about the weather or a favorite sports team or something like that. There have been countless times in Finland when I have tried to smile at people when I walk by and I receive nothing in return. I promise I’m not creepy, just trying to be friendly:). Not too long ago Velma and I were at the store deciding hard on what frozen pizza to buy because after all, this is a very important decision. After about 3 minutes of deliberation we made our choices. Meanwhile, without noticing, there was a man standing behind us the whole time just waiting for us to pick our pizza almost too afraid to speak up so he could grab his. This is crazy to me because I am used to impatient or rude American people that don’t want to waste anymore time than they have to at the store.

Completely changing the subject, recently, we played two games. In the first game, against Honka, we started off strong and won 3-1. Obviously not every performance is perfect, mistakes happen, bad passes occur but we found a way to win and that is what I love about our team. There is never a moment when I feel that there is no hope to win a game or make a comeback. I think that really speaks volume to my teammates and their willingness to win and compete every time we step on the field. Additionally, we faced off against a really talented boys team from Hjk. Although we lost 5-3 there were many positives to take away from the match. Every game is an opportunity to get better and more comfortable playing with new and old teammates. I feel nothing but positive vibes for the upcoming season.

Sometimes during the week on the mornings a few of us like to go to field and work on extra soccer skills (dribbling, juggling, shooting, passing, etc.) There are few better feelings than being able to wake up and hangout/train with teammates. I really am fortunate to be surrounded with people that value putting in all the extra work that is needed to improve. Anyways, after training a couple girls came over and we made some food. I was shocked to hear that none of them have ever eaten macaroni and cheese….. literally shocked because that is a staple of American cuisine. But seriously, is there really anything tastier than noodles and creamy warm cheeses melted on top?! If you are ever feeling like you want to indulge on cheesy goodness then let me know and I’ll personally invite you over to try it out. Another thing that still baffles me is the fact that so many people here haven’t made chocolate chip cookies before. In the U.S. you can run the store and literally buy pre-packaged cookie dough and pop it into the oven. Thinking about it, this is such a metaphor to American culture. Everything is made convenient and easy for lazy people to handle haha, so many shortcuts in life. I am not saying this is a good thing by any means but I sure am thankful for pre-made cookie dough. Nonetheless, I sure am happy that I could pass some chocolate chip cookie wisdom to some of my teammates.

Recipe of the week: Chocolate Chip Cookies

-2 cups of flour
-1/2 teaspoon baking soda
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-3/4 cup of melted butter (slightly cooled)
-1 cup of brown sugar
-1/2 cup of white sugar
-1 tablespoon vanilla extract
-1 egg
-1 egg yolk (that’s the yellow part)
-Chopped up chocolate bar (whichever kind you prefer!)

Bake at 165 C, mix all dry ingredients together, in a separate bowl mix the butter and sugars and then egg until creamy, mix both bowls and add the chocolate, ball the dough up and add to baking sheet.

*Hint- the cookies taste a lot better when you try to forget exactly how much butter and sugar are in the dough. Hope this helps.

– Rief

Yhteistyössä Creature AD:n kanssa.