Be Thankful For A Decent Education

, , , , | Working | October 14, 2018

(There have been many jokes and jabs about US Americans not knowing anything about geography or foreign cultures. But let me tell you, this problem exists in other places, too. I live in Finland. Some years ago, I was interning at a radio station for my journalism studies. It was a typical “light” commercial station with top-40 hits, hosts chatting about different easy topics between songs, pop-culture-related interviews etc. This happens at the end of November. I am chatting with one of the daytime hosts.)

Me: “Morning! What’s up?”

Host: “Morning! I was just wondering what I’ll talk about on the air. Because I was wondering, like, you know how it is Thanksgiving today, right?”

Me: “Yeah, I think it is.”

Host: “And like, it is weird that they celebrate it so much in the US, but not at all in Finland or, like, any other Nordic countries. Do they even celebrate Thanksgiving anywhere in Europe?”

Me: “Well, no, I don’t think so, probably not in the same style as the US, at least.”

Host: “Right, and I am going to discuss why that is. Is it some kind of culture and attitude thing? Americans are more open and express their feelings more in public so, like, maybe being publicly thankful does not fit in Finnish culture, and that is why we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving? And should we, with like turkey and pumpkins and stuff?”

Me: “It’s probably because US-style Thanksgiving is more or less a national holiday or at least a continental one?”

Host: “How do you mean?”

Me: “I’m not an expert, but I think historically the modern American Thanksgiving has its root in the 16th century. The colonization of America, pilgrims leaving Europe to establish new settlements, and all that. They celebrated surviving the journey, and the new land, and gave thanks to God every year for good harvest that would be enough to get them through the following winter and spring. We are still in Europe, so we don’t have that tradition, but Canada and US have it. I mean, Europeans have different harvest festivals that are in some ways similar. In Finland, that would probably be Kekri, but it’s not really celebrated the same way.”

Host: *pause* “Right.”

(She seemed very suspicious of my explanation and still talked on air about how lack of Thanksgiving in Finland has to do with “being introverted and privacy-loving culture.” At least listeners had fun pointing out the same things I already did. And the host calls herself a professional journalist.)

Scandinavian Summers Versus Bedtime

, , , | Right | October 13, 2018

(I work at a hotel in Finland. A lady with her grandkids comes to the reception desk.)

Customer: “What time do you make it dark here?”

Me: “It will get dark around 11 pm.”

Customer: “Can’t you make it earlier? The kids can’t stay up that late!”

Entitlement Will Get You Bit

, , , , , , | Friendly | October 4, 2018

(While my enormously large mountain dog looks like an actual teddy bear and is extremely gentle and well-behaved, he likes his personal space and doesn’t care for strangers’ attention. Therefore, I never take him to public places if I can avoid it. On this day, however, I am forced to take a two-hour train ride with him. In an effort to get strangers to keep their distance, I dress my dog in his custom yellow harness that has the words, “DO NOT TOUCH,” written on it in large black letters. Besides that, he has a yellow ribbon – international symbol for “I need space” – tied to his leash. At the train station, we wait calmly in the furthest corner of the platform until the coast is clear. As we make our way toward the pet car, I see faces in a different car pressed against the window, staring at us. I ignore it, get in, and find our designated seats: a normal aisle seat for me, and a low platform where the window seat would normally be for the dog. I spread the dog’s blanket on his seat, and he settles down with his head on my lap. I casually stroke his ears, and as I wait for the ticket inspector, I rest my eyes for a moment. Out of nowhere, I feel air move around me, and the warm weight of my dog’s head on my lap is suddenly gone. I open my eyes to see a mother with two young children, one of who is eagerly trying to reach the dog over my lap.)

Me: *blocking the access to the dog much as I can with my body* “Whoa, hey! Don’t do that.”

Strange Mother: “My kids want to pet the dog.”

Me: “Sorry, he doesn’t like to be touched by str—”

Strange Mother: *scoffs* “That’s not true. I saw you petting him just now.”

Me: “As I was saying, he doesn’t like to be approached or touched by strangers. I’m sure you can see the large text on his harness and that he has pulled as far away from you as possible.”

Strange Mother: “Nonsense. All dogs like to be petted. I don’t understand why you’re being like this. My kids have a long trip ahead of them! Just let them pet the dog already!”

Me: *thinking to myself, “Are you for real?!” but trying to avoid a conflict and making a scene* “He does not want strangers to touch him. Many dogs don’t. I’m afraid you’ll need to find something else to do to pass the time.”

Strange Child: “Muuuuum, I want to cuddle the doggy!”

Me: “Sorry, sweetie, you can’t.”

Strange Mother: ”Yes, you can. Just call for the dog like this.”

(The mother suddenly lunges at my dog, almost punching me in the process, and starts going, “Here, doggy, doggy,” aggressively at him. The dog lets out a startled growl. The mother shrieks and jumps back. Her children start crying. Everyone is now staring at us.)

Me: *in complete disbelief* “What the h*** are you doing?”

Strange Mother: “The dog tried to bite me!”

Me: “He certainly did not.”

Strange Mother: “Liar! That dog is vicious! How could you bring such a beast on public transport?!”

Me: *getting mad despite myself* “Are you kidding me? The dog was minding his own business when you came here, all entitled, acting like he is some toy for your kids to play with. I asked you way more nicely than you deserved to leave him be. You basically assaulted us both, and now you think you’re the victim because you got growled at? Most other dogs would have taken a bite out of you for doing something that stupid!”

Strange Mother: “You can’t talk to me like that!”

Me: “I can, and I will. You need to leave.”

(The mother threw a few insults at me, and then finally grabbed her wailing children and left the car. It took a good ten minutes of distractions and several treats for my dog to stop panting anxiously and to calm down, but thankfully the rest of our journey was uneventful. I’d had my share of people overly eager to pet my dog before, but never someone who wouldn’t take a polite no for an answer. Even though my dog seems unscarred by the incident, these days I am even more reluctant to take him out in public. The thing that gets me the most about the whole thing, though, is the idea that a mother would insist on letting her small children approach a large, unfamiliar dog when specifically warned the dog was not friendly.)

Some Things Should Never Be Played With

, , , | Related | September 14, 2018

(I’m sitting on the floor with my eight-month-old daughter. Her favourite game at the moment is for me to make a tower out of stackable cups, which she then pushes over. I notice that her airplane-shaped baby spoon is on the floor, and once I’ve assembled the tower, I proceed to “fly” the spoon around before letting out this brainfart.)

Me: “Oh, no! Can [Daughter] topple the tower before the plane hits it?!”

Me: *silence*

Me: “I did not think that through.”

Let’s Finnish While We’re Ahead

, , , , | Right | September 4, 2018

(I’m the stupid customer here. I’m a Dutch tourist in Helsinki, having a particular nasty vacation due to not picking the right travelling companions. I’m at a kiosk looking at some souvenirs. I decide on a patch that says, “I love Finland,” and bring it to the counter. Because of my current situation, I’m very tired and quite grumpy. The clerk gives me my price, which I don’t pay attention to because he probably says it in Finnish, so I read it off the screen. I give him the money, and he says something else.)

Me: *low-key annoyed* “Sorry, I don’t speak Finnish”

Clerk: “Was that all today?”

Me: “I told you I don’t…” *suddenly clicks that he spoke English this whole time* “Oh… I’m so sorry!”

Clerk: *smiles* “Long day?”

Me: “Let’s keep it at that.”

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