Finland vs France: Conclusion

Article published on Jan. 11, 2009
Article published on Jan. 11, 2009

It is time for farewells: I’m through my eleven-month exile in Paris and I have been domesticated back to my dear northern country. Before I sink back into the Finnish silent melancholy I want to give out my last words on how infinitely better it would be to live in Paris, though, with a couple of little changes. Here you are, a bit of comparison:

Attention My time as a special creature with blond hair has come to a close, I think I have to colour my hair green now that I’m back to Finland.

Carbohydrates Croissant, baguette, pain aux raisins, flan nature, karjalanpiirakka, ruisleipä, wiineri. No matter what the name is, no matter what country, pastries and bread are always just as devilishly good and something you regret eating the next day.

Jolies rencontres in the street Unknown phenomenon in Finland. If somebody approaches you in the streets of Helsinki, you look at him as he’s an alien. Talking doesn’t belong to Finnish social norms.

Tarjoustalo Student’s best friend. It is a sort of supermarket where you can find everything from socks to pencils and dish brushes for student-friendly prices. Despite my continuous search in Paris, I never found the equivalent (and if you say it is Monoprix, you just a bit bourgeois).

Metro The Paris Metropolitain: a spider’s net, fast, takes you anywhere you want, a real trouble for a first timer. Finnish version is idiotically simple: one line going back and forth. But it doesn’t stink and you can always sit no matter what the hour is (we are that few in Helsinki).

Librairies, bookshops Can I import them all to Helsinki?

Air-conditioning Well, in Finland it is always so cold we don’t need much airing. Not the case in France. At least in Sorbonne, it seems, windows are sealed with some dark magic since no one even dears to approach them. When a hardboiled Northerner like me does go and fight the windows open, everyone seems to be very thankful and surprised: How we did not think about that? And the lecture, like by magic, starts to fascinate you again.

Spring Doesn’t exist in Finland, it is only sleet and slush. In Paris on the other hand, it is sunny and there are flowers growing on trees and I am walking with a stupid happy smile on my face.


Believe me or not but I am colder in Paris than in Helsinki! Well, I don’t mean outside but INSIDE the houses. The fact is no matter how cold it is outside, in Finland we heat up our well isolated houses so that it is always comfy and warm. Not the case in France: Windows have barely two layers of glass, so French people end up paying LOADS of money for the warmth that evaporates out in the outside air. In my apartment the situation is even worse: it is always colder inside the house no matter how hot the weather is outside so even in June I was wearing jumpers!

Libraries This is how it works in the library of Sorbonne: You go in, search your book through the internet, fill out little coupons so that the book will be picked for you and then wait half an hour. If you wish to take books home to read, you are allowed only two items for two weeks. You can renew your borrowed item but only for another week, after that you have to return the book and you cannot take it again for a month! Ok. Finland: you go in, take the book and take it home for a month. It can be renewed NINE times (means for nine months) and so far I haven’t run into any kind of limitations of items and I tend to borrow a lot of books. So, yes in a Finnish library I’m in Heaven!

Museums Two and a half in Helsinki, 151 in Paris. What is there more to say?

To conclude:

I had a great year in Paris but despite the horrors of my ever-approaching return to the fatherland, the actual return hasn’t been that bad which is a shame – I cannot use the self-destructive depression as an excuse to travel back to Paris. The support group for home-coming Erasmus students I planned to set up was never needed; it is almost irritating how easily you get used to your old habits. Anyway, thanks to the audience, thanks to the city and my family and friends. The show is over, though I confess: I already returned once to my beloved intellectual haven, so you’re not getting rid of me that quickly!

Soili Semkina