With Valentine’s Day (”Friends’ Day” in Finnish) just around the corner I thought I would share a few thoughts about making friends in Finland.
When I moved to Finland, I was single. At the time, I was not too happy about that – ”everybody else” seemed to be in a relationship. In retrospect, though, being single was a blessing in disguise. It meant that I socialised a lot and I met a lot of people. I went out a lot, with both ex-pats and Finns. Eventually I met my wife-to-be, and met still more people through her. I am still close friends with some of the people I met in that stage of my life, even though we live in different towns now.
At the same time, however, I noticed I was getting fewer and fewer messages from my friends. The unspoken message was that ”he is in a relationship, and therefore out of circulation”. This became even more marked when we moved to Kerava. At the time I was working in Helsinki, and few of my new colleagues seemed interested in socialising with me, however friendly they were at work. I made a few close new friends, but my social life was much more curtailed than it had been in my bachelor years.
I haven’t come across this phenomenon elsewhere. In most countries it is a given that people like and need to socialise with others whether they are single or attached, even if socialising means just one quick coffee or beer after work. In Finland it seems to be assumed that a couple stays at home most evenings, or hobbies replace socialising.
I got to know a Brit during my bachelor years in Jyäskylä who had a girlfriend but no friends. For me it was the other way round. We both thought the other one was better off! Anyway, my message this Valentine’s Day is a very simple one – we all need friends, no matter what our age or situation in life. And spare a thought for all those expats and immigrants living here. Many come from countries where people go out a great deal. It isn’t easy for them – for us – to adjust to the relatively quiet ways of Finland.