Saturday, June 9, 2007

International Schools

European Chemicals Agency, ECHA has started in Helsinki. The citty wa splanning to start an "Europen school" aiming to European Baccalaureate EB, bt that is now postponed to 2008.
(They expect some 300 kids of the 450 employees of hte Agency to be in town by that).

Instead, Helsingin Sanomat listed the existing international schools, and indeed, they are a few:
* Full English program in four schools: The English School in Meilahti, International School of Helsinki in Ruoholahti, Kulosaari Secondary School, Maunula Primary School and Ressu Comprehensive School.
* In Espoo 3 more, in Vantaa 2
* Partially English: Helsingin Suomalainen Yhteiskoulu, Kulosaari Comprehensive School primary school level, Maunula Secondary School, Töölö Comprehensive School primary school leveland Töölö Secondary School
* Totally French (with French curriculum) Ecole Jules Verne.
* Totally German (with German curriculum)Deutsche Schule.
* Partially Russian: Myllypuron ala-aste and Suomalais-venäläinen koulu.
Not to mention the partially French, German and Estonian.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

House hunting

Finding a home is difficult enough, finding a home is a foreign country is another challenge. If you are an luxury expat, your company may provide services of "relocation agent". Us mortals do it alone, with some help from friends.

Buy or rent ? Also possibilities inbetween exist. (Waiting for N to fill in about asumisoikeusasunnot and perhaps even asunto-osakeyhtiö)

Flats for rent come in categories such as
* funds and non-profit organizations (HOAS for students)
* large investors (insurance companies, banks)
* social background (city council, VVO = state fund) Note: even though there is a limit in income, these do not have such a bad stigma as in some countries.
* private people, long term (investors and those who inherited grandma's flat and keep it until kids grow)
* private people, short term (people expatting themselves)

Only the first and last group sometimes are furnished, and not even those always.
"Non-furnished" still includes basic kitchen machinery and cupboards (unlike in Italy).
Dishwasher and washing machine are rare, but usually houses which consist of several rental flats, have a laundry room in the basement.

Where to find one ?
* Sunday newspaper
* Oikotie in web (and Keltainen pörssi)
* friends
* the newsgroups linked to this page (Expat-Finland and FinlandForum). Finlandforum newsgroup has links to translated laws "Act on residential leases")

Basic vocabulary:
* Vuokralle tarjotaan = Available for renting
* 2h+k = two rooms (bedroom and living room) and kitchen
* 2h+kk = two rooms (bedroom and living room) and minikitchen / cooking corner
* kaksio = 2h+k or 2h+kk
* yksiö = 1h+k or 1h+kk
* kolmio = 3h+k or 3h+kk (rare)
* p, parv, parveke = balcony
* s = sauna
* kph, kylp, kylpyh, kylpyhuone = bathroom (read: no sauna)
* khh, kodinhoitohuone = utility room
* upea = gorgeous (read: relatively expensive for the area)
* vapaa = ready to move in
* kerrostalo = block of flats
* rivitalo = chain house

(to be continued)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Getting gradually colder

Big news: major hot water pipeline broke in Vantaa last night. 150 000 homes were without heating. They say flats cool one degree in 3 hours (tells something about insulation, and why we have double doors and triple windows). Detached houses cooled faster, but most of them have an alternative heating system or at least a sauna.

Heating homes with hot water is a very typical way to heat Finnish urban areas. The same powerplants which create electricity, also create hot water, and that runs to offices and resident buildings (usually each block of flats has a closed system which exchanges heat with the central system). Nowadays, the returning lukewarm water often runs below pavement to keep that ice-free.

Yes, breakages happen, but less often than in direct electricity heating, and as the local systems have quite big mass, cooling happens slowly.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

A tad chilly

Days like this I used to be so proud of the Finnish infrastructure. We've had -20..-30 C in Helsinki area, and down to -40 farther north. There have been delays in trains, 15 minutes or so (but yesterday Tampere train was hours late!). TV news interviewed kindergarten teachers who said kid are anxious as they had decided not to go out and play if it is colder than -15 and windy.

The adult things to do in this weather:
  • cleaning of the freezer. Food out to balcony, and when you take it bask, it's even colder than before.
  • airing bedclothes
  • ice lanterns - very ecological decoration for garden and graveyard

Thursday, February 1, 2007

We are famous !

Dave has noticed frequent comments, and even asked his co-workers whether we are them !
(How do you make a flattered smiley ?)

The things which lead to opening of this blog were.
  • two us us get frequent visits of former co-workers , who travel so much they want to see something else than the hotel lobby and minibar. The hosts keep needing links to sport-places etc.
  • two of us (but not the same two) wanted to comment blogs which do not allow anonymous comments
  • we all expect a special friend to move in town in March, and promised to help her in acclimatization
  • we later heard about two others who will come for some months

And then there was the Kate Fox book "Watching the English", and our correspondence with Mike (watching an Englishman reading watching the English ?) . A thread of this blog should be called watching the Finns, but abovementioned Dave seems to do it for us.

Friday, January 26, 2007

New links

Note I added some new links to a portal and a discussion forum.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Our dear Helsingin sanomat published a review of a recent book by Jason Lavery: History of Finland Their conclusion: Written from clearly an American vantage point, this is a welcome addition to general presentations of Finnish history.

Inside Finland, the most influential books about history are the books by Väinö Linna:
Unknown Soldier (Tuntematon sotilas) , the realistic war novel about Continuation war. And Under the North Star (Pohjantähden alla) , story of Pentinkulma village from late 19th centrury through civil war. These are books as well known and frequently quoted as Shakespeare and Harry Potter in the English-speaking world; quotes have become proverbs and the characters celebrities and stereotypes, strengthened by filmed versions. So when a Finn says "Thank you so very much, I'll manage with this at least for half a year", there is more in it than the plain words. Unfortunately, the English translations have a bad reputation (are there newer versions ?) . See the movie.

Talking about books: The real Moomin are the thick black-and-white books. These are the guys in Moomin mugs. The pink and lavender Japanese cartoons and soft toys based on them are .. not the real thing.

However, when I bring books from Finland as gifts to foreign kids, I prefer Mauri Kunnas
His Santa Claus book is available in zillion languagaes, and he has made versions of many Finnish classics (Canine Kalevala, Seven brothers) and pieces of history (the Vikings) !

Watching TV

There's surprisingly much TV available - the TV listings site I use has 98 channels.
5 of them are Finnish analog channels (until August 2007, when all Finland goes digi).
Of course, most of them are subscribe-channels, like Canal+, BBC Food or Animal planet.
But I think the stuff available on the 5 basic channels is surprisingly good, if you think it's all prepared for only 5 million potential viewers.

A lot of soaps and films are imported, with subtitles. House and Lost come on Thursdays. We have Emmerdale, Dr.Phil, Conan O'Brian, O.C and CSI . Prison Break (Pako) and 24 (24) are the addictive stuff just now. Here's a list of films on channels 1-4 this week, with links to IMDb.
Reality TV formats are here, Idols just started and Big Brother finished.

There are program slots which have been reserved "forever" (=ever since I was allowed to watch). German "krimi" on channel 2 on Thursdays (Der Alte, Ein Fall fur Zwei, ...) . Nature and science on Channel 1 Saturdays 18:45 (nowadays BBC's Planet Earth). After that non-violent detective series (now Monk). Hospital drama 21:00 Thursday channel 3 (Now House, ).

I think the concept of subtitles (instead of voiceover) is great for Finnish education level. Only shows for pre-school kids come with voiceover. (And nature documents with stunning images, but on Digi you can usually choose between original Attenborough with subtitles, or Finnish voiceover with full pictures). It's a challenge for anyone on first grade to learn to read fast enough to follow the subtitles. And, basically everyone has heard people speaking English, Italian, French and Russian. (This was very annoying with BBC news: they speak over any foreign politicians).

Finland, the country of educated coach potatoes...

Sunday, January 7, 2007

Shop til you drop

Most shops are open weekdays 9-21, Saturdays 9-18.
In summer and 4 weeks before Christmas even Sundays 12-21.
What is open on other Sundays ? Very small grocery shops, kiosks, petrol station shops, and the shopping centre below railway station 12-22.

  • Touristy souvenirs and design kitchenware etc. along Esplanadi.
  • Clothes from Swedish chains and similar (H&M, Kappahl, ... ) along Aleksanterinkatu or in Itäkeskus (by metro).
  • Serious kitchenware in Arabia Factory shop (tram 6)
  • Furniture shops seem to be along Ring road III. Two Ikeas are roughly there (one in Espoo another one in Vantaa), and the rest mailny between these two. Petikko (bus 360, 361) has a bunch (Asko, Isku, Soffatalo, Lundia, Eurokangas...). Lanterna mall between Itäkeskus and Herttoniemi is the easiest place to access without private car.
  • Department stores and shopping malls are nicely listed in Wikitravel