Monday, August 22, 2016

Cultural Clashes: Mom's Visit to Finland

My mom spent almost 3 weeks in Finland with us and it was quite a ride. I'm thankful for the opportunity, because she's not getting any younger and coming here is such a loooooong journey. She was amazed at how bright it was during the nights and in Lapland she said that the sky felt so close (close enough to make her feel like she could grab the clouds with her bare hands LOL!). She enjoyed good weather for two full weeks (sunny and warm, about 20'C), but then the temperature took a dive and it was rainy/grey for the last week. The good thing about this was that she got to see some autumn colours (mostly some yellow colours). She also got a few chances to see some reindeer in Lapland, so that was cool, too. 

One thing I realized during her visit was that I had taken so many things for granted. There are so many things that have become my new normal that I hadn't anticipated telling/explaining to her. Case in point: the day before she was supposed to fly back to Indo, she asked me why the toilet sprayer (the small spray for your private parts next to the toilet) didn't work well whenever she used it. I had forgotten that back home at her place, her toilet sprayer wasn't connected to the sink, so it would automatically spray water whenever you press the handle. However, here in Finland all the toilet sprayers are connected to the sink, so you have to open the tap at the sink first before you're able to use the toilet sprayer. What surprised me (and made me slightly amused) was the fact that it took her that long to ask me that.

Other than those pragmatic daily stuff (like how to use the stove, how to use the shower, how to open/close the blinds, etc.), lots of cultural differences also appeared. Here are a list of things I can think of right now:

1. Sauna

During the good weather period, I introduced my mom to MIL's sauna in another village. That sauna uses firewood, so I thought it would be a different experience for her. The first time we were there, the weather was so gorgeous and warm, so I told my mom she could just take a bath there in the sauna if she didn't want to stay there too long. She did take a bath, but she said it was way too hot for her. When the weather became cooler, my mom said it was so cold that she didn't want to shower. So I offered her to warm up the sauna at our place. I told her to go inside before the sauna got too hot, so this time she managed to enjoy the sauna experience better. The next time I was warming up the sauna, she was more than ready to jump inside, especially because the weather was cold. So in the beginning she didn't understand the benefits of the sauna at all (esp. when the weather was gorgeous outside), but once it became colder, she began to enjoy going there. 

2. Crossing the Streets

We spent some time in Helsinki with my mom (we ourselves rarely go to Helsinki because it's a long journey from here and it's not cheap to travel in Finland) and in the beginning the way she was crossing the street was Indonesian style. As long as the streets looked empty, regardless of the light, she would automatically start to move forward LOL! 

3. Clearing Your Own Table At Some Places

We spent a day in Rovaniemi at a hotel that offered free breakfast and in that hotel, guests were asked to clear their own table. There were designated places for utensils, bowls, etc. In some cafes in the airport as well, there are usually carts where people can put away their trays. These things were new for my mom. 

4. Seeing Drunk People

My mom was surprised to see some drunk people in the streets/at some parks. In Indonesia, drinking alcoholic drinks isn't customary and you rarely see drunk people in public places in broad daylight (perhaps only at some bars during the wee hours of the day).

I had something else to add to this list, but it has escaped me at the moment. I'll write it down when I remember it later. Here are some photos of us in a collage. The bottom middle pic is when my mom tasted my homemade reindeer meat. :-D


  1. I am very glad that your mom visited you. Thank you for sharing beautiful photos.
    lots of love from sLOVEnia,

    1. Thanks, Klara. I'm glad that she was healthy enough to visit me, too. :-)

  2. It's funny b/c my brother visited me for the 1st time in years. The clashes weren't so much in about culture b/c he isn't that far away. But the different points of view between me and him were really hard to navigate.
    Some people think that nearly every place in your house should be spotless. You know I'm not one of those people. I have 3 kids. I have to look for jobs. I am blessed with a wonderful girlfriend and I love trying to improve our relationship, because she's worth it !!
    My brother believes in a spotless house. It's hard for him to understand why I don't spend as much time being cleaner. I guess I just believe some things are more important (like staying employed!!).
    I felt disappointed that he couldn't understand. I am glad your Mom was more understanding. I love the pictures you posted, Amel !

    1. Owwww...I'm sorry that your brother had such different priorities, Vince. :-( I myself am not such a clean freak.

  3. Love the collage. So glad you got to spend quality time with your mum.
    It's funny isn't it, the little every day things you think are normal but can feel quite alien to someone from a different culture.

    1. Yep, it's very funny and it makes me realize that there are so many things we take for granted he he...