Thursday, September 20, 2007

On Finnish-Swedishness and alienation

So I went out to dinner with my classmates today, and amongst all the beer and talk about the virtues of Perl, C#, Python and unit testing and whatnot (I dunno if I've been spoilt by a year abroad filled with wider conversation topics or what, but *one* hour of shop-talk should be more than enough, surely? Or maybe I'm a just a horrible failure of a computer scientist.), there was one bit of genuine insight that struck a nerve.

One of the guys observed about his summer working in Germany, where he was the lone Finnish-Swede amongst a bunch of Finns, that what growing up in the mostly swedish parts of Finland (there's a bunch of them along the west coast, fact fans, especially in the middle part) uniquely prepares you for is being in a place where you don't understand what the hell anyone's saying. Everyone else was freaking out, but for him, it was business as usual.

And it's true, you know. I grew up in a shitty little village where something like ninety percent of the peopulation speaks Swedish. You simply don't need or hear Finnish in your day-to-day life, but unless you're some inbred navel-gazing yokel whose greatest ambition in life is to take over his father's pigsty, you're very much aware of the huge swathes of country where they don't speak like you at all. Point is: you're not 100% at ease in a lot of places in your country, so going abroad is not that big of a deal.

Which I believe accounts for how easily I got by in Japan at the start, despite the dire warnings from various exchange studies booklets. Sure, the customs are different, but the whole bit about only understanding the odd word here and there was just like being ten years old again and going somewhere Finnish, with their strange and terrible language that defies mortal comprehension. You just roll with it.

Or maybe not. I am after all a bit DUNK! after all that beer.

No comments: