It’s difficult not to make comparisons when you move from one country to another! Consciously or unconsciously, I continuously see the differences between life in Portugal and life in Finland. Interestingly the same thing happened to me when I first moved from Vietnam to Finland.
Since I am determined to make my exchange semester “an unforgettable experience”, it is a good idea to observe and write more actively about my time here. There is also an “exchange report” to be written at the end of the exchange, so these posts can prove useful to me as a “reminder” of a certain point in time.
Ok after a few days, here are some facts I have noticed:
Weather! I definitely love Portugal’s weather. Before I came here, my tutor warned me, “It is cold, but not that cold… You should come see for yourself.” The moment I arrived at Lisbon, I knew what she meant immediately. It is more chill and windy than freezing cold.
The best parts: No sub-zero temperature, no snowy icy slippery road, no dark sky, and here is the sun! Mr. Sun is available all day long and generously gives away his precious asset. Don’t get me wrong, loving Portugal’s weather doesn’t mean hating Finland’s weather.
It came to me as a surprise when I sat on the subway and realized people wearing thick winter jackets. Come on people! How can this be winter? This is called SUMMER, take off your winter coats. Come to Finland to find for yourselves the true meaning of winter!
I also enjoy a bigger population with greater racial diversity (I am in favor of globalization, racial and cultural diversity, integration, freedom, democracy and the like values). Whenever I walk on the street, get on a train, or pass by a public place, I can see people at all ages from different races and backgrounds.
I like the moment when the subway stops at a station and the doors open, everybody streams to the gates in a hurry. It’s not as crazy as in asian countries,but it brings me a sense of “busy, fast paced and urban life”. Oh yeah, there are actually not so many Asians in Portugal. Most of the time, I am the only Asian guy on the train. Does that make me feel special? Kind of haha. Anyway, back there I spent most of my time in Mikkeli, so I probably don’t have a “big picture” of Finland.
What else? The accommodation maybe. The last few years in Finland expose me to a “very high living standard”. Now I understand why the Finns are picky when it comes to housing. The truth is Finland’s housing is of exceptionally high quality. I have never noticed the details until I got my apartment in Lisbon.
For example, the previous apartment was very good at blocking noise. When I closed the door, I no longer heared what was happening outside! And the windows. Windows in my old apartment were firm and wind-resistant. The kitchen were well equipped, bath room clean and laundry room just fine. Can I say I love the heating system? In my opinion, it is an “incredible invention” of humanity, something I shouldn’t have taken for granted!
I also saw a few beggars on the streets, at the metro. I don’t remember seeing any in Finland. Definitely not in Mikkeli! There is also a homeless man sleeping on the pavement near my residence. I don’t think he can do the same in Finland. Not in the winter!
Anyway it’s better to see beggars and homeless men rather than thieves, robbers and terrorists! Although I always tell myself to watch over my stuffs, and the voice at the metro keeps repeating the same message over and over again, “Take care of your belongings”, and one time when my tutor saw me throw my everything out in the open, she recommended me not to do so, Lisbon is a peaceful city to me so far.
Last but not least, here people use cash a lot! This is irony because I didn’t remember back then in Vietnam, we also always use cash. But once you get used to having a bank card that can be used anywhere for any kind of transaction, conveniently and securely, you soon forget how the notes and coins look like! Now I get myself adjusted back to the old days, carrying a heavy wallet with tons of coins, fearing somebody to pickpocket me!
On the bright side, food is cheap here! Let alone the quality, price beats it all. But it is only cheap when I cook at home. Last time I ate at the school cafeteria, it was almost 5 euro for a main dish and a bowl of soup without student subsidy. Bearing a student status here doesn’t give you many benefits unfortunately. I also have to pay full price for the travel card, which is not cool!
Ok this is long enough for my first post in Lisbon. In short, so far so good!