Canadian in Lappland
If you have had enough of everybody around you, try Finnish Lappland. You will meet some people during the day, I would estimate as many in a day as you see in the main street of Helsinki in half a minute. Feeling like there is no-one else around has certain advantages, but it doesn`t make it easier to stick to my self-imposed deadline of writing an article every day and trying to speak to a few people to collect their views. As an alternative, I am interviewing Philippe today since he`s the one to blame for the fact that I even got here in the first place. He invited two other Couch Surfers to his house near Sodankyl? (Lappland) and introduced us to the Finnish forest and its free hospitality cabins: fires, sausages and wood chopping included.
Philippe (32) is not Finnish by origin. He was born in the Qu?bec area in Canada and came to Finland on the 1st of April 1997. His life in the suburbs of Qu?bec never really suited him:`I didn`t feel at home there, so I started looking for alternatives. I knew one Finnish girl at the time, who convinced me that Finland was a suitable place for me. Lots of nature, lakes, forest and people whom I would fit in with` That may sound similar to is homeland Canada, but the reason he had enough of it had more to do with society than with nature. `Canada is so proud of its social system but it simply doesn`t work. I didn`t want to pay taxes there because I felt like they were wasted on useless projects. That`s different here in Finland. Here I see the advantages of it`, says Philippe.
..prefers his life in Finland over growing old in the suburbs of Canadian Qu?bec
Working in Finland
His dissatisfaction with the social system does not mean that he relies on it for his own income. Philippe works as a fairly independent mathematician and is generally honoured for his insights. He is partner of a firm that works on the analysis of scientific data and aims to model realistic problems in visual models with the minimum amount of observations. He explains that the firm`s software allows radars to reveal much more information over a longer distance. `The objects that can be identified are smaller, the perception is more precise, they can be closer to each other and their speed and direction can also be measured more precisely. On top of that, the range of the radar is increased and all of that without any technical modification to the hardware`, so his explanation reads.
His current job is not his first one in Finland. In the last ten years, he slowly moved north: `I lived in Helsinki for the first two years, but that was not the right place for me either. I was lucky to find a job in the middle of Finnland, near Kajaani, bought a typical Finnish house there and was forced to learn Finnish because nobody in the village spoke any English, or French.` From Kajaani, he moved north to the area of Sodankyl? where he bought a second house. I am wondering which place now feels like home to him: Canada or Finland and in the case of Finland: Kajaani or Sodankyl?. He tells me that Kajaani is the best place to live while Sodankyl? is the best place to explore. He uses his 30 year-old Toyota van or an old Landrover to move between the two places and pretty much does so according to how he feels. `I do miss my family every now and then but we regularly speak to each other on the phone`, he says, then specifying that regularly is no more than four times per year. The last time he went back to Canada was in 1999 and his family so far has not visited him in Finland.
Philippe is not too positive about the Finnish way of making friends: `Finnish people will smile at you, invite you for dinner or to the sauna, but it is very difficult to become one of them. They keep seeing you as a friendly outsider and wonder what moves you. I do have some good friends here, but they do not all live nearby. My ideas about friendship are a little different from average. I do not need to see a person all the time to be friends. I sometimes don`t reply to e-mails for half a year, but that doesn`t mean I do not think of that person.
I also like the company of Couch Surfers or artistic people who come by. They can stay as long as they don`t annoy me and that is what I tell them when they arrive. I don`t remember anyone who specifically stood out from the rest, but I do remember the interests of everybody. I like to learn about different disciplines and I will remember those of each visitor so I can contact them whenever I think something will be of interest to them. Or when I want to know something about that subject.` As has been proven throughout my stay, Philippe is also very keen on showing people his new home country. He likes teaching them some basic scouting skills like making fire and navigating: `I like to see how and if they find their way in an environment that feels so natural to me, but that may be very different to their own.`
Keeping himself busy is not a problem for Philippe: `I have a lot of tools and equipment to keep myself busy. Work is taking some of my time, I like to go for long hikes in the forest whenever I can, I have lots of hobbies like cooking and painting. Like many Finnish men, I have a lot of mechanic tools in a shed, an axe, chainsaw, my cars.. I can amuse myself with those. Apart from that, I spend a lot of time thinking about things. For example when I was ill recently, I amused myself counting the wooden planks in the ceiling, following the lines in the wood, and that sort of thing. I ask myself lots of questions and then, obviously, try to find the answers or solutions. However, my real basic needs are just to have a safe and warm place to sleep, and some food to survive. I like the company of my friends and want to feel some kind of basic friendship when dealing with people - that is why I am participating in so many social and educational activities here. I sometimes appear in newspaper interviews as this exotic Canadian guy, but I take it as a compliment that they are interested in my opinion about things.
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