Friends are born, not made

I have started to write this topic already in June, right about the time I arrived to Zagreb. For some reason, it has been very difficult to finish it and I have many times opened it, changed something, added something and even deleted a part of it. Recently, I have been talking a lot with my friends from Finland and I have missed them more than ever. Especially, because so much has happened since I left Finland in April. One of my friends got a baby, one has due date in two weeks and one just bought the first apartment. And I am still here, undecided and not even close to a feeling of “normal and casual” life.

When you are moving abroad you are just excited about the new things coming up, but at the same time there is so many things you leave behind. Family, friends, and everything what you are familiar with. I have always been social person (although I think the breaking point was after I finished high school), but at times, I still find hard the fact, that I am alone. I do have my husband, but obviously life can’t go around your marriage and both of us need own time and space. Family and friends are not going anywhere in Finland, but it is the fact that the distance will takes its toll and I do need some social circles here too.

Why making friends is so hard when you are an adult? Not only you become pickier, but also a bit lazy. When you have already your nice gang, you do not have urge to have more friends. And if there is a chance to get to know new people, you end up usually on acquaintance level. Most of my dearest friends go far back and newest friendships were mostly colleagues from work and no one tried that hard to pursue the friendship any further. Basically, those new friends are already gone since I moved away from Finland in April. There was not enough time to get into deeper level of friendship. It took me 29 years to gather all those amazing friends I have, so finding new as awesome friends doesn’t happen in a day.

I am now in a situation when I have to do everything to search for social circles, but the others already have their circles. Many expats ends up with other expats through different channels such as Facebook groups, Couchsurfing, and other platforms. We both used to be active couchsurfers, but after the website has gone through major changes, it didn’t really serve us as it used to. Biggest problem now is the amount of new people who do not use it as the original idea and mostly I was getting dating messages from guys (even though it I clearly state that I am hosting with my husband). I also find attending to random expat events quite exhausting. Many times these expat events are hosted by group of people who have known each other for very long time and new people have hard time to soak in.

I do not miss Finland so much as a place to live, but I miss it because of the people in there. I message my friends and my family daily but it is not enough. Luckily, traveling is so easy nowadays that many are interested in visiting every now and then. My oldest younger sister, parents, and grandmother visited me in Warsaw and I really hope my friends get to visit us here when we finally decide to settle.


Love it or hate it?

Last week, I spotted a funny article my friend shared on Facebook. The article was about culture differences in Finland and Sweden, at least what comes to how people react during conversations. For Finns, a conversation of group of Swedish people might sound pretentiously excited and polite. Things are not "good", "great" or "ok" (with monotonic tone), but they are "marvelous!" and "splendid!" (or "spännande!" in Swedish). This is quite stereotypical impression about Americans too, often even right on spot.

After being here in Croatia for four months now, I simultaneously admire and to be honest, I am a bit scared of the Croatian honesty. Here things can be "awesome" or "super" but it can be also "I fucking hate it" or "this is shit". Between these too options I have started to think are we Finnish people a bit odorless and tasteless nation? We do have opinions, but we are usually don't express them too heavily. If we hate something, we usually soften the message a little bit for example saying "it's okay, but I usually prefer xx" and very rarely you can see Finnish colleague bursting out of excitement "oh that is so loooovely!".

Finnish people are often viewed as emotionless, like Kimi Räikkönen. Things are OK, but could be better. If someone is greeting us "Hi, how are you?" you might find yourself listening general feelings of life instead of quick "Oh amazing, how are you?". We have something to learn from Swedish people, because it does make you feel that someone is listening to you more carefully and that you are more respected when what you are telling, is received with a bit more excitement. I also appreciate the Croatian way, if you have an opinion, you should say it. Sometimes I just wish the truth to be a bit more sugarcoated.

Croatian honesty doesn't end on the reactions during conversations, but also applies to a topic. I have been told about difficulties getting pregnant while sitting at the hairdresser and I also know if someone is on her period at work. My food choices has been criticized (this has been mutual though and partially a joke) and I have probably heard more compliments in my life.I love the honesty and I am happy that some things aren't a taboo.

For Finnish people giving compliments and receiving them seems to be sometimes completely alien. Why it is so difficult to say that your friend or even a bit more distant colleague looks great? Nice comments are often hidden in a joke, like the person behind the comment is trying to save itself from possible shame. Only here I have understood that I actually have friends who have never really given compliments to me and it has been normal. I, of course, have friends who are complimenting and it has been completely natural, but I would say it is less common.

I do not need everyday praise, but it is well known how little nice words can save the day and make someone feel much better. And mutually, I have tried myself to pay more attention and give compliments to my friends (and M of course) as often as possible. Next level would be to be more comfortable when receiving positive comments and loose my Finnish "oh stop iiiiiit. It's just some old crap I am wearing" - attitude.

Pictures are slightly related, as I can assure you that Siro had an opinion about our curious neighbor cat. It wasn't love.


Thanks! I mean hvala!

I have been now four months in Zagreb, so what have I learned so far? Not only have I learned some basic words, but also little something about the culture, people, and general lifestyle. I am lucky to be a foreigner who is working with locals. Sometimes I feel lucky and sometimes it is a bit frustrating to be the only one who doesn’t speak the language. I miss a lot of good jokes and I know that at times people might also get frustrated at me, because they have to switch in English when talking in a group. But I have learned something.

I know what is thank you, hvala. This was the first word I learned and I have used it in as many situations as possible. There are also some similarities between Polish and Croatian which helped me greatly with simple phrases, such as saying goodbye is in Polish do widzenia and in Croatian doviđenja. Sounds pretty much the same when spoken. Good day in Polish is dobry dzień (although it is said dzień dobry) and in Croatian dobar dan. Thank you is completely different, because in Polish it is dziękuję. I like hvala more, in written and spoken :D Generally, I find Croatian language much easier to pronounce as a Finnish person, but obviously I have a lot more reason to learn Polish.

I have also learned how to react when people says dobar tek while I am eating. This was funny thing in the beginning. I know that during common dinner people usually give an opening line to start to eat, like Bon Appetit (hyvää ruokahalua in Finnish or smacznego in Polish). But here it is almost a rule to say dobar tek even if you just pass by the coffee room, when you see your colleagues are eating their dinner. It is very polite and I like the politeness, but in the beginning it was confusing. Is it a situation to say hvala, or reply the same (even though the person itself isn’t eating) or just continue eating? After four months, I have found myself saying the same if I see someone eating, or some variation such as “enjoy your food” etc. Catchy phrase!

We have been asked many times why aren’t we signing up for Croatian language classes and reason is because we are lazy. Problem is that we both already have one new language to learn as a priority. M continued his Finnish language studies even here in Zagreb until the woman who was teaching him left one month ago and I was hoping to continue my Polish lessons while I was in Poland. Then I moved here and unfortunately haven’t found time or energy to continue. It is also difficult to find a qualified teacher to help me with the difficulties.

We both have to think if there is a point to start to learn intensively the local language as we do not need it and we both should actually concentrate to learn our own languages? If I was further with my Polish studies, I would probably pick Croatian a lot faster. I am also worried that more words I learn here, the more I forget Polish language. I still have goal to be able to speak with my mother-in-law who doesn’t speak English. That is the biggest downside in a relationship with a foreigner.

I am still childishly proud when the salesperson at cheese desk is smiling at me and is genuinely happy that I am able to ask "deset deka sir gauda. Hvala, doviđenja". Great success!