November Pulls the Curtain Over Finland, But What’s Behind?

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A man walking at the Töölö Bay in Helsinki on November 1 2016. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

A man walking at the Töölö Bay in Helsinki on November 1 2016. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

When I first visited Finland, I felt a very weird spring. It was May 2015, and the cold weather whispered to my bones that if you want to like this country, you must be either a Finn or, perhaps, something important brought you here. The only ray of sun that fell on my skin made me think: “Live long and well Finland, but you are not for me!”

But I returned here. Then some more visits. One, close to October. I must admit, Finland is the definition of the fall season, and there is definitely no other place on Earth where nature communicates with us by empowering our existence.

The Finnish autumn is a perfect dance of yellow and red leaves, warm cappuccino, Ikea blankets, white smartphones, sneakers worn with three-quarters jeans, plus the big pale scarves, and like in no other place, autumn in Finland is about the trip more than the destination. I discovered that even the degrees of temperature went down very fast. The feeling of being outside is a meditation itself. After my first experiences of the Finnish culture, climate and weather, I had to turn my last visit in a permanent living in the south of this country.

But in the last two weeks, I continually hear from everyone (immigrants and Finns as well) the same scared attitude towards November. They say there is nothing worse than this month of the year . . . November comes with a powder that transforms Finland into something that a foreigner cannot fully comprehend. It’s a big contrast to the culture in Romania, the country, where I come from and where people in the beginning of the year start speaking where they will spend the Easter. Then, where they will go for the summer and when will the fall arrive. What are the plans for Christmas and New Year’s Eve? In Finland, 80 percent of the people I met spoke about November and its capacity to disappoint me. Are all the immigrants thinking along the same lines? “You couldn’t have chosen a worse moment to move to Finland.” Many, after their first November in Finland, join the rest of the sad think-alikes with the same perception: November pulls the curtain over Finland.

The Finnish autumn is a perfect dance of yellow and red leaves, warm cappuccino, Ikea blankets, white smartphones, sneakers worn with three-quarters jeans, plus the big pale scarves, and like in no other place, autumn in Finland is about the trip more than the destination.

I, however, want to look behind the curtain. What will happen after the curtains are opened? I know that November is about only a few hours of light per day. It’s about starting to feel the European stereotypes of the Scandinavian weather. It’s about being tired all the time and saying no to an invitation. Even the animals dig deep into the forest, and it’s a time when psychologists warn of sinking motivation and self-confidence. The lack of vitamin D brings the first symptoms of depression and starts the phenomenon from which Finnish people are known at abroad: reticence. November is the end of great stories and the beginning of analyzing memories.

But like ice swimming after sauna, you must live it to be able to understand this unique experience. It’s not about being less active, but more about the courage of facing a real adventure that completes the bucket list. What’s the point of being in front of a black, thick curtain, wondering what might stand behind it, if curiosity calls you to a different challenge? Let’s count the days and reveal the truth when February pulls back the curtain over Finland. I have only one question, though: “Will everyone be here?”