What is different is the USA?

There are many things that are different in USA, but I thought I just mention some that we found different in our everyday life during the five months we lived in Florida. I’m sure there are much more that we have not come across but these are the ones that affected us here.

People – Most of the people here are very friendly and open. It is so nice to hear young people say “Yes ma’am” instead of Finnish “Joo – Yeah”. Where ever you go and whoever you meet, you are always asked how you are doing. And yes, I know, that is a way of greeting you, but such a nice way in my opinion. People are openly curious about you and very willing to tell you about themselves as well. The main difference here is that we Finns usually share all the negative things, where as here we get to discuss all the positive things in our lives. Positive feedback is given often and it is something that motivates you. That is especially important to young people. The amount of awards in high school here was enormous compared to our few scholarships at the end of the school year.

Environment protection – This is something bad here. Everything tells that this is not important, or maybe it is, but not much is done. In grocery store you get huge amount of plastic bags, at its best double packing or one product in each bag. We have been the vast minority who brings their own bags with them to the store. I bet more people would do that if plastics would cost here like in Finland. Also, at school all the food is served from plastic plates and students use plastic forks, knives and spoons. You can just imagine the amount of plastic waste in this size of a country. Most of the fruits and vegetables are packed in plastics here, at least in normal priced stores. Overall, the use of plastic is far too great here.

Food – This is something I could go on for long but I try to concentrate in the main points here. American food is mainly unhealthy, no matter what they say. You really have to take a close look what you buy. Food that sounds and looks quite ok, is most likely full of hidden sugar and fat. You need to read the ingredients very carefully if you wish to find groceries like you are used to eat at home. Another issue is the food preservatives, wau, those they put there a lot! Here you can store you milk or eggs for weeks, even months. That makes me wonder what might be in them… And at the end, the explanation for not so good diet in many families is just that the healthier food you eat, the more expensive it is.

Habits – One funny habit I always notice is the way Americans use the fork and knife. We are told to keep fork in left hand and knife in right hand but Americans first chop their food and then put the knife away, and start eating with the fork. By the way, this is an easy way to guess the origin of someone…

Another interesting thing is how they write the date; month first, then day. This causes confusion, especially when we European need to present our ID’s somewhere. And of course, here we have pounds, feets and inches. Luckily they have transferred to metric system is sports, otherwise it would have been quite hard for me to understand what were my daughters results.

Price tags – You rarely pay the price that is written on price tag. Taxes are usually excluded from those prices and sometimes you might be surprised in the counter that the price is higher than you thought. It took some time to get used to, and I have to say that I still don’t understand why that is so. From the pricing point of you, the taxes could be added to the communicated price. However, from marketing point of view, the products obviously sound cheaper than they actually are.

Transportation – Everyone is dependent on private cars. Here in gainesville the situation is better than average, the public transportation does exist , and I’m guessing it is due to a big university. In some parts of the State or the Country there is no public transportation at all. Not to mention, that here are really no railways and very few charter busses that would go between cities. People who has the money fly, and who has not, they drive. A twelve hour drive is just around the corner, whereas in Finland three hour drive is long. Since most families have multiple cars, we can only imagine what that does to the environment.

At the end, there are many good things in this society and people I have got to know are just awesome. However, some things Americans could learn from us, even though,  raking the forests is not one of them…

It’s just like a movie

Do you remember all those American movies and series you maybe watched when you were a teenager? I do. And now I’m watching one again. It is all here; yellow school busses, mail boxes with flags that mailmen raise when there is mail, small churches in every village, names for every school sports teams, cheerleaders, matching sports uniforms and those letter jackets, high school and university campus areas with palm trees and of course houses with US flags in front.

It is funny how you get to know the society so much more when you actually spend your time outside your normal area. My work visits are usually so busy that I see the university campus, few dining restaurants and maybe one or two tourist attractions. Then on holiday, I just relax and maybe do some touristic things. Now, during my longer stay in Gainesville, Florida, thanks to Fulbright Finland and my employer JAMK University, I have had a chance to get to know the American society much better. Obviously, my time here was even more interesting since I had a chance to spend this spring here together my daughter who attended local public high school. All the parents and sports coaches I learned to know made my stay so much more pleasant!

I was told beforehand that I should definitely put my daughter in a private school here, since that would be so much better and less diversity among students. I decided not to do that. I thought that my daughter has traveled so much that she’ll survive in public school. After being involved in Gainesville High School’s operations this during our stay, I am so happy I decided to put my daughter there. She has made friends coming from South America, Jamaica, Norway, Africa, USA… I don’t even know from where. All these kids coming from very different families and backgrounds have given my daughter wonderful opportunity to learn about different cultures and to understand how privileged we in Finland are. And, the education in public school is free, just like in Finland.

I think it was her first week of school when the police arrested one female student at school, and that made me wonder a bit about the school but that was the only time I had any doubts. That was just normal procedure since the students were fighting. Here students get easily suspended, police presence is normal on campus and regulations are tight. If I wish to get my daughter out of school in the middle of the school day, I need to go there in person and sign her out. Then they announce in loudspeakers that she needs to come to the front office, and then we can go. I wonder how this would fit in Finnish High School?

Here she often rides home with the yellow school bus. Those are just so cute! They are also very much respected here, traffic regulations obligate you to stop whenever a school bus stops, no matter which direction you are going. People do obey that here, although, I could say that otherwise some of the drivers probably do not have a driver’s license or they got it as a Christmas present.

Working life here at the university is quite similar to ours, all the staff seem to be busy, running from meeting to another. I have really enjoyed working with my friend and colleague here and students have been great. Teaching is now over and time to start working on other things before wrapping up and heading back home.

American sports fans are just awesome!

We have had the opportunity to see multiple sports events while being here in Florida. University of Florida Gators offer sports entertainment every week, and we have enlarged our sport experiences here to American Football and Baseball. Baseball was easy to follow since its rules are pretty similar to Finnish Baseball but American Football was bit of a mystery for us. Too bad the actual football season here is in fall term, so there was only this one extra Gator game. We still have Lacrosse and Softball to go before the season is over!

What is very different here compared to Finland, are the sports fans. They are just awesome! Everybody has a Gator shirt and the spectators really cheer for their team. The whole atmosphere is fantastic here. In Finland most of the spectators just either sit back and watch and  maybe cheer when someone scores. In some games, especially in ice hockey, we have those hardcore fans that devote their energy to insult the referees and opposing team instead of cheering for their own team. It really ruins the whole experience if you end up sitting next to one of these guys.

University sports is something extraordinary here in USA. It replaces our sports clubs structure and runs many disciplines, and is followed by the whole community. In Gainesville, Gators is the team and club for everyone, they represent all sports and provide sporting events all year round for residents and citizens. Here sports are very essential part of the culture. You don’t necessarily participate in sports yourself but you go and see multiple sports. It does not have to be the number one sport you only go and see but multiple sports. Sports events are social events for the whole family and friends. We Finns could really improve our sports fan culture a bit!

Tailgating Florida Gators has been one of the best parts of our adventure in Gainesville! In addition to, of course, Gainesville High Hurricanes where my daughter has played basketball and done track & field.

Let’s buy a car in America

I hate car shopping. I have always hated it. When I was a kid I remember my dad’s experience when he tried to buy a luxury car and he was wearing his work clothes (he was running a big construction business of his own) and the car salesman looked at him and walked away. We did buy a new car but not from that shop. My experiences have been pretty much the same when trying to buy a car for myself in Finland.  It feels so stupid when you are treated like a blond and told whatever fairy tales. Although, I do realize that I am a blond but usually I’ve also had the money to buy what ever I’m buying. Unfortunately, same goes with car services as well. My car broke down just a day before we left to Florida, and the way it was handled by the brand garage was unbelievable. Thanks to my dad and his friend I saved 5.000 euros in the process of getting it fixed! You’ll hear more about that in Facebook. I’ll give some recommendations and free publicity for one car repair shop.

Unfortunately, this was not much different here. Thankfully I was prepared not to loose my temper or bite my fingernails. It turned out that there is huge amount of used cars available in different dealer shops, which look pretty online and they are in excellent shape according to the details published. When you go and see those, they might be full of scratches, they smell awful (animals, cigarettes etc.) or they do not have any service records. Sales persons make you sit and wait while they run to their managers to ask this and that. Something you do not want to do for a Finn if you want sell something to her! They try to convince you that the car has been serviced, and even though there is no proof of that, it is still the best car you could possibly buy. Well, we just had enough of that and we decided that we’ll buy our car from a big dealer, even if it would be a bit more expensive there. Eventually it worked out, we got the car and even a warranty for 90 days. Then it was time to clear the paperwork (obviously, this paperwork cost another 1000 dollars on top of the price of the car, since nothing here is priced with the final price). I don’t think I have ever signed so many papers at one time, it was ridiculous. I was just wondering if someone actually reads all those? It would have taken a day to read them.

Anyway, we are happily driving around and the warranty already covered one part that went broken, so all good so far. Me and my younger daughter will return to Finland at some point but the car stays here with my older daughter. Obviously, that is another punch of American style paperwork. She needs to get new insurance and new registration plate of her own. Nothing can be transferred, especially, when she is taking the car to a different state. This is America, how else could it be? Finnish system where you fill in one form online and change the owner by handing over the car with license plate seems quite convenient. However, this was one experience among many others in our adventure. You simply cannot expect things to be like home.

Winter in Florida

Almost a month has gone by before I got to write my first post from here, sunny Gainesville, Florida. Our start was really hectic with my daughter’s school enrollment and all the needed paperwork. It turned out that I had a over vaccinated daughter who’s health certificates from Finland did not apply here. However, now we know multiple different health facilities here, and people in them were really helpful in getting everything we needed. This made me wonder, how difficult it might be to a foreigner in Finland trying to sort out everything? All sorted now, and my daughter is a proud Gainesville High School Hurricanes’ athlete.

One thing I don’t miss here, is the snow shoveling. It seems that Finland is drowning in snow, and I am so happy that I don’t need to wake up at 6 to shovel all the snow in order to be able to drive out from my yard! Winter here has been mild,  although, the locals say it has been cold. I guess that depends on your perspective. For me, everything above zero Celsius in winter time is warm.

One thing I really love in here, is the variety of people. Florida is a real melting pot of different cultures and backgrounds, and it makes every new person and conversation interesting. This is one of the best parts of being abroad. I’ve been lucky to have these opportunities to widen my world.

University of Florida and the Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management department has welcomed me very nicely, and I really enjoy working here. Not to mention that I have never had so good sporting facilities so near my apartment! As my friend commented in my FB, this is also my “Fulbright sports camp”. If I am not fit when I go back to Finland, the only one to blame is me!

Winter here seems to be almost gone and days are getting warmer but basketball season is still on. For now, it has been all about Go Gators! but in ten days it will be about Go Lauri! – The Finnisher and Ghigago Bulls!


Hello Finland!

Welcome to follow my blog! I’ll be writing here about my adventure to USA as a Fulbright scholar. I’ll be visiting wonderful University of Florida, the Department of Tourism, Recreation and Sport Management for Spring 2019. At the moment we are packing our bags with my almost 17 years old daughter Annika and getting ready to go in two days. In Finland we had wonderful Christmas with half a meter snow, so we got the real thing before we go. If you are interested to know more about the possibilities Fulbright offers for Finnish students and academics, visit www.fulbright.fi.

Florida – here we come!