A Well Deserved Finnish Pickle

I have never thought of the pickle as a holiday food, but for me it has begun to be part of my cuisine these days. In particular, I am gobbling down one Finnish pickle after the other.

I speak metaphorically. In August I discussed on this blog my Finnish “pickle”, which was the immigration problem I was having at the time. A couple of months ago Í paid the 120 euros the Finnish government wanted from me to change what I saw as a perfectly valid work permit based on kinship to one based on work and moved on.

Anything to keep the Finnish government solvent. These are tough times. 

However, my relation to Finnish pickles has expanded. They are not just of the immigration variety. Indeed, they are more like the Heinz catsup in their ability to encompass all areas of life, especially for a foreigner like me.

One species of pickle I have encountered is the student pickle. Like my immigration problem, this one I bit into in August.

When I returned on my third tour of Suomi, I decided to see if I could get reinstated as a student. It took six weeks, but I was successful.

Like everything else here, I was charged for it. I was late (through I believe no fault of my own) and was slapped with a late fee.

My brother in law was correct. He once told me that if money in Finland moved, it was taxed. However, I really didn’t have a problem with that, and as with my immigration problem I paid my euros and moved forward.

The troubles began when I tried to pursue my rights as a student. For example, there is the issue with my student card.

The student card is a valuable commodity here in Finland. It offers you things like low cost  meals in all the Finnish universitues and  half-pricet train ickets. In addition, you can use the student health services anywhere.

One of my more cynical Finnish acquaintances told me that in truth a lot of students aren’t really serious about their studies. They just want the cheap hockey tickets.

In my case, though, I really did want to study.  More on that later.

I was confused about how to get this valued student card. For one thing, my university is 200 kilometers away from the city I live and work in. It was hard for me to learn this from my home city.

One day I bit the bullet and paid full fare on the train and went to talk to some people at my university. I experienced that day what I have told others: part of the merit represented by your university degree is the courage and moxie you conjured up to navigate the bureaucracy.

One office led to the next, led to the photo booth, led to the train station, led to the Otto (the Finnish ATM), where I had to keep pulling out money to pay everyone who had their hand out for the fees I had to pay. (I am being facetious. I didn’t use that much cash.)

All this was necessary, however. I have discovered that in Finland there is a subtle cultural nuance I call  “don’t ask, don’t tell”. If you don’t ask, they won’t tell.

I finally learned that I had to pay the student card fee at my bank and apply for the card online. The nice people at my student union even took my snapshot for free and sent it to me in an Email.

(What wasn’t free was the charge for using the teller to transfer my money to the student union. My wife did all the banking on my last tour here and I didn’t know it costs 5 euros each time you go to a real person for something you can do at the ATM or online.)

This whole affair took place about six to eight weeks ago. I still do not have my student card.

First, there was a delay due to some technical glitch in the process involved in actually making the thing.   When it was finally ready, it was delivered to my student union –200 kilometers away.

Now I knew this would happen. Thus, I arranged for someone to pick it up and mail it to me.

It was put in the mail about 10 days ago. Now I know it is Christmas season and all and mail runs slow, but good grief (hyvänen aika!).

I am beginning to wonder if what has been suggested concerning my wife’s green card could have occurred with my student card. Could it have been stolen? After all, it is a valuable commodity!

I have trouble believing that. One of the most important values in Finland, if not THE most important, is honesty.

Nuts! People will find a pair of mittens at the bus stop and hang them neatly there so that the person who suffered the misfortune of losing them can retrieve them.

As one of my students told me when I mentioned this: “They may need them.”  I think any red blooded American could tell you what would happen to said mittens in a place like New York or Chicago.

As for my studies? I haven’t made any headway.

I tried to learn what I was supposed to do. I visited my international student advisor and Emailed my professor.

The latter was helpful, but could only really offer suggestions. The latter didn’t answer me.

This is typical I believe of the university professor in Finland. To be fairl, they are an extremely busy lot and don’t have a lot of time to answer inane questions from non-Finnish speaking international students.

This is part of the problem, if not THE problem. My language skills stink.  I am dogged enough to find the answer somewhere if I can. It’s just I can’t understand most of what I read, or even know where to look.

Some things are in English, such as the student union organization website. However, details found in the course catalog you can forget comprehending without a knowledge of the language.

It’s my own fault. As my boss told me recently,”You’re not motivated enough.”

She is right. I work in English all day. I can get by without Finnish.  I can even shop for pickles without it. And that’s just what I have gotten due to my poor Finnish.

Pretty female sailor with pickled cucumbers over green background Stock Photo - 6375027

A Finnish student would crush any pickles like the one I encountered with my student card. They speak the language!



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