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John Self is a Fulbright Scholar from Cal Poly Pomona, teaching at Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences. He and his wife will be in Helsinki until Christmas.The daily disappointment that I know only one language. Kiitos doesn't count. This shortcoming is a real strength for the majority of Finns, but they have a typical "What's the big deal?" attitude. It is a big deal.

Helsinki is safe, clean, with little graffiti, fantastic public libraries and a public transportation system second to none. Fast, reliable and clean. It just works. Every day. 07:12 train? Be there at 07:12. 7B tram? If the sign says 3 minutes, it means 3 minutes. What a concept.

Simple pleasures of real bike lanes that encourage bicycles to be used as everyday transportation. Having rivers and lakes possible to drink out of. I doubt there are many places in the world that can say that about even one lake or river, much less about most of them.

Having education as a foundation of Finnish society with free education and wonderful libraries. The sense that Finns want to be outside and love "the nature". No reason to hunt for the organic section in the supermarket here, as most, if not all, fruit and vegetables are organic. Having customers weigh their own products saves a ton of time in line. So obvious.

Of course, it doesn't take long to be told about saunas. Not saw-nas, but Sow-nas. After the shock of being naked (everything?) and cooked at 80 degrees, I liked it. After several times, I believe. Clothes off. Shower. Sauna. Shower. Repeat. Clothes on. Feel great. More water on the stones!

And all this stuff about Finns being reserved and distant? Maybe a little at first, but given even a little encouragement, they are warm and friendly.

Of course Finland is the land of social welfare, but it is obvious that they are willing to absorb the high taxes so that no one should have to worry about daycare, healthcare, education or basic food and shelter. This national ethos makes for very secure citizens and an environment that produces strong, independent women. The sense that every person is important and that all work is valuable, regardless of how menial or important. The result is that Finland's range of income is one of the narrowest in the world. Refreshing.

But, others are worth mentioning too. How can a country that loves nature and healthy activities also seem to have so many smokers? The long border with Russia brings about complex relationships: balancing trade and tourism with EU membership; remembering their brutal history together with thoughts of NATO membership; Finland's obvious alignment with the West but its desire to be independent. The "interest" in alcohol, at least on weekends. The struggle to integrate a growing population of refugees who have very different customs, languages and cultures with its associated impact on education. I have no doubt that Finland will rise to meet the challenges.

Finally, one bit of advice for new expats: layer. Kiitos, Helsinki for what you are and what you stand for.