Alejandro, a master’s student at LUT, survived moving to Finland by bringing with him a survival kit: the Mexican food. So far so good – the journey from a whole different culture has been surprisingly smooth.
The first thoughts some of my friends shared with me when I told them I was coming to Finland were that I was going to freeze and that the radical change of weather and environment would possibly drive me mad. The long nights, different food and cold winters seemed like a radical change; nevertheless, the decision was made.
The most striking difference is the weather. I was not sure if I could resist the winter and I only brought a couple of jackets, made for the Mexican winters (in my case around 10°C). Luckily the temperature in September is warm enough and I did not need to cover myself that much. The winter problem was later solved by using thermal wear, easy enough.
What about sauna? Well, sauna is a different story. You don’t need to keep warm in my hometown when you have summers of +30°C, so sauna is not common in my country, only at some sports clubs. The cultural shock was funny: the first time I arrived to a true Finnish sauna, I faced 15 naked guys, sitting next to each other like sardines, without regard of personal space, drinking and having fun. Some friend told me “When in Rome, do as Romans do”, so I went naked, no questions asked.
Some of the guys told me that after sauna you can go roll in the snow and also jump into the frozen lake. I was like “That is crazy, I don’t think I am ready for it, I need some time.” I did it two weeks ago, it was amazing.
How different is the Finnish food from the Mexican? Very different. I come from one of the Mexican states that are in the pacific side so my regular diet consists of seafood. Shrimps, cocktails, marlin tacos and oysters are part of my diet. Tacos are also part of the diet, at any time of the day. We don’t drink milk at lunch time; only for breakfast or before sleeping, and we use a lot of different salsas to make our food as spicy as possible. Whenever a friend here tells me “Watch out, it’s spicy!”, I try it anyways, my taste buds are used to it.
So, try to imagine how strange it is to arrive in Finland as a Mexican and not knowing how to cook tacos. How crazy is that? In my case, I arrived before the semester started so I had a lot of free time to waste and my purpose was to learn how to cook them. Somehow I thought that it would help me to prevent any kind of homesickness and I could also share them with my friends.
For a basic taco you need some beef, tortilla, avocados (for the guacamole, traditional salsa you put into the taco), salad, lime, black pepper and some kitchen oil. One trip to the store, some local ingredients, and I started.
After some failed experiments the tacos were done and I invited my roommates to try them for the first time. They gave me their approval and I was happy. Finally, I could have some cultural culinary exchange with some friends whenever needed. After that I have continued to experiment with different Mexican recipes, something I never did when I was in my own country.
In conclusion, so far so good, the change from México to Finland has been smooth. Currently I am surviving what I have been told is a merciful winter. As the days pass, the sunshine lasts longer, and spring is just around the corner.
The writer is a 2-year industrial engineering master’s student from Mexico, inspired by alcohol, movies and maybe too much coffee.