Author: Halid Muratoski

Once, when I was a teenager I promised myself that I will go to the land of thousand lakes, the land where the sun never sets during summer days. It all started during high school days where I became a Finfanatic, lurking through the stories of the Kalevala – the national epic of Finland. Väinämöinen has been my hero and Illmatar my muse ever since.

Growing up in a remote village in Western Macedonia, I didn’t get to see the world much. It all started from Mladiinfo’s Facebook page, where I noticed a call for a volunteer in Finland, in the pearl of the North, Helsinki. HELSINGIN LYHYTAIKAISKOTI JA TYÖPAJA LYHTY RY was looking for a voluntary worker, via the European Voluntary Service, to work and assist a group of intellectually disabled men in their outdoor workshop for botany and gardening. Given the attractive location, Helsinki, many people applied for the position. I was thinking – I do not stand the chance, but then I decided to give it a go? Other than my own preference, I was drawn to this specific voluntary position because my own sister is handicapped. I live in a society where people with special needs are considered second-class citizens. People with special needs require love and attention as much as everybody else. I was good to go and ready to discover what this Nordic country does to aid these people.

Landing at the airport, I was picked up by my support person, Nina. I arrived in Vantaa, where she lived. First thing, I open the venetian blinds. Shocker! It was 11pm and it was still all shiny and bright. The following day I was introduced to my host. It was an unusual experience for me. Why would they open their doors for me, a foreigner? I highly recommend that you live with a host family, so you get to live with the true spirit of the country you reside in. My cultural shock started very soon. It went as far as I couldn’t turn on the shower or scan my bus ticket on the scanning machine in the public transportation! The price of goods, alimentation and beverage strike me as one of the highest in the EU. The living standard in Finland is high, there is hardly any gender or race discrimination, you can live freely not fearing of being judged for your views. It is one of the safest countries to be in. Finns are a proud nation and big patriots! Finland is the best country to live in, say this out loud, and you will be loved. Finns are a timid nation and small talk is out of the question. Honesty is one of the best traits of Finns. A promise is a promise. Time is of the essence, so do not be late or you will be scolded.

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