I used to live with a girl from Finland. One of the best roommates I ever had, really. Anu was amazing in a lot of ways, and taught me a lot about her culture, as she learned to understand mine. She would often joke that I was Finnish because of my introverted nature.
Finnish people do like to party. It’s just that they like to party with their friends. Suddenly becoming friends with someone new is a rare occurrence. Not that they don’t make friends, they just don’t talk to strangers.
If it weren’t for my job, I wouldn’t talk to strangers.
And they don’t make small talk. Even working customer service, all conversation is minimal. If someone comes through your line and you’re a cashier, there’s no need to discuss the weather or ask how someone is. You ring them up and let them go. Anu used to tell me how she didn’t understand why someone she didn’t know, or barely knew, would want to know how she is. Whereas in America, asking someone how they are is a greeting, albeit a fake one. Very rarely does anyone actually care how you’re doing, and they don’t really expect an answer. We ask so many meaningless questions here.
I just moved to Alabama from California. Although I’m an introvert and don’t do well in parties where I don’t know everyone, back home I was fairly friendly. People describe me as nice, as kind, as sweet. I’m not really a rude person, especially not on purpose. Because I have worked in hospitality for the last couple of years, I’ve learned to be a little bit more outgoing. I can talk to guests, ask them how their day is while I’m checking them in; ask them how their stay was when they check out; see if there’s anything I can do to make their time in my town more enjoyable. But I don’t go much farther than that without a connection or a reason. I run out of questions. I suck at small talk. Because I literally don’t care. If I don’t know you, my heart is not genuinely concerned about your drive or your complaining because it’s raining outside. I was telling a girl from my church that I am the least friendly person that I work with, because I’m from California.
In California, you’ll smile at someone when they walk through your lobby. You’ll say hello to them. If they look like they need help, you’ll talk to them. Otherwise, you leave pretty much alone. You want everyone to be happy, but that doesn’t mean you go out of your way to be their friend. Or maybe it’s just me. Californians are pretty judgmental anyway.
I missed church on Sunday, a church that I have been going to for a month, because I was at work. But a friend of mine was playing a concert that night, so I saw a lot of people I would have seen that morning. And multiple people asked where I was that morning. If you miss church in California, everyone assumes you’re out of town, or that you had something else going on. They might care that they missed you, but people come and go as they please.
So out here, in Florence, I feel a little Finnish.