Marius Möller found out that many everyday habits were different than back home in Germany: people took shoes off at schools and lunch was eaten very early.
As a civil servant training at the city administration in the city of Kassel (Germany), I got the opportunity to spend four weeks in a foreign administration in our Finnish partnership city, Rovaniemi.
Luckily, my stay was well organized. I would spend one half of my stay at the local youth centres and the other half at the culture department at the city hall.
Hanne, my future colleague from the youth affairs department, welcomed me kindly on my first day at the youth centre Monde and took me for a short tour through the centre. After that we went downtown, where I had a traditional Rovaniemi soup. I didn’t expect reindeer meat would taste so well.
During my first two weeks I got an impression of how the local youth work by the city of Rovaniemi is coordinated and how the Finnish educational system is structured.
Particularly, I enjoyed my visit to a German lesson at Korkalovaara school. I didn’t know that learning the German language is so popular at Finnish schools. I was pleased to tell the youngsters something about Germany in my mother tongue. I have to admit that the youngsters pronounced German words better than me trying to read Finnish words.
I also visited the completely renovated Ounasrinne preschool, where I had a look at the youth centre and was guided through the school building. First I was confused that I was asked to take off my shoes. Later on I realised that it’s pretty common in Finland when entering houses except shops and official buildings.
Besides I couldn’t believe that it was a preschool or a primary school because it reminded me rather of a German professional school. After having seen the natural use of digital devices and new room concepts at Ounasrinne preschool, I felt this should also be a role model for German primary schools.
A special event during my stay at the youth affairs department was Rovaniemi Week with about 180 events around the city. I was busy with helping to organize different events and happenings at the youth centre Monde.
I was also able to take part in different guided tours. For me as a German, the most interesting tour was to visit an area where the German soldiers stayed during World War II in front of the city and their German military cemetery. I was a bit surprised that I could discover relics like rusty barrels and parts from former German buildings in the forest.
After the Rovaniemi Week I moved to the cultural department at the city hall. I was given a tour in the building and I was glad to meet some head officials, employees from the press office, building authority and legal department. I noticed that administration proceedings in Germany are more complicated than in Finland, which might be caused by the federal structure in Germany.
As I got to spend a whole day with the staff at Arktikum Science Center, I got familiar with the Finish break periods at work. They consist of two short coffee breaks (in the morning and in the afternoon), which the staff spends together and a lunch break. That’s a bit different from Germany, where we have just one compulsory lunch break during the day. In addition, I noticed that Finns usually have lunch really early compared to Germany. When I tried to have lunch at 1pm, I realized that I might be the last visitor at the cafeteria.
At Korundi House of Culture, I had the opportunity to meet the General Manager of the Lapland chamber orchestra. I was able to ask all kinds of questions about organizing and managing the orchestra. Afterwards I spent my time at an amazing concert of the Lapland chamber orchestra which was performing the ‘chamber symphony concert i Dvorákiana’ at Korundi.
When I arrived on my first day at Rovaniemi airport, the weather was drizzly, cold and windy – all in all not very welcoming. So I wondered if that’s characteristic for Finland. Now I know the answer: maybe concerning weather, but definitely not the people. Although I didn’t speak Finnish at all, it was pretty easy to get to know my colleagues at the city administration and the Finnish people in general because of their good English.
All in all, I can disprove the cliché of close-mouthed Finns. Some of them might be just shy.
I‘m happy and deeply grateful that I got to meet all the different people and spend such a great time in Rovaniemi.