It’s no news that Finnish neighbors tend to avoid greeting each other on staircases and in hallways. While this has left most foreigners feeling that Finns are cold and unfriendly, I prefer that you decide for yourself based on my stories. During the three months I lived in Finland, one thing I can’t forget about this nation is its sense of community.
In the building where I lived, there was a common storage area where every apartment had a private compartment in which residents could store personal belongings like grills during the winter and snow skis during the summer; there was also a common sauna at the top of the building. The building next door also had a common laundry room on the ground floor, with laundry machines and clotheslines, and a common garage for the bicycles.
The ultimate expression of this sense of community of Finnish people is obviously the talkoot, an untranslatable word that refers, generally, to a reunion (get-together) of neighbors, to clean up and improve common living spaces and then, share a meal at the end of the work. In a community called ‘The neighborhood’ I noticed this more than anywhere else – picking up trash even in the middle of the streets.
With this short story, I would like you to reflect on the reality in your country and your own attitude; because, since I returned home from Finland, one question has remained stuck in my mind: Portuguese people are known as a warm nation but would we ever get together to voluntarily collect the fallen leaves from the communitarian backyard? … would you?
(First published in DUNIA print Magazine, issue 4)
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