I love experiencing new things. Took advantage of the low season and went to Scandinavia during a period no one wants to go there. Basically it’s mostly dark and grey with just 6 hours of daylight from about 9am to 3pm. Most visitors pick summer as the sunlight is blocked out by a blanket of clouds, during winter. Actually there was less than an hour of actual sunlight a day when I was there. It was exciting to see the clouds part and the blue skies revealed.
The dark got me so confused. Often I thought it was 10 at night, only to discover that it was only 4 in the afternoon. I also tended to get sleepy earlier. It was a weird, disorienting feeling, but very cool for someone who lives in perpetual summer and predictable 12 hours of sunlight every day of the year. Bring on the extremes I say. Ok I take that back. Just the cold extremes. I can’t bear heat and would never survive a heat wave.
I relished the cold. It was colder in Helsinki with the icy rain. But to me the rain was more like a misty drizzle when compared to the baths you get in a tropical Singapore thunderstorm. I was fine without an umbrella and even though the temperature ranged from 2 to 8 degrees celcious, I found it lovely. Just beware of the icy winds. Only wished that it would have snowed. The weather was unfortunately unusually warm this year and it usually snows around this time. That was one thing I was disappointed about.
The cold, and the chocolate crossaints from the famous Helsinki Department Store – Stockmans are some of the things I long for now. Travel is sometimes not only about the new destination and culture, but about how it renews us and changes our perspectives. Generally it made me appreciate Singapore food and sunlight which I used to hate. When we could see a bit of blue sky it made us so happy. It’s always the case isn’t it? We appreciate something only when it’s taken away and given back to us in small quantities. So here are the 7 things I loved about Stockholm and Helsinki, and will greatly miss:
1. Deliciously Cold Weather and absolutely no sweating
2. Nature and all those wintery trees
3. Plump Nordic Animals – Cows, chickens, ducks and geese.
4. Crossaints that were strangely better than what I had in Paris.
5. Scandinavian Christmas Decorations and all those wonderful trolls
6. Old & Stately Architecture, especially the charming fairy tale cottages and towering church steeples.
7. Tastefully Pretty Products made with blonde wood or glass.
I am glad that Ikea is in Singapore. When I need my Scandinavian fix, I’ll head there and the prices of products are cheaper in Singapore, probably due to the economies of scale. Although officially Finland isn’t part of Scandinavia, I found as someone coming from the Asian tropics, the two countries had more similarities than differences. Helsinki has more of a Russian feel as it was under Russian rule for a century. Prior to that it was part of the Swedish Empire. Helsinki has a minority Swedish population just like the Indian minority population in Singapore. Strangely I found more blonde and blue eyed beauties in Helsinki rather than Sweden, perhaps because I expected to see blonde and blue eyes everywhere in Sweden. The dark haired Helsinki women were gorgeous too and they looked a bit Russian. Well, perhaps some of them were as Russian is only a 2 hour flight or cruise and train ride away. In Sweden, I noted that quite a number of men looked like models.
One thing I won’t miss? The high prices I could not afford, so perhaps that’s why I found the food crappy (cold and bland sandwiches and pastries that looked wonderful but turned out stale and hard mostly) as I tried to have the cheapest food possible. Food, Transport, Clothing (practically everything) was double the price compared to Singapore.
The standard of living in these countries is high and they get higher salaries so I think a holiday in Singapore would be wonderful for them with the sun, blue skies and cheaper goods. From the reality shows I saw on TV there, the Scandinavians seem to love holidays in sunny Turkey and Morroco.
But I really think it’s a dreamy life to live in such a gracious society where education and healthcare is free and nature is abundant. I found that people automatically gave up their seats to the eldery, and women with babies, on the trams, without a moment of hesitation.
Ooh, I’d love to visit Helsinki! 🙂
travel as much as you can while you’re in your twenties…but I think you’re already doing that. I always wish I had travelled more when I was younger and could tolerate more things. Back then it was no issue to stay 12 to a room on bunk beds..but now….err….. I don’t think so. Also didn’t have all my claustrophobia issues back then..and I looked forward to plane rides!
I’ve been to Helsinki and Stockholm many years back and you’re right about the high standards of living. We had to live off bread and water most of the time for we were travelling on budget then.
One thing I miss the most about life in Singapore is the food and sunshine too! Not very looking forward to less hours of sunlight when we head back.
Yeah, there were so many pretty things in the shops to tempt us but when I mentally converted from kronner or Euro….I realized it was soooo expensive.
Will be really interesting to see your blog photos when you return….a Swiss Christmas sounds very lovely 🙂
I love this post. Spot on for Norway as well, except for the plump animals. Didn’t get to see many animals. Yes, it’s a wonder the Scandinavians are so polite. Why is that so? The cold weather makes people more pleasant and tolerant? Norway was expensive like hell too. I had maggi mee on some nights.
Yeah I think the cold makes people less bothered….another theory is that when you have too many people crammed in one place (like Spore) it’s just puts everyone in a bad mood. Also the abundance of nature calms you down.
It’s cool that between us we covered quite a bit of Scandinavia and Northern Europe 🙂 Loved all your posts and it made me long for stunning natural beauty of Norway…..maybe one day.
I feel you about the $$ and the food. Had wan tan mee for my first meal back home ;-p
I’m surprised to hear anything called expensive when compared to Singapore, perhaps because I do very little of the more “affordable” options like Hawker Food (because I’m chickenshit scared of new foods). I feel like we average 50+ a person whenever we go out, which has really inspired me to cook at home more.
My heart ached when I saw the pictures of the Xmas wreaths and the pine trees. We have the same kind of trees in Massachusetts and I’m DYING to see a nice REAL pine tree…and breathe in that pine tree smell.
I’m also dying for the cold weather…Boston will be about the same when we’re home in a few weeks. I’m glad I held onto Ellie’s old snowsuits and heavy fleecy winter clothes! My in-laws will be meeting me at the airport with heavy clothes for Rhiannon and our Winter Coats 🙂
I also loved the glasswork in the last photo. I can’t wait until my girls are bigger and I can finally buy some nice glass pieces.
shucks ….I should have gone close to sniff the trees. I think it was so cold I wasn’t really smelling much. The air felt really clean and pure though. The water too.
I even felt that it was expensive when comparing apple to apple like Macdonalds was double the price……yeah I did Macs 😉 Will write about that soon. I realize I am not that adaptable or adventurous when it comes to new food either. Takes a long time to grow on me. It took me years to start to actually love Japanese food. And even then, it’s more the cooked stuff, the Ramen, Udon and rice meals and not the raw stuff.
Hey BJ, thanks for taking me to Sweden without having to leave my couch. That was a fantastic free trip for me! 😉 Seriously though, it was great of you to take pictures and blog your adventure. I felt like I was there. I particularly liked the feeling I got from looking at your pics, I think a breath of fresh air passed through our home.
It’s interesting to read too about the cost, the candles, the time changes and the cultural differences.
So glad you liked it Julie. It was fun experiencing a real Christmas for the first time. And also a different season with short daylight hours.
Hi Bookjunkie, Interesting post. You are the first Singaporean I’ve heard to visit Scandinavia and actually enjoy the weather! I’m from there and I’m not a fan of cold weather at all. Perhaps because we get it ten months of the year! Maybe we just enjoy the things we’re not used to. Like your blog, btw…
I’m so thrilled you came by all the way from Scandinavia Ulrikas (exciting)….I must check our blog 🙂 Yes I love the cold and often feel I was born in the wrong place 😉