Celebrating the Finnish Independence Day in Leiden

ALTHOUGH the Finnish Independence Day is already over and Christmas is soon here, I can't hold my mind not to write how great the day was here in Leiden, Holland. Our celebration took place in the local student bar, the Pelibar. It is one of the best places to have fun in Friday night. But what was peculiar in the night was the chain of events that lead everyone there.

First, I met P in the gym. This sturdy-looking guy with broad shoulders recognized me somehow in the locker room. We exchanged words and what followed was an invitation to the first-year Finnish student's WhatsApp group. I felt to invite every Finn I knew and soon there was almost 30 of us!

Next, here we were, bunch of Finns banded together raided the Pelibar. People must have have been pretty weirded out to hear Finnish language in every corner. Sadly nobody brought Finnish flags except my friend who is actually a Brit from the Hong Kong. So there's that...

The time was almost midnight when my friend J, a tall and charismatic fellow initiated the Maamme laulu, which drew us all to sing the song. Though it was just the first verse, it was still beautiful. The bar full of Finns somehow remembered the words and sang it loudly and proudly.

DURING THE NIGHT, I met many great Finns. But in particular, there were two first-year's students with whom we shared a lot, yet we had never crossed paths. With two guys, N and L, we had the same childhood friends. I had never heard his name before, yet we knew all of the guys and gals with whom we grew up with. Truth to be told, our common friends were all in some football team or hockey league in which they played, whereas I only shared the same school class with them.

With the second new friend J we used to work in the same place in Turun Telakka, or also known as the Turku Shipyard. Again, we never saw each other there. Although, the odds are indeed against us because the shipyard is a large place, however the thing is: we were in the same line of work and worked in or nearby the ships. J took care of the logistics, namely coordinated material in and out of the ship, whereas I received the material and hauled it from A to B. Often heavy stuff, very heavy stuff.

In addition and while not exactly a new piece of news in this year, I did also meet A, a girl from my old high school with whom I danced together in vanhojen tanssit, or prom I guess it would be called. With my fresh, less-than-subtle haircut and light-grey suit I was the “black sheep among the white” like my mom said. All the other boys wore black suits so I definitely stood out.

COME TO THINK OF IT, the world really seems like a small place. Of course, Leiden is very popular university among Finns when it comes to studying Psychology. Also, the Netherlands isn't that far from Finland either, and they make it very easy for international students to study here. And, Finland itself isn't that big either. In land yes, in people no.

Next year we shall celebrate together again! It is great to feel Finnish from time to time in a foreign country.