Treat others as you wish to be treated
There was a lot of buzz in the social media and in yellow press in Finland about a middle-aged woman insulting a mildly handicap girl in a café. In another article a man described how in France traveling with a wheelchair is much, MUCH easier than in Finland because people are always willing to help. These caught my eye because I have been thinking about basic manners since moving here. I once had coffee with a man who had lived in Finland for a year and he said that as much as he liked Finland as a country he couldn't stand the fact that Finns have absolutely no regard for manners. Out loud I completely agreed with him, on the inside I cried because I couldn't think of any defence for my countrymen: the man was right.
Here in Bratislava it's a completely different story. Even though many Slovak people have told me that Slovaks are rude, unfriendly and jealous I can't but disagree. I have never been to a country were basic manners are such an everyday, obvious thing. We in the North seem to have completely forgotten about them. In my experience Slovaks are very helpful, kind and friendly, even if we can't find a common language. The perfect example was the bus driver couple weeks back: we got a little lost on the bus drive from Ikea and found ourselves on the other side of the river in Petrzalka. The bus driver didn't speak a word of English (he didn't even know what 'go' means) but he just had to make sure that we found our way back to the right stop in Ruzinov. He was so sweet, I have never met such a lovely middle-aged man.
Also in public transport there is no question about getting off your seat if an elderly person gets on. And every time I have had more than one bag with me I have been offered help. Since I'm a Finn I have had little trouble accepting any help but I'm learning, for example last week I let a man lift my suitcase down from the tram, something I have so far refused in my travels because we Finns do things ourselves (Ei tartte auttaa!!). Here men let women go through doors first and they open the doors. This probably sounds ridiculous but for me this is all so weird because I have never experienced this before. I am also starting to understand that if somebody pays for my drink, it doesn't mean that I owe them. They are just being friendly.
As I've mentioned I don't handle traveling very well. So, when somebody comes up to me on the way and offers me even the tiniest gesture of help I just feel the happiest ever. Like last week on my way to the Budapest airport. I was so stressed at the Bratislava bus station that I was actually shaking. And then an American woman came up to me just for a chat and she got my mind off things for a second. I am sooo thankful for her for that. In Budapest a taxi driver (a man of at least 75 years) was the sweetest I have ever seen: he couldn't speak English much but he was all the time ensuring me that we were almost there, not long to go, just 200 meters. So sweet. And on my way back in a taxi from the Budapest airport I sniffed once. And instantly the driver offered me a whole pack of tissues. He also sat in the car waiting to make sure that I would be ok for as long as it took a friend to come down to open the door for me.
These things are probably obvious for most people. Maybe even to some people in Finland. For me, not at all. It has actually taken me some time to get used to the fact that strangers can actually be nice and of help to me. I lllove it! And obviously I will help if somebody needs my help since I've always tried to live by the saying "Treat others as you wish to be treated".