How we are different

Posted by in Challenge, Change, Freedom, Life

Awhile ago, when it was quiet in the evening and there weren’t so many guests in the resort, I had a very interesting conversation with a few people from our staff.
For me it was a great reflection on what I used to have and what I have now.
On what kind of society I left and into what kind of society I had arrived.

The western society, and especially the Finnish, is a very individualistic society. Everyone basically is “introvert” and busy with their own life, their own career, their own ambitions. There hardly is any “community” feeling.

Having been here now for about 5 months, we’ve really been seeing the differences, and we’ve been wondering with Kaisa how this has affected us. How would we thrive if we were to return to western civilization?

We’ve come to look at things in a totally different way. We’ve learned to see things in perspective, and with that I mean in an objective perspective. Not a perspective from a western point of view. One of the “westerners” we met here, an older guy who’s been here already for long time, put it in a very correct way. He said, and I quote: “If you bring your values from back home here and start comparing things with what you know from home, it will mindfuck you and you will go crazy”.
It’s true.

I talked with our staff about how everyone back home is so materialistic, how everything revolves around money.
Which is true. But money is something you simply have to learn to live with, there. In that previous Life I was a freelance graphic professional. When I told them how much money I made in my other Life, their jaw dropped. I made more money per day then they do in half a year. Those are numbers they can’t even fathom, and automatically that stigma you have as a foreigner is there again. You’re rich.
But then I started elaborating the costs that we had, and again it made their jaw drop.
Our recurring monthly costs (so apartment rent, insurances, taxes, pension, electricity, etc. etc.) were about 4,5 year salaries for them.

Our worlds are so completely different, we often don’t understand from each other how we and our surroundings work. There’s no possible way you can compare our two worlds.
I’m slowly learning how things work here.
I left an individualistic life of luxury, stress and self-evidence behind. I left 90% of my salary behind. In return I got a life of community, friendliness, helpfulness and appreciation. And a lot more satisfaction from what I’m doing here.
You learn to look at things differently when not everything simply “works”.
Back home we claim privileges for services, because we pay so much money for them.
Everything is cheap here in relation to what we were used to. And not everything simply “works”. Not a day goes by without at least one brownout, electricity down time. Every time this happens we –figuratively speaking- hold our breath. Usually it comes back up in a minute, but there are times that we are without electricity for hours, or even a full day.
Electricity isn’t a given. It’s not something you can rely on unconditionally here.
Internet and telecommunication isn’t a given. It’s definitely not something you can rely on. Fiber optics are so normal back home, but here it takes forever and a day to download a 250kb file. We just upgraded our internet speed from 32,000kbps to 64,000kbps and it’s expensive.

But does that make them worse than us?
Does our luxury make us better than them?
I don’t think so. It makes us different.
It makes us very different. I have noticed that luxury and self-evidence makes a person lazy. It makes a person forget what s/he has. It makes us take things for granted that shouldn’t be taken for granted.

I enjoy the interaction with our staff. I enjoy the interaction with guests. I enjoy the little things. We gasp together when electricity falls out, we cheer together when electricity comes back on.
I’ve noticed that I’ve become a much more social person here than I used to be. I tend to think I was already quite a social person back home, but being a social person in an individualistic society is something completely different than being one in a society where everything revolves around helping each other.
When we need help with something we shout for help, and out of nothing suddenly come 20 people waiting for instructions.

We can learn a lot from each other. I think it would be good if every westerner would live in a country like this for awhile. To make them realize that what we have in our civilized society isn’t so self-evident. That there are other things that matter (more) than just the ego.