Sun shines for the rich and the poor – at least today

The way of life in Finland – also in the capital city Helsinki – is still very relaxed and easygoing. We are a small country, people are used to having a society that functions smoothly so they don’t have to worry much but can enjoy life and nature instead. At least during the weekends – those who have regular jobs and weekends, of course.

Well, this weekend we lead a quite bourgeois life with my boyfriend and explored some wealthy corners of Helsinki – and even of our neighbour city Espoo. Also, the weather has been perfect these days for enjoying the company of our long-lost sun.

We started at Kaivopuisto, an area ten minutes’ walk from our home in Kamppi. There’s a small island called Uunisaari, where walked to see how the open waters are approaching the frozen sea. A wonderful sight!

Uunisaari, Helsinki. Observing the ice covering the sea slowly disappear. Welcome spring, we missed you!

This small island is situated in Kaivopuisto area, “Kaivari” in spoken language, a very wealthy part of Helsinki. Buying a house there is practically impossible for any “normal Finn” with a “normal” Finnish salary. Many embassies are situated here too, and you can observe the (many) stereotypical elder ladies with their tiny dogs walking around and enjoying their cappuccino by the sea.

Today we decided to take it even further in getting to know where the money lives in Helsinki. So we drove to Westend – really, the place has this name, which sounds really funny in Finnish. Westend is one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in all Finland, placed in the city of Espoo, only 15 minutes drive from our home in the centre of Helsinki.

The Westend is located by the sea, naturally, so we took the chance and went on walking on the frozen sea – with hundreds of other people. It was just wonderful! On the ice, you can walk anywhere and the power of the sun is reflected not only from the sky but also from the ice. We visited a small island and walked back to the continent to enjoy our first coffee with munkki (a Finnish donut) outside – with the wealthy Espoo people.

First coffee and "munkki", a Finnish donut, outside by the frozen Baltic Sea.

Actually, it feels funny to talk about “wealthy Finns” because one interesting feature of the Finnish society is that people normally hate to show off their money. The attitude is slowly changing but there is a strong tradition of “if you have a treasury, hide it”, like a popular Finnish refrain tells you to do.

However, there are more and more differentiated neighborhoods, children going to different schools etc. There’s a very active debate about social exclusion going on in our politics. The new president Sauli Niinistö, who started this week, says that he’d fight hard for getting the marginalised youth back to society. But then again, he’s from the conservative party well known for speaking for those who have money… So let’s see what happens.

Still, when you go for a walk on a Sunday afternoon like today, the frozen sea is full of people of all kinds of social backgrounds. We all dress more or less the same and smile when our paths cross for the pure, shared joy of the first spring day. And I really hope it’ll stay this way!

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