I moved to Helsinki five days ago. For the first time in my life, I live in a non-English speaking country (though you could certainly make a case for Scots). Furthermore, I stepped off the plane committed to staying at least two years here, despite having never even visited Finland before.
Next week we move into our own flat, provided by the student housing service at a very low price (but in a very poor location). This week we're living in a large basement warehouse space rented by some of my partner's friends. There are five thirty-something Finnish gamers who live in this space; they while away the days playing first-person shooters and talking to girls on Facebook chat. The facilities are, to put it politely, raw; the only source of water is a bathroom sink, and the lack of walls makes privacy impossible. There are some weird live wires hanging down in one corner which we were warned not to touch.
Still, I feel strangely comfortable here, though I will probably be ready to move on come the weekend. This week, my partner has started her New Media MA program and I've gone back to work, telecommuting from this strange 'home office'. A lack of money (as I'm between paychecks and just spent a fortune shipping all of our worldly possessions here) has kept our leisure activities to walking and cycling around our new city, exploring the geography and sights. More to report on this later.
Of course, this week coincides with the Democratic National Convention, so my head has been a weird mix of cable news punditry, endless blog dissections of speeches/rhetoric, and obsessive polling websites. All of this on top of the stimuli of a new surrounding - a new, strange and difficult language; the adventures of surviving in a hyperactive economy on very little money; the thrills of Western consumerism in a new environment explored through repeated visits to supermarkets; etc. I haven't had a drop of alcohol and don't miss it. It's a very different first five days to when I moved to Glasgow; I haven't sensed the pulse of Helsinki yet, as I'm too distracted by MSNBC streams and figuring out if the sandwich spread I just bought is vegetarian. Next week will be occupied by the new flat - settling in, and of course the Republican National Convention. The following week I'm going back to the US for a few weeks, which means I don't properly start "living" here until October. At which point I can begin my grand plans of playing music, making art, experimenting with the Uberman's Sleep Schedule, and other things ....