Earlier this season, our poll question asked people to vote on who they would like to see a guest post from on the National Ringette League website. Jennifer Hartley, veteran WAM! center who is spending this season playing in Finland, won the poll with 43% of the votes (240 votes). The following is a guest post from Hartley. Enjoy!
I’m Jennifer Hartley, former Edmonton WAM! player who is currently living in Pori Finland playing in the National Finnish Ringette League (SM-sarja) for Luvia Kiekko (which means puck in Finnish). I have been in Finland for just over four months now and although things in Finland are very different I have settled in very nicely and I love my experiences in the amazing land of the Finns.
Ten questions with Hartley
1. From Balzac, Alberta to Pori, Finland…tell us why you made the big move.
Jenn: Well I guess I have always wanted to live in a foreign city in Europe and what better way to do it then move to Finland where I can continue to play ringette. My reason for moving to Pori is that the team here provided me with the best opportunity to see and experience the Finnish culture and Finnish Ringette League.
What my teammates tell me: Well of course somebody would move to Finland if they had the bad luck of coming from small town Balzac Alberta Canada.
2. What are the top three things you miss about Canada?
Jenn: Umm…tough to narrow down…maybe I would say the ability to understand people and signs in public, the other day I thought I was going to a Thai restaurant because I saw the word Thai…turns out it was a massage place??? The other thing I really miss obviously is my friends and family and the Edmonton WAM! And I guess the third thing I would pick is the Prairies…I would even take the minus 30 weather instead of the 0 that we have here just so I could get rid of all the forests. I really miss the ability to see for days on the flat Prairies. A few things that I feel I should also include here are dollar stores (cannot find hardly any stuff that cheap here), Canada’s diversity (although the coolest thing about Finland is its district culture, the lack of diversity is very apparent here and I miss the open and inviting nature of the Canadian culture), and of course I miss Tim Horton’s.
What my teammates tell me: Except for the NHL, nothing in Canada is better than what we have here in Finland.
3. How is playing Ringette in Finland different from playing in Canada?
Jenn: Well first off the style of defense is way different… in Canada I find defense are taught to play the body and not the stick, whereas in Finland the defensive game is to play the stick and less so the body…which has taken some getting used to as a forward. I am just now starting to feel like I am able to play at a comparable level as I did back home, and the season is already half over. Other major differences I find between Finnish and Canadian leagues are the method of preparation. In Finland the teams will typically arrive at the rink up to two hours early and almost immediately begin a physical warm up of walking, running, stretching and/or playing soccer. In Canada the off-ice warm-up is much more of a mental preparation. Although Canadians also warm up their muscles prior to the game, their main focus is on preparing their minds for the upcoming game and therefore warm ups are often shorter and involve a lot more activities that excite/relax the players, such as dancing, cheering, listening to music, etc.
The Finnish perspective: Canadians are crazy because they don’t have an hour long warm up off ice before every practice…and some Canadians might even practice less than three times a week in the NRL.
4. Are you looking forward to competing at the World Club Championship in December? Who do you think will win?
Jenn: Absolutely…I cannot wait! For three reasons: first that I get to finally play more than one game after travelling over at least two hours, second that the teams we will play are all very skilled and the tournament will be very difficult, and third the opportunity to finally see and speak with some old friends and some native English speakers.
Finnish speaker: well obviously a Finnish team will win.
5. Is Halloween a big deal in Finland? Did you dress up? As what?
Jenn: No not at all…they have this holiday that falls on the weekend after Halloween which is about honoring the dead… but as for the best parts of Halloween like the dressing up and eating candy till you are sick, they just don’t get it. DID I DRESS UP?? Well obviously as a true Canadian I brought along my two best costumes and made a third since arriving and got some of my Finnish friends to dress up with me.
Finnish perspective: Halloween??????? What day is that again?
6. What are the top three things you love about living in Finland?
Jenn: Well the cultural shock…the new language, the new food, the new way of living… it’s awesome…it’s made me realise the bubble that I grew up in. I am so glad to have been given this opportunity. I love the fact that Finnish people are so well educated and how much pride they take in being up to date on current affairs. It is very common for people younger than me to read the paper every day. As well, there is less stress placed on governments and companies looking out for the people’s wellbeing. The people are expected to be informed citizens and are taught from a very young age to take care of themselves and question what is told to them. I also love the amount of coverage and respect that ringette gets here in Finland. Although there are only 4000 ringette players in Finland, the results of every game are shown on the TV right after the hockey league results. As well as a few hundred word article is in the papers the next day.
Finnish perspective: Well Finland is home to Santa Claus, which is pretty awesome. As well we have one of the most educated population and a very socialist life style where everyone is given equal opportunity.
7. You recently joined Twitter, tell us what made you join and do you find it challenging to squeeze your thoughts into 140 characters?
Jenn: LOL, Twitter is awesome, but yes it is almost impossible for me to say anything in less than 500 letters. But I definitely like being able to read up and follow what’s going on back home.
In Finland: Twitter…what’s that??? Why not just use Facebook?
8. Would you consider yourself an international Ringette spy? Will you be gathering all the Finnish Ringette secrets and taking them back to Canada?
Jenn: Absolutely I plan to not only improve as a player while I’m here in Finland, but I am also trying to learn as much as I can about the Finnish style and their best players so we can be more successful in future world championships.
Finnish outlook: Just keep trying Hartley!
9. What do you eat for breakfast in Finland?
Well breakfast here is the weirdest for me, but I’ve fallen in love with it. First option is the Finnish standard which is a very dense rye bread (ruisleipä) with cheese (juusto), ham (kinkku), cucumber (kurkku), tomato (tomaatti), lettuce (salaatti). So basically they eat sandwiches for breakfast (but it’s almost always an open face sandwich)… another option is to put lots of butter on the rye bread topped with a slice of salted salmon and dill (this is my absolute favorite). Or sometimes they eat porridge, but it’s not like porridge I eat back home…not even sure how to describe it but it’s good. They usually eat it with either a really thick fruit juice (they call it soup) or jam on top or even just melted butter. Writing about this is actually making my mouth water. Interesting fact – because the Finnish eat so much red peppers they are actually cheaper than the green peppers here.
10. You’ve got one shout out – who does it go out to?
That’s tough… even though I would like to send big hugs to my family, and send a subtle threat to my competition at the World Club Championship, I will have to go with a shout out to the EDMONTON WAM!!! “Keep up the good work girls and never forget you have fans around the world rooting for a 3-peat!!!!”
And lastly, anything else you would like to add?
Here are a couple of random thoughts. All Finnish people seem to hate the color of their hair and therefore they all dye their hair extensively. As I would like to feel as much like a Finn as possible, I have attempted to dye my hair blond twice now and have yet to even come close to the blond color that the Finns can get.
Yoga pants in Finland are not cool. Some might even say they are considered uncool. It is okay to tuck ones pants into their socks if it is done for practical reasons.
Although nearly all members of the society are somewhat fluent in the English language, when I go to grocery stores and talk to friends in English, small children will stare at me.
I once went into a store and not really expecting it the cashier asked me a question, in my panic I responded in French, which lead her to ask the question again but in English and then I responded to her in Finnish, LOL, so that was a pretty cool thing.
Since I am bilingual and grew up with the French language constantly a part of my life, I often have a hard time separating sayings that I use back home that are French from the English ones. One of which I commonly use back home when I want somebody to hurry is Vite Vite! which just happens to sound fairly close to the most commonly used Finnish swear word. So I have had to learn to watch what I say a lot.
A finnish hockey league I attended. There is actually a sauna in the corner of the rink where business people can watch the game. Talk about an obsession with your saunas.
Me as a goalie, with Miia Railio and my actual goalie Anna Björklöf.
Me on jersey day beside the sign that tells everybody when our games are so they can come watch.
Me and finnish friends on Halloween.
The pumpkin I carved on Halloween.
My beaver costume.
How pumpkins are sold in Finland.
Me and a teammate on Wear Your Jersey day.
The cookies I made on Halloween to show my teammates about Halloween.
How the hairdresser in Rauma Finland styled my hair after my first Finnish hair cut. It is true that everybody here has pretty much the same type of hair because she was very unsure the entire time how to deal with my hair.