Part 2. Cultural Shocks: Is the grass always greener?

One of the most common challenges for anyone moving to a new country is adapting to the new culture, traditions, and habits while retaining their identity at the same time. Being an international student coming from an Arabic country outside of Europe, I had a lot of thoughts regarding my identity moving to Finland for […]

TEKSTI Moustafa Khairi

KUVAT Maiju Putkonen

One of the most common challenges for anyone moving to a new country is adapting to the new culture, traditions, and habits while retaining their identity at the same time. Being an international student coming from an Arabic country outside of Europe, I had a lot of thoughts regarding my identity moving to Finland for studying for a master’s degree. Based on my personal experience, I can say it is quite challenging to retain your identity but it is doable, and at the end of the day, it is a choice!

It is hard because of many different reasons that make the two countries almost completely different. Differences starting from for instance the core beliefs to even the food, making a living in a foreign country, not an easy job. On the other hand, no one can force you to do anything that you do not believe in. You have the freedom to choose whatever you want to do without being judged, which also makes it a tough responsibility.

I could write a lot about the different traditions and habits I have experienced living a year in Finland, but I would like to focus more on the Finnish people. Unlike the stereotype, most of the Finns, from my point of view, are friendly but you just need to start the conversation. I have been involved in quite many student associations and communities and have always felt appreciated being just present. Sometimes, I am the only international person in a room of more than 20 people and all of them just switch to English to keep me engaged with them while they do not actually need or have to do that. A few are even fine with struggling to speak their non-native language for the same purpose mentioned.

In supermarkets, for instance, people welcome you with a heartwarming smile, not only when you enter the place but also when you are done and leaving. In buses, it is kind of a tradition to wave to the bus driver thanking him/her for the ride before you get off the bus, and at the same time, he/she waves back and yes, this happens with almost every single passenger!

Most of the people are willing to help whenever they are asked and sometimes they even take initiative. Through my early weeks in Finland, I was waiting for my train at the railway station at it’s expected track and it was almost 4 minutes before the scheduled leaving time and it had not arrived yet. Then, people started leaving the track slowly and I was not sure what was happening. Before heading to someone to ask, three guys standing on the opposite track noticed that I did not start moving as well and most probably I did not understand the Finnish instructions. They reached out explaining that the train changed its track due to a storm that happened and it is going to arrive at a different track and in addition, they offered to guide me to the new track due to the time limitation.

Being appreciated and welcomed, most of the time, is one of the best feelings I experienced living in Finland.

Moustafa Khairi

A Machine Learning thesis worker at Nokia and a Computer Science master's student at the University of Oulu. Also, I am the Founder and Lead of Google DSC in Oulu, Slush group lead, and next president of AIESEC in Oulu.

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Part 1. Cultural Shocks: Is the grass always greener?

(Mis)understandings amidst the endeavor of a foreigner adapting to Finnish culture. “Place where you be, do as you see” says a Peruvian saying. It is quite useful to blend into any cultural environment by being aware of the differences, to identify them and replicate them. Better to ride the beast than letting the beast ride […]

(Mis)understandings amidst the endeavor of a foreigner adapting to Finnish culture.

“Place where you be, do as you see” says a Peruvian saying. It is quite useful to blend into any cultural environment by being aware of the differences, to identify them and replicate them. Better to ride the beast than letting the beast ride you, isn’t it? I mean, either you are an international student or a local with international friends, this close contact with someone from a different culture for sure would have some impact on you.

This change is not accidental, neither exempt of conflict. Since we are social beings, we try to mix with the people surrounding us. At the same time, when hitting a new place, we are carrying our bag of beliefs and perceptions. In my own experience, after living in Buenos Aires for some years I went back to Lima with my voice volume a few levels higher, and a more straightforward attitude. If I left Peru being a quiet and reserved person, I came back as a loud and straightforward one.

What is happening to me here in Finland? A mix of everything. First living in Oulu and now married to a Finnish woman, I have Finnish culture in and out of home. And that has created some interesting, funny, or awkward moments. In any case, they helped me to learn more and get a deeper sense of how to behave in the local environment.

Trust above all

Sometimes I tell my wife that to take her to Peru I must train her, to change her trust beliefs. I mean, it has many lovely traditions and people are warm and celebratory, but it also has a problem with respect and trust. And same in most of Latin America. To give you an example, when I was 17, I was robbed two blocks away from home. Concerned, my mom called the police, and then I had this dialogue with a lady police officer:

OFFICER      Did you try to run?

ME                No.

OFFICER      (a little bit surprised) But you tried to knock on someone else’s door?

ME                 (shier) Mmm… no.

(Long and uncomfortable pause)

OFFICER      You need to learn how to defend yourself, young man.

I was embarrassed. Double embarrassed, for letting myself be robbed and for the later reprimand. It was my responsibility to take care of myself, which also included being aware of the potential robbers. Something similar happened in my university. If my belongings were robbed, it was my fault for not watching them. So, I learned how to go around the city, always aware of the surroundings.

With that background, you can imagine now what a big deal it was for me to leave my jacket on the hangers during winter. Yep, leaving them unguarded, in no locker. Free for anyone to take.

It took me almost half a year to gather the confidence to leave it there. It was a cold day, and I could barely focus on class, imagining myself going back home just with my shirt. Walking down back to the green rack, my heart was pounding. When I found it, I felt like a parent picking his child after the first day at the daycare. Joyful and relieved.

Since then, I am more confident about leaving my clothes in the common areas or leaving my backpacks on my seat while going to buy food on the train. However, I still lock my bike. Several posts on Facebook suggest robbers here do not care about money or laptops, but their obsession is those devices with two tires.

The nuances of the system

When I go to the hospital emergency room, I know where I must go just by following the lines on the floor (red, green, yellow, black). I know what percentage to pay for taxes and what my retirement fund is. In need of a bus, I know at what time it is coming.

The system here is planned and effective. So, when I got appendicitis and was taken to the hospital, I thought that everything was settled just by giving them my personal ID. Convinced of this, I had a pleasant stay at the hospital, thinking of how well articulated the system was: just with my ID they were able to contact the insurance company that I put in my migratory application. Success. I left the hospital with this feeling. But unluckily it did not last forever.

It was a day like any other when I received the bill. It was not only for the operation, but also included the penalties for late payment. I was perplexed. I left the hospital with no one telling me anything about a bill. Now I also had to cover extra costs. Why did the nurses not tell me this? I asked this to the people in charge of the bill. “It is not their job”, they replied. And I got perplexed again.

In my previous hometown, although there were abysmal differences between the private and public healthcare system, they both shared something: if you owe them something related to your treatment YOU MUST PAY before leaving. With this background, I was struggling to understand how here everything was so different.

Although grateful for such a lovely attention, I felt a little bit bitter because of the misunderstanding. I mean, after receiving an explanation in the integration course about sexual consent and that I could not circumcise my children without the doctor consent, I was expecting something a little more detailed. Especially when there was money involved. Anyway, I paid straight away and began the process with the insurance company. However, some weeks later, there was another bill. And in this case, it came after they took the money from my bank account. This time I was just furious.

By the point I got the bills, I came back from another country after declining a doctorate position offer. What if I would have left Finland and stayed there? The local services would have lost the money. Maybe even got the impression that this guy with a foreigner name did not want to pay it, when in reality I was not even aware of how the system worked and no one explained to me.

After that I make no assumptions. Even if I sound dumb, I always ask all questions to avoid problems. It feels a little bit like back in school, when asking teachers the questions that my friends did not dare to ask to keep looking cool. Since there is enough cool here, I don’t have to worry about that.

Around flexibility

Studying my Bachelor, I used to have a friend who invited me to go for a beer whenever we met. “Now?” was my usual response, and it always preceded her laugh. For her I was a manic who had to plan everything at least a couple of days ahead. And in that sense, I feel that Finland and I had a wonderful relationship.

Do you remember that application that I said I declined? Well, one of the main reasons that led me to make that decision was the lack of planning. I could not get paid, because I did not have the local ID. To obtain it required around two months, but I only received the acceptance letter from the university two weeks before. After having lived in Finland for a couple of years, that was just impossible to bear.

However, during my studies I also unveiled some other aspects that differ from the usual Finnish thorough planning approach. I explain, before coming to Finland, I used to work as a university teacher in Peru. Mostly with experience in profit-oriented organizations, I was required to grade students several times during the semester. More exactly, three to four grades for practical exercises, and two for mid and end-term tests. And the administration assessed me, according to my compliance with the academic calendar. So, if I was late entering the grades, I would get a call from the coordinator to have a “nice chat” about my performance.

After these experiences, I was somehow manic to deliver all my assignments on time. I could eat or sleep later, but it had to be a well done and punctual delivery. So, you can imagine my surprise when hearing a teacher saying:

TEACHER     Just deliver it when you finish it

(Long pause of disbelief)

ME                 What?

TEACHER     Is it not clear?

ME                 So, no deadline?

TEACHER     No, just finish it.

And those words bring pure joy and bliss to my heart. I disliked that course from the bottom of my heart, but now I had until whenever I pleased to complete the final task. Not next week, neither the end of the semester. No, it was just me and my free will to deal with it. Well, kind of, because I still had to finish the university in two years or pay the corresponding fees.

I did not think about that task again until my classmates started to wonder why we did not get the grades yet. Then, I made peace with the course and deal with the assignment. I finished it during the weekend and send it. It was 67 days after the course finished (I just counted them again for the purposes of this article). The next day we all had our grades. I got a 5, but the guilt of delaying everyone else’s grades made me promise never to delay an assignment again.

With this article I do not pretend to make a generalization of the Finnish society, I just share things according to my own experiences during my time here.

When I came here, I thought that Finland was heaven on Earth. Now, I realized that as any other society, it has its pros and cons. Most of my experiences here had been sweet, and the few bitter moments did not alter my perception that this is a really organized country that cares for people. I am now curious to see how Finland would look in a few years, when more and more foreigners settle down on it.

Pablo Santur

Learning specialist in thesis writing mode. Former TV scriptwriter. Foodie. Anime lover. Twitter: @pablodsantur

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The deranged, the distressed, and the detrimental – The stigma of the severely mentally ill is still strong

Petteri Pietikäinen, who has researched the history of madness for over 20 years, has always been interested in the fate of utopists, anarchists and other outcasts. How has our attitude towards madness changed over time?  “[…] And so the unfortunate sufferer is shackled to a corner or kept in the dark, being fed from a […]

Petteri Pietikäinen, who has researched the history of madness for over 20 years, has always been interested in the fate of utopists, anarchists and other outcasts. How has our attitude towards madness changed over time? 

[…] And so the unfortunate sufferer is shackled to a corner or kept in the dark, being fed from a small hole in the wall. There they shall live in their loneliness day and night, in the most miserable condition, hungry and thirsty, sweating in hot weather and then shivering with cold, in the dirt, among parasites. They shall listen to insults and face contempt.”

“Treating the insane” (fin. Mielenvikaisen hoidosta), Savo newspaper, 7/1889

This was the fate of some mentally ill patients back when institutional care was not yet common in Finland. Usually the mentally ill were sold as paupers or they were moved from home to home as lepers – worst case scenario, the mentally infirm were isolated and cuffed. 

The excerpt is from Professor of History of Sciences and Ideas at the University of Oulu, Petteri Pietikäinen’s work titled Kipeät sielut: hulluuden historia Suomessa (trans. “Unwell souls: history of madness in Finland”). “Unwell souls” sheds light on the history of mental health in Finland from the 1850s to the 1960s. The work is a sequel to Pietikäinen’s earlier book Hulluuden historia (trans. History of madness), published in 2013. 

The semantic shift of hullu: who does it apply to?

In the 1800s, hullu (trans. mad) was still a general term for the mentally ill. 

However, the word hullu has always carried other meanings in the Finnish language. According to Pietikäinen, for example, Juhani Aho’s work contains several mentions of the word in both adjective and noun form (i. e. hullu and hulluus). However, Aho refers to the foolishness and unpredictability of people’s actions, not to mentally ill individuals, for example in the statement “Mad is he, who splurges his money on girls” (from the short story Kello, Ensimmäiset novellit, 1883)

According to the dictionary of the Institute for Languages of Finland, another definition of hullu is “wickedly awesome, funny” in contemporary Finnish. This is the definition that, for example, the title Hullut päivät (trans. “crazy days”) carries, referring to the prices of Stockmann’s 5-day long sale.

As modern psychiatry developed in Central Europe in the 19th century, the term hullu was replaced with different diagnoses. Ever since antiquity, madness had been divided into three varieties: mania, melancholy, and frenzy. As the definition transformed into a medical mental illness during the century, the amount of diagnoses multiplied and new illnesses, such as neurosyphilis, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder were identified. Nowadays, the terms mental health patient and mentally ill are used (The Finnish Blue Ribbon). 

So, should the word crazy then be used when talking about the mentally ill? Pietikäinen emphasises that it is not appropriate, unless the mental health patient decides to call themselves crazy, as for example, author and theatre director Juha Hurme has done.

“Juha Hurme is civilised for knowing the original definition of the term hullu

From closed psychiatric hospitals to outpatient care with the aid of psychopharmaceutical drugs

As the focal point of psychiatry shifted from Europe to the United States in the 20th century, psychopharmaceutical drugs to treat mental disorders were developed. Especially the introduction of chlorpromazine in the United States in 1955 caused a significant turn in psychiatry. 

Before the invention of psychopharmaceutical drugs in the 1950s, symptoms of mental health disorders, such as suffering from hallucinations and delirium, would be visible in patients as such. Patients could only be offered, for example, sleep-inducing drugs and narcotics such as chloral hydrate (sometimes referred to as knockout drops) and derivatives of opium, which were not very effective. Nowadays the mentally ill receive medication early on in their sickness, thus relieving their symptoms. 

Researchers have estimated the introduction of psychopharmaceutical drugs to have led to the reduction of psychiatric beds. For example in the United States, the number of psychiatric beds has decreased to a tenth in 50 years. Whereas in the 19th century psychiatric institutions were often the final station for the mentally ill, few spend their whole lives in psychiatric hospitals in the 21st century. 

According to Pietikäinen, the prescription of strong medication is justified because it enables shorter treatment periods as opposed to longer treatment, which is more costly to society. However, medications do not cure mental illnesses, and they should only be used short-term alongside therapy and social support. 

“Of course psychopharmaceutical drugs help, and it is good that we have them, but the systems should not be built to rely on them”, Pietikäinen states. 

It’s a social engineering skill: from crazy people to proper citizens

The definition of madness studied by Pietikäinen shall not be limited to people who have got a contemporary psychiatric diagnosis, but shall include all those deviants that society has shut out at some point.

Pietikäinen calls this (mis)treatment of individuals who deviate from the norm social engineering. The concept refers to socio-political planning, which aims to change the behaviour of a certain group of people in a desired way. The focal point of it has gradually shifted from prison management to child protective services, education and health care. The concept gained its prominence through philosopher of science Karl Popper’s work titled The Open Society and its Enemies (1945), and it has mostly been employed in Swedish study of history in the 20th century, especially in discussion about social design and in creating “the people’s home” (swe. folkhemmet); a political concept which played a significant role in the Swedish welfare state in the 20th century. 

Political adaptation should always be investigated in its context. A hundred years ago, Finnish society designers had very different ideas as to what a proper citizen was like than contemporary social engineers do. The idea of moulding citizens to fit societal needs is still prevalent. 

“The expectations of a proper citizen are imposed on students also by pushing you to graduate as soon as possible and enter the working life”, Pietikäinen points out. Utilitarianism is still prevalent: good taxpayers are desired.”. 

According to Pietikäinen, the most important difference between former and present times is that instead of using discipline, the mentally ill aim to be helped using rather gentle means, such as social support and therapy. 

Discussion nowadays is more accepting, but the severely ill remain invisible

Another clear difference is that mental health issues are nowadays discussed more openly. “If one uses social media at all, they will encounter discussions about mental health.” However, few talk openly about severe mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. In the media, severe mental health issues are usually only mentioned in contexts of criminal sentences, which further reinforces the stigma. 

“It is different to talk about issues that will pass and ease off than to talk about being in some way chained by that illness forever”, Pietikäinen says. 

Pietikäinen finds one reason for this to be the fact that people have an easier time understanding minor mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety. Each one of us has some sort of personal experience of these. It is difficult to treat people with severe mental illnesses naturally, not having any understanding of their disorders. 

“I don’t know what it’s like being severely mentally ill, either – it is such a distant concept.”

On the other hand, experiences shared on social media often bring out the heroic and survival stories:  people have recovered from depression or some other mental illness and enthuse over how they survived their illnesses, and what it taught them. The idea of the “proper citizen” is visible even behind this narrative. Can only the already-recovered mental health patients fit into modern society?

Improving the connection between the healthy and the ill – could we learn from the past?

Even before the invention of psychopharmaceutical drugs, we aimed to develop alternative treatments for institutional care – some of which could be used as an inspiration even today. A good example would be the family care, invented in a hospital in the village of Nikkilä, Sipoo in the early 20th century, which gained popularity especially in the time between the wars. Nowadays, the term family care refers to children in foster care being placed in a new family. 

In family care,  a patient would live in a farmhouse near the hospital and participate in the housework. The patient would be a part of the family’s everyday life just like the other family members, but the family would receive a subsidy from the government. 

Although family care never became widespread in all of Finland, it has been proven to have had a positive impact on relieving prejudices. According to research, it seems as though people had a more open attitude toward mental health patients in municipalities where family care was practised.

“If family care was, for example, newly adopted somewhere where there had been a mental hospital for, let’s say, 10 years, people in those areas would have more prejudices against the mentally ill and fear them”, Pietikäinen clarifies. “It has been a big help as people have had the chance to see that mentally ill people are not scary or strange.”

The attitude toward mental health issues has changed during different time periods, and the severely mentally ill have by turns been feared, isolated, medicated and listened to. For example in the medieval times, hearing sounds was not necessarily deemed strange, but it was believed that people experiencing auditory hallucinations had a connection to God. 

According to Pietikäinen, mental health problems are part of humanity and life – the line between healthy and ill is eventually quite fine. The surprising misfortunes and setbacks of life can lead to depression and anxiety. On the other hand, it has been indicated that in a state of sensory deprivation, a human becomes delirious, anxious, and begins hallucinating in a few hours.

“The mentally ill are, after all, pretty much the same as us so-called normal people. We also have our episodes at times – and there is nothing mysterious about it, nor is there a reason to fear it.”

Frida Ahonen

Suomen kielen ensimmäisen vuoden opiskelija, joka on valmistunut valtiotieteiden kandidaatiksi ranskalaisesta Sciences Po Pariisin yliopistosta.

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The Swipe Journey – Can love be found on Tinder?

Tinder is a popular dating app used by millions of people worldwide. How do students in Oulu view the app? Have they found love?

What do you think about Tinder? Do you approach it as a dating facilitator or just as a convenient place to get to know new people? You may like, dislike or just be indifferent to it, but one or more of your friends might contribute to the over one billion swipes the app processes daily. Yep, a billion.

The nature of Tinder is simple. With only a picture and some basic info, you can create a profile. Then, based on your location you will see other users’ profiles and decide if you want to interact with them (swipe right) or not (swipe left). If two users like each other a match and the talk begins.

To know more about the experiences related to this app, we invited people to respond to a survey regarding Tinder. The thirteen responses from Master’s and Ph.D. students depict how the platform is perceived, used and sometimes avoided. Of course, their names have been changed to preserve their anonymity. You know, what happens on Tinder, stays on Tinder.

Opening Tinder

For its developers, Tinder is a social networking app for meeting people. However most users will mention that the main functions of Tinder are finding dates and sexual partners. 

The latter was the case for most of our interviewees before joining the app. At that point, the meaning of “I am on Tinder” to them meant “being single”, “looking around” or just “looking for sex”. 

This tension between points of view seems to be also in academia. Some researchers attribute the rise of apps like Tinder to their diffusion of casual sex. Others, however support that Tinder is more often used for entertainment purposes, locating casual sex being among the least common uses of Tinder.

In that regard, many of our interviewees mentioned using the app to get entertained. That was the case for Malena, post-doc student at the university.

“It used to be something I was doing to kill the time, almost the same as a game on the phone. But I also happened to check the profiles with some friends, a couple of times, just to laugh together.” 

For Beatrice, from Italy, it also began as a game, but later it became something else. “I started using the app just for fun. Me and my friends looked at profiles of people and judged them. That is how I met my actual boyfriend there.” 

Instead of entertainment, others found boredom on Tinder. At least that is Ramon’s perception.

“When people tell me they are on Tinder, I understand they are in the upcycle of loneliness and want to meet people… until they get tired of Tinder always being the same and get bored of it.”

What drives people to Tinder?

According to a study conducted in the Netherlands, people’s motivations to use Tinder can be classified in six categories. Beside the common ones (casual sex and love), the study also mentioned using Tinder to receive positive feedback about one’s appearance, thrill of excitement, ease of communication in online environments, and trendiness. 

When reviewing the motivations of our interviewees to start using the app, we found some similarities. For example, some were looking for a relationship (love), while others were exploring an interest in the same gender, or trying dating again after a break-up (sex / love). Others were curious due to friends’ suggestions to use the app (trendiness). Some started using it to develop flirtation skills or to overcome solitude (ease of communication).

In the case of Julieta, a Master student from Brazil, her response included not one but many of these categories. 

“Flirting in real life wasn’t really working, and I was much shier that I am now. So, it was an interesting way to flirt, have conversations and meet new guys. Also, everybody was already using it, so if I wasn’t there, I would be out of the system.”

A tainted reputation

If there is a wide variety of reasons to join the app, why is Tinder viewed as a hook-up platform? Beatrice offers an explanation after using the app for 5 years. 

“Because many people use Tinder just to find sex, people have a negative opinion of it. But I think that if used in the right way, it  can be a good tool to get to know, interact with and meet new people.”

Many of our interviewees seemed to feel the same way, because of the interesting people they met using the app. For instance Ramón, a Master student from Spain, had a surprising and unexpected encounter thanks to Tinder. He was in India when he matched with a model. 

“I ended up spending my last 3 days in Delhi with her. She took me to the most posh parties and afterwards slept in the slums of Delhi. We would have dated if I lived there, but we still talk.” 

Similarly, when asked about her craziest experience using Tinder, Adele, French exchange student, remembers her first encounter with a stranger. 

“I took the bus to his city, one hour away from mine, and he was supposed to take me back. I was there to meet him after almost one month of chatting. But I did not know him. I had no idea who I might run into. What if something did not go well? Luckily, he drove me home as planned. We kept seeing each other, and now he has been my boyfriend for almost 18 months.”

Despite the good experiences, there are also cases where users, especially women, suffered bad experiences. Angélica and Lyyti had negative experiences in their real-life encounters. After meeting a neighbor through Tinder, Angélica found out that he had a wife and a newborn child he had not told her about.

Lyyti faced a violent situation with a guy when she met him for the first time. “He tried to strangle me, I guess in a sexy, fun way? I did not find it sexy or fun. I never met him again.”

Gendered experiences

Even though many users considered no differences in the practices of men and women while using the app, it was intriguing that many female interviewees expressed they use  different strategies to avoid uncomfortable situations.

For example, identifying potential unwanted profiles (“there are weirdos everywhere, you need to learn how to identify them – and you gain experience with time – and how to avoid them”), elaborating a profile according to your interests (“I wrote a long description because I consider it important, especially when you are looking for something in particular. In my case avoid people who are only looking for one-night stands”), and have a protocol for the first dates (“to meet someone that doesn’t belong in your social network could be dangerous, so it is always an adventure. That’s why you should meet in a public place, never in your own house, or the other person’s house”).

None of the interviewed men mentioned any event related to violence or risk. Maybe the platform just replicates the behaviors of the offline world? Our interviewees mentioned behaviours associated with traditional gender roles. Some examples were passive-active roles (“women tend to be pickier because they are “chased”, and men have to do the chasing”), abusive behavior (“there was too much showing-off and pressure”), and plain machismo (“being a girl on Tinder is a lot worse than being a guy. Girls are quickly insulted and reduced to macho comments”).

According to Yan Asadchy, researcher of online dating culture, although some traditional roles are replicated within these platforms, there is an increasing demand in power for women. For example in India, the female audience is commonly facing straight-up and intolerable harassment, Asadchy says.

This motivated Tinder to implement a “My Move” feature that allows women to choose only they can start conversations after a match. This decision is highly coherent with the design of Bumble, the application that empowers women by putting them in a position where they can decide if they want to write their match or not.

On the contrary to heterosexual users, Fernando and Raija found that gay users may find the use of Tinder easier. For example, Raija found a more relaxed space to develop her curiosity. “I got interested in the same gender and found it very easy to use to Tinder: otherwise there’s a heteronormativity in society. We need to ask people who they’re interested in.”

Similarly, Fernando considered that “there might be roles that heterosexual users have using the app: who approaches whom first, who asks whom out first, and so on. This mirrors heteronormative social roles of men and women. Queer users, on the other hand, tend to disregard these roles.”

The core of Tinder

In an article of 2013, the columnist A. David claimed that Tinder does something “no previous app or dating site ever has before: it makes everyone feel okay about hooking up with near-strangers.”

Even though many interviewees met their long-term partners on Tinder, for Yan Asadchy the design of the Tinder’s interface might drive you away from achieving this goal. “Maybe they really want to find a long-term romantic relationship, but the design of Tinder invites you to behave in a different way.”

In a study about the swipe logic of Tinder, the authors defend that the almost exclusively image-based interactions, the scarce information, the binary response (like or not like), and the awareness of depending on the others according to your location, creates a tension between desire and anxiety.

One swipe after another, the selection can become addictive. In that cycle individuals are diluted, they become a part of the mass. Or as Lyyti says: “the massive ‘selection’ of people that Tinder brings to your fingertips might make other people seem more disposable.”

Dating always causes tension. While both agree to spend some time together, no one knows exactly what the other is expecting. So, the tension between expectations and possibilities of differences are constant. However, on Tinder that complexity is reduced to a simple swipe, a match and a few lines, before making potential contact. Maybe that explains some of our interviewee’s criticism of Tinder.

For instance, for Ramon the app  creates a superficial image of people. He thinks that “overused conversations become meaningless and fail to portrait either of the participants as a person”. On the other hand there is Irma: “communicating through the app made it easier for me to be indifferent towards others and not really care what they thought about me.”

Despite criticism of scholars or users, Tinder is here to stay. The more than 50 million users of the app prove that. So, next time someone brings Tinder up in a conversation, assume nothing and listen. Maybe you will find as many interesting stories as I found while writing this article.

Pablo Santur

Learning specialist in thesis writing mode. Former TV scriptwriter. Foodie. Anime lover. Twitter: @pablodsantur

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The University of Oulu and corona: how to secure studies, what about student organizations Wappu?

The University of Oulu aims to move to online teaching and studies to stop the spread of coronavirus. The guidelines set by the university affect both studies and free time.

The University of Oulu has updated its guidelines regarding the COVID-19 virus on the 12th of March. Earlier the university informed students and staff that travelling should be limited and people returning from areas with corona should work from home. Yesterday the university released a statement underlining the importance of distance between people in order to stop corona from spreading at the university. In practise this means working remotely for both for students and teachers.

Behind the university’s decisions lie the cases of corona in university students in Oulu. 17 new cases were found in University of Oulu students on the 12th of March. The cases are connected to ski resorts in Austria. The students exposed to the diagnosed patients have been quarantined on the 13th of March.

Also affecting the university’s decision is that The Finnish government decided on measures against corona yesterday, on the 12th of March. The Government recommended that all gatherings of over 500 people be cancelled until the end of May. Travelling and organising other events should also be considered carefully.

As a result of the limitations, the university has for example moved this spring’s Doctoral Conferment Ceremony to Autumn 2020.

Teaching to happen online, laptops to teachers

The University of Oulu recommends increased remote work and says they will increase online teaching. People with flu-like symptoms can not participate in classes, exams or come to campuses.

The university’s Chief Information Officer Kari Keinänen says that the university is preparing to offer all teachers a laptop to guarantee education.

“We ordered 209 laptops: everything the supplier had in storage. We aim to secure computers for teachers if they were to need them to teach online”, Keinänen told the Student Magazine on the 13th of March.

The CIO says they estimate around 300 teachers might need a computer. If the new laptops will not be enough, the university’s laptop vendors will be employed for use in teaching.

“The laptop vendor computers are available for students to use and will continue to be as long as there are computers. They currently hold 140 laptops that are in circulation as usual.”

To guarantee smooth teaching, the university is arranging training for the teaching staff, Keinänen says.

“We are going to have webinars next week where we aim to train teachers to use online teaching tools. We are also reforming the IT support services so we can continue to help teachers as they work remotely.”

Students who don’t have their own computer for remote work have also been taken into account. The Vice Rector for Education Helka-Liisa Hentilä said on the 12th of march that teaching will be offered in a way that suits mobile devices. Students will receive more information and support regarding this.

The university library released a statement of friday the 13th of March saying the customer service will end at libraries starting on the 16th. Using the library spaces, loaning books and returning them will function like normal with the current automated services. The Pegasus library will be open on weekdays between 8 am and 5 pm. The library will be closed on saturdays starting tomorrow. The libraries of Kontinkangas campus and OUAS will continue to be open normally.

Studies at a normal pace

The University of Oulu aims to guarantee teaching so that nobody’s studies will be delayed because of the epidemic.

Kela released a statement on the 13th of March saying delays in studies caused by corona will be taken into account when deciding student benefits. Student allowance will be given even if the amount of completed studies slows down. More months for student allowance can also be granted.

The start of studies should also not be delayed due to the virus. The university stated that even though entrance exams are also an event of over 500 people, they would be organised so the amount will not reach the maximum capacity. The decision for how to organise the exams will be made together with other Finland’s universities. The first entrance exams are to be held in Oulu on the 23rd of April.

Exchanges cancelled

The policy for the University of Oulu is that all current exchange students of Oulu university are to return to Finland. This decision has been made due to the Finnish Institute for Health and Wellbeing (THL) stating that clear lines for where the epidemic is in effect can no longer be drawn and all travel is risky.

Upon returning from an exchange the University of Oulu will pay for all extra expenses caused by travelling back, if the expenses are not covered by travel insurance or grants. According to the university students can keep the grants they have received for the exchange, even though the exchange period has been interrupted.

The University of Oulu as well as the Oulu University of Applied Sciences (OUAS) recommend that exchanges planned for spring 2020 be cancelled and no students go out on exchanges.

Upon returning from an exchange students must study remotely for 14 days. Longer instructions for returning have been sent out to students through the SoleMove-website on the 12th of March.

Wappu and free time remotely?

The measures taken affect free time as well as studies. The Student Union of Oulu University OYY informed student organisations on the topic on the 13th of March. OYY recommends that organisations carefully consider organising events. In future events they should secure the option to participate remotely as well as ensure good hygiene. The OYY office will also be closed for the time being.

OYY advices student guilds to close their guild rooms and to hold their board meetings remotely. The reason for this is that virus infections spread effectively in small, closed off spaces.

Cancelling events of over 500 people also affects the traditional student event, wappu. The Technical students association of Oulu OTY gave a comment on this on the 12th of March.

“OTY is following the situation regarding corona. There is no reason to worry about Wappu, as it will happen either way. If needed it will be organised completely remotely through Twitch, Snapchat, Instagram and other social media. More info will follow in the near future, said Riikka Haataja.

The University Sports of Oulu OKKL has also stopped all of their activity for the time being starting Friday the 13th.

The University of Oulu released a statement regarding the new actions against corona on the 12th of March. The University will have a group of people meet every day to discuss future actions. Follow the latest info on the University’s website.

More information about corona can be found here. In case you get sick you can check out the information by the city of Oulu and Finnish Student Health Service.

Iida Putkonen

Oulun ylioppilaslehden entinen päätoimittaja. Tiedeviestinnän maisteri ja glögin ympärivuotinen kuluttaja. Etsii revontulia, riippumattoja ja juuri oikeita sanoja.

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Is there magic left in the world?

Logic rules the world. We no longer fear trolls or deities nor do we rely on spirits for inner peace. Is there magic left in the modern world, Anca M. Catana wonders.

Remember the movie Fight Club (1999)? If not, you can take a break, watch it and return to reading after.

Isn’t it somehow intriguing that your everyday, average individual would engage in such a “barbarian” activity, without any notable advantage? Sure, they were mostly men, but take another break and go watch Million Dollar Baby (2004).

The point is, we see it in sports, we see it in the arts, we see it in religions: people gather together to witness or take part in a short intense event, which moves a little bit of something within them.

Some 2400 years ago, in an attempt to explain what happens with the spectator while watching an ancient tragedy, Aristotle (tip: he was Greek), came up with a name for the phenomenon: catharsis, cleansing and purification of emotions.

Aristotle’s catharsis has always been connected to the idea of purification of emotions through arts, particularly the performing arts.

What the explanation fails to remember is that the theater witnessed by Aristotle didn’t limit itself to an artistic representation.

Instead, the Greek gods and goddesses were alive and well in the ancient tragedy. They had their own entrance in the scene purely for themselves and were always making the characters accountable for their actions, adding a religious or spiritual dimension to the whole catharsis concept.

Cleansing of gods

Back to the future and why you are reading about a two and a half millennia old word in a student magazine: as old as it is, catharsis couldn’t be more actual. Let me explain.

In our contemporary world, God/s, goddesses, demigods, not even witches, elves or trolls are walking among us anymore – nor do they send angry messages.

Smart beings as we are, we studied, understood and categorized everything. We know today that thunderstorms are not caused by Thor’s hammer but by the electrical charge of clouds, the world has been created rather by the Big Bang than the vomit of Mbombo, the Death worm from the Gobi desert is probably just a type of amphisbaenia, and a great flood is more likely to be the result of climate change than of divine wrath.

Not long ago, I was watching Nicholas Christakis’ TED talk The hidden influence of social networks, in which he explains his break-through discovery on how the social network of an individual affects surprising aspects of his or her life. These included their chances of getting divorced or obese.

It occured to me at that moment, that there is a worrisome paradox: we know so much about what surrounds us, but so little about ourselves as individuals and especially as communities.

Modern day catharsis

In our secularized society religious or spiritual laws and rituals are seen as naive, even dangerous if taken to fanaticism. The main reason being that they can’t be objectively verified, take horoscopes for example, so they fall in a category of pseudoscience.

Them not being objectively verifiable makes them prone to manipulation and re-interpretation which can lead to fraud or disastrous events, like the Jonestown Mass Suicide, where in 1978, over 900 people were manipulated into taking their own lives.

On the other hand, purging any non-rationality from our daily lives has left many feeling empty. We tend to blame mental health issues, depression and suicidal thoughts on financial problems, stress, substance abuse, but could they not also be attributed to a lack of magic in our lives, a lack of mystery or spirituality?

Could it be why the world of dragons and face-changing people of Game of Thrones became such a phenomenon? Is the unknown and unintelligible “a must” in our lives that also makes us vulnerable?

Our day to day existence becomes somewhat sisyphic when it lacks meaningful experiences and encounters. Like a Shyamalan movie, everything seems to be following its order, but the somewhat eerie atmosphere hints at something being off.

If magic and spirituality are the missing elements, how can we bring the unexplained back into our lives? Through art, through meditation, through forming our own rituals? And where is the limit: can they become dangerous? When can we become susceptible to being deceived and manipulated by some who, for example, figured that there is fat money to make out of our non-material needs?

Money for nothing

I am probably not the only one assaulted on social media by ads for products promising balance, gratefulness, love, peace, humbleness – for a small fee of course.

No matter how appealing the photoshopped landscapes are or how marvelous the shut-eyed ladies look in their fitted yoga pants in these ads, I can’t help myself from stopping and wondering about the absurdity of it all.

The current ads remind me of the medieval practice of selling indulgences: a bit of money is all that it takes to save your soul and sanity.

Remember the catharsis phenomenon from the beginning of this text that required people to actually get together and live an event as a community? Well, fear no more, as in our contemporary world you need to meet no one, talk to no one, go to no crowded or chaotic gatherings.

You can enjoy the benefits, free your mind and liberate your spirit while isolating yourself in your living room with buds in your ears, listening for the 100th time to the same monotone voice praising you for taking time off to “take care of yourself” – for a small fee.

Lost inner peace

Where is the limit, then? When are we having our mind and soul cared for and when are we having them exploited? To whom should we trust the most sensitive parts of ourselves: the stranger or the one close to us? The professional or the loving one?

And talking about professionals, where does professionalism start and where does it end? Nevertheless, why do we seem to crave the inexplicable only to try to explain it afterwards?

I wish I had at least some of the answers for these questions in order to be able to write a nice and comforting conclusion, but that’s no easy task.

As a result I invite you to think about all the magic present in your life, reflect on whether you would need more of it and most importantly, where and with whom could you find it.

Anca M. Catana

Education student, theater enthusiast, nature lover. Curious, spontaneous and ambitious, open for new challenges.

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