My first full day at the Niilo Mäki Institute started quietly. Many people from the office happened to be out of the building on projects , so I started the day in near solitude. I walked to my desk with a mental to-do list of what to tackle and was excited to get started. I sat down, arranged my carefully packed office supplies and felt comfort at the familiar objects from home. Notebooks. Check. Nice, inky pens. Check. Day planner. Check. Post-its...paperclips...highlighters. Check, check, check. I was starting to feel good. I turned then to the computer at my desk to begin my work for the day.
I pressed the power button, expecting the machine to whir to life...but sadly, nothing. The screen stayed black. I pressed the button again. Nothing. What tricks did this Finnish computer have? For 10 minutes I struggled before finally finding someone to sheepishly ask for help. Eagerly, I watched to find out the Finnish trick to turn on the computer. I was embarrassed to find the simple solution...the computer was not plugged in, which I neglected to realize with the tangle of cords at my shared work station. My embarrassment was hidden only by the fact that my cheeks were still red from the cold walk to work.
Undeterred, I began my work. I started by responding to emails and beginning to register for a conference in Helsinki. As I began to fill out the registration form, it prompted me to enter my email address. I entered my email address as usual, but when reviewing what I typed realized that instead of the symbol for at (@) only ” appeared. Hmm. I must have missed the button. I pressed it again. Still, only ” appeared on the screen. I stared at the @ symbol, written plainly on the keyboard, but no combination of keys that I pressed allowed it to materialize on the screen. After another 10 minutes of trying every combination I could think of to make the @ appear, I decided to improvise. I would simply copy and paste the @ symbol from the page into the registration form. But where was copy/paste?
So far, my accomplishments may not be lofty, but it's a start. I learned to decipher the instructions on the printer to log in and print. I recycled my paper in the correct recycling bin. I learned and remembered the names of more than half the people in my morning meeting. I found the hot chocolate machine in the kitchen. And of course, I found the @.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts about how maternity leave in Finland differs from the US, details on the research I'll be doing, observations of Finnish schools, more on making adjustments to a new culture, and our experiences as a family.
In the meantime, tell me: How have you adjusted to an unfamiliar situation or environment?