Whilst I enjoy walking around Helsinki, I have noticed that the way people act in crowds here is very different to the way the behave back in England. In England, we have an (admittedly) archaic and arbitrary system whereby men hold doors open for ladies and ladies always go first. Though there is nothing that makes this system right, it does create a simple means by which crowds of people can move quickly and easily through busy streets and shops. If you hold a door open for a lady in Helsinki, any men nearby you will immediately seize upon the opportunity to dart in front of you and push through the door. Similarly, if they go through a door ahead of you, don’t expect them to look back to check if they’re about to let it fall shut in the face of the person behind them.
In addition, there is a quaint and amusing tradition in England – seen if you are walking down a narrow street and you find yourself travelling head on towards another person. In the moment of uncertainty over who should go left or right, we do a short shuffling dance step, then exchange embarrassed glances. We make brief apologies, then step around each other and carry on with our journey. In Helsinki, if you find yourself walking head on towards a Finn, prepare to play a game of ‘chicken’ that you cannot win. They will simply charge onwards and bowl you out of their path!
These observations are simply the product of ambling around Helsinki’s high streets. If this is all too scary for you, then I suggest you take a short boat ride from the South Harbour to Suomenlinna Island. The panoramic views of the sea are spectacular, the remains of the fortress are fascinating and there are less than a thousand people living there, so you’re very unlikely to ever bump into someone (or have them bump is into you) whilst you’re out walking.