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Before I left for my latest vacation – this time in the Baltic region – I promised members of my community and readers of my monthly newsletter on inter-generational relations to relate my observations on 3 cities in this interesting region. So here are a few highlighted general impressions from my recent trip to Helsinki, St. Petersburg and Tallinn.

Helsinki, Finland

  • People love their cakes and pastries, and ice cream is popular, but few people look overweight. Clearly they don’t have the U.S. obesity problem.
  • They drink a LOT of coffee (but no Starbucks there) – I guess they need something to go with the pastries.
  • Beautiful Music Center, and concerts are sold out.
  • Scarves are the dominant fashion statement. (Well the weather is typically cold).
  • As the 2012 World City of Design, it is obvious that Finns are very design-conscious, including how food is served.
  • It’s a very comfortable and lovely city.
  • And it’s VERY expensive.
  • Finns speak 3 languages: Finnish, Swedish and English.

Tallinn, Estonia

  • A sense of a young, optimistic, friendly population, positive about the economy (which is pretty good) and jobs.
  • Young people never experienced life under the Soviet regime.
  • Proud of Estonia being the home of Skype and a tech industry.
  • Food in restaurants is very good. And Tallinn is striving for culinary recognition.
  • Tallinn has a long and fascinating history and was dominated by Denmark, Finland and Russia but has retained it’s own identity.
  • The language is quite unusual and is related somewhat to Finnish,

St. Petersburg, Russia

  • People are very fashion conscious. Women favor pantyhose and tights, including textured ones, even in warm weather. (I was the only woman I saw with bare legs.)
  • There is a strong effort to keep Russian dominant as a language and culture, unlike the other 2 cities where many people spoke English or another language and information was printed in other languages. But the Internet precludes walling off the rest of the world anymore, and it has led to the changed mindset of the young, unlike many of their parents who got comfortable with the Soviet ways.
  • Young men especially seemed very involved with their children: carrying, playing, and enjoying being with them in the parks, streets and cafes.
  • No dominant auto manufacturer was apparent. There were many brands from many countries.
  • Other than the hospitality industry and related (maintenance, construction, the arts, etc.) ones, there seemed to be limited career opportunities. St. Petersburg is full of history, arts and great beauty in architecture, parks and the waterways, but I wondered what “real life” was like.
  • It was a very expensive city, though not on the Euro (and not as expensive as Helsinki).

A note about the music in all 3 cities:

We had wonderful experiences at the ballet and opera in St. Petersburg and concerts in Helsinki. Those were classical music. Otherwise, we heard almost exclusively American music everywhere – music from the 1920s through today. Since most tourists were not from the U.S., it just indicates how pervasive the American songbook and jazz is. One “Finnish” restaurant in Helsinki had a jazz station from the U.S. playing from over the Internet.

I’d love you to share your impressions if you have visited these places, and I’m happy to answer your questions. Please share on the blog.

Phyllis Weiss Haserot    www.pdcounsel.com 




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