Writing, Reading, Living Different Cultures

I saw a Twitter thread about writing culture by author Joan He, on the face of it about her (or your) own but by extension that of others, and it has plenty of food for thought:

 

As a reader, and specifially a reader of speculative and historical fiction primarily not in my native language, I run into differences in culture a lot. And as a person in a multicultural, multilingual relationship in a strange country where I’m a cultural and linguistic minority, from time to time I find myself slammed against more deep-seated cultural assumptions.

Joan pointed out that culture is a way of thinking, or cognition, or perspective. As an example, I’d like to share two failures of cultural expectations from my personal experience.

Ratatouille Anton Ego Perspective Quote

At a con once, I wanted to get a book signed by an American author. I happened to know from their online presence that the author is an introvert. Even though we were both at a public place where introverted authors and panelists often don a more outgoing persona than they do in private, as another introvert I wanted to make sure I’d be especially considerate. However, quite without intending to I tripped over a distinctly Finnish quirk.

One of the big unspoken assumptions in the Finnish culture is that silence isn’t a negative. (Erik and I have both written about it for instance here, here, and here.) In essence, how I understand it, silence means space, and space means respect to other people.

Accordingly, at the abovementioned autograph session, when it came my turn I said my hellos, presented the author with my book, and waited silently. It wasn’t until the author asked me “Did you read it?” that I realised they expected me to say something else. And I had thought I was being courteous not to burden them with yet another dose of chitchat on a weekend full of being “on” at a busy con. I can’t remember for sure, since it was a kind of a deer in the headlights moment for me, but I think I was able to stutter my way to an exit without actually breaking into a run. In any case, not terribly smooth on my part.

I’ve also had a previously friendly person walk away from me when, in the middle of a presentation, I (I’m guessing “merely”) nodded to them to acknowledge their presence and silently continued to listen to the speaker (I’m guessing instead of starting a conversation with the friendly person). Although it’s been years, I still find that an utterly, completely, and thoroughly puzzling reaction.

Over the years, I’ve built a store of strategies and stock exchanges I can pull out if needed, but it’s been hard to try and perform—for it is essentially a performance—in a way that feels unnatural and at times even rude to me. Even after 10+ years, I still can’t bring myself to commit to it wholeheartedly. I suspect I’ll always be the odd, quiet one in Anglo-American contexts, but that’s my background and temperament.

So: yes, cultural assumptions and perspectives are difficult to convey, whether in writing or otherwise. Adding surface details to a fictional culture is easy, and it can be a fantastic tool for both creating distance from the everyday world and deepening the invented one. I love seeing glimpses of the practicalities that fictional characters deal with; I would find—and have found—stories seriously lacking without them. Never, though, should the surface glitter be where invention on the part of author ends; that is as unsatisfying as a lack of external cultural markers.

Being a truly exceptional author has, for me, come to mean not only the ability to create layered, nuanced worlds (or convey the complexities of everyday life in historical fiction). In addition, skilled authors I enjoy the most are able to avoid massive infodumps and to suggest underlying cultural values subtly, as inseparable part of narration and dialogue. And that’s a very challenging thing to do. It sometimes takes me more than one read-through to feel I’m beginning to understand a story. Then again, worthwhile things often are the most difficult ones.

Image via The Autodidactic Hacker

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.

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Eppu’s Worldcon 75 Highlights

A random assortment of memorable moments, thoughts, views, and quotes from our time at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

From the panel: Always Connected, It’s Mandatory with Effie Seiberg, Fred C. Moulton, Jo Lindsay Walton, Kristina K., and Tommi Helenius

  • I missed who said it and whether there were further details, but one panelist mentioned a study with the finding that merely having a cell phone on your desk, even if it’s off, lowers your ability to concentrate by about 20 percent.

The tidbit certainly gives food for thought. If true, it gives an added bonus my decision to keep my phone out the way on a small side table. Phone out of direct line of sight: +2 to concentration roll!

From the panel: Pronouns, Who Needs Gender Pronouns with Cenk Gokce, Johanna Sinisalo, Catherine Lundoff, Kelvin Jackson, and John Chu

  • Johanna Sinisalo shared a story from producing the freebie anthology given to congoers, Giants at the End of the World. The translator for a story she was editing asked the gender of a very minor character that passes by in the background in order to use the correct pronoun, so she passed the question on to the author. Their reply was: “Who knows?”
  • John Chu continued on the effect that grammatical details like that have on thinking: in English you have to specify, whereas in languages that have different pronoun systems, speakers may specify the gender of their characters.
  • There was an audience comment on the 3rd person singular pronoun it used of people (in reference to a panelist who remarked that that’s possible in some dialectal uses in some languages). In the commenter’s view, people want to contain multitudes, and using it of people would be taking something away.

Clearly, defining characters’ gender matters greatly to some people and not so much to others (like the “Who knows?” Finnish author). Of course, not all writing nor all works of fiction are or should be the same, or created for the same purpose. For example, when the mood takes me, I’m delighted to read fluffy comfort lit that at other times would drive me to distraction. I think the variety that exists is fantastic, and limiting our expressions—especially in speculative fiction—is, well, limiting. We as a species do indeed contain multitudes.

Instagram Lada ladule_b W75 Fandom Is Family

Autographs: I got my copy of Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff signed.

Maresi w Author Autograph

From the panel: Editor’s Dream with Thoraiya Dyer, Masumi Washington, Katrina Archer, and Robert S. Malan

  • Katrina Archer, a Canadian copyeditor who works with both Canadian and American writers, mentioned that she creates a style sheet for each individual story. She includes, among others, notes on word selections (in consultation with the authors) and the dictionary and spellings used.

Self-evident, when you think about the pragmatics of editing. I’m going to steal that idea to apply for my various projects.

From the panel: Reviewing 101 with Juan Sanmiguel, Markku Soikkeli, John Clute, and Fred Lerner

  • Fred Lerner, by his own description “a recovering librarian” (yay librarians!), quoted Sturgeon’s Law (to the effect of: 90% of everything is crap) and noted that it therefore follows 10% is of use, so if a reviewer cannot find that 10% maybe they should do something different.

I’ll have to try and remember this. Not that I review things that often, but to vet other reviewers. (Also, note to self, a related critique panel mentioned Mary Robinette’s method which I believe is the one she tweets about here.)

In the exhibits hall: On guest of honor Nalo Hopkinson’s table, a puzzle featuring her book covers had been set out for passersby to work on. Irresistible! And a really inventive, unintrusive promo method.

Patreon Nalo Hopkinson W75 Book Cover Puzzle

Made it: There’s photographic proof I was at Worldcon!

From the panel: Jack of All Trades, Master of Several with Carl, Roseanne Rabinowitz, and Jani Saxell

  • Carl remarked that “external brains” (=tech) can help us branch out because looking up information is very easy.
  • Jani Saxell noted that as SF operates at the edges of the new and strange, you cannot prepare for everything; there should be a place for generalists in SFnal stories.

As a Jill of Many Trades myself, I found the topic fascinating. I’d note that finding information may have gotten much easier, but a lot still depends on an individual’s ability to sift the useful from useless and absorbing the appropriate bits.

Seen in person: We’ve streamed it a few times before, so we knew the routine, but it was surprisingly exciting to be able to attend the Hugo Awards ceremony.

Instagram writer_aki Aki Parhamaa W75 Hugo Awards

Seen in person: I also had several nice random meetings with both old friends (some of whom I haven’t seen in over 15 years) and new-to-me people. For example, on Friday we saw a Finnish journalist and fan Jussi Ahlroth on morning tv talking about the con and later that day actually met him. Cool. 🙂

Speaking of cool: Did you know that John Howe (yes, THAT John Howe!) was at Worldcon?!?

Instagram writer_aki Aki Parhamaa W75 John Howe

From the panel: Older Women in Genre Fiction with Catherine Lundoff, Delia Sherman, Liisa Rantalaiho, and Helena McCallum

  • The panel noted among other things that women’s bodily needs aren’t usually present in stories. Older women don’t have to deal with e.g. menstruation, but they do have physical ailments due to age. Elizabeth Moon was mentioned as someone who is great at describing the difficulty of getting going in the morning, for example. The panelists also talked about how, just like in real life, older women in stories are often hiding in plain sight (i.e., ignored).
  • Liisa Rantalaiho noted: Older women have sex.

Another fascinating panel through and through. Elizabeth Moon’s name came up in other panels, too; clearly I need to look her up.

Seen in person: Speaking of looking people up, I found a few other new-to-me authors and artists to try. I often do that if I like what someone’s said at a panel or program item.

The end is nigh: At some point during the con, signs for marking the end of the line (when queueing into program rooms) appeared for people to hold up and pass on. Of course it would’ve been nicer if long lines hadn’t happened at all, but it was a practical and humorous solution to an annoying facilities problem.

Instragram Tiina Vastamaa tiinatupuna W75 End of Line Please Queue Here

From the panel: Gender and “Realistic History” with Cheryl Morgan, Thomas Årnfelt, Gillian Pollack, Jo Walton, and Scott Lynch

  • Jo Walton said that women are left out when canons get formed; if you go looking for women in extant documents, they are there.
  • Thomas Årnfelt mentioned a few examples of women’s occupations gleaned from 12th c. Parisian tax documents: various positions in food and textile industries, barber, goldsmith, locksmith, and night guard, among others.
  • Cheryl Morgan talked about how people have been constructing gender(s) in many various ways in history / around the world. E.g. beer brewing and tavern keeping are now seen as male professions, when in fact they were purely women’s work at one point. Another example she gave is that a man couldn’t work in Nelson’s army (or Napoleon’s?? can’t make out my handwriting) if he didn’t know how to sew.

Lively discussion and many, many examples. I kept missing references writing down others. I wish this panel had been videotaped!

Seen in person: A live astronaut. All three presentations / panels with Kjell Lindgren were fascinating! Here’s the video of The Kjell & Jenny Show: A NASA Astronaut and his PAO where Kjell talks about the astronaut selection and preparation process.

The Kjell & Jenny Show: A NASA Astronaut and his PAO by Worldcon 75

Once upon a time on a lunch break: I ate at the Messukeskus Hesburger fast food joint (also fondly known as Hese) purely out of nostalgia. And was proud of myself, both as a Finn and an introvert, for sharing a table and a conversation with a total stranger. I don’t typically do that. At the same place my top half was also, memorably but unfortunately, splattered with hot chocolate. Oh well. Accidents happen, and I wasn’t scalded.

From the panel: Pullantuoksuinen – Writing While Multilingual with Nina Niskanen, Aliette de Bodard, Emmi Itäranta, Ken Liu, and Jakob Drud

  • Emmi Itäranta commented that juggling two languages simultaneously is sometimes a hindrance (if you find a fantastic phrase in one language but not the other), but it also makes you a better writer because it forces you to be more specific in your meaning.
  • Ken Liu noted that it’s perhaps more important to explain a cultural concept for yourself than the audience.

I have a bad habit of code-switching out of pure sloth with Erik since he knows Finnish so well. Perhaps I ought to try and stick to one language at a time. Apart from making puns; that I won’t give up. 😀

From the panel: On the Care and Feeding of Secondary Characters with Fiona Moore, Carrie Patel, Mur Lafferty, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, and Diana ben-Aaron

  • “Knowing why characters exist tends to make them flat. Try not to know that.”

Really great quote. If you know who said it, please let me know! (Jo Walton???)

Another choice quote:

“I liked the way everyone was pleasant and polite. Panelists seemed to get along well with each other, even when they disagreed. Audiences seemed appreciative. The whole thing was good, low-tension fun. I sometimes think the discussions on the Internet leave people with a really wrong idea of what the experience of attending a convention is like. Problems are few, attitudes are positive, and people laugh and smile a lot.”

– Greg Hullender commenting at File 770

There were problems, and I witnessed some true clueless behavior first hand, but on the whole I agree with Greg. I saw so many examples of people greeting each other, sharing small moments of connection, helping each other out in general, troubleshooting tech issues, sharing tips and smiles, and giving up their seats to those who needed it or who might enjoy a panel more. Fandom definitely is my family. ❤

From the panel: Book Blogs with Cora Buhlert, Teresa Nielsen Hayden, Shaun Duke, and Thomas Wagner

  • Shaun Duke of The Skiffy and Fanty Show (I think—please correct me if I’m attributing this to the wrong person) said some authors don’t seem to understand how the Internet works. Apparently he’s chosen not to review some people because he’s seen how they’ve treated other fans and reviewers online.

Yup. Rep gets around.

160204dingy

Images: Fandom Is Family by Lada (ladule_b) via Instagram. Maresi by Eppu Jensen. Nalo Hopkinson puzzle by Nalo Hopkinson via Patreon. Art of the Snapshot panel audience by Baron Dave Romm (david_e_romm) via Instagram. Hugo Awards ceremony collage by Aki Parhamaa (writer_aki) via Instagram. John Howe by Aki Parhamaa (writer_aki) via Instagram. End of Line by Tiina Vastamaa (tiinatupuna) via Instragram. Dingy bird via MTV.

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

Erik’s Worldcon 75 Highlights

A random assortment of memorable moments, thoughts, and quotes from our time at Worldcon 75 in Helsinki.

From the presentation: Crackpot Archaeology in Scandinavia by Martin Rundkvist

  • One of the distinguishing traits of the crackpot is the insistence on finding meaning in every discernible pattern. To the crackpot, randomness is never acceptable.

(This is a particularly useful observation for me as a historian who works on areas and periods where we have extremely limited evidence. When evidence is so scarce, it is tempting to squeeze as much meaning as we can out of every text or artifact. Sometimes we just have to accept the randomness.)

From the workshop: Beyond the Great Wall of Europe: Worldbuilding for Non-European Settings by Jenn Lyons

  • In this workshop, we were divided up into small groups and assigned to come up with various aspects of worldbuilding for a hypothetical fantasy world. The group assigned to government (which I was not part of) described a society of small scattered bands without permanent leadership who pull together in times of crisis and select a temporary leader. Their ideas were based on certain Native American societies of the northeastern woodlands and gave a fairly accurate description of how societies at that scale historically tended to operate. Some other folks in the room—including the workshop leaders—critiqued them based on a European colonial misunderstanding of native North American cultures.

(It was a good reminder of how difficult it can be, even with the best of intentions, to think ourselves out of Eurocentric traditions—and why it might have been a good idea to spend a little more time working through what we mean by “European.”)

From the panel: Non-Binary Representation with Nick Hubble, D Franklin, and Nino Cipri

  • Non-binary characters in fiction written by binary authors have a tendency to feel like thought experiments rather than people.

From the panel: Editor’s Dream with Thoraiya Dyer, Masumi Washington, Katrina Archer, and Robert S. Malan

  • Always follow the submission guidelines!

(As someone who has coordinated academic conferences, I cannot agree with this strongly enough!)

From the panel: Asexuality in SF with Todd Allis, Kat Kourbeti, and Jo Walton

  • The portrayal of asexuality in fiction tends to be gendered. Female asexual characters are often portrayed as inexperienced, with the assumption that she will blossom into sexuality once she finds the right person, while male asexual characters are often portrayed as quirky, damaged, or focused on obsessions that leave no room for romantic love.

From the presentation: Logic of Empire: Economics of Colonialism in Fantastic Fiction by Jesper Stage

  • North America in the age of European colonialism was a real post-apocalyptic setting, once European diseases had wiped out over 90% of the native population.

(I’ve never thought of it in those terms, but it’s one of the most apt descriptions I’ve ever heard.)

From a panel presenter whose name I didn’t catch, when the audience let him know they couldn’t hear him:

  • “You’re different to English audiences; they just sit quietly and complain at the end.”

From the panel Loses Something in the Translation: Conveying Humor, Idioms, and Cultural Concepts across Languages with Gili Bar-Hilel, Shaoyan Hu, Elena Pavlova, Dirk van den Boom, and Mirka Sillanpää

A few choice quotes:

  • “Writing something funny is actually very serious and hard work.”
  • “Toilet jokes work in most languages”
  • “As you know, Germans are not funny.”

From the panel: Fantasy Worldbuilding without Ableism with Fran Wilde, Marieke Nijkamp, Likhain, Nalo Hopkinson, and Leon Adams

  • Disability can be a too-easy go-to for authors who want to make a hero “unlikely” without engaging with the reality of living with disability.
  • What counts as a disability depends on context. Issues that are trivial to us, such as eyesight problems that are easily corrected with glasses, could be serious disabilities in a world without that technology. On the other hand, dyslexia, which is a challenge in the highly literate modern world, would be trivial in a world without writing.

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

Worldcon 75: Successful Preparations

Our Worldcon 75 trip was a combination of a family visit and con activities. First we went to the north to see relatives, and the latter half of our visit we spent south in Helsinki. Although we were in town primarily to do the con, we did have a chance to visit family there, too, and enjoy some of Helsinki’s offerings, including some walking and eating at our favorite places.

Since it was a long trip and since our luggage needed to accommodate our clothes, presents for family, and books for the con, we needed to prepare more carefully than usual. I’ll share below some of our successful preparation strategies.

For more of our Worldcon 75 thoughts, check out the collected links page.

Accommodation sticker shock: Airbnb to the rescue

We tried Airbnb for the first time, because we knew we wanted to stay extra days in Helsinki both before and after the con and therefore hotel fares would’ve gotten hair-raisingly high. Fortunately, we managed to book an entire apartment in a quiet building about 10 minutes’ tram ride away from Messukeskus, with really considerate, friendly, and helpful hosts, plus in-building laundry, a neighborhood grocery store, all-round excellent transit connections and several restaurants in the vicinity.

Self-catering worked really well. Skipping a hotel meant also missing out on the fantastic, enormous hotel breakfasts, but we made hardy breakfasts ourselves. We also packed a few small ziplock bags for veggies and other finger food instead of buying overpriced snacks at Messukeskus.

Would I do it again: Yes. I would research the heck of the host(s), though, and pack cloth napkins to avoid using disposable ones at the flat.

Con notes: Add a folder

I typically keep notes of my con trips in small paper notebooks. In addition, I lug around a random assortment of A4 / letter-sized papers (notes on directions, restaurants, programming, etc.) folded and tucked into the notebook. At W75 I ended up picking up way more than my usual share of papers, though. For one, I was for some reason completely unprepared to get a bagful of freebies at registration, even though I knew we were going to get at least the pocket program and a souvenir book. (D’oh!)

Would I do it again: Yes, with improvements. I plan to continue using a small notebook for the actual note-taking, but upgrade to a letter-sized folder for the rest. Also, note to self: bring a few sheets of blank paper and maybe a Sharpie.

Day pack: Needs improvement

I traveled with a fairy sizeable day pack, because the trip was a long one and because Helsinki weather forecasts had looked unsettled and uncertain before we left the U.S. I tend to get cold easily, so I wanted carrying capacity for extra clothes, umbrella, water bottle, snacks, etc. Unfortunately, my backpack turned out too bulky for my comfort in the crowded Messukeskus corridors even when it was half-full.

Would I do it again: Probably not, unless I’m planning on cosplaying and need the space. I’m considering getting a smaller backpack (or maybe a cross-body bag) for my extra sweater, scarf, umbrella, book(s), and other bigger con gear, and using it with a small cross-body purse for faster access to water, snacks, pens, and notes.

Fun with flags: So. Many. Languages!

For the first Nordic worldcon, I wanted to flag myself as able (and delighted!) to function in more than one language, so I made myself a language tag to stick on my badge: Finnish and Swedish flags for my Nordic languages, and U.S. flag for American English. (I learned British English at school and at university, but I’ve since gone over to the dark side. Bwahahaha!) For good measure, I added my pronouns (she / they / hän).

Would I do it again: Yes, although I’d print out the flags instead of drawing them freehand. (Poor, butchered U.S. flag!) And make them larger. And as long as I’m including Swedish, I’d add those pronouns as well (hon / hen).

W75 Badge w Ribbons

Introvert care: Off days between activity days

We’re both introverts. When planning this trip, we knew we were likely to feel overwhelmed, so we consciously scheduled introvert care days into our itinerary both before and after the con. Introvert time before the con was necessary, because our visit in the north was a whirwind of family meetings. And it was necessary after the con, because the thought of flying into one of the high-traffic airports in the U.S. in a tin can stuffed full of strangers, then standing in line for goodness knows how long in a room stuffed full of strangers in order to get a shuttle stuffed full of strangers, and, finally, exhausted, to find ourselves driving on roads stuffed full of strangers was just too much immediately after a five-day event—you guessed it—stuffed full of strangers.

Would I do it again: YES! I’m not sure I would’ve been able to do this trip without blocking off the no-people days.

Introverted Tea Mug

Making many meetings succeed: Plan for a spot

I had heard through a Finnish contact that it’s very easy to lose track of people at a Messukeskus con. Although I have a Finland-compatible cell phone, Erik doesn’t, so we couldn’t count on being able to text each other updates during the times when we wanted to go our separate ways. So, after the Messkeskus floor plan was available, we found a spot that looked out of the way enough (to not clog any passageways) but easy to find and fast to get to. Each morning we’d go over our schedules and find at least one and preferably two times that we could meet at our spot to connect and re-plan if necessary. And if it should happen that we didn’t get into any programming we wanted, or didn’t feel like attending, or just had a change of heart and were available for doing things together again, our spot was where we’d find each other.

Would I do it again: Absolutely. We even arranged to met my sister at our spot a few times.

Maintenance medications and time zones: Make it into a program item

Figuring out the proper time, in Finnish time, to take my maintenance medications was easy. However, I had the darnest time remembering to do it, until I wrote it in my personal con schedule. (Outside the con I had an alarm on my phone, but in Messukeskus I kept the phone on silent.)

Would I do it again: Yes! So easy! If it’s Saturday and 4 o’clock, it must be Food Lies and pill time.

Public transit pass for the win!

The W75 membership included a 5-day transit pass for the greater Helsinki area, and it was marvellous. It allowed for so many options for the week. About half the time we just used it to get to Messkeskus and back, but half the time we took additional trips.

Would I do it again: Yes, even if I had to pay for a weekly ticket myself.

Pre-prep is next to godliness: Following Worldcon 75 online

I’m a preparer. Even though I’m a Finn and have visited both Helsinki and Messukeskus before, I’ve been away from Finland long enough to know my local knowledge is partially outdated. I followed W75 on social media and read each and every one of their publications. (I didn’t mind possible overlap; the info put out through different channels varied to some extent and any repetitions were really easy to skip.) Just before the con, the W75 KonOpas / Grenadine guide / online program guide was hugely helpful for updates of new, deleted, or moved program items.

Would I do it again: Yes. And enthusiastically yes for any possible future worldcons, too.

Images: Eppu Jensen

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

Worldcon 75: What Went Wrong

Most of our Worldcon 75 experience was good, but there were, unfortunately, some failures that need to be discussed, so I’m going to get those out of the way first before moving on to the things that went right. I want to stress this at the outset: lots of things went right, and lots of things that started out going wrong were getting better by later in the con. We’re going to talk about those things, too, and soon. Right now, though, here are some problems that need to be talked about so that other people involved in planning and running conventions and similar events can learn from them.

Our first day at the con offers an illustration of a lot of the problems.

My day began with a bright spot at registration, which was swift, efficient, and easy—the best con registration I have ever seen. But things went downhill from there.

My first stop was the information table to sign up for a workshop later in the day, and it was a mess. Staff at the table kept moving sign-up sheets from one part of the table to another. I was about to sign up for my workshop when one staffer told me I had to wait, then walked away; another staffer came over and snippily told me that if I wasn’t signing up for something, I had to leave. I did finally manage to get signed up, but the experience left me so frustrated that I had to leave Messukeskus (the convention center) for the rest of the morning and distract myself with work just so I could go back for the afternoon sessions without a dark angry cloud over my head.

Unfortunately, the afternoon did not go smoothly, either. Only a few panels had been scheduled for the first afternoon, many of them in the smallest panel rooms available. I only got to see one presentation that afternoon, and only by going to the room and getting my seat an hour before the session started. I enjoyed that session, but most of my afternoon was spent in boredom and frustration.

When Eppu and I got together for dinner in the evening, we discovered that most of the restaurants in the convention center had already closed for the day or were running out of food. We got the last two slices of pizza from one of the few places still open. Since one slice of pizza is not enough of a dinner for me, I then went out looking for somewhere, anywhere, I could find something more in time to get back for the next panel I hoped to see. Although the con had provided a helpful restaurant guide, nothing close enough for me to get to was open. I ended up going to the nearest railway station, finding a kiosk, and getting a couple packets of nuts. Thus fortified, I went looking for evening panels, but everything I wanted to see was full. After another couple of hours, I gave up and left.

There were other problems that didn’t affect me directly but I was aware of happening around me. Signage was lacking. There were no maps or directions to help people find their way to off-site event locations. There were no designated gender-neutral bathrooms (a surprising oversight in a convention which featured several panels on gender identity). There were serious traffic flow issues between different parts of the convention center.

Some of the things that went wrong with my first day are just the usual snags and stumbles you can expect when trying to coordinate any large group of people, but some were signs of systemic problems and failures of planning. Here are some lessons I think we can take from the experience:

Know your space and watch your numbers. A lot of the gear-grinding on the first day of the con was caused by the fact that the con was planned for 3,000-4,000 people and almost 5,000 showed up. That kind of mismatch will throw the best planning into chaos, but it is not an unforeseeable problem. The con coordinators knew how many attending memberships they had sold, even the surge that came in the last few weeks before the con. It was not unreasonable to predict that a lot of those members were going to turn up and want to attend the scheduled programming. As some have remarked, getting more people than you expected to show up to your con is a nice problem to have. Maybe for the con-runners, but as an attendee, standing around bored and frustrated all day because you can’t get into any of the programming you came for is decidedly not a nice problem to have.

Plan all parts of the attendee experience. Just like it is reasonable to expect that your con attendees will want to attend something, it is also reasonable to expect that people will want to sign up for things that require sign-ups. How and where people should do this is something that should be figured out before the con begins, not when dozens of people are already waiting in line. Worldcon 75’s registration was a model of good planning. The same attention needs to be given to other aspects of the con experience as well.

Control the things you can control; communicate about the things you can’t. No one can blame the con organizers for the lack of food options in and around Messukeskus. They don’t determine the local restaurants’ opening hours or food stocks. But they knew the con schedule and the opening hours of local eateries. If your con events run until 10 but all the local food joints close at 6, that is something you need to communicate to your attendees clearly, emphatically, and repeatedly.

Take feedback early and often, and act on it. This is one thing Worldcon 75 got absolutely right. There were feedback sessions every day from the second day of the con on, and changes in response to feedback were visible day by day, sometimes hour by hour. This is what saved the con from the disaster that the first day had me fearing it would become.

More Worldcon thoughts to come, and happily a lot more good things to talk about, but anyone in the con-planning scene, please take note of what Worldcon 75 got wrong and got right.

Worldcon 75: Looking Back

We’re back! From Wednesday, August 9th to Sunday, August 13th we were in Helsinki attending the 75th Worldcon, the first Worldcon ever held in Finland and the northernmost Worldcon to date. Now we’re home again and starting to look back at our experiences.

We have a lot to talk about. As we post, we’ll gather those links on this page. In the meantime, here’s some appreciation from Eppu to some of the people who helped make our con a good one.

How It Happens is an occasional feature looking at the inner workings of various creative efforts.

How to Helsinki: Last Call

Worldcon is in Helsinki this year. As a Finnish-American couple, we are very excited about this! In the coming months, we’d like to offer some practical advice about visiting Finland to our fellow fans who are considering going to the event but haven’t had experience with Finland and Finns before.

Worldcon 75 is just a week away now. In case you missed any of our previous posts, you might want to check them out, too:

 

Here are a few last-minute tidbits, odds and ends, and random pieces of advice that might be worth knowing if you’re getting ready to head to Helsinki:

Low-alcohol beverages, like beer and cider, are available at most grocery stores. For harder liquor (22+ % alcohol), you’ll need to go to one of the state-run Alko stores; you also must be 20 years old and have valid government I.D. Anyone who looks under 30 years of age may be carded when buying alcohol.

Apteekki = pharmacy

Apua! = Help!

Ateneum Art Museum is one of the three museums forming the Finnish National Gallery and located conveniently on the south side of Rautatientori square close to Helsinki central railway station.

Flickr Alessandro Grussu Ateneum Art Museum

DO NOT FEED THE BIRDS. That creates problems for residents, outdoor sellers, and other visitors. The seagulls at Kaupptori, for example, are already quite adept at snatching food from people. (That means they will dive AT YOU and steal your food FROM YOUR HAND. I don’t know about you, but I find that intimidating and I don’t want it to happen to me! –Eppu)

Public drinking water fountains are rare in Finland, but tap water is clean and safe. Carrying a water bottle is a good idea.

Dual flush toilets are becoming very common, and they’re easy to operate: small button for small flush, big for large. Please do take part in our environmental efforts.

Electric sockets and plugs are Europlug type C or the grounded Schuko type F.

Elevator behavior humorously put: Keep your arms and legs inside the vehicle at all times, and for the sake of everything you hold dear, do not engage in small talk.

9gag Finland Elevator

More seriously: Elevator behavior shouldn’t be a problem; just be mindful that customs may be different than you’re used to and you’ll be fine.

The number for emergency services is 112. Also note that pay phones are almost non-existent in Finland because cell phones are so ubiquitous.

You may not be able to establish eye contact with strangers on the streets. This is perfectly normal in Finland; we love our personal space and want lots of it.

Gasoline is very expensive due to taxation—keep it in mind if planning to rent a car.

If you meet a Finn with whom you share a mutual acquaintance, you may be asked to take greetings to that person. It is vital that you follow through. Carrying greetings (the Finnish word is terveisiä, which covers the whole social scale from “Say hi to your buddies for me” to “Do give my sincerest regards to your honored great-grandmother”) is serious business in Finland.

Indoor spaces tend to be warm due to effective insulation. Dress in layers for the win!

With regard to the language issue, one of the most succinct answers is by author Elizabeth Bear: “[I’ve] heard some concern about the language issue. There is no language issue. If one of your languages is English […] you will have no issues at all navigating. (It’s sort of a running joke with my agent and I that while my books sell very well in the Nordic countries as imports, we can’t get a translation deal there. Because everyone speaks English […]”

Luggage storage is available e.g. at Helsinki central railway station and at the Kamppi long distance bus station.

Mosquitoes are the bane of the Finnish summer. (We actually joke about them being our air force. –Eppu) Current reports are that this has not been a bad mosquito year, but it’s still important to take precautions if you’re sensitive to bites and will be out and about in the late evening or early morning, which are the prime biting times.

The National Museum of Finland concentrates on Finnish history from the Stone Age to 19th century and has an extensive collection of objects. The building itself, of National Romantic style, may also be of interest. Free entry every Friday 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.; at other times, entry fees apply.

National Museum of Finland

Petrol is very expensive due to taxation—keep it in mind if planning to rent a car.

Pharmacy = apteekki

The word please (or the like) doesn’t exist in Finnish. Instead, the same function is embedded in the verb form of the sentence. This doesn’t mean that Finns are inherently rude; we may sound rude to native speakers of languages that use an explicit please word if we forget to use it in other languages, and we well might slip up since it’s not ingrained.

Finnish does not have gendered pronouns. The word hän means both ‘he’ and ‘she.’ It’s not unusual for Finns, even Finns who speak English very fluently and are highly aware of gender identity issues, to slip and use the wrong gendered pronoun when speaking English. (It’s a little like English speakers learning Spanish and having to remember that forks are masculine but spoons are feminine.)

Recycling is becoming very common. Your hotel room and Messukeskus might have containers for different types of trash. Please do take part in our environmental efforts.

If you bump into someone by accident, just saying “Sori” (comes from and sounds pretty much the same as English sorry) is usually sufficient. Finns don’t really do apologies for small accidents.

Towel hooks in bathrooms are only for storing the dry towels. Spread towels to dry elsewhere (rack, over the shower stall door / shower curtain bar) and hang to store.

 

Some additional reading & browsing

Images: Ateneum Art Museum by Alessandro Grussu on Flickr. Finland elevator behavior via 9gag. National Museum of Finland by Eppu Jensen

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.

How to Helsinki: Getting around Helsinki

Worldcon is in Helsinki this year. As a Finnish-American couple, we are very excited about this! In the coming months, we’d like to offer some practical advice about visiting Finland to our fellow fans who are considering going to the event but haven’t had experience with Finland and Finns before.

Eppu here. First of all, I should note that I didn’t grow up in Helsinki, so I’ve had to learn the capital region transit system as an outsider. There’s no denying that it’s a big system with many moving parts (see what I did!) and that it can feel overwhelming. However, I find that, overall, information is abundant, the signage excellent, the electronic displays usually accurate, and the services run on time. Navigation or ticketing haven’t been a problem for us. (Note: Unfortunately I can’t competently comment on the success of the accessibility initiatives; I can only say there’s every attempt.)

Edited to add: Please also read Progress Report #5. Worldcon 75 staff have put together a very informational final report with lots of practical tips.

Flickr JElliott Moving in Helsinki

Some general information

The public transit network in the greater Helsinki area consists of local and regional buses, trams, commuter trains, subway (metro), and ferry. The system is managed by Helsinki Region Transport (in Finnish: Helsingin seudun liikenne or HSL; HSL on Wikipedia). Helsinki also provides city bikes for a fee (registration required).

Most lines operate between 5:30 a.m. and 11:30 p.m. or so. Nighttime lines, where they exist, are marked by letter N in the timetables (for example, 415 and 415N), and a higher night fare is charged between 2 a.m. and 4.30 a.m.

The metro sign is a white M in a red square.

Many Finns stay silent in public transit, although in large cities and/or with younger passengers this may not hold true. A Finn might also not ask someone blocking them to move; a wish to pass is often expressed only through body language.

 

Tickets, please

Always carry a valid ticket. Passengers without a ticket are charged a penalty fare of 80 euros.

There are several different kinds of tickets (single, day, travel card) and ways to get them (bus drivers, tram operators, text message, ticket machines / automats / kiosks).

The ticket machines operate in Finnish, Swedish, or English; payment is by coins, bills, or cards. Below is a how-to video:

Ticket machine. HSL/HRT. Helsinki by Den S

Note that despite what some information pages still say, train conductors no longer sell tickets; passengers need to buy a ticket before boarding.

Twitter luckyandangel HSL seutulippu Cropped

Ticket terminology

Paper tickets are Finnish-Swedish bilingual. Note that ticket validity is indicated with 24-hour clock and that dates are written out in day/month/year order.

  • aikuinen (Fin) – adult, grown-up
  • alv (Fin) – value-added tax (VAT)
  • barn (Swe) – child
  • dygnsbiljett (Swe) – day ticket
  • enkelbiljett (Swe) – single ticket
  • giltig (Swe) – valid
  • hyvää matkaa (Fin) – Have a pleasant journey
  • kertalippu (Fin) – single ticket
  • lapsi (Fin) – child
  • moms (Swe) – value-added tax (VAT)
  • region, regionbiljett (Swe) – region, regional ticket
  • seutu, seutulippu (Fin) – region(al), regional ticket
  • trevlig resa (Swe) – Have a pleasant journey
  • voimassa (Fin) – valid
  • vuorokausilippu (Fin) – day ticket
  • vuxen (Swe) – adult, grown-up

The cheapest per-trip option, a travel card, is available from 14 to 366 days—i.e., a minimum of two weeks—so they’re basically the local commuter option.

If planning to make only two trips in one day, a day ticket (valid for 24 hours) is more expensive than two single tickets. Three or more trips justify the cost of a day ticket.

Attending Worldcon 75 members get a free travel pass courtesy of the Helsinki Region Transport. At this writing there’s no more information, but it sounds like a Helsinki internal pass (cf. zones, below). After this post went live, we heard from W75 that it’s a regional pass. Yay!

 

Zoning out

There are three zones: internal, regional (two zones) and the whole region (three zones). The internal tickets basically cover only one city (Helsinki; Espoo; Kauniainen; Vantaa) or municipality (Kirkkonummi) or transit zone unit (Kerava & Sipoo).

Fare Zones within Greater Helsinki Region Sm

Helsinki central railway station is the biggest transportation hub in the greater Helsinki area. Other hubs include Pasila railway station, Sörnäinen, and Itäkeskus (literally, ‘east center’) in Helsinki, Espoon keskus (Espoo center) and Leppävaara in Espoo, and Myyrmäki and Tikkurila in Vantaa.

Unless your accommodations are in one of the adjoining cities, you should only need internal Helsinki tickets during the con.

 

Airport transit

At Helsinki-Vantaa airport, there are several local and regional buses in addition to train and taxi services. Trains stop between the two airport terminals and both at Pasila and the main railway station in Helsinki, with several stops in between.

Buses run between Helsinki-Vantaa and the city, ending in the vicinity of the Helsinki central railway station. Lines terminate either on Elielinaukio on the west or Rautatientori (railway station square) on the east side of the station.

For the city center, take either the HSL bus 415 or 615. The newest and fastest connection is the Ring Rail Line (I and P trains). Both the HSL buses and the airport train require a regional ticket (seutulippu). The private Finnair City Buses run between the airport and Elielinaukio.

 

Finding the spot

Bus and tram stops have both a unique 4-digit number and a name in both Finnish and Swedish. The stop number includes one or two preceding letters which indicate(s) the city or municipality of the stop (E for Espoo, H for Helsinki, etc.). For example, Pasilan asema / Böle station is H2100 in the photo below.

In practice, only the stop names are relevant, but you can use the stop numbers, too, with the Reittiopas route planner (see below).

HSL pasilan_pysakki

Stops and departure bays display a sign with the route number(s) and destination(s) for the line(s) that use that particular stop. A small metro sign (white M in a red square) indicates that that line feeds to the metro.

Many of the stops also have transit maps and printed schedules. They are good for basic route finding if you know where you’re headed.

Electronic timetable displays at stops and terminals show either real-time or scheduled arrival / departure times for the line(s) serving that stop. Inside vehicles they typically display the route number and the name of the next stop.

You can also check out possible routes and options ahead of time with the Journey Planner (Reittiopas) in Finnish, Swedish, or English. Plug in your destination street address or attraction name and choose your preferred method and route; you can also adjust the amount of walking required or number of transfers in the settings.

Pertinent destination or stop names for Worldcon 75 are Helsinki-Vantaa airport (for which the route finder uses terms lentoasema or Helsinki-Vantaa airport T1-T2 corridor or combinations thereof), Helsinki railway station, Pasila or Pasilan asema (for Pasila railway station), and Messukeskus.

The Google Maps public transit directions also seem ok to me, but I haven’t used them often enough to comment on their reliability.

Note that the old Pasila train station is being demolished and a new one being built during the con. I haven’t personally been there, but on the basis of every newspaper photo I’ve seen it looks like signage and information on where to find connections, platforms, etc., is plentiful.

 

How to put a stop to it

The metro and commuter trains stop at every station. Enter and exit through any open door.

However, buses and trams only stop when requested. It is customary to enter through the front and exit through the middle or back doors. (People with accessibility issues may use the front door or middle door on low-floor buses both to enter and exit.)

At a bus stop, give a clear sign to the driver by holding your arm out to the side. Keep holding your hand out until the driver signals to show that s/he is going to stop.

Trams typically stop when there are passengers waiting. If the stop is shared by several routes, however, raise a hand to request that your tram stops to pick you up.

To exit at your stop, press the Stop button on the grab bars. (Note: Tape strips like some American buses use, for example, do not exist in Finland.) Do it early enough to give the driver time to stop safely. In fact, it’s not unusual to see people signal for a stop almost as soon as the bus or tram has left the previous stop.

 

What if I want to talk to someone?

The city of Helsinki tourist guides, the Helsinki Helpers, stand ready to answer questions until the end of August. Find them in their distinctive lime green vests on the inner city streets and cruise harbors. There’s also the Info Container tourist info kiosk on Keskuskatu next to Ateneum Art Museum (link to a map).

At or near Messukeskus, where you’ll be dealing mainly with hospitality workers or fellow fen, you will be in the best of company and are bound to find help, but Helsinki residents in general are used to tourists, too. Do not hesitate to ask passers-by for help if you need it. Many Finns, even if they tend to be reticent or shy of their English skills, are well-informed, eager to help, and give practical advice.

 

An outsider’s perspective

Erik here. As a foreign visitor, I’ve always found Helsinki quite an easy city to get around. The city center is compact and easily walkable, if that’s your preferred mode of transportation. If not, there are many good public transit options, as Eppu has explained. As with other parts of Finnish culture, there are some local details about getting around that may confuse you or not be obvious if you’re used to American cities. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you visit Helsinki:

  • Public transit has a bad reputation in some parts of the US. This does not apply in Finland. Finnish public transit is clean, modern, efficient, and easy to use. You’ll see everyone from parents with little children to business executives on their way to meetings riding the trains, buses, trams, and subway in Helsinki.
  • Always cross the street at a marked crosswalk and always obey the Walk/Don’t Walk signs. Even if the street is empty, don’t cross against the lights. This isn’t just a matter of courtesy, it’s also for your safety. Finland is a very law-abiding nation and drivers expect pedestrians to follow traffic signals. If a driver has a green light, they may not look out for pedestrians crossing the road in front of them. In Helsinki, unlike in many American cities, the buttons for crosswalk signals actually work.
  • In many places, you’ll find the sidewalk divided into two lanes, one for bicycles and the other for foot traffic. The lanes may be marked with painted symbols (a bicycle or a pair of walking figures), or the sidewalk may be partially paved, partially cobblestone (bicycles on the pavement, walkers on the cobble). Try to stay in the appropriate lane. This is also a matter of both courtesy and safety. There are a lot of bicycles in Helsinki and it’s both rude and dangerous to get in their way.
  • If there isn’t a marked division on the sidewalk, it’s good manners to stay to the right so that other people have room to get by you.
  • Turning right on a red light is not allowed anywhere in Finland, which is useful to know whether you’re driving or just walking around.
  • Few stores in Helsinki have public toilets and those that do may charge a fee. But free public toilets are available around the city. Look for dark green metal sheds on sidewalks and in parks, about the size and shape of a newsstand. These are free, clean, and kept in good condition.
  • As in many other European cities, look for street signs at the corners of buildings, not on free-standing posts.
  • Because Finland is a bilingual country, all road signs and many informational signs are posted in both Finnish and Swedish. Many places and neighborhoods around Helsinki also have names in both languages. Sometimes it’s obvious—it’s not hard even for an English speaker to guess that Eerikinkatu and Eriksgatan are the same street. Others are not so easy to guess. Without a little linguistic knowledge it can be hard to know that Ruoholahti is the same as Gräsviken. The announcements in public transit are also bilingual (occasionally trilingual, with English following Finnish and Swedish).

 

Online information for getting around in Helsinki

Any additional tips? Do share!

Images: Moving in Helsinki by J.Elliott on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0). HSL seutulippu, detail, by luckyandangel on Twitter. Fare zones screencap from HSL “How to Use Public Transport”. Pasilan pysäkki by HSL.

This post has been edited to add resources by Worldcon 75 and correct the type of HSL pass given to W75 members.

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.

Temporary Exhibition: a Viking Age Village in Finland

The Viking age apparently is a bit of a thing in the Nordic countries this year: in addition the brand new museum in Stockholm, Vapriikki museum centre in Tampere will host an exhibition on Viking-age life in Finland starting this summer.

The exhibit covers village life in 1017. It’s based on the discovery of and archaeological finds from a whole Viking-age village called Tursiannotko in Pirkkala at the shores of lake Pyhäjärvi.

Birckala 1017 runs from June 09, 2017 to August 19, 2018. The exhibit description (from their 2017 brochure) reads:

“It was the time of the Vikings. In the village of Tursia, people cultivated the land, traded, made sacrifices to the gods, and ate large amounts of pork. Both the Vikings and the Novgorodians sought the riches of the Häme wilderness; however, one small village of indomitable Häme folk still held out against the enemy…

“To celebrate the centennial of Finnish independence, the Birckala 1017 exhibition allows visitors to travel through time and visit a village in Northern Häme a millennium ago. You will get to know smithing skills, about cooking outdoors, and the principles that guided life for the Finns of the past […]”

On display will be, for example, bone arrowheads, decorated spoons, beads, tools, and a sword dated to 1050-1200 and its replica. Many items are being shown to the public for the first time.

Yle Birckala 1017 Swords

Apart from the exhibit indoors, a yard with replicas (and non-replica sheep!) is available for trying out some of the iron age skills.

Yle Birckala 1017 Tursiannotko Cottage

Vapriikki in housed in an old factory hall whose oldest parts date back to the 1880s. All the exhibits are covered by a single entry ticket. More info on the Vapriikki website.

Images: Swords by Antti Eintola / Yle; Cottage interior by Jussi Mansikka / Yle

How to Helsinki: Shopping in Finland

Worldcon is in Helsinki this year. As a Finnish-American couple, we are very excited about this! In the coming months, we’d like to offer some practical advice about visiting Finland to our fellow fans who are considering going to the event but haven’t had experience with Finland and Finns before.

Eppu here. Shopping in Finland has changed quite a bit in my lifetime. For most of its history, Finland was a poor relative to and fought over by Sweden and Russia. After the second World War, though, and especially after 1970s, Finland has changed drastically and is now one of the most stable, orderly, and prosperous countries in Europe. Nowadays you can find pretty much the same things in Helsinki as you would in any other Western European capitol—spiced with the Finnish flavor, of course.

Shop at Suomenlinna by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on Flickr
Shop at Suomenlinna island fortress by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo

Like Erik mentioned already (HTH: Eating in Helsinki), 1- and 2-cent euro coins are not used in Finland. While legal tender, shopkeepers might nevertheless decline accepting the coins. Everything is instead rounded up or down to the nearest 5 cent number. (If you’re a coin collector and want a full set, there are 1- and 2-cent coins to buy.)

Perhaps a shock to visitors from outside the EU is the high sales tax or value-added tax (VAT; in Finnish, arvonlisävero or ALV). EU member states are required to collect VAT, but each state is free to set its own rate. Currently in Finland, VAT is 24% for general items, but there are lowered rates of 14% for food and restaurant services (excluding alcohol and tobacco) and 10% for books, medicines, and transportation or cultural event tickets, among others.

Marking the tax may also differ from what you’re used to. After I moved to the U.S., having to do calculus to find out the final purchase prices was an annoyance to me. In Finland, all prices already include any applicable taxes; what you see on the price tag is what you pay.

People living permanently outside the EU or Norway may be able to make VAT-free purchases, but note that retailers are not obligated to offer tax free shopping. If they do, there’s often a sticker at the door or at registers, and a number of requirements apply. See Tax-free sales to travellers in Finland for more.

Shop Window by Ian Kennedy on Flickr Cropped
Shop window from the Design District Helsinki, detail, by Ian Kennedy

There’s a movement to start charging a small fee on plastic shopping bags in stores, and some chains have already started, but as of this writing no consensus exists. It’s perhaps best to bring your own foldable totes or prepare to pay for bags.

If you’re planning on buying electronics or DVDs, note that Finnish DVDs are region 2, and electric sockets and plugs are Europlug type C or the grounded Schuko type F.

 

A few recommendations

Books

kirjakauppa – kirja ‘book’ + kauppa ‘store’

The biggest book store chains are Akateeminen Kirjakauppa and Suomalainen Kirjakauppa (NB. no English site; store locations listed here). Used books can be found in various antikvariaatti or antikvaarinen kirjakauppa.

Stockmann Book Department by IdeasAlchemist on Flickr
Stockmann Book Department by IdeasAlchemist

Moomins

The iconic Moomin (Muumi) troll family created by Tove Jansson can nowadays be found in many stores and on a great variety of items. Official Moomin merchandise can be found at Moomin Shops, the most centrally located of which is inside the Forum shopping center (link to a map); there’s also a shop at the Helsinki-Vantaa airport.

Moomins by Mike Burns on Flickr
Moomins on dishware by Mike Burns

Design & Fashion

Some of the world’s most imitated and admired designers and architects come from Finland. From Eero Aarnio’s Ball Chair (The Prisoner tv series, Men in Black II) to the Marimekko Unikko poppy pattern (worn by Jackie Onassis) to a new generation of designers, the Finnish style tends towards modern, understated clean lines. Merchandise from design houses and individual designers are often showcased in the Stockmann Helsinki city center department store during the summer season.

Fiskars shopping by Visit Finland on Flickr
Fiskars shopping by Visit Finland

Vintage & Second-Hand

Open-air markets and market halls are good places for finding vintage and second-hand items, including older design. The non-profit Fida and UFF chains sell primarily second-hand clothes. Flea markets—kirpputori or kirppis—may also work.

Window shopping 2 by kallu on Flickr
Window shopping #2 in Kallio, Helsinki, by /kallu

Handmade

Handmade wares vary from high design to mom-and-pop operators. Both types can often be found at a tori (an open-air market) or kauppahalli (market hall), or the former in various souvenir and/or design shops. One hot spot (though touristy) is the south side of Senaatintori (Senate Square; link to a map)—walk along Unioninkatu, Sofiankatu, Katariinankatu, or Helenankatu towards Kauppatori (Market Square) and the harbor.

Hand made by Freeariello on Flickr
A hand made seller at Kauppatori in Helsinki by Freeariello

Some links:

Images: Shop at Suomenlinna by Jennifer Woodard Maderazo on Flickr (CC BY 2.0); Shop window cropped from a photo by Ian Kennedy on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0); Stockmann Book Department by IdeasAlchemist on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0); Moomins by Mike Burns on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0); Fiskars shopping by Visit Finland on Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0); Window shopping #2 by /kallu on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0); Hand made by Freeariello on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND-2.0)

In Live and Active Cultures we talk about cultures and cultural differences.