As a child when I stumbled on the escalator, my friend called me a tourist. I understood that it was an insult. A tourist is the one who doesn´t know the rules and gets in the way of others.
15 years ago I lived next to the Temppeliaukio church. There were less tourists in Helsinki back in those days. Even so, on some days I had to zigzag my way through the tourist mass and busses, that were not parked right. Sometimes, when we were eating our picnic breakfasts outdoors near the Temppeliaukio church, some tourists would come and take close-up pictures of our food and eating. I guess we ended up in many Japanese, Chinese and American family albums. We speculated about the hypothetical captions in those albums: ” The native Helsinkians eating” or ” the Nordic residents eating the days catch”. We thought the travelers were hilarious, and maybe they thought the same of us.
Afterwards I felt the same frustration towards myself. For example when I was caught in a bike traffic jam with my baby trolleys in Amsterdam. Or when I was eating my ice cream with a hazy smile on my face in the middle of Champs Elysee Paris. I saw the same frustration on the faces of the locals, that I felt in Helsinki. ” Goddamn tourist. I’d like to go home after work without the tourists making a mess of things”.
A tourist seems to be a bad word. A tourist is someone who is easygoing, clueless, who gets in the way of other people, makes mistakes and slows down the queues, doesn´t find travel tickets and asks weird questions from bus drivers. Sometimes tourists are rude or too curious, sometimes they just argue in awkward situations, even though they don´t seem to know where they are going or why, and how to get back to the starting point. Tourists often have embarrassing problems or they lack proper equipment. They may be frustrated after walking kilometers in the wrong direction, or worried that they won´t find the place A in time even though in reality they want to find the place B.
The result of being a tourist often ends with them being tired, disappointed and annoyed. They may think Helsinki is a stupid city because you have to queue and you get lost, and there are no local citizens to be found, only tourists. This easily happens, if you visit only the places introduced in the travel guides. Sometimes they are recommended as ”the places the locals prefer”. In those cases, the tourists soon take over. As a result the prices go up, the quality decreases, and the locals don´t want to spend time there anymore. They know, there is a cheaper place just around the corner.
Travelling is wonderful, but who wants to be a tourist? It seems, that a tourist doesn´t experience anything else but maps ruined by rain, malfunctioning gps, traffic jams and hurry, queues and sceneries hidden by selfie sticks, chaos and irritation.
Insider tip: Hurry, chaos and traffic jams are not actually essentially Finnish or Helsinkian phenomena. We generally have a lot of space here. If you want to experience an overcrowding jam, that we locals want to avoid, go to the church of Temppeliaukio, Oodi or Amos Rex just after the opening or during the high-season days. Otherwise I recommend to get to know Helsinki in a different way.
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The Deep Helsinki stories are being collected for professional travelers, for the people who are professionals at mixing in with the locals with confidence, people who can find the best places, authentic vibes and practises. The real Helsinki offers them much more than to ordinary tourists.K
Journalist & Storyteller