Coming to America
United States of America
This is the first chapter of my journey to Redmond, WA, USA. I started working for Elektrobit Inc.
(Elektrobit Group's subsidiary in United States) on 27.3.2006, and at least for now, the contract extends to one year duration. For those who don't know me, I've been looking for positions outside Finland (my home country) for some years now. I've been working for Elektrobit Group
for nine years now, I have a Master's degree in Physics, with emphasis to telecommunication and microwave & RF. As Elektrobit is a multi-national company, I've been keeping my eyes open for positions in other countries' offices. For some reason beyond my knowledge, all promising prospects have fallen, until last year summer, when I made a contract with Elektrobit's Swiss subsidiary. This winter, I was asked if I wanted to go to the USA. After thinking the matter for some time, I agreed. I was also offered a position in Tokyo for an IT company, but even though Japan has been my primary target for ex-pat contracts, the packet they were offering me was clearly worse than the one from the States. So States it was.
To get a visa longer than throught the 3 month visa waiver program, you have to have an interview at the US embassy in Finland. I was set an apointment around end of February. Before that, one of my last task in Switzerland included me to travel to China. That trip was pretty nice, you can find some pictures of that trip in this gallery
. During the trip, I visited Nanjing and Shanghai. That was my first visit to China, so it was quite a pleasant trip to see part of that country.
When I was back from China, I had few weeks left in Switzerland. Mostly this time was spent preparing for the transfer to USA. Some of my stuff was sent with a courier to Finland. Sadly I underestimated the material property I had accumulated during the 6 month stay. During the last evening packing (why it has to be done in the last evening?), I noticed that my luggage was too small by far. Quick ride to a local sports gear dealer, and I had a nice new hockey bag. Even with the hockey bag, it was a close call and I had to leave behind some not-so-important stuff.
I estimated that my luggage was in total something 30 kg. I thought I could manage with them in the buses and trains by myself. When my landlord saw my big bags, she felt sorry for me and offered to give me a ride to the nearest train station. In the morning when I carried my bags out from the apartment, I begun to realise the amount of bags I was going to carry in the stations. However, when I lifted my bags to their Mercedes, they asked if it was ok that they drop me to some other station. With my German, I wasn't sure which station they meant, until we were so close to the airport that I understood they were giving me ride all the way to the airport. They were really lifesavers, as I noticed that I barely could have moved with all the luggage by myself.
At the airport, it was easy to go to the gate using a trolley. The next surprise came when I lifted my luggage to the scale. 52 kg! Plus the hand luggage, which was not really light either. Fortunately you can deal with over weight with money, so after paying suitable amount of money, I got my tickets. I also had an unihockey club with me. I asked if it should be carried with the luggage or with me to the cabin. After while, the clerk decided that it was better with me, and that most propably it would be lost in the luggage compartment. If I had know the troube the club was going to be, I'd have left it to the clerk.
At Helsinki airport, I went to the line stating transfers to continuing flights. At the security check, a lady told be that the unihockey club was forbidden to cabin. I told that I had had it with me in the previous flight, but it didn't help. I asked if she wanted to buy the club. She didn't. She told me to go out from the terminal, and enter at the check-in counter, and give the club to be put to the luggage compartment. I wasn't too happy with this, but what you can do. My departure gate would have been quite close to the security point, so now instead of walking short distance to the gate, I had to walk to the very end of the terminal, re-enter and then walk back after check-in. While walking to the counter, I had thoughts of dumping the club to a nearby dumbster, but as I had already begun walking, I decided not to dump the club. At the counter, I handed the club to the lady, and told her the story. After typing the information to the computer, she stated that I already had 3 luggage items, and that was the maximum number for domestic flights. I asked if she wanted to buy my club. She didn't. I asked if she wanted to have the club for free. She didn't, but she agreed to take it to the luggage.
After few days, I went to the embassy. I was told beforehand that the visa application process usually takes quite short time, so I was somewhat suprised when I was told that I would receive my visa in 3-4 weeks. I spent one month watching the spring come in Oulu. It was quite nice to be in Finland for a change, but on the other hand, the time was passing quite slowly waiting for the travel.
Finally I was on my way to Redmond. The flight was via Helsinki and Copenhagen. Everything went well this time. At the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, I took a taxi to the hotel which was reserved for me in Bothell. I was supposed to go the next day to office just to see some paperwork and fetch a rental vehicle for me. My friend, Teemu, was staying at the same hotel, as he was visiting the Redmond office for short period. We agreed that he would drop me to the office and car rental place the next day. After sleeping for some time I woke up around 4:00 AM due to the jetlag. Fortunately there was Wi-Fi at the hotel, so I managed to spend the early hours surfing the internet until my friend also woke up.
The Redmond office is located at a quite nice scenery. There's lot of green around, and across the street there's a golf course. On nice days, it's partly sad to watch people play around the course while I have to sit inside in the office. At the office I started to fill up the required forms which are needed for all possible reasons. At noon I got my rental car. It was Saturn Ion. Standard compact vechicle, and as it turned out, it was one of the GM's brand so I guess it was somewhat similar that Opel Astra or Vectra. At the office, there are several finnish guys working, some of them I knew beforehand. My friend Teemu had agreed with one of the Finnih guys to go to Vancouver B.C. the next weekend. As I wanted to see everything around, I agreed to join them.
Getting a social secutrity number (SSN) is good thing. Most important thing about it is that before you get the SSN, the company cannot pay you salary. Therefore the first day I went to a SSN application office. There I filed some papers, and I was told that it first takes about 2 weeks as they ask the immigration offices that I'm a legal alien. After that, their own process starts, which takes about 2 weeks more. So I was waiting something like 4 week wait time, but as it turned out, eventually it arrived exactly 3 weeks later. I heard that in some cases it might take even 6 weeks, so I guess I was lucky this time.
Temperate rain forest
The next saturday, we headed north with Tommi's BMW. Teemu had a navigation software for his Palm PDA, so we had maps and directions if we needed to find certain place. Weather was really nice, so we were able to see to great distances. Especially distant mountain peaks were very cleary visible. Somewhat before the border, we stopped at one small city to find a tourist information center. There we asked for tips & hints where we should go when we reach Vancouver. The lady at the counter told us some directions, and told that we should stop right after the border, as in the Canadian side, there is a tourist information center who can give us better information, and also sell tickets to attractions and such.
At the border, there was quite plenty of other also waiting to cross the border. We cleared the traffic quite fast, although the officer asked us to go inside the building to answer some questions such as what was the purpose of the trip etc. Once in the Canada, we found the tourist center we were told about. At the office, we asked about suitable places to visit. The lady handed out some flyers, and we chose to go to Capilano Suspension Bridge
surrounded by a temperate rain forest. The suspension bridge is about 70 meters above the water. I can tell you that it's high.
Capilano suspension bridge
The other attraction we chose was a skiing resort almost in the middle of Vancouver, Grouse Mountain
. The view was really beautiful, as the city was right there below us. After hanging around a little, we visited the movie theater which played "Born to Fly" short film with lot of sceneries. From the gift shop, I bought one Dreamcatcher
, as I though one never knows when it might become handy.
After the tour, we went to hotel to rest a little. Quite near the hotel we found a place to eat some. During the dinner we had few drinks, and afterwards we headed to a local pub. Quite soon it became obvious that my jetlag was still hanging there, and it was time for me to retire to bed. I went to the hotel for sleep, and the boys continued to get few more drinks.
The next morning the weather was not so nice anymore, heavy clouds were hanging with a chance of rain. We decided to go for a walk to the city, and also visit the China Town. The town was quite quiet, and as it seemed, most of places were closed apparently due to the fact that it was Sunday. However most of the shop in the China Town were open, so we spent some time around there. After returning to the hotel, it was time to gather bags and head back to the USA. Again at the border we were asked to go inside to tell our purpose for the trip.
After the weekend, the first week at the office was mostly learning the place, filling some forms for one or another thing and such general tasks. During the days, I had to visit several places, open a bank account etc. Evenings were mostly spent with my friends, going around shopping in some malls. The next weekend we visited quite interesting tourist attaraction, an underground city. It's called Seattle Underground. Actually it's somewhat similar to the New New York in Futurama, as the new city is built on top of the old one.
The tour was quite cheap, and included 90 minute tour with highly skilled tour guides. First there was an introduction about the underground area in the main hall of the tour office, and then smaller groups toured the undergroud areas with tour guides telling their story all along. The main idea about the underground city was, about 100 years ago the city of Seattle was growing from a small lumber village. The city was built on the shoreline to help ships carry the wood which was produced in the area. The shoreline was too low ground, so they had severe problems with flooding and such. Eventually some important people in the city decided that they will collapse the nearby steep hill and use the landfill to raise the ground at least one story higher.
The result of this, several buildings near the shoreline continue down from the street level. The areas which we were allowed, were not in use but for the tourism use. Many of the buildings down there were left to their orginal condition, so that we could see how the buildings were during those days. The buildings were... well, old brick buildings, as they had been constructed after a big fire which destroyed all wood buildings. The buildings themselves are nothing too special to see, but to hear the story from the tour guides, it's definitely worth the money and time. If you have to choose between the Space Needle and the Seattle Underground, pick the latter.
In addition to the underground tour, we visited some small shopping area near the shore, and also few graves, or at least the memorium for those. We visited a memorium for Jimi Hendrix, and a grave for Bruce Lee and his son. I don't know if there's any point visiting some individual person's burial location, but at least now if someone asks if I have visited those, I can answer yes.
At this point, I had to start searching for apartments and a car. Apartments are quite easy to find, as there's several dozen apartment complexes here in Redmond alone. Just drive around and when you see a sign for apartments, just go in and ask how it is. Easy. I visited some 10-15 apartments, and most of them were about the same. The only thing which made me take a certain one, was that this one has a Sauna! For those who don't know Finnish people, we usually die a horrible death if we don't go to sauna at least once a week. The apartment is located about a block from some Microsoft buildings. I have no idea which one is the HQ, as they have more than a few building complexes around Redmond. Wikipedia mentioned that they have 28 000 people working for MS at Redmond. I guess you need more than few buildings for that number.
The sink systems here are funny. Actually not the sink, but the waste grinder installed in the plumbing. You can drop some of your waste to the sink, and wash it away while the grinder chews the waste small enough to pass easily through all the pipes. I'm not sure what you can put there, but I understood that at least all soft organic stuff, food leftover and such. I guess I should read somewhere what is the official policy for that, so far I have to be carefull not to brake the machine. I knew beforehand that those exist in most homes, but it takes a while to get used to it.
After the apartment issue was cleared, I had to find a suitable car. So far I had driven around with the rental car. As I mentioned earlier in the Swiss-journal, I had Mustang or 300C in my mind. If test driving them wouldn't be satisfactory, then I might consider other brands and models too. Internet is very handy tool with these. For almost any car dealer, you can browse their inventory online. In Finland, when you buy a car, you go to the dealer and ask them to order car with certain options. Here the dealers like to sell a car from their inventory, so you get the car the moment you make the deal. For people who came from Europe and especially from Finland, the car prices are just ridiculously cheap. For many cars, the price in Finland is at least double compared to the sales price in the USA. Also the price for the gas is quite low. Here people complain that the price has risen far too high so that they can't afford to drive anymore. Truth is that the relative increase in the price is huge, but still the price is half of the price in Europe, so there's not really too much grounds for complaining.
I looked up few of the nearest Chrysler dealers, and went to see the 300C with 5.7L Hemi V8. It's a nice car, I can tell you. Driving it around didn't change my opinion about the car, so I started to negotiate the price I would have to pay for it. Again internet helps, because the invoice prices for the car dealers are public, so you can see how much they have paid to get the car. In the end, at one dealer I didn't find the price satisfactory, mostly because that car wasn't exactly with the options I preferred. Then I read an adverticement about a new 300C with quite nice options and all-wheel drive. I called the dealer and we agreed I'd come there in few hours.
It's a Hemi
At the dealer, I found the car with those options at their parking lot. It was nice, and we started to talk about the price and such. After a while, the dealer told the price he wants for the car, and it was about 8k USD more than in the adverticement. I told him that I pay the price in the adverticement, and he said that that particular car in the adverticement was already sold, and he cannot sell this one so cheap. So I departed back to internet to see the inventories from several dealers. One was quite good in a dealer I hadn't yet visited. They forced me to test drive the car even though I told them I had driven similar.
After driving, we started to talk about the price. I told them I had already talked enough, and wanted to cut the bull**** short this time. So, quite fast we agreed to a price which I thought was fair, and so we had a deal. Without any credit history (this is important to get here, see below), they wanted all the money before they give me the car. Also any financing was out of the question. I had beforehand agreed with my Finnish bank that I get a loan from them. I wired the money here, which was supposed to take about 4-5 working days. I told the dealer I would be back when I had the money, and they trasferred the car to other lot and marked it as sold.
One really important thing to acquire in here is the credit history. Basically it means that you have had loans, credit cards or similar methods for borrowing money, and paid the bill for those in time. Usually getting a loan, credit card or similar requires existing credit history. You see the dilemma? Basically if you want to start the credit history, you have to try to get some smallish credit types, and then work your way up as your credit history is being upgraded. I discussed at my bank for the best method for me, and they told me that the easiet one is to get a secured deposit credit card. That means that I deposit some amount of money as a secure deposit, and then I can use the card to purchase things. The credit limit is not huge, but it helps to begin gathering the history, and eventually being able to get any financing options and credit cards if I want.
Few things about the car dealers, especially compared to a finnish dealer. Here, you can barely get out of your car before someone comes to talk to you. They try to sell the car really aggressively, and if you make any positive comment to a certain price they offer you, it is considered as a binding offer from your side. So you have to be careful with your mouth and gestures. Also it's better to buy the car near the end of the month, as the sale bonuses are calculated from the sales, and they are in hurry to meet their budgets. They aggressiveness is both nice and annoying. It's difficult to go around just looking the cars by yourself, but in Finland you have to go get the sales person yourself if you want to ask anything.
Banking here is quite similar to European bank systems in many ways. Still I got a little surprise when I trasferred the car money from Finland to here. I assume you know that banks use different exchange rates for buying and selling currencies, to cover rate changes, costs etc. I checked the exchange rates before making the trasfer, but the local bank here did use slightly
different rate than the one I had checked beforehand. For that amount of money, the difference was quite substantial. I tried to complain about the way my trasfer was handled, but it seemed that I had lost the case before it even started. After gritting my teeth for a while, I mentally added the loss to the price of the car.
Driving around with a car is slightly different thing here. Most people want to use the wide freeways, which make them seem much narrower than they are, especially during the rush hours, which last basically from 6AM to 7PM. There's two major freeways here, I-5 which comes from south, through Seattle downtown and continues north up to the Canadian border. There's some 4-6 lanes to both directions, plus the expresslanes. And still it's jammed most of the time. Then there's the detour for those who want to some other place, I-405, which goes around the Lake Washington. The I-405 passes e.g. Redmond, so that's the route I'm using mostly.
Bunch of cars driving freeway.
One thing which is some sort of miracle, is the number of accidents you see on the freeways. Given the number of cars there is, you see accidents very rarely. I guess it's some sort of Darwinism. You either learn to drive there or you don't go there. If those drivers were replaced with Finnish drivers, half of the drivers would come out from the freeway in casket, and the other half in cuffs. Here if you turn on the turning signal, you barely have time to look over your shoulder, when there's already a spot made for you to change lane. Try that in Finland! In general, people tend to drive much more relaxed than the egoistic Finnish drivers.
Then there are the school buses. You've seen them on movies and TV, now I see them driving around almost daily. In regular drive they are like any bus, but when they switch on the red lights for student pick up or drop off, all cars in some hundred yard diameter are required to stop until the bus continues. Also zebra crossings are quite safe to cross, people really seem to look out for pedestrians (the few there are). Go try jump a car on a zebra crossing in Finland, instead of brakes, they'll hit the gas pedal.
In most places here, the streets are at least 3 lanes wide, 1 in both directions and then 1 extra lane. The extra lane can be found in almost any sub-urban roads except for juctions. Quite many roads in this area are with 5 lanes, 2 to each direction plus 1 extra. The extra lanes are used by those who are making a left turn, so that they don't block the normal driving lanes and don't need to cross the traffic to both directions at the same time. That's pretty nice arrangement to help the traffic flow easier. I've seen some similar lanes structures in Germany too, but I don't know if they are that common there as they are here. Other difference here is related to the red lights. If you are at a junction with red lights, but you want to turn right, it is allowed (if not prohibited with separate sign) to turn if you yield to the other traffic. I'm not completely accustomed to this, so many times I wait at the lights even I could drive through. I guess I get used to this in some months.
As the car came without a navigation system, I went to see different portable navigation systems. My friend had really nice system rigged with his Palm PDA. The GPS itself was a small device, which connected to the Palm via Bluetooth, transmitting the GPS information over a wireless link. He had the TomTom map software installed in the PDA, so when we needed to find somewhere, he just typed the name of the place in the PDA and it guided all the way. So when we went to Fry's store for shopping, I browsed the portable GPS section for the Magellan and TomTom navigation systems, but also the PDA section for Palm PDA's.
First I purchaced open box (=bought & returned) versions of Palm T|X PDA, and also Palm E2 GPS packet, which included Palm E2 PDA and the GPS packet with TomTom maps. The thing I didn't figure, was that the map software was already registered to the E2, so it wasn't possible to install the software to the T|X. As the E2 lacked many options I wanted in T|X, I returned the E2 packet to the store. Inside the Palm packet, there was a discount coupon to the Palm Online Store, so I bought the GPS packet without any extra PDA for quite cheap from there. It's quite nice. The only problem is that I've been too lazy to make a permanent install to the car. The GPS module itself would be best somewhere inside the console, so that the antenna would be left outside, and so that it draws power when the car is running. Maybe in some near future I manage to make that connection.
Also positioning the Palm somewhere where the sunshine doesn't block the view but it's still visible to the driver, is not so easy as you think. Basically there's three options. On the top, over the rear view mirror, there a holder for sun glasses. The Palm fits there quite nicely. That's quite good place, if I just could make some sort of holder to keep the Palm there even in higher acceleration levels. Second option would be using the cradle arm provided from Palm, which is attached to the windshield with a suction cup. One problem with this is that the windshield in my car is quite large and far away from the driver. Also it doesn't look so nice, so I think this option is out of question. Third option is down the console, in front of the gearing stick. The good thing with this would be that the 12V power supply is near to power the Palm in longer sessions. Some sort of holder might be easy to attach there, so this might be possible final location for the Palm, when I get to installing some holder there.
The Finnish driver's licence is valid here for 3 month stay, if I understood correctly. However, the local driver's licence is regarded as the best ID in all places where they ask you to show your ID. Getting the driver's licence consists of two parts, the written test and drive test. You can reserve time for the drive test after succesfull written test. The written test has maximum 25 questions. You have to get 20 questions correct before making 6 wrong ones, so in any case, the test doesn't last any longer than 25 questions. The questions are multiple-choise questions, with 4 alternatives. As I went to the test, the machine chose random questions for me. I answered all reasoning questions correctly. To my misfortune, there were 19 of those this time. The rest 6 were number-type of trivia, e.g. how far from the incoming vechilce you have to turn off the high beams. With statistical average, you should be able to guess 1.5 of those 6 correctly without any knowledge. I managed to get them all wrong, so at the 25th question, after giving incorrect answer, the machine declared that I had failed the test.
The next day I went there again, and took the test again. The first question was really simple, but I managed to read it too fast, and pressed an incorrect answer button before I noticed it was wrong. Learnt from this experience, I read all questions very carefully, usually at least 2 times until I chose my answer. On next 20 questions, there were none of those difficult number questions, so after 21 questions, I had the required 20 correct and so I passed. Showing the result at the counter, I was appointed drive test in about 2 weeks.
By that time, I had already received my 300C. I don't mind driving huge cars (why else would I buy such?), but still taking the test with that big car gave me some doubts. The test itself wasn't really difficult, if you just paid attention to your driving. The test included showing the hand signals for turning and stopping, and then driving around making several small tasks such as parking and reversing. After passing the test, they took a photo of me, and I got a paper version of the driver's licence. The real one came in mail in about 1 week later.
When I was young, I remember that my cousin had a check book. That's the only recollection of such thing in Finland I remember. Here the check book is in normal use, you cannot live without one. When the utility bills arrive, you are supposed to write a check to the similar amount of money, and send the bill back to them with the check. This is really different than what I'm used to. It feels stupid and insecure to send checks in mail, but I assume it must work because otherwise the system would have been replaced with something better. Both in Finland and Switzerland, when you get bills, you just log in to your online banking account and pay the bill online. I guess I have to get used to this system, as there's no alternative which I'm aware of.
For one week, Sanna came here to visit me. Most of the time was spent is some mall and shopping areas. We also visited The Space Needle
. It's a tower, which was built to Seattle in 1962, because that year the World Fair was held in Seattle. If you don't know the tower, watch any movie with Seattle in it, or Frasier, or anything, you always see it somewhere in the skyline. If I recall correctly, also it's visible in Dark Angel, the TV-series about the genetically mutated woman who daily delivers parcels and nights fights crimes. The tower is, tall at least. You can see quite good distance when the weather is clear. Apart from that, there's not really anything special about the tower. If I would have to recommend either Seattle Underground or The Space Needle to some casual tourist, Underground would win hands down. I know The Space Needle is a landmark, so you have to visit it in order to tell everyone that you have visited it, but that doesn't make it any better. Next to the tower, there's a Science Fiction museum, which I intend to visit in some near future. So if you plan to go to that neighbourhood, leave some extra time so you have time to go to the museum also.
I guess everyone has heard the phrase Land of Opportunity
. I thought it meant that every man is equal, and posesses (more or less) equal chances to make own enterprice and get wealthy. As I've been around here, I've re-thought the phrase to mean that you have opportunity to do anything you want. If you can think of any hobby, there's one training location for that nearby. Some weeks ago I thought that I want to try out hitting a baseball. I typed certain search to google, and bingo. Just few miles from here, there's a batting cage where a machine shoots balls and you try to hit that. It was nice and fun. I might go there again.
Last week I enrolled to a golf school. It's in the golf course which I can see from my office window. It is held 1 hour a week for 4 weeks, and it didn't cost too much. The teacher recommended to come practice swing also between the classes, so now I have went to the range twice. Second time, I borrowed Iron-5 and Wood-3 from the club, and hit a bucket with them. With one of the last hits, the head of the wood club broke off and flew to the range. You should have seen my expression. I told this to one of the club people, and he said that it happens time to time. I guess it's difficult for me to control all my muscle power. ;D
When coming from Finland, you are used to the fact that anything you can do (and many things you can't) you do yourself. Hiring someone to work for you costs astronimical amounts of money, at least almost. Here many of the basic labours are comfortably cheap to buy. I think it's party thanks to the immigrants who come from somewhat poor conditions, and they are happy here as they can work for decent amount of money in decent occupation. I don't know any official figures, but I would guess that Mexicans are the biggest group of immigrants here. I read from some legal paper, that the minimum salary here is around 5-6 USD for an hour. I understood that it didn't count those occupations where tips are a big portion of the income. However, I assume that that 5-6 can be used quite close to as a reference how much legal workers earn at least. Many grocery stores here have people who pack you bags while you are paying for your purchaces. I think it's also nice service from the store, even though I could do it myself quite easily.
"Regular" tip here is twice the tax, so about 17-18% of the price. Normally if you go eat a little or get a cup of coffee, that makes about 1-5$. Some might think that it's a lot, but you get service with that money. If you don't understand what I mean, try to get good service in some Finnish stores. Of course there's exceptions, especially in small shops, but here there's no exceptions. The people behind the counter work to serve you in order to get their salary, compared to Finland where people sit behind the counter to get their salary. It sounds a little bit harsh system, but I rather pay some extra for good service than get not-so-good for better price.
The whole economy runs with similar rules. You don't get if you don't deserve it. I think in Finland the socialism and labor unions have gone too far. Everyone gets the basic income even for sitting all day at home. They get their rent and bills paid, the medical care and everything. I know, it sounds a nice place to live. The downside is that the money to pay those benefits is aquired by heavy taxes for those who work. If you earn anything decent, the income tax rises fast beyond 30%, and for good salary, don't be surpriced with more than 50% income tax. And don't forget the 22% sales tax. And the special car tax for cars in top of the sales price, and then sales tax both to the car and the special tax. In total, the car price doubles after taxes are applied. So we know how to pay taxes.
But think this situation, many people get about the same money for sitting at home compared to working, because the taxes rise so fast, and you lose most of the other benefits too. Which you think many choose? The more people choose to stay home, the more the government has to pay for them, and the more they have to collect money from the working people. This leads to the fact that no matter what you do, you get the same amount than those who sit all day at home watching TV. Fair? No. I blame mostly the labour unions for this. They have way too much power in Finland, and they can affect politicians. Other big group to blame are the Finns themselves. Most of them think the labour unions are good, because they grew up several decades ago, when the labour unions did good work making the legistlation favor workers insted of the factories they worked for. But if you ask me, their time is over for them as they are today. Unfortunately that's just my opinion.
Actually now I remember that I was told that the Chinese (and other similar) is the largest racial non-white group in this area. I understood that the reason was with the railroad. Long long time ago in a far away galaxy, when the railroad was built with foreign labor force, the workers were released after the track was finished. At these areas, there's no point making the track any longer to west, so that's where a large number of Chinese people came to the area, and seems that their descendants are still living here nearby.
Lot of foreign nationalities also make one big advantage. There's more than enough restaurants representing any corner of the world. In Oulu, there was just few of them, and mostly I didn't like the food they served. I had my doubts here too, but now as I have visited some of them, I've noticed that most of them make really good food here. So I think it's time for me to start learning to eat any food, or at least try to.
All in all, I'm getting quite used to live in here. This is not really the place I thought it would be. Many things are here really nice, and I think I will enjoy this year i will be spending here, or maybe even several years. I have to make some schedule for prioritising some hobbies, so that I can try out all the things I want, but still go regularly to those I like best.