There aren’t that many people that speak Finnish, thus it is only natural that one does not really hear Finnish spoken when leaving Finland. It is always interesting to notice this transition when traveling abroad. Usually the transition happens at the airport or during the flight.
The nature of this phenomenon depends on whether you’re traveling alone or with friends. If you’re alone, you’ll just tune out of Finnish suddenly hearing on the airport or in the plane is quite jarring, but if you’re travelling in a group, you’ll probably stop picking your words less carefully, as the people surrounding are not very likely to understand you. I would imagine that the feeling is very different if your native language is English, even though some countries don’t boast that good of a proficiency in English.
I noticed this again when traveling to Aix-en-Provence for Iter Summer School. I expected only one other Finn to be there as a lecturer and she was supposed to be leaving already on Tuesday when the school itself started on Monday. To my surprise, there was another Finn but she was coming from Spain. Still, I ended up speaking mainly English (and maybe some Swedish and German, let’s not go into that…). It felt almost strange to be speaking Finnish for brief moments, as I got used to discussing in English, although I don’t feel like my spoken English is that strong.
This was my first visit to France, so I had my prejudices about the English skills of the locals. Some of them proved to be true, as the locals often spoke little if any English. I would imagine the situation being more difficult in the surrounding rural area, as Aix itself is apparently a sort of a tourist city, but it is also a very beautiful place, actually. It’s located pretty close to the Mediterranean Sea in the southern France.
From Finland, it was perhaps easiest to fly to Marseille. For me, this required taking a connecting flight first from Helsinki to Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam or Munich. Due to the length of the layovers, price of the flights, and the things I’ve heard about Charles de Gaulle and the Munich airport, I decided to go with Munich. Well, I am pretty happy with the choice.
My first layover was pretty short, but for the return flight I had to wait about four hours. This waiting turned out to be pretty painless due to the excellent airport – or at least the excellent Lufthansa terminal. There are plenty of shops and services available, including free wi-fi (although for a limited period of 24 hours), so in the end I had no problems travelling through Munich, even though there were concerns about the volcano in Iceland or a strike at Lufthansa.
Oh, and Lufthansa’s offerings during the flight are quite decent, too: free wine and beer!