Friday, 3 October 2008

Missed encounter

Yesterday, when going back home by train, I came across someone I knew. He entered the car where I was and I think he saw me through the glass door of my compartment, I was sitting just in front of it. I even think we made eye contact for a very brief moment. But he immediately turned his back to me and went to the other part of the car, as far from me as he could. We left the train at the same station, but I did not see him outside, he probably went out through another door.

I can see two possible explanations to his decision to avoid me. The first one is, he did not recognize me. He's a friend of Mr Bear, and we met him some four or five times altogether, mainly at the supermarket or at a pub among a group of their friends (at the time when I still believed I could make connections with Mr Bear's acquaintances). In these situations, he would talk to Mr Bear in Finnish and I would play my usual "stand and smile" role. I don't think we actually ever said anything more to each other than a short "hi !". Plus, yesterday evening, he was obviously coming back from work, he was probably tired, dreaming of his coming dinner and maybe a romantic evening with a girlfriend... While I was wrapped in a heavy raincoat covering my hair. It's possible he did not even remember he had seen me before.

Another possible explanation is, he saw me but did not wish to start a conversation. Finns are usually not so good at "small talk". And since we have not had any real conversation before, I have no idea of his level of English; I expect he can handle a short conversation like every one else here, but maybe he does not feel confident at all in that language. I tend to see this behaviour (turning your back to someone you know without even a smile) as rather rude, but my stay here has taught me to reconsider my level of tolerance in that respect. I have experienced much worse.

The weird part in all this is, I would prefer the second explanation to be true. Intimidating people, or facing their lack of politeness, I can handle. But not existing in their eyes, it's hard.


  1. hum. finns can be tricky, it seems.

    yesterday i saw a movie called "in bruges" and i remembered you, levi, vale and mikko - because the only pictures i saw of bruges were when you guys where there :)

  2. You'll need to come to Belgium some day, I'll take you there ;)