My City: Helsinki


Take a special tour around blogger Lauren Memarian’s home city of Helsinki not seen inside this month’s magazine…

What’s your best discovery about your city?
We’re still discovering new things every day about this little city- that’s one of the great things about here. I suppose the best discovery so far though has been the people! People really make a city, and the people in Helsinki make it a great place to live- especially for a foreigner who is trying to learn Finnish! Thankfully nearly everyone here speaks almost perfect English- which is helpful when words are about 30 letters long sometimes and look like the noise you make when you stub your toe. Riiuuyoaie. See?

Tell us about the colours of your city?
The city’s colours are quite understated. The architecture tends to favour muted olive greens, blues, yellows and pinks, and stone doorways and building facades are common. Even the sea is a pale slate-grey. In stark contrast are the flowers outside of shops and in window boxes – they overflow with colour, and the Relandersgrund café boat is a welcome splash of bright red in the harbour.

What is the light like? Do you have long, light summer evenings, etc?
The light here is fascinating. Though the winter days are short and cold, once summer arrives the days become nearly 20 hours long and we’re rewarded with beautiful, pure light. As the sun sets it gives everything a soft glow that lasts for a few hours and always makes me think of Sofia Coppola’s films!

What types of shop do you most like to visit? Have you discovered anything really special or different?
I can usually be found poking about in fusty old second- hand shops, digging through old vinyl records to find that one horrendous album I can’t live without (last week it was Pia Zadora and Jermaine Jackson- the Rock Aliens soundtrack!). I also have a sad fascination with the kitchen appliance section of our local department store. They have a gadget for everything! There are so many tiny and interesting shops in Helsinki that it’s hard to narrow it down to a few favourites. Pino (Frederikinkatu 22) is a great place for design-led storage solutions, while Papershop (Mariankatu 15) is a perfect little place to find letterpressed cards and printed wrapping papers.

Do you like people watching?
I am an obsessive people watcher! I like to draw the people I see, and try to work out as many details about them as I can- while trying not to totally creep them out, of course.

What games do you play as you go about your everyday life?
There’s a city webcam mounted to a building looking over the harbour, and I always stop and wave to it when I walk
by. I know my family like to peek in at the feed sometimes, and I always wonder if we’ll catch each other.

What keeps you in the city now?
The supremely addictive cinnamon buns! (But really my husband’s job.) We’ve also made a great group of Finnish friends, and they act as our surrogate family as we’re so far from ours.

If you could change one thing about the city, what would it be?
Ok, this may sound petty, but I would make at least one decent take-away. Unfortunately, while Helsinki’s restaurant scene is bubbling over with talent, the take- aways are sorely lacking. Sometimes I do miss a good Chinese…

Don’t miss the rest of the tour in this month’s issue of The Simple Things.