Sunday, 3 March 2019

Vegan Tampere

I’ve been a vegetarian for about 12 years and vegan for almost 3 years. I decided to follow these diets for environmental reasons and also for animal rights.

Some people seem to think that vegetarianism and veganism are the same, but they aren’t. Vegetarians don’t eat meat, and sometimes also neither fish (if they do eat fish, they are known as pescetarians) nor gelatine. Gelatine is extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cattle, chicken, pigs, and fish. It’s found in most gummy sweets, as well as other products such as marshmallows, gelatine (jelly) desserts, some yogurts and cereals, and even sometimes wine.

Vegans don’t eat meat, fish, gelatine, milk products (such as cheese and yoghurt), eggs, and sometimes honey, so basically nothing animal-based or anything that contains something animal-based such as some kinds of chocolate, ice-cream, cakes, etc.

The term ‘vegan’ was invented in 1944 by the Vegetarian Society in Britain. The word was taken from the first three and last two letters of 'vegetarian' because it marks the beginning and end of vegetarianism. Interest in veganism has grown in the 2010s. The European Parliament defined the meaning of vegan for food labels in 2010, in force as of 2015.

Vegan options depend on where you are. In some countries, such as Asia, there are a lot of vegan options. According to the internet, some of the best places in the world for vegans are Berlin, Vienna, London, Tel Aviv, Singapore, and Los Angeles. I also think that Tampere is one of the best places.

In autumn 2017, McDonald’s’ first vegan burgers called ‘McVegan’ were piloted in Tampere. They are currently now sold only in Finland and Sweden. Some vegans don’t want to support McDonald's because the company isn't good for the environment and animal rights. However, I think McDonald's isn't the only place that is bad in these respects. I also think it's hard to eat in restaurants with friends if someone boycotts certain restaurants or doesn’t eat at a restaurant that serves meat. Vegan options in restaurants are already limited and there aren’t many exclusively vegan restaurants. I think it’s positive when mainstream restaurants cater for vegans.

Some people seem to think that vegans are like rabbits and only eats grass. Of course, this isn’t true! Vegan options can easily be found in supermarkets, especially when they are on clearly-labelled separate shelves. I took the photos below at Kuninkaankulma K-Supermarket near Tampere’s central square.

Refrigerated vegan options at Kuninkaankulma
K-Supermarket near Tampere’s central square

Frozen vegan options at
near Tampere’s central square

Vegan pick ‘n’ mix sweets at
near Tampere’s central square

There is also a website (and its social media channels) called Vegaanituotteet (‘vegan products’, unfortunately only available in Finnish) that collects and arranges vegan products available in different Finnish supermarkets in one place. It makes it easy to check which products are vegan, spot new products, and get inspiration and help whilst shopping. It is also helpful for non-vegans who are interested in trying veganism or who are looking to buy something for a vegan!

  • vegan = vege/vegaani/vegaaninen/kasvipohjainen (vegetable-based)
  • allergy = allergia
  • may contain traces of = saattaa sisältää pieniä määriä
  • egg = kanamuna
  • milk = maito

‘Nyhtökaura’ (meaning ‘pulled oats’) is a Finnish invention established in 2015. It is a plant-based protein-rich food made from oats. In my opinion, its taste and texture is a little like meat, although I’m probably not the best judge since I haven’t eaten meat in 12 years! Such vegan alternatives are sometimes considered more nutritious than meat. Some people also think that vegans eat healthier. It may be true, but it depends on the person. Vegans also have many delicious but unhealthy options!

Some of the best places in Tampere for vegans/that serve vegan options are:
  • Café & Bakery Mimosa

Café & Bakery Mimosa – vegan cream bun

  • Classic American Diner

Classic American Diner - the Beyond Meat Burger,
the best burger I've tasted since I stopped eating meat

Classic American Diner -Hubba Bubba shake
with vegan vanilla ice cream and
soya spray cream

  • Fafa’s

Fafa’s – vegan options on the menu

  • Gastropub Soho

Gastropub Soho – full vegan breakfast

  • Gopal

Gopal – lunch buffet

  • Hesburger

Hesburger – vegan tortilla wrap

  • Jäägurtti

Jäägurtti - vegan frozen yoghurt

  • Kotipizza

Kotipizza offers vegan cheese, nyhtökaura ‘pulled oats’
,and härkis (vegetable protein product made
from Finnish broad beans) toppings

  • Kulttuuritalo Laikku (Culture House Laikku)

Kulttuuritalo Laikku
(Culture House Laikku)
- vegan toastie and cake

Kulttuuritalo Laikku
(Culture House Laikku)
- vegan ice cream rolls with
soya spray cream

  • McDonald’s

McDonald’s – ‘McVegan’ burger

  • Pella’s Café

Pella’s Café – vegan hot chocolate and cheesecake

  • Panimoravintola Plevna (Plevna Brewery Restaurant)
Panimoravintola Plevna (Plevna Brewery Restaurant)
- vegan schnitzel

  • Pizzeria Luca

Pizzeria Luca

  • Pizzeria Napoli

Pizzeria Napoli – pizza
with vegan cheese and pesto

  • Pyynikin Munkkikahvila (Pyynikki Doughnut Café)

Pyynikin Munkkikahvila (Pyynikki Doughnut Café)

  • Ravintola Näsinneula (Restaurant Näsinneula)

Ravintola Näsinneula (Restaurant Näsinneula) vegan main

Ravintola Näsinneula (Restaurant Näsinneula) vegan dessert

  • Ristorante Capricciosa

Ristorante Capricciosa - vebab with fries

  • Sandro

Sandro - lunch buffet (many vegan options)

  • Subway

Subway – sandwich
with vegan patty

  • Rax buffet

Rax buffet – vegan pizza and nuggets

  • Viikinkiravintola Harald (Viking Restaurant Harald)

Vegan main before the menu changed

Iona's liquorice mousse: liquorice mousse,
raspberry-liquorice sorbet,
liquorice meringue, dried raspberry, and raspberry syrup

  • Vohvelikahvila (waffle café)

Vohvelikahvila (waffle café) –
waffle topped with
vegan ice cream

  • Zeytuun

Zeytuun - meze

So why are some people vegan? Most people argue that fossil fuels from transport are the main cause of global warming and subsequent climate change. Others argue that livestock farming and animal agriculture are the main causes of climate change because they produce so much carbon dioxide (CO2). More water is also used to produce meat. In ‘developing’ countries and elsewhere, land is sometimes used to produce meat for ‘developed’ countries instead of to produce food for the local people.

Carbon footprint of what you eat

Water footprint

Most vegans also choose this diet for animal rights. In my opinion, eating meat is related to culture. Eating pork is wrong according to some people’s religions, and dogs are eaten in places such China. Many of us don’t want to eat animals that are our pets. I think all animals should be taken care of regardless of how cute they are.

I thought about becoming a vegan for a while before I actually did. I felt that maybe I was somewhat hypocritical for not wanting to eat meat for environmental reasons and also for animal rights, but then still supporting the dairy industry, which is also usually pretty bad in terms of the environment and animal rights. Animals may even suffer more and for longer in milk and egg production than in meat production. However, I thought that being vegan would be too difficult, especially because I really like cheese. Shortly after moving to Finland, I started working in a restaurant called Fafa’s that serves several vegan options. Some of my colleagues there were vegan, and I learnt how easy it is to be vegan in Tampere. In May 2016, I decided to test being vegan, and I’ve been vegan ever since then!

The most frustrating things about being vegan are that some vegan alternatives are sometimes a little more expensive, and some people don’t know the definition of vegan. I’ve even come across people who work in the catering industry who don’t know what it means - it takes a few seconds to check online! I usually (sometimes I forget!) try make sure that I eat something before going to parties or take emergency snack bars or my own food with me because people don’t always serve vegan options. It can be difficult when someone offers or gives you something that was made with non-vegan ingredients and you feel that it might be rude to ask or check because it might seem like you don’t appreciate it or don’t trust them. Unlike some other vegans, I don’t want my choices to affect my friendships or make others feel uncomfortable. Luckily, my partner isn’t vegan, so I can pass on non-vegan gifts to her, and at least I’m happy when she gets some enjoyment out of them!

It’s also challenging to feel like that ‘difficult’ person who asks whether food is vegan and whether it has been cooked separately from animal products with different utensils, but the fact is that this happens in many restaurants. On a few occasions, I’ve been asked “is that not vegan enough for you?” in a sarcastic manner when I’ve declined to eat something that clearly contains eggs or milk. Then there have been, of course, the inevitable comments about not getting enough protein. However, I’ve just experienced such negativity from a minority of people, and the majority of people aren’t judgmental, don’t feel the need to make negative comments, and are open-minded. If I were a judgmental vegan, I don't think I would be with my partner, Maria, who is pescatarian. We can’t judge others until we’ve taken a walk in their shoes, which is pretty much impossible.

I don’t think that what we eat is anybody else’s business. I don’t want others to tell me that I should eat meat and I don’t want to tell others that they should be vegan. On the other hand, I think it's important to consider the environment in all of our actions. Admittedly, I myself didn’t think much about these issues until I met vegans and especially until I became vegan myself, and I guess the best way that I learnt was through asking (maybe there is no such thing as a stupid question!). At the end of the day, mistakes happen and we can only try our best.

Vegans are sometimes represented negatively in the media, and are often portrayed as judgemental, aggressive, and obsessive; perhaps because some vegans are a bit extreme. I hope we aren’t all like that! I think it’s important for all of us to respect each other’s freedom of choice. Yet, some people apparently still seem to think that it’s ok to be rude to me because I’m vegan. It’s interesting to have discussions about veganism and to hear other people’s views, but there’s usually no point trying to have a discussion with those people who often resort to being rude when they don’t have substantial arguments. Perhaps some people also just get a feeling of power out of going against whoever’s in the minority – regardless of why they’re in the minority. Sometimes it’s really hard to hold my tongue, but I usually try to do so. It’s not worth getting angry because that’s probably the reaction some people try to get, and it would just confirm their prejudices. I don’t understand why people seem to get so annoyed about someone trying to live an environmental and ethical lifestyle. Of course, there are many ways to try to do this, total veganism isn’t the only way, and none of us are perfect.

Some people complain that we are becoming too demanding when it comes to eating. I’ve worked in various catering jobs over the last 10 years. The different requests can be challenging, but I don’t see the problem in providing individual service to someone who’s willing to pay someone else to cook for them. Things won’t change if there isn’t consumer demand. Some people even say that vegans and vegetarians shouldn’t eat meat imitations. Not all vegans and vegetarians dislike the taste of meat but follow these diets for ethical and environmental reasons. I don’t see what the problem is with eating alternatives that are more environmental and ethical than meat.

There are also negative sides to veganism, for example, we might become too dependent on the ingredients used to produce vegan alternatives (such as soy, oats, coconut, rice, and beans), which can be unsustainable. Some people claim that using soy to produce vegan alternatives isn’t very environmental – but soy is also used to feed livestock!

I don’t think that you have to be vegan or even vegetarian to eat vegan food. I think it can be enjoyed by everyone. Sustainable eating doesn't have to be so black-and-white, and even reducing our meat and dairy consumption by a small amount can make a huge difference. If someone is interested in trying out veganism, it doesn’t not have to be so black-and-white. For example, you can eat a vegan meal once a week or even once a month. Even small changes can make a difference. For example, you can order Vegobox from Sweden that’s packed with new exclusive tasty vegan snacks to try out and learn about vegan options. We can also limit our travelling by car and plane, use public transport or cycle or walk, reuse and recycle, save electricity and water, buy local products, avoid buying single-use plastics, etc. One single action can't change everything and none of us are perfect, but we can only try our best. It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.


What I don't understand is why people seem to become so fixated on anti-vegan rhetoric. Why criticise people who aren't trying to make a difference? Perhaps they feel threatened by people who have the willpower that they don’t to make sacrifices for animal rights and the environment. Those of us vegans who aren't aggressive and judgemental still have to deal with others' negativity because of the minority who are. The case is often similar for other minority groups, such as immigrants and refugees. Anything that's new can be perceived as extreme until it becomes a norm, such as vegetarianism, interracial marriage, female members of the clergy, same-sex marriage, etc.

Sunday, 10 February 2019


I recently turned 26 years old. I’ve been watching an American comedy-drama television series called ‘Younger’ based on a novel of the same name. It’s about a woman in her 40s who has difficulties finding a job, so she pretends to be 26 and gets a job as an assistant for the head of marketing at a publishing firm. The woman who pretends to be 26 and the friendship circle she forms are portrayed as young people at the start of their careers who party and question whether they’re making the most of their youth. My partner, Maria, and I also follow a British YouTuber called Dave Cad, who is 30 years old lives in Helsinki with his Finnish wife, who he recently married. She is studying a Master’s degree and is presumably around the same age as Dave. Both fiction and reality show that is it quite normal for people in their mid-20s and early-30s to still be studying or just starting their careers.

Recently, I’ve been made to feel that I haven’t achieved enough for my age and that I’m too old to still be studying. Yet, I have friends who are in their 30s or 40s who are or were still studying or have, for example, gone back to complete unfinished studies or returned to university to study a Master’s degree after working for some years. Master’s degrees in Britain take 1 year, and Master’s degrees in Finland take 2 years. However, Master’s degrees in Finland are flexible so that people can study in their own time and develop additional skills, for example by taking language courses or courses from other study programmes. Students may also need to work alongside their studies, coordinate their studies with family and childcare, or take time off due to illness. I wish that people would acknowledge this cultural difference and be open to learning about it. Instead, many seem to judge my studies in Finland according to the British education system, which is expensive, and restrictive in terms of degree content and completion time.

For some time, one of my family members has even been telling people that I’m lecturing at the university at which I’m studying. The only reason why I can imagine that they do this is because they’re ashamed that I’m still a student. A doctoral degree, or Ph.D. is the highest academic research degree awarded that qualifies the holder to teach at the university level in the degree's field in most countries. In order to become a university lecturer, almost all disciplines require a Ph.D. in the relevant field. On average, depending on the country, a Bachelor’s degree takes 3 to 4 years to complete, a Master’s degree 1 to 2 years to complete, and a doctoral degree 3 to 6 years to complete. Therefore, getting a Ph.D. in order to become a university lecturer can take 7 to 12 years.

In most countries, it is uncommon to have completed a Ph.D. before the age of 30, and it is quite common to be over the age of 50 before reaching the position of senior professor. The average age when achieving a Ph.D. in Finland is 38. Therefore, anybody who at least tries to understand the higher education system would know that telling people that I’m lecturing at a university in my 20s is somewhat unrealistic. This family member doesn’t seem to be ashamed of my other family member, who is only slightly younger than me and is doing a Ph.D. The only reason why I can imagine that this is the case is because that family member is studying biological sciences, which perhaps the critical family member seems to value more than my studies in social sciences. I’ve thought about doing a Ph.D., but I don’t feel like I can cope with more years of negative attitudes and comments towards my studies. I don’t understand how people in my family who haven’t been to university and speak one language seem to think that they have the right to judge what they clearly don’t understand!

It’s generally more difficult to find employment if you’re an immigrant who will probably never speak the language of the country in which you live as well as a native. For me, even finding a manual part-time job is a great achievement. Something positive is that my part-time jobs have often been a short walk from home or the university. The only frustrating thing is that it’s sometimes hard to fully focus on studying knowing that I have to go to work at a certain time. Sometimes I have to leave in the middle of a sentence, and I forget what I was writing when I come back to it later. I’ve also often been asked to do extra shifts to cover for absent people. It’s especially frustrating when I have a study morning or day and I’m really getting into writing, but then I get a phone call asking me to come to work immediately to cover for someone who’s ill. Then I have trouble concentrating and I feel like I’m always on edge in case the phone rings. Perhaps I ought to just switch my phone off, but then I might have to face some negative consequences later.

I’ve made the mistake of taking everybody’s unwanted shifts to try and get the approval of my colleagues and ended up spending more time working than studying. Then people have seemed to get used to it and when I’ve had the courage to say no, I have sometimes been indirectly punished by being given the worst shifts, or an evening/night shift followed by a morning shift. Many full-time staff at the workplaces where we work part-time seem to think that our lives revolve around that work just because theirs do, and they think that we want more and more shifts, tasks, and responsibilities when usually we just want to get the job done and go home to get on with our studies. Nevertheless, I try to remind myself that it’s best to avoid getting involved in work drama because it’s not worth it for a temporary part-time job.

Part-time work brings in money in the short-term, but I don’t want to get stuck in the cycle of working part-time and not making any progress with my studies. My most productive days are when I can spent the whole day in a silent room at the university. Even then, friends sometimes want to study with me so that we can motivate each other. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t really like going to the group working spaces where people talk because I find it hard to concentrate with background noise, and I don’t like being encouraged to long take breaks when I’m in the middle of a sentence of chapter. I prefer to go at my own pace and make the most of the day. I like not having plans on my limited study days so that I can study all day knowing that I don’t have to watch the clock and stop my writing at a certain time. In cases where I know I have to leave at a certain time, I find it hard to concentrate and fully immerse myself in my writing. At times when I can relax and fully immerse myself in my writing, I seem to work at my fastest and most productive pace.

My Master’s degree is taking longer than expected, partly because I changed degree programmes after completing one year of the first programme. Most of my friends who started their Master’s degree at the same time as I did have graduated, but most of them received financial support from their parents. I’m not expecting financial support from my parents, but I am expecting them to understand that I can’t achieve as much as quickly as those who do get financial support from their parents and/or don’t necessarily need to work part-time alongside their studies. Many of those students graduate without any kind of work experience, be it paid or unpaid, and really struggle to find a job.

I really hope that making the most of my student experience and gaining extra skills will help me to get my career started despite the increasingly challenging job market. During my studies in Finland, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge and I feel like a different person to who I was when I started my Master’s degree four years ago. Alongside my Master’s degree, I’ve completed 17 Finnish language courses (which I didn’t have to pay for but would have cost a lot if I’d waited until after graduation) and one Swedish course, had a 10-week internship on the Åland Islands, been active in and volunteered for 12 different organisations, attended 10 additional courses and conferences in 7 different countries, and worked part-time at 3 different businesses.

I don’t see the point in forcing myself to rush my Master’s degree because of complaints from people who seem to be committed to misunderstanding me. Of course, I don’t want to be a student forever, but without my language courses and experiences of working, volunteering, and attending conferences, I doubt that I would be very employable, especially in a country in which I wasn’t born. Whilst some people might think that people who volunteer “have nothing better to do”, it’s almost impossible to avoid unpaid experience these days, and even if something is unpaid or low paid, it doesn’t mean it’s a worthless experience. It’s certainly better than spending the day shopping or watching TV like most ‘normal’ people! Someone else having different interests and doing different hobbies doesn’t mean that they “have nothing better to do”.

I’m also getting married this year and hoping to start a family, learn to drive, and buy a house within the next few years. I think this it pretty good for my age. Yet, this apparently still isn’t enough for some people?! I know people that had a series of short-term relationships until they met their long-term partner at my age or older. I also know people who were still living with their parents, unemployed, and had no degrees at my age or older. However, everybody is different, and you can’t always compare situations.

It feels like the older we get, the less proud and the more disinterested family members and even people we used to call friends seem to become. They have the money to travel to see their partners and to go on holiday, but not to come to see us. They don’t seem to have time to keep in touch and up to date with friends, but they do seem to have time to follow the lives of celebrities and/or influencers that they’ve never met and probably wouldn’t approach even if they had the opportunity.

Someone I used to call a friend persistently offered ‘help’ in my job seeking, even after I had already said multiple times that I was ok with my part-time job at that time, and that my priorities were my Finnish language courses and my Master’s thesis so that I could focus on graduating and finding a full-time job. The person pushed me to apply for jobs that I wasn’t interested in or couldn’t do because of my Finnish language courses, which was a huge waste of their and my time. I should have just said no. This is something I really struggle with, but I’m forcing myself to do it now, otherwise I’ll never graduate. I won’t take every work shift. I won’t attend every volunteering or social event. I won’t let negative people who seem to be committed to misunderstanding me make me feel like a failure, either. I won’t waste my time trying to explain what I’ve written above to them, but I will write blog posts such as this to try and increase general awareness.

People who make negative comments often seem to deflect their responsibility for them to those who they’ve hurt by accusing them of misunderstanding or misinterpreting their words, being too sensitive, or taking too life too seriously. They say we should just get over it, yet I doubt that they would be so quick to get over it if we made negative comments about them. Maybe people criticise us with the intention of pushing us forward. At least for me, such criticism and pressure really demotivate me. Sometimes I start crying out of the blue; I have difficulties falling asleep at night and when I eventually do, I dream about all the negative things people have said to me; and I struggle to drag myself out of bed in the mornings.

Perhaps such negative attitudes are also partly because there are some people around my age who are already married, have a successful career, a house, a nice car, children, etc. Some people seem to try to fulfil their own expectations by finding other people with these things, and they seem to replace those of us without these things. Apparently, these are the things that most of society measures success by. Personally, I measure success by happiness, doing what I enjoy, and finding opportunities for developing new knowledge and skills. I hope that this will pay off in the long-term.

Friday, 4 January 2019

The advantages of being a queer woman

I’ve recently being criticised for “living in a bubble and acting like the whole world is against me.” Admittedly by global standards, I’m in a very privileged position. I’m white, I’m European, my native language is English, and I’ve had access to education thanks to loans and grants. However, by European standards, I don’t think I can say that I’m in or have been in a very privileged position. I started part-time work at the age of 16 to fund my education because my parents couldn’t. I’m also a queer immigrant woman with dyslexia. Education hasn’t been as easily accessible to me compared to many of my peers due to my low-income background and dyslexia. Even after graduation and eventually finding a job (even though many of my applications seem to be rejected because of my immigrant name and Finnish not being my native language), I’ll probably be paid less than men for doing the same job just because I’m a woman and its assumed that I will most likely go on maternity leave (I’m not sure if I want to become pregnant).

If you’re a minority because of your skin colour, nationality, mother tongue, religion, (dis)ability, sexual orientation, weight, and probably many more reasons, then you have most likely been discriminated against in your life. Many of these aren’t choices and are out of our own control, which makes prejudice and discrimination even more frustrating. For anyone who isn’t a cisgender (people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth) white male who is a national of and speaks the majority language of the country in which you live, the world is against you to some extent. There are arguably many more serious problems in the world, but if we don’t talk about different kinds of issues, then things are unlikely to change.

First, let’s deal with the disadvantages of being a queer woman:
  • The cohabitation/marriage/family/inheritance laws may not be in your favour, depending on where you live.
  • Many staff at wedding fairs and specialised wedding clothing shops make heteronormative assumptions and there are very few package deals available for same-sex couples, although sometimes we can negotiate our own
  • Some people assume you and your same-sex partner(s) are friends/sisters/cousins etc.
  • We’re criticised for wanting to wear ‘masculine’ clothes, even though clothes technically have nothing to do with gender. Some may argue that sizing has to do with gender, although the sizing of the clothing in the department assigned to our gender is designed to fit an average person and may not fit us well at all.
  • People assume that we’re straight if we’re dating someone of the opposite sex, or lesbian if we’re dating someone of the same sex. Bisexuals (being sexually attracted to both men and women) and pansexuals (being sexually attracted to people regardless of their gender) are often disregarded in both the straight and LGBT+ communities and there are a lot of myths about us relating to promiscuity and polyamory (intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the consent of all partners involved).
  • Some dating websites or apps don’t allow users to indicate that we’re interested in both the same sex and the opposite sex, or even just in the same sex
  • Some straight men won’t take no for an answer, won’t believe that someone feminine can be queer, ask if we’re ‘still gay’, or ask for a threesome (especially if you’re bisexual or pansexual)
  • Some people address post and invitations to just one of us and refer to us as friends, even after we’ve lived together for almost four years and been together for almost seven years
  • Many people use words associated with homosexuality (gay, faggot, poof, etc.) pejoratively

Now the advantages of being a queer woman:
  • Same-sex marriage legalisation is increasing globally – and we can go shopping together for wedding outfits/dresses/suits
  • The rules of Kela study grants can also work in the favour of a same-sex couple who live together and both already receive study grants, because they can just let authorities believe that they aren’t together in order receive a bigger grant
  • We can go to the toilet with our same-sex partner(s), talk whilst in the cubicles, and nobody has to wait alone outside
  • We can go shopping together with our same-sex partner(s) and try on clothes together in the changing rooms
  • If we’re lucky enough to have the same clothes and shoe sizes as our same-sex partner(s), we can share them
  • We understand each other well when we’re on our periods. It should be considered people who aren’t cisgender or are non-binary (any gender identity which does not fit the male and female binary (something made up of two things)), and especially transgender men probably also have some understanding of this.
  • There are more dating options for us (bisexuals and pansexuals)
  • Heterosexual sex often just goes one way (penis in vagina), whereas arguably there are more options for us and we can get creative

Monday, 31 December 2018

Christmas sometimes sucks

Many people seem to think I’m crazy because, as of the past few years, I usually can’t stand the Christmas season. Here’s why:


Many of us spend lots of money on cards that often contain a simple and impersonal message. They are usually looked at once, put up for a week, and then thrown away (hopefully recycled). Christmas crackers are also only used once. The small gifts and paper joke and crown inside them are often designed for single use, and only serve the purpose of entertaining people for a few hours or even just a few seconds. Wrapping paper that is thick or plasticy or has shiny parts can't be recycled. Some of these things may end up being recycled, yet the energy to produce and then recycle them probably wasn't worth it. The things that aren’t or can't be recycled end up in landfills for hundreds or even thousands of years. Many people seem to think that they just disappear and stay in the landfills, but they often end up in rivers and seas. Toxic plastic particles pollute the water as well the plants and animals, many of which people later eat.


We're often obliged to stay inside a house for days to 'spend time' with family, which often seems to consist of people staring at their phone or at the TV. The lack of movement and fresh air can’t be good for our mental or physical health, yet we feel trapped. Even if we try to socialise with people, in some circumstances there are also cultural and language barriers that can result in some people not asking others about their lives, only talking about themselves, ignoring others, or even trying to prevent the use of certain languages because they feel uncomfortable. To escape such challenging situations, some of us might just resort to our phones to check social media and emails; watch TV programmes we actually like; or try to read a book, write, or work. However, this is often considered antisocial and it can be really hard to concentrate on reading or writing when people are shouting (it’s easier to just wear headphones and watch TV to drown out the noise but that’s usually considered even more antisocial). Therefore, we often have to resort to watching TV programmes we don’t really like or just sitting and listening to people argue.

Then there's all the food and drink that we get as gifts or that we're pressured to eat or drink. We can say over and over that we’re trying to eat healthily, yet people will still hypocritically criticise our weight whilst encouraging us to eat and drink as much as possible and sit indoors all day.


It’s amusing to hear other people complaining about not being able to spend money on this and that, such as travel or charity donations; and yet they seem to have enough money for other things that are often even more costly, such as eating out or designer jewellery.

We sometimes get stressed when we receive a card or present from someone and we realise we haven't got one for them. Then we might end up spending money on pointless things that few really seem to like.

One solution is Secret Santa (a Christmas tradition in which members of a group are randomly assigned one person to whom they give a gift on behalf of the entire group), but that can also involve stressing over having to meet a huge budget on someone we barely know and who probably wouldn’t choose to spend time us if they had the choice. People can write lists to give others ideas, but at the end of the day, would it not just be easier for us all to just keep our money and spend or save as we wish? Surely that would be better than being pressured into participating in a Secret Santa and having someone guess what we want and sometimes getting something wrong? Then we wouldn’t have to use time figuring out whether to sell it, donate it, or find a place for it in our homes that often already have too much clutter. I know that people giving the presents usually have good intentions. However, bottles of shower gel or alcohol, for example, especially in bottles made of glass, can be really difficult to pack when there’s a luggage weight limit.

I also sometimes get cheques in pounds posted to Finland for Christmas or my birthday. I appreciate the thought, but I don’t use my British bank account much, Finland’s currency is euros, Finland doesn’t accept cheques (which I figured out after spending around 10 minutes having a conversation with my Finnish bank through my mobile app), and it probably wouldn’t be worth trying to pay cheques in to my Finnish account anyway because of the currency fees. Therefore, I usually so have to send them back to my account holding branch if I'm unable to visit it along with a note that includes my account details and signature. This is because cheques should be presented for clearing within 6 months of their issue date. I learnt this after spending around 20 minutes having a conversation with my British bank over Facebook Messenger about how to pay a £5 cheque into my almost empty British bank account from Finland.

We have to open presents in front of everyone and pretend to be happy about wasteful capitalism and consumerism. We might get a few things off our lists (if we even have them) that we really wanted, but even then we’re supposed to try to exaggerate our reactions in order to satisfy the giver. The worst is receiving clothes, when we often have to deal with some people thinking that they have the right to look at and judge our size, or the embarrassment of the clothes not fitting.


I once heard a suggestion that families could agree not to talk about certain topics during Christmas that are known to cause disagreements. Yet almost every Christmas, I have to try and keep my mouth closed when someone brings up a controversial topic that I feel strongly about. These are the kinds of people that haven't been educated to read critically (admittedly often through no fault of their own) and believe misinformation about immigrants, languages, Brexit, veganism, etc. This misinformation is often propagated by certain newspapers that fear change and progressive ideals, and that support certain politicians and bankers in their use of vulnerable minorities or even international political and economic organisations as scapegoats in order avoid being blamed for national or international problems. It's not worth arguing with these kinds of people because they usually just talk in monologues and talk on top of you if you try to say something. They don't seem interested in discussions that involve actually having to listen to and consider the points of other people.

We sometimes try to visit as many family members and friends as possible. You can’t choose family but you can choose friends. Therefore, family relationships have a tendency to be more damaging. As soon as a friendship becomes damaging, we can easily try to fix it or drop it. With family, we have to sit there and listen to them directly or indirectly criticising our studies, employment (or lack thereof, even though they probably have little idea about how it’s more difficult to find employment if you’re an immigrant who will probably never speak the language of the country in which you live as well as a native, and that even finding a manual part-time job is a great achievement), weight, etc. They admire the achievements of other people and constantly remind us that we’re disappointments, often simply because our achievements are somethings that they can’t or are unwilling to even try to understand. We get criticised even more if we stand up for ourselves or refuse to listen to their criticism. They tell us we’re overreacting, yet they themselves rarely have to face such criticism, and they overreact when they do.

We catch up with people and meet their partners, who are usually pleasant enough. Of course it’s normal that our relationships can change us, but it’s saddening to see how, very occasionally, a relationship can become obsessive and greatly effect or even completely change that person’s routine, habits, hobbies, and even their personality and their other relationships. Are we supposed to be grateful if their partners say that they understand that our time together is precious, yet seem to limit our time together and change the ways in which we usually choose to spend that time together? Even when they’re not together, they still seem to be glued to the phone. We’re often expected to overlook this and put all our effort in to get to know these partners, despite us wondering whether they’ll still be together in a year’s time.

I often travel during Christmas time, which sometimes takes a lot amount of time and money, and many seem to expect me to use my limited time to travel even further and spend even more money to see them. I’m really grateful for those who compromise and make things easier, for example by meeting me halfway or even just travelling to where I am.


From my part, as of the past few years, I usually can’t stand the Christmas season because it involves sitting and taking others’ criticisms and people-pleasing. Being in a relationship often involves two family visits, which is twice the stress, time, and money. I would love to just spend the whole of the Christmas season alone with my partner. We could maybe travel somewhere together and spend our money on things that actually bring us happiness, but that would be likely to encourage even more criticism. We seem to use all our holidays for visits or hosting others, and it gets really exhausting. Especially when working full-time, it’s important to be able to relax and de-stress during holidays, but this doesn’t always seem to be the case at Christmas or even during the summer. Some may call me dramatic, but at Christmas, my social anxiety, stress (and mouth ulcers caused by it), and sometimes even depressive and suicidal thoughts are usually at their worst.

The unhealthiness, complaints about veganism and other dietary choices or requirements, and all the stress aside, spending time and playing games with family over dinner is usually enjoyable. Why can’t we just focus on that and forget about Christmas cards and presents? Or why can’t we just give presents to children, for whom they bring the most joy and for whom they were most likely intended in the first place?