How you interact in Finland
It's winter and you need to make your way into the city to get something that your town doesn't have. You feel the anxiety build up of having to potentially interact with people on your route and hate yourself for not having a car at this moment in time which would be a blessing for your safe space.
You put on your jacket and shoes and take a deep breath, look out of the peephole in your door to make sure the lights in the apartment are off cause if they are on it means that someone else might be on their way out and that's something you want to avoid. It seems safe so you open the door and take your first steps out after not remembering when the last time was. As you are about to call for the elevator you notice it's already on the way down so the only choice you have now is to take the steps down cause the odds of them heading for the same floor are 1 out of 5 and you know how unlucky you usually are.
On your way to the bus stop you see another person walking by you, this is where things get intense. You don't greet a stranger but at the same time it's rude not to greet someone you know, you now have to check as they are getting closer if it is someone you know without looking at their direction while they are figuring out if you are someone they know. You kind of look straight ahead and take a peak now and then, awkwardness is surely to ensue if you both look at the same time and realize none of you know each other.
You remember that you should buy a drink for the bus but the risk that the bus driver will tell you something like "be careful not to spill that inside the bus" and face shame from the rest of the passengers or having to go inside the store and interact with the worker there might be too big to face. Your throat is really dry so you have to do it anyway. While inside the store looking for the smallest drink so the driver won't ever know you have it on you but at the same time make sure it has a cap so you can drink it in hiding, you hope no one you know happens to see you in the store and in worst case scenario come to the checkout at the same time when you are there waiting for your turn as that would probably require some small talk which no one in Finland has the ability to do. You take out your card and pay with your taxed income on a taxed drink and make your way to the bus.
When waiting at the bus stop you make damn sure you are not standing too close to someone else, you stop about 2 meters from the closest other person waiting for the bus and then stand there. You don't walk past that queue to wait on the other side cause that would just be weird, you wait as if it's a queue to hop onto the bus but leave enough room for others to be able to lay down if they wanted to in a line.
When you hop in the bus you pray to whatever it is you believe in that there are two empty seats and that you don't have to sit beside someone. You realize the heavens have deserted you a long time ago and 3/4th's into the bus you notice that there are no double seats free cause everyone has taken one so now you have to sit beside someone and decide how much further you walk back or if it's disrespectful to the people close to you when you made the realization as they will wonder why you didn't just sit next to someone then and there. You try to quickly find the smallest person close to you and who doesn't have a bag in the seat next to them and sit down, you don't say a word. If you say something they will wonder if you know them or if you want to have a conversation, don't worry though cause 90% of the time they will have earphones on to protect them from any interaction. You sit down and realize you forgot yours so now all you can do is sit there in silence looking at your phone while the only other sound is the bus' engine. If you have don't have your phone charged you will find out what eternity feels like.
During the ride if a double seat becomes free close to you, it's not the polite thing to leave your neighbor and free him and yourself up. You just don't do that, it's like an unspoken agreement now and you both know it. If he is next to the window and is arriving at his spot you'll realize the only advantage to not having earphones with you that one day is that you can hear him rustle his bag or look towards your direction and you stand up without saying a word and when you sit back down you take the first breath since you left your apartment.
I am not joking.