I recently went back home for a couple of weeks during the holidays. I haven’t been home since I moved to Helsinki in April, so I was eager to get back to LA, especially during the darkest part of the year in Finland. Now that I’ve been living in Helsinki for over half a year, I can tell you a few things I miss (and some I don’t) about LA.
The thing I miss the most are my friends and family. Starting about seven years ago, I started an annual girls Christmas party that we call “Holla Bae Soirée”. It started with five of my besties and each year grew to include more of our girl squad. I thought that this would be the first year I wouldn’t be able to organize it or join, but luckily I was able to continue the tradition.
After my family and friends, it’s the food!! In my opinion, the best thing about Los Angeles is the diversity. The melting pot of people can definitely be seen in the food scene. We even have pockets of LA designated for certain cultures like Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Ethiopia, Little Armenia, Filipinotown etc. Don’t get me wrong, Helsinki has tons of amazing food, but there’s a few cuisines that I can’t get or the quality just doesn’t come close. Let me break it down for you:
Sushi – Yes there are tons of sushi restaurants in Helsinki, but the problem is the lack of variety. The options are usually salmon, some sort of white fish, and tuna if you’re lucky. I haven’t been able to find toro, albacore, yellowtail, sea bream, uni, blue crab, or spicy scallop sushi. So, one of my first stops in my LA food tour was my regular hand roll joint, Kazu Nori.
Other Japanese cuisine – I sometimes find elements of other Japanese cuisines at places like Kabuki in Helsinki, but I still haven’t found any dedicated Shabu Shabu, Japanese BBQ, Japanese curry, or Izakaya spots.
Boba: What coffee is to Finns, Boba is to Asians
Mexican food: $1 Taco Tuesdays, need I say more? Mexican food is pretty expensive in Helsinki, and I can’t seem to find some of my favorite traditional dishes like carne asada/al pastor/carnitas tacos and machaca/chorizo breakfast burritos.
Korean BBQ: So there are Korean restaurants in Helsinki, but no AYCE (All You Can Eat) for $25, where you can choose from a variety of cuts of meats and grill yourself at your own table.
Brunch: Brunch in Helsinki usually means a pricey buffet type spread. The spread usually involves salads, sandwich cold cuts, cheese, porridge, and fruits. Brunch in LA means you have the option to choose breakfast or lunch type foods, which usually involves eggs, waffles, or pancakes.
Obviously I miss the weather, especially the presence of the sun during winter, but one thing that surprised me is that on some days, Helsinki wasn’t that much colder than LA. The big difference is the drop in temperature between day and night in LA. On some days it reached all the way up to 75°F (23°C) but then at night dropped down to 44°F (7°C). Helsinki reached 44°F (7°C) on some days in December, but the temperature drop between day and night is usually only 3-6°F, compared to the 15-30°F drop in LA.
So while I was in LA I tried to soak up as much sun as possible. I realized what I miss the most about the weather is being able to hang out at the beach and rooftop bars to watch the sunset even in winter. I must have gone to at least four different rooftops around Downtown LA and Venice Beach and even took a boat out with some friends in Newport Beach.
I’ve been fortunate enough to catch some big concerts in Helsinki like Lenny Kravitz and Ariana Grande, along with attending Flow Festival twice, but it’s not very often I get to see artists I’m familiar with. Helsinki isn’t a popular stop on big music tours unfortunately, but hopefully that will change in the future. I’m sure there’s a lot of great Finnish bands out there, but it’s tough when I can’t understand the language (yet).
That brings me to the LA music scene. On any given day, there’s usually a concert or broadway musical in town. There are also several music venues that have nightly performances by up and coming artists waiting to be discovered. On a brighter note, one of my favorite events for discovering new artists is Sofar Sounds, which has recently made its way to Helsinki. The only problem is that they rarely have shows, whereas in LA, there’s a Sofar Sounds show almost every day.
On New Year’s Eve, my friends and I went to Minimal Effort at the old Los Angeles Theater and saw several DJs perform, so I was happy to get my music and dancing fix. How gorgeous is this venue by the way? I can’t believe in my entire life living in LA, I had never been inside until recently!
I couldn’t figure out a category for these next bits of LA that I miss, so I’m going to go with random things I miss.
- Hulu (streaming service) – Some of my favorite shows like This Is Us, Grey’s Anatomy, and Broad City are on Hulu, and can’t be accessed in Finland. Disney Plus also just came out, which we can’t get in Finland. I checked it out though, and Baby Yoda is just as cute as all the hype!
- Amazon Prime – 2 day delivery right to your doorstep. I did so much of my shopping on Amazon because of this. Out of batteries or moisturizer? Why go to the store, when it’s cheaper on Amazon, and gets delivered straight to you in 2 days. In Helsinki, we have to order through Amazon UK or Germany, and it takes longer than 2 days, and gets delivered to a kiosk that you’ll need to pick up from.
- Trader Joe’s – My favorite grocery store that has their own line of everything and tons of delicious ready made meals. Speaking of everything, they invented the everything bagel seasoning, which I stocked up on when I came back to Helsinki, along with my favorite Mexican hot sauces (Cholula and Valentina).
- Visual Voicemail – People don’t seem to really use voicemail in Finland. In fact, you need to pay extra for the service. But I always loved getting funny voicemails from my family and friends, and I lost all the ones I saved on my iPhone because they don’t have the visual voicemail service that we have in the US. You have to call a number to get your voicemail, so that voicemail feature on the iPhone doesn’t exist here.
- Being able to read all the signs – I’m such a rule follower, but that makes it difficult in Finland when I can’t read any of the signs haha.
- White Claw – Ok this is a new thing I just discovered when I went back home. It’s basically alcoholic seltzer water in a can. And it’s only 100 calories. So instead of beer or wine, people are drinking these and new brands have even started popping up. We need this in Finland stat!
What I Don’t Miss about LA
- Driving & traffic – I thought I would miss my car and driving, but nope, I don’t at all. The public transportation system in Helsinki rocks.
- Sheer massiveness – The vastness of LA makes it such a diverse city, but also impossible to meet people up if they’re on the other side of town.
- LAX airport – It sucks. That’s it. Ok fine, a little more context. From the entrance of the airport, it took my parents over 30 minutes just to drive to my terminal because of the crazy traffic within the airport, and the terrible logistical design.
- Homelessness – It only seems to be an increasing issue, especially in Downtown.
- Tax not automatically added – When you see a price in Finland, it already includes tax, so there’s no guessing.
- Tipping – Now that I live in a country where you don’t tip, it was hard going back to calculating that after every meal in LA.
So that’s what I miss about LA so far, I’ll be back again in May for my brother’s wedding and at that point it’ll be a year living in Helsinki. Let’s see how what other things I miss by that point…