Nightmares on Ice

IMG_2439There are a few things that get lost in translation as I make my way through life in Finland. Like when I greet people in the street with, ‘Hey, how you going?’ and they think I say ‘Where are you going?’ which makes them uncomfortable as it is quite a nosy question and they start to explain, ‘Well, first I’m going to the post office and then….’

IMG_2438So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I signed up for Adults Beginners Skating Lessons to find that actually, I had signed up for Adults Beginners Figure Skating Lessons. Because even though I emailed first and said I was an absolute beginner, there is no such thing as an absolute beginner on ice in Finland. Only one who hasn’t yet mastered the art of jumps and spins.


I went and bought a pair of skates before my first lesson because people don’t rent them here. In New Zealand it’s a bit like ten-pin bowling shoes – you go to the ice rink and hire a pair there. The first shop I went to had some lovely skates for beginners but unfortunately not in my size (big).

IMG_2436 So I headed north to another skate shop where a lovely woman helped me find a pair that fit.  Although they are not for absolute beginners, she explained, but for slightly advanced beginners. “Like for when you do jumps,” she said.

IMG_2440She showed me how to lace them up, which is quite a skill in itself, and then took my skates out the back to sharpen the blades. She also kitted me out with blade guards that I wear while making my way from the changing room to the ice and soft, furry covers to put on the blades after class to protect them and prevent rust.


It was immediately evident at my first lesson that I was way out of my depth. The only time I have been ice skating in my life was when I was 14 and a 17-year old guy from the butcher shop took me on a date to Paradice Ice Rink. We skated around holding hands to Thunderstruck by ACDC and for some reason I just haven’t recreated the scene since.

I am determined however to not sit at home all winter and read that there will be open-air ice skating rinks in Helsinki, including a big one near Rautatieasema (Central Station). One helpful comment on Trip Advisor was to remember that there are no sides – which for me means nothing to hold on to or to use to stop.

IMG_2447So while two groups of skaters move around me at class, skating backwards and pirouetting, I stick close to the wall and just aim to stand up and move forward. I am so out of my comfort zone. I’m quite tall and have never worn high-heels so balancing on two thin blades is really hard for me.

People glide by with encouraging smiles and give me thumbs up, much like you would if you saw a person of very limited mental capacity riding a bike for the first time. A few different people approached me after my first lesson with kind words and advice (get knee pads) and all of them asked me, with faces full of curiosity, “So, um, where are you from?”

IMG_2448The hardest part for me is managing my ego – it is so embarrassing to be so very bad at something while all around you people are doing it with ease. My main supporter, a man from India in the class, assures me that once I get the knack it will be just like moving over butter. Which would be great as I’m sure it would make for much softer landings.

In the meantime I just have to focus, manage my pride and stop myself from turning up to class in a t-shirt that says “I’m actually very good at swimming!”


20 thoughts on “Nightmares on Ice

  1. omg. so funny. so brave! I hate not being good at things. Hence why I rarely attempt new skills or hobbies…. if its any consolation you’re bound to blow the punters off the ice at the next Paradise ice skating competition (to the sound track of back in black…)..

    I bet Miko will be really good? maybe just settle for living vicariously through your children instead?



  2. I wish you the best of luck with you Ice skating lessons Melanie 🙂 If it was me taking lessons I would insist on a stretcher and ambulance on standby 🙂


  3. I used to hate iceskating so much that I “miraculously” lost my skates at high school (and then got into trouble for not taking part in the mandatory part of school sports) but you just made me realise that it was one more of those things I thought were useless at school but later on have found quite useful and enjoyable! We need to check shoe sizes, maybe MIko can have a try with our kids iceskates (they skate like 5 min at a time…)?


  4. Another great post xxx Thanks Mel xxx I was a skater in my early years and even took private lessons in figure skating. It is all about patience and practice. Stay with it and before you know it you will be skating with confidence. Xxx Have fun. Xxx Much love xxx Sundari xxx

    Sent from my iPhone



  5. Great post Mel. I too have only ever skated at Paradice, also badly, on a “date” and it’s highly likely ACDC was involved. And being tall too I get all the vertical awkwardness. It would be such a great sport to get good at… on even just get okay at. Good luck xxxxx


  6. Brings back some memories. I stood, entranced, watching the skating at Rautatieasema, and noticed the lack of sides. I have your level of skating – Sydney is as skating aware as NZ – but was v tempted. Then I thought about spending the rest of my holiday investigating the inside of a Helsinki orthopaedic ward, so I didn’t. 😦 The next morning, at my tram stop in Eira, there was a crocodile of preschoolers going to their skating lesson. Teeny kids with teeny tiny skates, this is why they are so good!


    • It’s so unfair, all those kids whizzing around while I bumble past. I think my fear of falling is actually holding me back a bit – I need to invest in lots of padding and push myself a bit! The figure skaters were practising safe falling practices last week and as I skated past they were falling all around me – I felt like Steven Bradbury! Gold for Australia! ; )


  7. Wow, we had exactly the same experience with my wife today. We are kind of new to skating, although we can stand and skate in circle, but that’s it. We went to the ‘beginners lesson’ and left perplexed, there was no attention to us at all and everyone was much more skilled than us.

    So how are you doing now? Did you find a school for regular people like us? Or have you dropped learning?


    • Hi there, what a relief to know it’s not just me! I kept going to class but didn’t really improve at all – although I found the occasional tip I got really helpful (‘don’t lean too far forward’, ‘use your inner blade’). So I’ve found someone who used to be a teacher and asked for some one-on-one lessons as I could not find a class that suited. I’m hoping to improve this way as having guidance can make all the difference I think, rather than me flailing round the rink. Also I need someone to push me away from the edge and make me find my way back. Good luck with your skating! And thanks for your message, Mel.


      • Thank you for your answer!
        Where do you practice? I find it almost impossible to practice on Rautatientori, because of the crowds and children on the rink as well as the ice condition being quite bad in the evenings.
        Do you mind sharing contacts of your teacher (maybe email)?
        My email is, if you don’t want to put such info here.
        Thank you!


      • No problem. I haven’t been practising much at all lately. Our class was held at Töölön Jäähalli but I’m not sure if they have public sessions. Have you tried the outdoor rink at Brahenpuisto in Kallio? It’s really big and seems to be open all hours. My teacher is a friend of my husband’s from work. I’ll ask if she’s interested in teaching others as she’s just doing me a favour and will pass on her details if so. Otherwise it could be worth asking on one of the expat Facebook groups if anyone knows of anyone. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help at this stage!


Your thoughts..

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s