What happens when you decide to make number 23 a spontaneous interview? You bump into a guy from Texas.
Yesterday I went to one of my favourite places in Helsinki: Café Johan & Nyström in Katajanokka. There I met Chris Zehner, who luckily didn’t find it so weird that I started talking to him.
Where are you from? I’m from the US, from Austin, Texas.
Do you live in Helsinki? I come here every couple of months because my girlfriend is in law school here, so I work for a tech company and I can work from anywhere. So when I come, I work from Helsinki for some weeks, every two or three months.
For how long have you been doing that? Since I graduated college two years ago. So I finished university and then I worked in Austin. I studied economics.
How do you like Helsinki? I like it a lot. It’s really different from the other places that I’ve lived in Europe. I lived in Germany for a year and then France for six months and Helsinki is a lot quieter, but it’s also a lot easier to get around and there’re so many museums and art things here.
Do you already have a favourite place or spot? I really like this coffee shop that we’re sitting in right now and also the Finnish national museum and the history museum. I spend a lot of time in Hyvinkää, which is one hour north of Helsinki because that’s where my girlfriend’s dad lives and so when he’s in the country and I’m in the country, we end up doing a lot of work on his house.
So you will spend Christmas here? Yes, I will spend Christmas here and then I’m flying back to the US. As soon as I get back, I’m packing my things and moving across the country and my sister and I, we’re going to drive from Austin to San Francisco, which is about 24 hours driving on the road, so we’ll do it over two or three days.
That sounds like a road trip. Yes, it’ll be really fun. As you go from Texas west towards California, you drive through this entire desert, so there are caves and the Grand Canyon and all these places to stop. One of the places is where the cactuses look like they’re waving, so we’ll stop in that desert.
At the moment it’s snowing so beautifully, do you have a special winter memory of Helsinki? Yeah, so actually the first time I came here was when I was living in Koblenz and two of my friends were from Helsinki and so I came to visit them in February, not really knowing what we’re getting into. We just borrowed a bunch of winter clothes. We went to sauna, ran out in the snow and back to sauna, which was really fun.
But the very first day I got here, my friend took me out ice racing where they go and clear off all the ice. They‘ve got the motorcars and they got the guys on the motorbikes on the ice. All those guys, they’ve got the tires that are for the ice, but then they still can’t stay upright, so they end up getting somebody in those little sidecars next to the bike. I thought it was pretty cool and also very cold.
What have you been proud of lately? I managed to go to a coffee shop on Saturday and order coffee and pay everything, all in Finnish. And then at the end the guy turned to me and said, ‘so we could have spoken English’ and I was like ‘I know but thanks’ (laughs).
What is your dream? I’d like to live abroad again. I’ve lived outside of the US for two years during university. And I live here in Helsinki some of the time, maybe three months of the year. But I’d like to actually live abroad somewhere, maybe in Australia or China. I lived in Beijing for six months and I love the food and I love the atmosphere there. China is a really interesting place. I think it’s a lot harder if you’re not Chinese.
If you could travel in time, where would you go and what would you do? I’d definitely want to go far enough into the future that I can actually ride a spaceship.
Where would you go? I’d like to go far enough in the future that you can go to a moon, maybe Saturn or Jupiter. That would be the coolest thing ever. I definitely wouldn’t want to do it right now because it hasn’t worked out very well for that Virgin plane that crashed, so maybe at least in a hundred years.
If you were another person for one day, whom would you pick and why? I’d want to be Wladimir Putin for one day because nobody has any idea why he does what he does and maybe to be able to figure it out.
Have you ever travelled to Russia? No, but I’d love to. I’d like to take the railway right across to Beijing.