Day 327 - Niko

Day 327 - Niko (1st person I approached)
November 23, 2014 - I had some time to myself this afternoon and decided to head downtown. I visited a couple of friends, and then had two hours before meeting my out of town house guest for dinner. Rather than go home, I thought I’d walk around and find today’s story. I ended up at Waterfront Station, a busy transit hub in downtown Vancouver, British Columbia. I spent some time enjoying just watching all the people coming and going. I spotted Niko sitting on a bench, reading a book. I find the downtown core to be the most challenging to approach people. There seems to be an elevated level of scepticism when someone approaches a stranger. It's as if that person could only want either cash or a cigarette. Niko listened to what I had say, and with a welcome exuberance, he agreed to chat with me, saying

“This sounds really interesting.”


Born in Vancouver, Niko grew up in Surrey.

“I have a younger sister, three years younger. We’re very close, especially since we’ve both gotten older. Isn’t that the way it goes?” he said. Niko didn’t have much about school that he was able to recall.

“My parents are both from Finland, and we spoke mostly Finnish at home before I went to school. I had to go into an ESL (English as a Second Language) type of program, when I first started school, to improve my English,” he said.

“As I got older, I found school difficult because my friends went to other schools, in other parts of town. The things I remember the most, happened to me after I finished school. I liked History, I remember that. But I couldn't tell you what part of history, or why,” he said. 


After graduating from high-school, Niko got a job working in a movie theatre.

“It was the worst job I’ve ever had. I worked taking tickets and on the concession. I was making $8.00 an hour. If you stayed longer than six months you got a raise - to $8.10 an hour. That meant you were living in the big leagues,” he said, with a suggestion of sarcasm.

“The older brother of a friend was doing work laying floors. He needed someone to help him and I started to do that. At first it was just occasionally. Then it got to be a bit more regular and I was laying floors during the day and working at the cinema in the evenings. After four months of the movies, I left that and went to work laying floors full-time,” he told me. Niko did that for five years.


“I didn’t want to lay floors forever,” he said.

“My parents are both Finnish and I wanted to take advantage of being able to get a Finnish passport. I decided to go to the University of Helsinki and study business. That’s something I never would have thought about when I left high-school. I had travelled before, but moving that distance, by myself was scary. In Finland probably half of the people speak English, if they need to. My Finnish definitely improved by being there,” he said, smiling. The business program Niko took was two years long.

“As part of the course, there was another ten month exchange program after the two years in school. I went to Berlin, Germany, and I worked for a start-up (company),” he said. They were developing a psychological personality testing system. Each subject was shown two images and they chose which of the two images they preferred. There was a series of about twenty-five pairs of images that each subject saw. Based on the images selected, there were specific traits that were identified. Each person was then assigned four letters, reminiscent of the Myers Briggs tests. (*Fact Check - see link below.)

“The results were surprisingly accurate,” Niko said. He also said that being single in Helsinki and Berlin was phenomenal.

“If you’ve never been to Berlin, I’d highly recommend it,” he told me, with a wide grin. 


“I’ve been back in Vancouver now for about five months. I’m back doing a little bit of floor work on the side. I’m also working for a start-up that imports glass walls. Like a partition wall, but one that can be opened and moved. We don’t import the glass, just the mechanisms,” he said. I asked Niko what he wanted to do with his degree that he got in business.

“I think that in the future I’ll probably only ever work for myself. The more experience I get, the less value I put on my education. Sure it’s good to have and I wouldn’t be where I am now without the choices I’ve made. But not just because I got a degree. The life experience of travelling and doing things has helped me more than anything,” he said with confidence. 


Niko then turned the tables a bit, and asked me some questions about The Stranger Project 2014.

“Are you planning to turn this into a book,” he asked. I said I wasn’t sure, but that it had been a topic of discussion. Niko wanted to know my thoughts on self publishing versus having a publisher. Turns out the book he was reading ‘Choose Yourself’ by James Altucher, had a chapter or two in it discussing that very matter. Niko described the book as a lesson in self discovery and awareness.


As we continued to chat, three young women started to circle, literally, around the bench we were sitting on. It was clear they were looking for something. Both Niko and I engaged them in conversation. They were on a scavenger hunt and were looking for a clue in a white envelope. We remained seated but looked around a little as they were crouching down and looking under the bench. As they moved behind the bench, Niko and I continued our chat. 


I happened to notice one of the young women get down on her hands and knees on the floor behind us, and put her head under the bench. She reached under the bench, exactly where Niko was sitting, and we heard a ripping noise. The clue they were looking for was taped to the bench directly underneath Niko.

“Are you sure it was the clue you were looking for under there,” Niko asked of the now giggling young women. His friendly banter had stuck a chord with each of them. Oh to be twenty five and single. Or just twenty five again. #notastranger

*Fact Check - Myers Briggs Type Indicator -