Fascinating Finland: My new Finnish glasses

by Chris on November 21, 2011

How a stern Finnish counter clerk named Anna found me glasses that I finally love.

My hatred of glasses goes back more than 30 years, when an optometrist  put a pair on me and said, “Does that seem better?”

He had no idea. Until that day, I had always seen the world in shady outlines, a beautiful blur that fueled my imagination (even if it did cause me to trip a lot). The glasses sharpened corners, added definition, created edges. I wasn’t sure I liked it. And I definitely didn’t like being one of the few four-eyed fourth graders. I treated the glasses with contempt, whipping them in my pocket as soon as I got on the bus. As soon I could get contacts, I did.

Glasses became much cooler over the years, of course. Yet I resisted. I had a pair in college that I wore around the dorm and I kept those things far longer than I should have. I’d wear them in public only when a contact had ripped, even after ophthalmologists told me that I’d be able to see better with glasses.

My husband (who owned a fabulous pair of Prada frames) bought me a great pair of fancy – and expensive – French glasses shortly after our wedding. I loved the cats-eye shape, but still didn’t feel comfortable wearing them in public. Ironically, I lost them on an overnight flight to Paris. No photos of them remain.

On my recent trip to Finland, I couldn’t help noticing that the Finn love for design extended to their eyewear. Everyone in the country, it seemed, had an awesome pair of glasses. Even in Lapland, where this couple own a golf course above the Arctic Circle, their frames were beyond reproach.

So when I found time to kill before one of our trains, I wandered into SpecSavers, the Finnish equivalent of LensCrafters. I wanted to see what kind of choices were available at the cheap end of the spec-trum.

Immediately I noticed that the selection at SpecSavers seemed much better than that at my local stores. I loved the selection, but had no idea what to pick.

Enter Anna. She never cracked a smile and seemed much more Russian than Finn, but she did find me glasses that I’m proud to wear.

She approached me as I stood in front of the mirror with a pair I had picked out. She shook her head, telling me what I already thought.

“No! Those are not right.”

Meekly, I put them back. “What would you suggest?” I asked.

She looked at me, then pulled out a thick pair of black frames with green-yellow accents. I recoiled at the color. “That’s not going to work with my hair,” I told Anna.

She shook her head, rejecting my concerns. “Put them on,” she ordered. So I did. And….she was right. The larger frames complemented my face and the color looked cool, not icky. It was an instant fit.

I still wanted a second opinion. I pointed to a pair that I liked on the shelf. What about those?

Anna immediately shot me down. “No. They will not look good.” I put them on anyway. She was right. Yellow frames it is.

But Anna wasn’t done with me yet. The shop was having a two for one sale, so I could get another pair of frames for 80 euro. At this point, my free will was long gone. “Could you pick out another pair?” I asked her. She selected a thinner pair of frames that were red – again, a color I never would have chosen. They looked great. It was official: Anna was the glasses whisperer.

I brought the frames back to the US and got the prescription filled at Costco. And now I’ve gone from being the girl who never knew where her glasses were to the one who never wants to take them off. It’s taken 30 years but….finally, thanks to the stern yet astute Anna….I have glasses that I love.

Thanks to The Eurail Group, which sponsored my trip to Finland. 

| Chris Gray Faust is a veteran journalist, travel expert, social media butterfly - and editrix of this site. Like what you read? Check out her writing, editing and social media services.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Patricia November 21, 2011 at 8:50 am

I LOVE the frames AND the story! I’ve worn glasses my entire life, and would love to submit to Anna’s edicts!

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Kent @ No Vacation Required November 21, 2011 at 10:31 pm

Those look great, Chris! Soon, people will be taking trips to Finland only for glasses (the same way people go to Mexico for dental care). Hahaha.

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Chris November 27, 2011 at 11:24 am

I know that I’d go back there in a heartbeat for glasses – both the kind on my face and the ones sold by iittala. I could have shopped in Helsinki for days!

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Mikeachim November 27, 2011 at 7:49 am

Having just changed frame designs to something I never would have picked a decade ago (but maybe should have), I hear ya.

SpecSavers is actually a UK company – you’ll find a branch on most British high streets. But I’ll confess, I’ve been lured away by the Internet, after finding a company that made me tailored designers specs for half the price, which I’m wearing right now. But I feel guilty – in the same way I felt bad when I saw Borders UK had gone into receivership because everyone gets their books through Amazon these days, myself included…

However, you can’t beat an Anna when you find one. We all need the experts.

Fun piece. Thanks, Chris. :)

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Chris November 27, 2011 at 11:26 am

Thanks, Mike – I didn’t know SpecSavers was a British company. Really, Anna is the one who made the experience. While I like the cheaper prices online, I need someone to coax me into something cool. Otherwise, I suffer choice paralysis!

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Margo November 30, 2011 at 9:32 am

Love the new glasses. I’ve been wearing glasses since 1st grade. First pair was a snazzy pair of blue kittykat frames. Wish I had some like that now ;)

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Candice December 1, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Snazzy glasses! I also fiercely opposed wearing glasses, until I wore my contacts so much, I permanently scarred my pupil. I opted for Lasik instead. ;)

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James Cook December 3, 2011 at 6:00 pm

I much prefer glasses, I had to help Jade take her contacts out a couple of weeks ago and touching eyeballs freaks me out I could never wear contacts1

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