Coming from one of the poorest and most remote parts of Southeast Asia, the Vietnamese refugees were understandably both confused and amused as they learned about their new home.
Saunas, snow, supermarkets.
The 17 sandal-clad farmers who had fled their homeland, trudged through the Cambodian jungle and been rescued by the United Nations were preparing to travel to their final stop -- Finland.
They are Montagnards -- hill tribe people who fled Vietnam's Central Highlands last year over land confiscations and their Protestant faith, which they say arouses the suspicions of Vietnam's Communist authorities. The United Nations now cares for about 650 of the refugees in Cambodia, and more are trickling in.
Last month, with 78 Montagnards preparing to leave for Finland, Saed Guled of the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration in Helsinki was giving them a lesson on what to expect: an apartment, language classes, help from a social worker and translator.
That sounded like the easy part. Then came an introduction to ATM cards (the Montagnards looked curiously at the card he showed them), the subway (they seemed to have difficulty imagining a train running underground) and the supermarket (no bargaining permitted, Guled cautioned).
Some wrote key words on their arms, such as euro and Nokia, the name of the Finnish cell phone manufacturer, and peppered Guled with their questions and fears.
Siu Giuh, about 20, asked whether he would make Finnish friends and whether they would visit him at his home. Guled, himself a refugee from Somalia who fled to Finland 15 years ago, assured him that he would, provided he became active in his new community.
Giuh also asked what would happen if he got lost. Ask any passerby, Guled said, or a policeman -- a notion that drew laughter, since the Montagnards apparently aren't used to turning to the authorities for help.
I'm afraid to cross the road, said one man. Another said he didn't know Finnish, so could he still go there? The language would come to him in time, Guled said.
Many asked about family reunification. Guled said their families would be able to join them.
The keys to success, he told them, were learning Finnish and being active.
After the counseling session, Guled acknowledged his anxieties about his charges, some of whom are illiterate and speak only their minority language. "They have to start from zero," he said. "They have to go through the basics, study how to read and write, and then they must also deal with a different culture. I hope that they don't give up."
About 3,000 Vietnamese live in Finland, but those contacted expressed doubt that any of their number were Montagnards.
Shown a video about Finland, the Montagnards sighed and mouthed clicking sounds at the sight of snow. "It seems so cold," Hving Nang, 36, remarked.
The idea of saunas got a mixed reaction. Guled told them of his own shyness about entering a sauna naked. Some Montagnards chuckled at the idea; some said they'd try it, while others appeared unconvinced.
Not all the Montagnards will settle in the same place. Twenty-seven have left for Oulu, about 360 miles north of Helsinki. Guled said his class of 17 would probably settle in the area of Hanko, a tourist resort of 10,000 people on Finland's southernmost tip.
For many, the journey to a strange land thousands of miles from their families and villages is bittersweet.
"I am so sad because . . . I left my family and my country. I am so far from my country," said Hving Nang, 36, who grew rice, coffee and sweet potatoes in Vietnam. He said he hoped to have his wife and two sons join him in Finland.
Giuh, who wants his brother to join him, wondered if he would ever be able to return to Vietnam.
"Every one of us, we have a dream that one day we can go back," Guled told him.