Finland is My Home

 

It’s 30 degrees Celsius outside and the plane will take off soon. I’m a little bit excited: “In a few...

It’s 30 degrees Celsius outside and the plane will take off soon. I’m a little bit excited: “In a few hours I’ll tick off another country from my list”. This time it’s Finland. The land of the thousand lakes. I don’t think I really know more about it.

I was pleasantly surprised a few weeks back when after a phone interview I was invited to come over for a thorough assessment before they can offer me the job. My plan was simple: if I get the job, I’ll stay 2-3 years and then move on, maybe to another country, maybe back home…

First time in Tampere, June 2000 - the temperature outside was 8 degrees C!

First time in Tampere, June 2000 – the temperature outside was 8 degrees C!

The airplane landed. It’s 7pm and the sky is as dark as if it were November. Heavy, black clouds hanging above threateningly. Why should I have any other clothes with me but a couple of short-sleeved shirts? We’re already in June. One good reason: the temperature outside is only 8 degrees!

I pull out my notebook and spell out the hotel name for the driver: “Cumulus Kons-ki-katu”. “You mean Koskikatu”, I am gently being corrected by the taxi driver. Len-no… Len-to-a-se-ma, the first traffic sign I read through the window. 30 seconds later I don’t remember the word anymore…

After a short nap (at least that’s what I thought), outside the sun does not seem to have gone down yet completely. I go out for a walk in the center, but the empty streets suggest there’s something unusual about the time. Well, it’s past midnight on a weekday!

Two months later I am back in Finland, not knowing that I will still find myself here 14 years later. Married. To a Finnish woman. With two kids. Having had no idea how much effort it would take to memorize Finnish words (which only seldom are similar to words in any other language I happen to know). Not having anticipated the gloominess of late autumn days nor the -30 degrees winter frosts.

But… I had never anticipated either that I would meet so many people from countries I could barely locate on the map; that I would spend hundreds of hours on learning this different language (which I don’t regret) – without a dictionary in my native language – so why wouldn’t I write one (www.romania-sanakirja.net); that I would spend hours on interesting language conversations with my Finnish colleagues, every time getting them overwhelmed by new revelations about their own mother tongue; that I would not care to spend the summer vacation anywhere else but at a cottage by the lake; that I would never cease to be fascinated by the colorful autumn days and the magical fairy-tale winter sceneries.

Puhutaan suomea 7-8/2014

Puhutaan suomea 7-8/2014

Roman Schatz says it in his book From Finland, With Love: “I wouldn’t go so far as to call Finland a paradise. It’s too damn expensive and too damn cold. But to be brutally honest again: As much as I love to complain, -I have never really regretted coming here.”

My original 2-3 year plan is now long forgotten. It is now about planning not to leave Finland. Finland makes it difficult to leave. Finland is my home!

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