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…
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.
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!