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Eva: magellan & pan

In our InterNations Recommended Blog section we let you take the spotlight! Expat life in general is, of course, a perfect breeding ground for great, user-generated reads, and life in Finland makes no exception. Take your time and browse the great blogs showcased in this article!

Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Finland, etc.

Hei! I am Eva Ryan, and I moved to Finland in July 2013. I’m American and grew up in a small town in Virginia before moving to Chicago and New York City to study. As a flutist, I was intrigued by the respect for classical music in Europe, so I decided that I would try to move abroad once I finished grad school. My first audition was in Finland, and everything worked out, so here I am!

When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?

I’ve always been really interested in blogging, but I didn’t create magellan & pan until I decided to move to Finland. The biggest reason was that I had all these wonderful pictures from my trip to Finland and Paris and I wanted a way to share them. I was traveling a lot at the time so my earlier posts were mostly pictures with just a few words.

Then after I actually moved here I found the thought of writing in a blog a little overwhelming. I was worried about passing my trial at work (playing flute in the Lahti Symphony Orchestra) and making a network of friends. I felt somehow guilty to be writing about my experiences when everything was so new. I didn’t really start writing in my blog until May 2014 after I had been living in Finland for almost one year. I felt like I had a more realistic view of Finland and the culture here, so it seemed like the right time to do it.

Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?

The most popular blog entries have been about the Finnish language and how that relates to the culture:

Tell us about the ways your new life in Finland differs from that back home. Did you have trouble getting used to the new circumstances? Did you experience culture shock?

I didn’t really experience culture shock in the typical way I think. I had such a wide-eyed naïve excitement during my first six months or so in Finland. I thought everything was AMAZING. So maybe I had a bit of delayed culture shock when those feelings settled and I started seeing things in a more realistic way.

My lifestyle has done a complete 180 since I moved here. I was living in New York City before, and everything there really caters to the customer. I was constantly ordering delivery food, taking cabs, and going to stores that were only 50m from my front door. Somehow I still managed to think that I lived a relatively healthy life. When I moved to Finland everything changed for me. Now I don’t have a car and the city I live in doesn’t have great public transportation, so I ride my bike everywhere. The closest store is 1.5km from my apartment now, and it might not seem like much but every time I need food I have to bike at least 3km. Also, since there aren’t any tasty easy food options, I’ve been cooking using entirely whole foods - something I never used to do in NYC! It can be tough sometimes, but I love my new lifestyle and I am so much healthier because of it.

Do you think you were fully prepared for what awaited you in Finland? If you could, would you change some decisions/preparations you made?

I was not completely prepared for what was waiting for me in Finland, but I think it’s better that way. It’s best to come with a blank slate, and to be open-minded towards a new culture.

I wouldn’t change anything about my preparation before moving here, but I would change one thing about my first year here. I should have made more of an effort to learn the language. I’m taking a course now, and I’m glad that I waited until now to do that, but just making the effort in daily life goes a long way. Now I ask my Finnish friends what the word is for something when it comes up in conversation and I really make an effort to remember the word. I find that it quickly comes up again and little by little the language starts to make sense. You can only learn a language one word at a time, after all!

Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?

During my first day in Finland I was out exploring (looking for the bank) with my father and we got in an elevator. We pushed to go up a floor and then the elevator stopped and the doors did not open. Then we went back down and the doors still did not open. We spent a lot of time in this elevator! We thought we were seriously stuck in there. Then someone walks by and we knock on the window to get their attention and they just reach their hand out and open the door for us. I felt so American and completely mortified! In the US elevator doors automatically open when you get to the right floor, and I still can’t believe we didn’t think to just push the door open.

Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Finland?

  • Never take a day of good weather for granted. By the way, good weather = any dry day with sunshine, no matter what the temperature is.
  • Really work to build relationships with Finns. It takes time, but it is well worth it.
  • Learn to love sauna.

How is the expat community in Finland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?

The expat community is great in Helsinki, but unfortunately I began my Finnish life in a small town an hour away, so the expat life could be described as non-existent where I live. The upside is that I had no choice but to become friends with Finns and I am so glad that it worked out that way.

The great thing though about living in a country where there are not so many expats (compared to other countries in Europe) is that you are more drawn together. A friend of mine made a new friend because someone in the park said “Oh I know a woman whose husband is American. Let me give you her contact information.” Once I was playing for a Christmas party and someone said “Do you know Keith? He’s American. Let me give him your email address.” so just like that, little by little we’re all brought together. 

How would you summarize your expat life in Finland in a single, catchy sentence?

Slowly shedding light on my new Nordic home.

Francois Bertrand

"I found a former Helsinki expat who had recently moved back to Brazil, so we swapped all the important need-to-knows."

Maria Loura

"Some information on InterNations helped me a great deal, and I'm sure other expats in Helsinki feel the same way."

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