Mark: A Scandinavian Interlude
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Finland, etc.
I am a native Californian from the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Finland in August 2011. I moved to Finland with my family as we thought it would be a great opportunity for our children to learn more about the culture and for us to focus more on a slower pace of living than we experienced in California.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I decided to start blogging about my experiences living in Finland just four months after we moved to Finland. I decided it would be a great way to put my observations about the life here into words and it would be nice to keep a nice chronological diary of my life.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
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 have made the adjustment to living in Finland, but there were a few things that were very different from my life back home. The first was getting used to the weather and darkness during the Fall/Winter season, which was quite different from the eternal sunlight and warmth living in California. I also have had a more difficult time connecting with Finns because they are much more introverted and shy than Americans. I had a bit of culture shock at first, but it wasn’t extreme.
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 think I did a decent job preparing but I could have studied the language a bit leading up to my move. It might have made the transition a bit easier. Since the language is so difficult and takes many years to learn, it might have helped to study it intensely for a few years before. Otherwise, I think I was prepared for the move. We had been thinking about it for many years and had done most of our research.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
The first winter I had my car’s tires changed to winter tires and then when the car was ready, I put the key in to drive away and the car didn’t start. They didn’t know how to help me and just pushed my car into the parking lot even though their car shop had made some unintentional change to my car’s electric system. Luckily after 30 minutes of fidgeting around the car started.
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Finland?
I would tell them to make sure that they have many personal activities and hobbies that they can do during the long winter months. They need to be prepared for the darkness and make sure they find some activities to take their minds off of the depressing winter. Also, they need to know that Finns are nice, but take some time and effort to get to know and that they do not really appreciate American small talk. They should be prepared only to speak when it is really important and try to not be the centerpiece of attention always.
How is the expat community in Finland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
At first I didn’t have many friends, but as I lived here longer I found the IESAF (International English Speakers´Association of Finland) and other groups on Facebook. I also learned about this group InterNations via a friend. So, I eventually learned that there were actually many nice social networks for foreigners and like-minded individuals in Finland.
How would you summarize your expat life in Finland in a single, catchy sentence?
A Californian soul doing his best to live life to the fullest in Europe’s quirky far North Country of Finland.