Stephen: Stephen Penny
Please tell us a little bit about yourself. Who you are, where you come from, when you moved to Finland, etc.
I’m Stephen. I’m from Poole on the south coast of the England. I moved to Finland in May 2013, having spent the previous two years visiting on a semi-regular basis as my son was born here. I moved to finally be nearer to him.
When and why did you decide to start blogging about your experiences?
I actually started blogging while I lived in London in about 2011. I’ve always enjoyed writing, and found blogging to be a good outlet of ideas and thoughts. I continued it throughout my move, and since I’ve been here, in order to both network and give other people moving here some idea of what to expect.
Do you have any favorite blog entries of yours?
I wouldn’t say I have any particular favourite. I’ve enjoyed writing all of them and each one has been a learning experience.
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 knew the move here would be tough, but had no idea quite how tough. I experienced a lot of bureaucracy and a lot of needless hurdles before I could get fully settled here. Some parts of the way of life here have taken some getting used to – the long waiting times for things, the lack of convenience and competition (when it comes to shops and supermarkets), and all those things you take for granted in your home country.
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 as prepared as I could be. I had done my research and spoken to lots of expats out here who had moved from the UK. Even though I was armed with as much information as possible, I still faced many challenges.
Every expat knows that expat life comes with some hilarious anecdotes and funny experiences. Care to share one with us?
I think most of mine would need a ‘parental advisory’ warning. But one thing that does continue to amuse me personally is how many people there are here from the Poole/Bournemouth areas of the UK where I grew up. You move thousands of miles away from your small home town, yet regularly meet people that know the same people and places as you!
Which three tips would you like to give future expats before they embark on their new life in Finland?
- Plan as much as possible and get as much information from other expats as possible before you move. There’s a lot of vague and contradicting information on the internet (even on the official Finnish websites), so make contacts, join groups, and ask questions.
- Plan to socialise and network. It’s the best way to expand your personal and professional circles.
- Plan to keep busy. It’s easy to do in the summer when everyone is outdoors all the time, but come the winter, you’ll need something to keep you busy/active/social when others around you are just complaining about the long, cold, dark days.
How is the expat community in Finland? Did you have a hard time finding like-minded people or fellow expats?
The expat community in Finland has been excellent and is a credit to the people that put in the hard work to arrange so many things. I’ve gained invaluable information, made great friends, had places to live, and have a large social circle due to the expat community (as well as a lot of locals).
How would you summarize your expat life in Finland in a single, catchy sentence?
A tough first year, but a bright future is ahead with all of my Finnish/expat friends and family.