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I speak Finglish… and other odds and sods of Finnish life

July 6, 2005

Since I moved to Finland my Mom teases me telling me to “speed things up” when I talk to her… My Grampa Kiviaho called me a “half-breed” one time (I just about died laughing)… You begin to “use medicine”. You are “married with a Finn”. Women “get a baby”. You get confused when you hear the words kuusi and kurkku because they mean different things in Finnish. Kuusi is six and it is also spruce; Kurkku is cucumber and it is also throat… imagine my confusion at the time! Finglish is now my first language and I have to constantly read and write English to keep up on the grammar!

I thought I could continue with the standard questions (and my answers) for a foreigner living in Finland…

WHY did you come to Finland? (Notice the emphasis on why, it’s like people think I am crazy or something… gee maybe I am!) I have roots here and I came here to work in 1998. I am still here.

Do you like living here? I do! 🙂 It is the same where ever you go. You have good days and bad days. Homesickness hits pretty hard once in awhile and I sometimes find it hard to deal with the reality that my grandparents and my parents are getting older. I have missed seeing my youngest sisters grow up and that has been tough. I get along with all of my relatives and I miss them a lot. I have some of the best friends that anyone could have at home and I miss them too. (They know who they are.) Overall, moving here was probably the best decision I ever made. It was like taking a leap of faith, faith that I could handle living in a foreign country and make it. I have so far succeeded.

I also like the fact that it is very easy (though not always cheap) to travel elsewhere. I have been to a few different places and I would likely never have gotten to them if I was still living in Canada. Among the favourites so far: Lapland, the Trans-Siberian railway from Beijing via Mongolia, Moscow and St. Petersburg to Helsinki and Madeira, Portugal.

Are you married to a Finn? Not yet…

How long have you been here? Well let’s not put a figure on that, it’s easier to say that I have lived here since September 1998.

What do you miss at home? CBC Radio (see the link list), relaxing at my mom’s camp on Manitoulin Island, playing baseball, Oh Henry! chocolate bars, red licorice, peanut butter(!), mountain biking in my hometown (Elliot Lake, Ontario)… Those are the ones that come to mind right now…

How is your Finnish? Is it difficult? Gee, what do you think?  When you see a word like metsäpalovaroitus all you want to do is turn around and run screaming in the other direction. I’ve been at it for over seven years and I have to say I am still struggling – I’ll admit that I am also a bit lazy too.

Who do you cheer for in hockey? Canada first, sorry to all my Finnish friends, but they know that by now. However, if Finland ever beats Canada, I am not too disappointed – it’s only when the U.S beats Canada that I get upset (it’s a rivalry thing!).

How often do you get to go home? I try to get home every year and half and so far it has pretty much worked out that way.

What do you think of Finnish people? A lot of them drink too much. However, Finns are very nice and I believe they are very honest people. It is too bad they are so shy. If you become friends with a Finn, you pretty much have a friend for life – and that is the truth.

What do you hate the most about living in Finland? Spitting, smoking and littering… People who stand in front of you when you are trying to get off the metro, train or bus… Tailgating! (see previous entries about driving in Finland.)

Key to survival in Finland? Stay active (physically), stay employed and network with other foreigners.

Do you like salmiakki? I do! If you offer me Turkish hot peppers I will eat them.   Liver box (maksalaatikko) is probably the only thing I can’t handle.

Do you like sauna? Love it, need it, gotta have it. I can say this is one thing I would really miss if I were to go back home to Canada. I think I would have to build one!

Other groaners? – dealing with the tax authorities, for some reason I always feel like I am being ripped off.  Figuring out the education system – been here almost seven years and I haven’t come close to figuring it out, though I have managed to take a few courses via Open University.

City I would most like to know better – Turku. I have visited Turku five times and I have always left there feeling like I have missed out on something.

City where I would love to live – Rovaniemi, it’s in the far north, but it’s very international and it’s about the right size as far as population goes. I am from the north, so it feels right.

What differences are there between Canada and Finland? Plenty, but one that comes to my mind is how many Canadians refer to how long it takes to drive somewhere in hours rather than what the distance is in km. (I could write about similarities and differences for hours, so I’ll spare you the boredom.)

To sum it up, when I came back to Finland to live in 1998 I seized the opportunity to try new things when they came up. If you’re brave enough try avanto, which literally translates to swimming in “a hole in the ice”. I did that in Lohja in March 1999 and my mother just about died when I told her I had intentionally lowered myself into a freezing lake to go for a swim.

Living in Finland is what you make of it and either you like it or you don’t. Take advantage of everything there is to offer and experience things that you would otherwise not have the chance to experience at home.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Unknown permalink
    July 8, 2005 9:40 pm

    My dad’s favourite food was maksalaatikko…i am an ardent fan of anything to do with licorice. We grew up with a sauna at each grandparent’s house and one at camp…..i can’t understand how anyone has a cottage without one…..oddly when I was Helsinki I thought that there are more similarities between Canadian Finns than dissimilarities….or maybe my family was more Finn than most. who knows…. it was a great experience to visit tho’.

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