Sunday, 11 December 2011

How I came to be lost in Finland

 My name is Danielle and I am a thirty-four year old female Trinidadian/Finn living in Helsinki, Finland. Today I posted new pictures of my three month old daughter on Facebook. In one of the pictures she was lying in a box so I had to add an explanation that it is standard practice in Finland. I also explained that we leave our children outside in their baby carriages to sleep even in the winter. That led to a bit of a discussion and a couple people suggested I should write a blog.

I have actually had a blog since the 90's when they weren't called blogs. It was a place on Yahoo's geocities where I kept my family and friends up to date on my life abroad. I had started it when I was studying and living in the U.S.A. I believe my last entry there was in 2005. Geocities was discontinued some time after that. Since then I have occasionally toyed with the idea of starting a blog but thought that no one would be interested. Well according to at least two of my Facebook friends people are interested. So here goes.
 I became "lost" in Finland because of my husband who is Finnish, which is one of the two main reasons foreigners end up in Finland. Foreigners get lost here either due to studying in Finland (university and trade schools are free) or because of a significant other. As wonderful as I now find Finland there honestly aren't too many reasons for foreigners to want to move here. The winter is a major deterrent, but more on that another time. When I first came here we were not married - which was a bit worrisome to my Grandmother. Finland is so progressive and liberal that I was considered a common-law spouse due to the fact that we had lived together for a minimum of two years and I was granted residence status because of it. I had met my now-husband while studying at a small Liberal Arts College in the US. There was not much more to do besides study, sports, drink and drugs in the small college town. I never did the last on the list but apparently a lot of the townsfolk's teenage children did.
 Anyway we met in August 1997 - my husband and I - and became friends. At first I was told by the college to come in September to start orientation with the American students. Then they realized I was an international student and asked me to come two weeks earlier with all the other international students which included my husband. He was from the college's Budapest, Hungary campus. It was good luck that I was sent a second letter asking me to come earlier as I am not sure if we would have become friends otherwise. Because I spent those first two weeks with the international students I ended up socialising mostly with the international students all through my college years. In the spring of 1998 we started to "go steady" and that was the beginning of my journey to Finland.
We were young and looking to experience all that college life offered so our relationship was a bit weak until the last two years or so of my stay in college. At that time my husband had already been studying in the USA for two years and working for two years. Because we still were not sure how strong our bonds were and whether we really wanted to be together for life we agreed that he would go back to Finland for a year to do his mandatory army service while I stayed in the US to do on-the-job training. We agreed to see other people, explore our options and then see where our relationship was at the end of that year.
I think that decision was the best I ever made because at the end of that year, after calling each other almost every day no matter who we had dated, we realized that there was no one else we would rather be with. So it made it so much easier for me to decide to move to Finland when he said he wanted to stay in his home country and not go back to the US. Deciding to move to Finland instead of insisting that he come back to the US was simple for me. Firstly, September 11th happened while I was still in the US so I was rethinking how safe it was to continue living there. Secondly, I didn't have any friends because all my friends were foreigners and had either gone back home or moved to New York where the opportunities are more abundant. And most importantly I had realized how in love I was. It took a year apart for me to realize that I would never find anyone as wonderful as he was.
I had never visited Finland and didn't even consider visiting before I moved. I came merely on the basis of my husband's and friend's information about the country (there was one other Finnish student at our college who is still one of my best friends here in Finland). Now when I look back I think "What was I thinking to move to a country with no prior personal experience of it?!" I would recommend to any one else thinking of moving to another country to visit before moving. I only started to become frightened the day I left Washington DC on a plane to Helsinki. My husband still remembers how scared I looked when I landed. But luckily for me I made lots of friends through my husband, work and my university studies. Also, I found a job quite quickly and easily after moving to Finland. So everything worked out well for me and I am still here.
 I have adjusted well. I have both Finnish and international friends. I can speak Finnish, all be it with lots of grammatical errors. I love the sauna, koskenkorva (Finnish liquor) and cross country skiing. Everyone in the neighbourhood stops to talk to me as I am the only black person they see cross country skiing in our neighbourhood. As of 2009 I became a Finnish citizen. I consider myself Trinidadian but also Finnish. And yes I put my baby to sleep outside in her baby carriage even in the winter, but that's another story for another time. 


  1. This is very interesting stuff Its a beautiful love story of you and robert He is such a wonderful person. Now you are exploring motherhood.

  2. Great Article Danielle. I think we Trinis have that spirit of adventure in us. Each place I moved to, I had never been to before so it was all part of the magic and experience. Congrats on being an absolute rockstar!