Sunday, September 15, 2013

An American expat living in Finland for 2 years now

It has now been just over two years since I moved with my family to Finland from the United States.  This two year milestone is a good time to reflect on my experiences as an expat and hopefully learn from them and continue on with my voyage.  I thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I hope it is something that you enjoy and can learn from as well.  I hope that in my writing I never come off as arrogant or self-absorbed because that is not my intention.  Yes, I know this blog is mainly about my personal experiences living abroad but since I have a larger audience now, I would hope people reading it like yourself enjoy my ramblings and perhaps gain some insights as well.  I think it could be especially useful for someone wondering or perhaps considering to make a move abroad.

Time really does fly and before you know it the children are growing up and the years are passing you by.  So much happened during my second year living abroad in Finland. At this time last year, we purchased a home in Espoo and that experience in itself was quite scary, but we survived.  Buying a home in a foreign country can be daunting, but once we figured out the rules and got through the red tape, it wasn't such a bad experience.  Fortunately the interest rates in Finland are at rock bottom now, so it makes perfect sense to buy instead of renting even if only for a few years.  Life went on as usual, my children kept busy with their school and sports activities, I remained working for the same start-up in downtown Helsinki and we went on several trips and adventures. I was also able to see some amazing artists live in Helsinki, including Steve Vai, Paul Gilbert, Omar Rodriquez-Lopez, Rush, Kiss and The Smashing Pumpkins.

 Last winter (2012-2013) was long and cold, but we were able to enjoy winter sports and other winter activities. But like all things in life, the winter came to and end, so it wasn't so bad. This last summer was fairly dry and warm and was probably one of the best in Finland in a long time.  The seasons change and everything seems to balance itself out.  Life is fairly normal now, we know more people in the neighborhood and in the school network and we are familiar with most of the local shops and know how to get from place to place without much hassle.

I have learned so much from living abroad and I am still learning more almost everyday.  It is always eye-opening to see how things are done in a culture and country other than you own.  Sometimes you are shocked and others times awed by the little things that you are not used to, but each day you learn and grow.  I am starting to crack the code of Finnish society, but it definitely takes some time and effort.  Finns are not going to become your best friends overnight, there is trust and patience involved.  I have learned much about the Finnish workplace and the value of time off.  I have learned how people here have a greater separation between work and personal life.  I have learned how folks are more efficient with space and how they recycle more.  I have experienced the silence on buses and the peaceful walks through the endless forests.  Of course, learning and experiencing should never stop as it keeps one's inner fire burning.  I think what I have learned this far in life through my travels and living abroad is that we should always keep our minds and hearts open, we should never stop learning and experiencing and try our best to avoid stagnating.  Of course it is easier said than done, but let's not forget that we only have one life and it is short so why not try to live it to the fullest?