I often get asked by my English friends what it was like growing up in Finland. With hindsight, maybe having Japanese neighbours and your parents dining with Michael Caine wasn’t the most typical Finnish childhood?
So, just to amuse you, I have prepared 10 facts about my “odd” childhood in Finland!
I featured in a Suffeli chocolate advert on TV in the late 60’s, and I also appeared once as a ballerina in a children’s TV programme. My brother appeared on a Fazer Hedelmäpastilli (fruit candy) TV advert a year later!
- I have met some James Bond actors on their visits to Helsinki. I met Jaws (Richard Kiel) when I was 13 and when I was in my early 20’s I was introduced to Art Malik who tried to chat me up! Sometimes we had movie stars come to dinner at my house in Helsinki.
- My father was offered the chance to meet The Beatles in London in the early 60’s but declined and went shopping to Selfridges instead. They sent him an autographed photo which we still have.
We had Japanese neighbours in Helsinki when I was a child and that is how my love affair with Japan, Japanese people and the language started. Mrs Takahashi used to secretly feed me Japanese food after I used to ring her doorbell and offer her some handpicked wild flowers.
- My mother was very adventurous in the kitchen and would cook dishes from Indonesia, Japan and Mexico. In fact, one of the family favourites was a Mexican dish called Huevos Rancheros and we would seldom be served typical Finnish dishes!
- I nearly died aged 16 after contracting Salmonella in Spain and when I was finally admitted to hospital in Finland I weighed 41 kilos (I’m 168cm tall!). I spent 3 months on sick leave.
- In my late teens I used to sneak onboard the big Silja Line ferries and travel to Stockholm for free. Sometimes I was as bold as to “invite” my friends on these illegal trips (you know who you are!)
- I had to learn to swim in two weeks at the age of 20 after blatantly lying on my airhostess application that I could swim and got found out!
- I had a summer job on Finnish TV in 1987 as a TV-announcer (talking head). My job title in Finnish was “Kesäkuuluttaja” and I used to do the links between the Swedish speaking programmes. I sometimes got recognised by people in the shops or in the street, which was very strange!
- I have met some royalty! I met Princess Anne when she was visiting Helsinki and whilst she was talking to hubby about golf, she suddenly turned to me and asked how we had met and was it on holiday? I was too embarrassed to tell her it was at a Queen concert so I just nodded and smiled. That was probably the first and last time I have been lost for words!
So there you go, some random and bizarre facts about my life in Finland.
Do I come from a typical Finnish family? I’ll leave that up to you to decide! But I can categorically tell you, I had a brilliant childhood and wouldn’t change a thing. Well, apart from nearly dying!
Love to everyone – once again!