What are the best things about being an expat? I was asked that by another Finnish expat blogger (London and Beyond) recently and to be honest, the question threw me a bit! You see, after over 20 years in Gravesend, I kind of feel very at home here and sometimes totally forget that I’m an expat! And then I realised, that actually that was exactly the answer I was looking for, it had everything to do with how much I enjoyed living in the UK!
So I’ve decided to list my top three best things about being a Finnish expat in the UK, some of the answers are maybe a bit tongue in cheek, others more serious!
- I love to talk and it is ok to talk to everyone in England, in fact small talk is compulsory! My generation grew up in Finland being told “Silence is Golden” but for some reason that rule totally eluded me and I was always considered far too chatty. But the great thing is, in England I can talk to everyone, in the shops, the pharmacy, in the street and even on the bus, without anyone thinking I am an oddball or too chatty! In Finland, if I started talking to a stranger on the bus I was quite prepared for an ambulance to await me at the end stop and take me to a mental asylum!
- I can fully relax in Gravesend, knowing that I’m never going to bump into an old boyfriend unexpectedly! This is extremely useful as it means that I have the freedom to pop to the shops with dirty hair and no makeup, without suddenly bumping into someone I haven’t seen for 30 years who will think “Oh my God, look at how she has let herself go!”
- I can be myself. Nobody knows me, any of my family members or my past. Finland has a population of less than six million, which means that “someone will always know someone” and that you very easily are put into a group or category, depending on where you live, where you have studied or worked or even who your parents are! But here in the UK, I don’t have to fit into any group or category, nor do I have any baggage. The mistakes I might have made in my youth have stayed in Finland and I have got a clean slate. And luckily, people in the UK seem to like us Finns and have no preconceived ideas about us!
Now, something rather strange has also happened to me as a Finnish expat over the last 20 years, I have actually become very patriotic about my birth country! I am more patriotic now, than what I ever used to be when I lived in Finland! So here are some examples;
- I religiously light candles in my windows every year on Finnish Independence Day (6th December) and shed a little tear for my country. When I lived in Finland, I sometimes forgot to light the customary candles…
- I proudly display all my Finnish design glassware in every possible room in the house. When I lived in Finland, they stayed in the cupboards…
- Every day, I drink some Finnish Nordqvist tea from a Moomin mug. In Finland I used to drink Twinings tea from an English mug…..
- I savour Finnish food and will make special trips to buy some! I have even attended a day course in London, learning how to bake traditional Karelian pies! I never baked them in Finland; I used to buy them in a shop…..
- I panic when I cannot find any TV channel showing the Ice Hockey World Championships and even make a special trip to a pub in London that shows the matches. In Finland I sometimes forgot the matches were even on….
So there you go, now you know who that woman is with dirty hair who talks to everyone in the shops in Gravesend! It is that crazy Finnish expat! And if you follow her home, she might even invite you in to admire her Finnish glassware and for a Finnish cup of tea out of a Moomin mug!
Love and peace to everyone!