Finnish summer

Once again, it’s been a while since my last post. I had a short break over Midsummer and went to my fiancee’s parent’s house again. I’ve been back in Turku for a week now but have had an unexpected amount of work come in so I haven’t been able to share my photos yet. Not that I’m complaining because it means my finances are slowly getting better so the rest of this year might not suck as much as the first half did.

We’re in the middle of our Midnight Sun period right now and only when it is incredibly overcast is there proper darkness during the night. No matter how many summers I spend in Finland, I still don’t get used to seeing skies like these in the middle of the night:

Taken at 10:15 PM

Taken at 10:15 PM

Taken at 2:45 AM

Taken at 2:45 AM

And that’s in the south where the Midnight Sun is the least intense. Further north where I spent Midsummer it was even brighter.

Finland is one of the only countries left where Midsummer is still celebrated as a national holiday. Some other Nordic nations also celebrate it and I think Germany does as well, but those are the only ones I can think of that do so. Back home in the UK only Neopagens celebrate Midsummer at sites such as Stonehenge, although some people just want an excuse to get drunk at an ancient monument.

Midsummer is like Christmas part two in Finland, only without the commercialisation which many argue has ruined what is supposed to be a religious holiday.  It’s a time for family get togethers but you won’t be dragged to visit all of your great aunts and uncles or sit through a long church service. There are elements of Finland’s ancient shamanistic culture like lighting bonfires, but today Midsummer is mostly used as a break from work.

I’ve spent one Midsummer in Finland before but since it’s my first Midsummer living in Finland, of course the weather was awful all week. When I tell people here that the British summer is even worse than the Finnish one they have a hard time believing me. It’s unfortunate that we didn’t get to visit the summer cottage and do all the things we were planning like swimming or fishing. I also didn’t get much of a chance to take some pictures to compare with the winter pictures I took at Christmas.

These are the ones I did manage to get:

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Next month I’ll be spending three weeks visiting my parent’s house in the UK. It will be strange to be back after spending nearly a year abroad. Has it really been a year? I feel like I haven’t done that much or learnt any Finnish. Maybe that was because I had a lot of other issues to deal with this year. But I’m not planning to leave Finland any time soon so I still have lots of time to have many more Finland adventures.

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Spring update and photos

It’s been a while since my last post. In that time, spring has very slowly come to Turku and although it’s still not very warm and the trees aren’t in full bloom yet, it’s a nice change from the winter weather. I’m hoping that it will get warmer over the next month and that I’ll be able to go away somewhere and relax for Midsummer, which is an important holiday in Finland.

I’ve had a few good things happen to me this spring. I edited two full length manuscripts in the same month and had my first magazine publication for a Finnish language learners magazine. I’ve also gotten a part time book reviewer job contract and one of my articles on my writing blog was selected as a teaching resource.

Even so, the last two months haven’t been that great for me. Some of the things I was hoping to avoid when I moved abroad ended up happening. I didn’t handle them particularly well and I went through a bad period of anxiety and depression. Things are starting to improve now and something that does make me feel better is going out and taking photos.

Practicing photography was one of my new year’s resolutions and it came at a great time as I was asked to submit some pictures with my magazine article, so I guess I could say I’m a published photographer as well as a writer. Here are some spring pictures from the area near my apartment block. I foolishly forgot to take any of the same area during winter. Although it was a pain to get around during that time, it was at least very pretty. I’ll have to wait until next year to get those. Until then, enjoy some pictures taken on a much sunnier day than this one:

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A fishing wharf near my flat. I like to go there when I want some alone time to think, read, or pray.

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Random coloured things because why not. Clearly I still need to practice my photography because I spent ages getting the right angle and still forgot about the electricity pylons.

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Tiny daisies growing on the ruins of what I assume was once a church or temple. There are still religious services held there sometimes.

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How not to write an expat brochure. (And how to write one instead.)

I’ve been living abroad in Finland for about three months now but with all the administration and bureaucracy involved with emigrating, it feels like so much longer. But I’m still not done yet. I’m still waiting to hear if I’m eligible for health insurance plus I have to apply for a tax card, open a bank account, register my freelance business and apply for a language course. And that’s without the tax office back home hounding me about forms they never sent me.

When I visited the police station to arrange my residency permit, I picked up a brochure that I hoped would provide me with answers for my many questions. It did help in a lot of ways and provided some useful information such as what to do if you’re a victim of abuse, the emergency services number, and national holidays (Speaking of, happy Independence Day, Finland!) but there was a lot it was lacking. As well as being very poorly edited, the language was incredibly dumbed down and didn’t provide some of the most necessary information that expats need. Here are some of the things it did say:

  • You can borrow books for free at the library. Because in other countries you have to pay to borrow books from a library?

    What is this mysterious 'library' you speak of?

    What is this mysterious ‘library’ you speak of?

  • Send letters and parcels from a post office. Leaving them out with milk and cookies for the post fairies doesn’t work anymore.
  • Parents are responsible for raising their children. You mean I can’t let the internet do it for me? Then what’s the point of even having children?!
  • People use public health services when they’re sick. I usually just go to my voodoo priestess.
  • Babies and children visit the doctor with their parents. Do it yourself, you lazy brats! If you can lift your own head up then you can book your own doctor’s appointment.
  • You should brush your teeth for good oral health. Thanks for warning me, Finland.
  • Finnish officials don’t take bribes. The fact they had to point that out disturbs me…
  • Finnish people like free time. They also like to breathe air and wear shoes.
  • Men do their equal share of household chores. Well I should hope so!

Here’s what I think an expat brochure should be saying instead, based on my own experiences and questions I’ve seen on forums:

  • Sauna etiquette. It may be obvious to Finns, but foreigners who aren’t used to it might be confused. For instance, towels or no towels? Gender segregated or not? It could potentially save a lot of embarrassing moments.
  • How to deal with seasonal affective disorder. Trust me, it is not fun.
  • Where to find books in English. As I work in publishing this is especially important to me, but many other people like finding books to read in their native language as well.
  • What proof of freelance income I need to get my residency permit. This wasn’t made clear at all. I showed up at the police station with three years worth of tax forms I didn’t need.
  • International moving companies that ship to Finland and finding a removal company within Finland.
  • Can you get time off work for non-Christian holidays? I work from home so it’s not an issue for me, but it probably is for some people.
  • Dealing with wild animals such as bears and wolves. We don’t have them in the UK so it’s good to know how to stay safe and not get mauled.

    It's ok to pet them, right?

    It’s ok to pet them, right?

  • If your residence permit is based on family ties, does it become invalid if you divorce or split up?

Fellow expats, have you ever come across any similar information packs when you moved abroad? What information do you wish was included in expat brochures?