Migrating to another country and living there for a period of time definitely changes you in some way. Either in thoughts or attitude which may be subliminal or intentional, these changes begin to be apparent and noticeable to self, friends or loved ones who have known you from your previous life.
Here are some ways in which living in Finland has definitely changed me even though the changes are still in stages and not completely.
- Learned how to be alone: Since moving to Finland, I have learned to be alone. Even though I moved to Finland alone, I realized that Finns like to also be alone and have alone time. Many Finns I know live alone and moved out from their parents’ houses once they were about 18 years old. I also learnt that Finns like to be alone as it makes time for self-care, self-reflection and rejuvenation. Finland is a place where it is also difficult to make new friends especially in the early stages of arrival. In Finland, I learned to be alone and get over being lonely and enjoy loneliness. This also teaches you to appreciate yourself more and focus on loving and making yourself happy since you are mostly stuck all alone by yourself.
- Enjoy silence now & appreciate nature: Since Finland is such a quite country and the Finns appreciate quietness, I have learned to appreciate silence even when at home. The first thing that hit me when I landed in the Helsinki Airport was the silence. The first night I spent in Finland was so peaceful and quiet. It was one of the most peaceful nights of my entire life. After having moved from Lagos, Nigeria, a city of approximately 20 million inhabitants, where there is so much traffic noise, I began to suddenly appreciate and enjoy the silence. I have also learned to love and appreciate the nature that Finland offers. Like I mentioned in my previous blog, Finland is filled with thousands of forest and thousands of lakes. (188,000). The forest is also very safe and free to walk in, pick berries, mushrooms or pitch a tent. The abundance of nature also makes the air in Finland so clean and refreshing to inhale.
- Hobbies and Free time: Finland offers a lot of free time and work life balance so this allows for engagement in hobbies and activities of interests. A lot of Finns have hobbies and socialise or make friends during their free time and hobbies. When I newly came to Finland, even though I had interest, I had no hobbies because I was coming from a city where I literally had no life or time for any other thing apart from work and resting at home. During my first encounters with Finns, they would always ask what my hobbies were and I learned that having similar hobbies was a potential spark ignition. I have since picked up a couple of hobbies like dancing, photography and some handcrafts.
- Eating healthier with lots of vegetables: Moving abroad and settling in Finland has sort of affected my bowels and digestive system in a huge way. It took me a while to get used to the rumbling sound I always had in my belly, and the change in acidity and PH levels of the food and water that I was used to in the tropics. My diet also had to change a lot because I was always usually constipated and unknowingly dehydrated. Also, because Finland grows food mostly only during the summers and imports and stores crops till winter, most of the food stuff you get to buy in Finland are hardly organic. These makes organic foods more expensive and more sort after. Also, because of the long dark winters in Finland, it is also quite common to be deficient in some vitamins because of lack of the sunshine like vitamin C, D or K. Finns heavily supplement for these vitamins in their diet by eating a lot of vegetables. As a matter of fact, most restaurants in Finland offer a complimentary salad portion to go with every meal. The Finns also like to drink milk with their meals to supplement for the lack of vitamin D.
- No longer so afraid of dogs /cats: Where I am from, even though people have dogs and cats, it is not such a common thing to have them as members of the family. Dogs are mostly used for security in some cases or just left to be wandering the streets. The idea of dogs and cats or even some other mammals as pets in the western world is entirely different. It is very common to see dogs walking the streets and sometimes even being treated as human beings. Dogs are part of family here in Finland and the admiration for animals blew me away. Gradually, I began to like dogs and no longer walk on the edge or take the other side walk when I see a dog owner with their dog approaching. I also began to learn more about animals and their instincts when I had to be in the same environment as them during work or studies. I now even like some dogs and have dreamed or imagined having a dog someday.
- Fashion sense. Fashion sense and style has also drifted a lot as a result of the weather, atmosphere and the people. People in Finland do not wear bright colours or flashy stuff. They like to keep the shades warm ranging from black to grey or brown. Also the idea of heavy jewellery and costumes is not necessarily a Finnish thing. If you come from a society with a loud fashion sense and variety of different clothing every day of the week, it is normal to get stuck in one cardigan and a jacket here in Finland for an entire week.
- Adherence to rules! Adherence to rules in Finland is more like a lifestyle. In everything you do, as little as sorting your trash, crossing the road only on zebra crossings when the light is green, or queueing and waiting for your turn to get into a bus or make a purchase from a store. The Finns are very law abiding and organised bunch of people. They are also very patient and never in a hurry not to follow the guidelines and procedures. This is something you either have to learn in Finland or learn the hard way. There are speed cameras and parking instructions that you have to abide to or else you get a parking ticket or a fine. Yes, the fine or penalty for most offenses is a fine. So not like it is exactly a crime to cross the road when the green light is not on, it is normal to find a Finn waiting in an empty road, for the green light to show up. I now adhere to all rules and follow all instructions carefully just as Finns do.
- Learning to be open minded. Travelling abroad and living in diaspora will open up your mind in such a way that would never have been possible before. Living in another man´s country and trying to fit in to another culture will make you bring your guard down and begin to be more open minded and understanding. Understanding different thoughts, processes, beliefs and religions. Learning to accept people the way they are while also acknowledging the fact that you are an outsider and trying to fit in. I have learned to be more open minded, agreeing to disagree, and accept people for whom and what they are or choose to become.
- Living your life for yourself: Deciding to travel and immigrate or emigrate from one country to another is already in itself a decision that might affect the rest of your life. Being able to make this decision in my opinion is the among the first steps of deciding to live your life based on your own terms. I have learned to live life based on my terms and what pleases me. You become a little bit selfish by putting yourself first in everything you do regardless of other opinions or biases.
- Do it yourself: Being alone automatically results to being independent and doing things yourself. Apart from the fact that vocational skilled workers are well paid in Finland, it is normal to take on some DIY task. This could involve, building a furniture from Ikea, fixing your blocked drainage pipes, doing your hair, baby sitting or other chores. As an African girl with afro hair, I specifically learned to do my hair and care for my hair by myself. This involves weaving, wigging, braiding, styling or any other thing that could come along.