So, I've now been residing in Finland for two months (& a couple of days) now. Two months which have flown by. Two months, filled with numerous highs, lows & stresses - mainly highs though! Before I get in to my usual ramblings, I have to say that I've met some absolutely top people out here & I have to say thanks to them for everything so far. These are people who didn't know me from Adam a little over two months ago, yet they have fed & housed me, given me invaluable advice & help, & are still there every day for me to talk to & ask questions of - I'd be lost without them. So THANK YOU to Stu, Jessica, all of the Kilo crew, Andy H & all at Pöllöt (Owls), Tim, all the guys from Twitter (too many to mention), & those from the IESAF & Expat Facebook groups, & all those that I have met so far on my journey here in Finland!
The story so far: Since arriving, I've stayed in a few places. I feel like the Littlest Hobo at times, constantly living out of a suitcase. I initially stayed with my ex & son for a couple of weeks, then the lovely Jessica offered to put me up at hers in Kilo for a while, & I'm now currently house-sitting for someone in Kilo along with my pal Stu. This will likely last another couple of weeks & then I may well be back with Jessica (she'll soon be sick of me, I'm sure). I'm working through the process of getting all the relevant paperwork in place & getting my residency processed - I knew it would be a long process, but didn't realise it would be so difficult at times (more on this later). I'm spending every other weekend with Pessi, which is absolutely amazing. Obviously, he was my reason to come to Finland, so it's great to have lots of quality time with him. I really do look forward to my weekends with him & can't wait to hear him excitedly shout "Daddy! Daddy!" when I ring the doorbell on a Friday afternoon - it makes all the struggles & stresses worth it. When I'm not with Pessi, I'm trying to keep myself busy with various things - job hunting, football, social events, meeting other expats, exploring new parts of Espoo & Helsinki, hanging out in Kilo parks, BBQs, & lots of drinking - I moved here for a better/healthier lifestyle, but my liver has definitely suffered over the last two months (I obviously blame Jessica & Stu)!
Summer in Finland & the impending winter: During these first two months, I have been blessed with truly amazing weather. It's even better when you're living in a beautiful place with an outdoors lifestyle. Finns (& people that have lived here long enough) really know how to make the most of a summer & maximise their time in the sunshine. Days at the beach, in the park, BBQs & long nights on the balcony have filled a large part of these two months. I still find it slightly strange that I've moved to a country renowned for it's cold weather, yet I have the best tan I've probably ever had! I've been posting lots of pics & raving about the lovely days here, but in the back of my mind I know that we're now past mid-summers & the nights will soon be closing in & the winter will be here before I know it. I think I've said in a previous blog that I've never minded the cold here as it's not damp like it is in the UK (& that makes it a whole lot more bearable). But when it comes to living in it day after day for many months, I may struggle. As numerous people have told me, the best thing to do is to keep busy, so I'm hoping I'll be working full-time by this time & have plenty of other events to go to & things to do.
Observations: Finland is old school & certainly takes some getting used to. Bureaucracy is rife & it's sometimes a struggle to get things done efficiently & quickly here - something I'm finding out the hard way. Government organisations/departments all work in silos here & none really seem to know what the others do, so it's hard to get the right information - you seem to have to ask multiple people just to get a straight answer to a seemingly simple question. My residency application has now been running for over two months - mainly due to mis-information in key places. Additional appointments then normally have a 3-4 week waiting period, so everything drags on for a long time. I've so far had to see two different social workers to get Pessi's birth registration updated correctly, & this week I'll be going back to the local police station for the 6th or 7th time. I'm still yet to deal with Kela, which I'm dreading! Things in general move at a slower pace here - I've found it similar to Perth in some respects. Shops aren't 24 hours - a lot don't open on a Sunday. Alcohol can't be bought from shops after 9pm. Wines & spirits have to be bought from dedicated, government-controlled Alko stores. The country seems to almost shut down during the summer as everyone takes extended summer holidays - you can walk down main streets in the city center on a glorious Saturday afternoon & not have another person in sight. I was chatting to an America expat the other evening & we were discussing stores/shopping/consumerism here - I'm not sure if it's "behind" places like the UK, but it's certainly all done very differently here & doesn't always seem to be done to help the consumer in any way. Some of this can be frustrating sometimes, but it's part of the charm of the place.
Work: Finding work is still a struggle. I did get offered a job with an international removal company, but my first day was on one of their biggest/toughest jobs in a long while. Having a dodgy back anyway, & ending the day in agony & barely able to move, made me think that that probably wasn't the career choice for me. Since then, a friend of a friend has created a new business - Day / Night Helsinki. It's an events management company & the first product offering is a pub crawl around the city centre of Helsinki. I've been helping out in a limited capacity for free in the hope it may end up with some paid work once things take off. I've been attending the crawls, helping with managing the customers, working on business ideas/plans, looking after some aspects of the Facebook & Twitter pages, & trying to make more & more contacts so we can sell this to more people & get the word out there. It's been a really enjoyable experience so far & is giving me the opportunity to meet lots of new people/contacts & work through social media (which I love anyway). Shameless plug; So, if anyone reading this fancies a night out in Helsinki, visiting some top bars while not paying the extortionate alcohol prices, give me a shout! :-D
What's next: My two main priorities are finding work & getting my residency finalised. & I imagine both will continue to be a struggle. But I will soldier on regardless & work my way through the process(es). I'll get there eventually, I'm sure. Apart from that, I'm going to enjoy as much of the summer & sunshine as possible, spend as much time as possible with Pessi, continue with the football, & endeavour to get fit once again.
It's been a crazy couple of months, but once things fall in to place it will make everything well worth it. I'm looking forward to many more happy months & years here in beautiful Finland.
As always, thanks for reading & much love.