ALUN BESTOR enjoys the solitude Finland offers to an expatriate of friendly New Zealand.
What do you do here in Finland?
I’m a programmer and a graphic artist in a mobile games company in Turku. When I first came to Finland I was freelancing as a web designer.
When and how did you end up here?
Like so many others I moved to this benighted frozen land because of a woman. I met my wife online 11 years ago. After visiting back and forth for two years we got sick of airports and I decided to ask her to marry me. I moved here at the end of 2004, and have been living happily ever after.
What attracts you about the Finnish culture?
That everyone leaves you alone. New Zealand culture is very touchy feely, people ask you how you are all the time. It’s nice and foreigners always remark on how friendly everyone is, but sometimes a man just wants some solitude.
What culture shocks did you experience when coming to Finland?
I have experienced some when coming back after visiting overseas, for example, when going to Boston on a trip for a couple of weeks in the summer. It was sunny and everyone was very friendly, and when I came back to Finland it was raining and no one looked me in the eye. Those two hours were the most alienating I’ve experienced here. When I visit somewhere friendly, the New Zealander in me starts to miss that friendly contact.
Have you been able to settle and integrate into Finnish society?
Yes and no. Yes, that I have many Finnish friends, but no insofar as that I always speak English with my Finnish friends. I’ve never made any friends in Finnish. My integration tends to be in the English-speaking portion of society.
What are/were your worries?
When I moved here I kind of leapt into things: where there’s a will, there’s a way. Once I settled here I began to worry about things such as how to find work and how to learn the language. After eight years my main worry is whether I’ll ever learn Finnish well enough not to be terrified of the bureaucracy.
What are your future hopes and wishes for your life here?
Having a summer place in the archipelago, visiting Lapland and seeing more of Europe. I haven’t seen much of mainland Europe yet.
What is your favourite Finnish word?
Morkkis, since it encapsulates being hung over and feeling terrible about it perfectly. I like Finnish words for things that English has no word for.