Living and Finland

finland

Because people have asked me to write more about Finland, I’m going to write more about Finland. The next month’s worth of missives from me will lean into what you, the reader, have asked for. Americans and others want to know what Finland is really like; Finns want to know what I think of their country. I’m not going to write a travelogue, though. What I’ll tell you about is my life, and how everyday living and Finland are intertwined.

After living here for five years, the concept of “living abroad” is no longer a romantic notion. It’s not that the bloom is off the rose. I love Finland. It’s more a matter of this being my life at the moment. This is less of an exciting adventure, more of the same working, paying bills, and mundane normality. Which is why I’ve resisted writing about it for so long, because it’s not so radically different from the beats of my day-to-day life in the United States.

Except when it is.

One of the reasons I’ve resisted writing about Finland is because, at any moment, I might have to leave. I’m an immigrant. I have to renew my residence periodically. As I’m writing this, I’m awaiting a decision from Migri, the Finnish Immigration Service. The shortest I’ve had to wait is three weeks. The longest was 7 months. If they decide that no, I can’t stay — and they can do this for any number of reasons — I’ve got 30 days to get out. That’s 30 days to wrap up my life here, pack up, and figure out where the hell we’d go in the United States. I could get that notification today, or three months from now, or I could have my extension approved again. Yes, that’s stressful.

Living and Finland

So I haven’t wanted to write about living in Finland, the things I love here, the comparisons and contrasts with life in America, because it hurts to even think about losing Finland. It throws me into a panic to contemplate the mad rush to move. We spent two years planning to move here. Katie and I have spent five years planning out career arcs predicated on staying here. While you might think it foolish, there is no Plan B. If we can’t stay, I legitimately don’t know what we’d do.

The reality, though, is that even if I had to leave tomorrow Finland will stick with me for the rest of my life. Just as the time I spend living in other places shaped me. The time I living in center city Philadelphia had a huge impact on me, and I was only there for two years. I once spent five weeks living in Utah for a job, and the things that happened there shaped my life and my views. If it’s reasonable to assume that I will carry Finland with me for the remainder of my days, then it’s not unreasonable that I would continue to have things to say even if I were no longer living here.

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