Cross-cultural marriage, twins, long-distance relationship…. Those are the factors that give low odds for a relationship to last. The cultural differences between Finland and Denmark are not that huge, of course – but there are differences. First a couple of them that I found the toughest.
Intercultural communication – Direct Finns
The worst one for me has been this: We Finns are more direct in our communication than Danes. This has caused me some challenges both at work and in private. At work I had to learn (read: still learning, still not natural for me) to “decorate” my mails and messages. With decorating I mean polite beginning and all greetings and wishes etc. at the end. Possible claim or negative feedback also needs to be said indirectly – or at least not as bluntly as I probably would do it in Finland. In private I have kept my more direct way of communicating – mostly because my husband´s family and our friends know who I am and what my intentions are and do not (I hope) think I am obnoxious or arrogant. Or maybe they do but do not know how to deal with me and my finnishness…
Party-loving Danes – more socially distanced Finns
The Danes love to celebrate everything. Mother´s cousins auntie´s 57th birthday needs to be on your calendar and the whole family is expected to participate. After moving to Denmark you soon realize none of the weekends are just yours – there is always at least one social arrangement that you absolutely need to attend. If you want to have a weekend without social engagements, you need to work for it (before Covid-19 anyway).
Then there are some bigger milestones that were new for me. The confirmation party (for confirming your religion) was a shock for me. In 2016, according to the bank Nordea, the average Danish family spent 30.375 Danish kroner (around 4000€) for the food, present, clothing and party for the teenager (who at the time is around 14 years of old) and they invite, in average, 37 guests. You need to plan a year ahead if you want to find the perfect location, catering, the right dress for the girls…
The next surprise was copper-wedding party. That is a party for having been married for 12,5 years. Could not find statistics for finances for that but I´m sure it is at least as big as the confirmation budget. I have attended only one of these myself but it was like a wedding, just without the priest and the church part. The one I attended was at least for 50 guests, everyone invited over night at a hotel with dinner and breakfast next morning. The day also includes traditions like friends and family waking up the couple with brass music etc.
I have learned to like socializing and throwing parties and inviting people to our house. What is not natural for me is, that at the beginning and at the end of any social event (within family or outside) you go through every guest and shake hands and say hello. I still find it uncomfortable. I try to be on time and one of the first guests (nobody to shake hands with)… As a Finn, I am always trying to be on time (or 5 minutes early), so that helps a lot. Danes are not as punctual as we Finns – bless them.
Twins and marriage
We survived the long-distance relationship period in the beginning, cultural differences and eventually got married and had kids. Well, twins. Parents of twins are more likely to get divorced than parents of singleton babies. And moms (probably dads as well, just less researched) have more mental health problems. I have to say I cannot remember the first year with the babies that well, although my husband was at home for 3 months with us. It was tough, mainly surviving day by day, but our relationship got stronger, not weaker. I stayed at home for 2 years with the girls and really enjoyed the second year.
Heading New Zealand – challenge or threat – or opportunity?
I read this article about relationships and moving abroad. I am anticipating the same kind of stress test for our relationship as the twins were. We have beaten many odds by sticking together and our family, so I am optimistic about this next step in our life and that it will bring us more positive experiences than negative. I am optimistic by nature and a risk-taker. When things get too secure and predictable in life, I get anxious. That´s why I didn´t really think twice when the opportunity to move to New Zealand was ahead of us.