Visiting home before The Move

Visiting home before The Move

I wanted to take our twins to visit my parents before moving to New Zealand. We have not seen them since last summer and who knows when we are returning from New Zealand and see them again.

I applied for the Danish citizenship some years ago, when it became possible to have dual citizenship in Denmark. My main motive was to be able to vote in Denmark – otherwise, as a Finnish citizen, I had pretty much the same rights as the Danes in Denmark anyway. But now, when travelling during the pandemic, it turned out to be very useful to have both Finnish and Danish passports – easier to get into Finland as a Finn and back to Denmark with a Danish passport. Well, I noticed at the airplane, that I had taken my old Finnish passport with me (the officials did not notice that at the airport though) – but luckily I also have a Finnish ID card, which is enough when travelling inside EU. So no problems with entering Finland.

However, the airplane was small and it took 2 hours (instead of the normal 1.30hrs) to fly to Helsinki and extra 40 minutes with formalities at the border with Covid-19 check. We had negative test results from Denmark (also the twins even it was not necessary for young kids) and delivered documents on our whereabouts in Finland + reason for our visit. All in all, it went quite smoothly. Finentry was helpful and provided all information needed for our visit.

Finnish nature

Usually, when visiting Finland, I have a busy schedule trying to see as many friends and relatives as possible. Now I wanted to protect my parents from Covid-19 and did not arrange any visits with friends in beforehand. And that was good as both me and my mom developed symptoms the next day we arrived… We got tested day 3 days after my arrival (recommended in Finland) and we were both negative – so it was just a normal summer flu. Scary though – the last thing I wanted is to infect my parents with the virus!

We spent the whole time in Finland at my parents. As they live next to a forest and fields, I went out and enjoyed the nature. I realized how much I missed the quietness and being alone in the middle of nowhere. I guess I am still a Finn, after all these years in Denmark😀 The forest was green, the birds were singing (loudly!) and I did not meet anyone – bliss!

When I was running, I noticed this abandoned skate lying on a field. I had to stop and take a picture – only in Finland moment 😂❤ I was thinking of the possible story for this skate when running back to my parents and ended up with this: Rauman Lukko and Porin Ässät are rival ice-hockey teams in the area. Both are small teams and do not win the Finnish league very often. Rauman Lukko won this year (last time in 1963). Porin Ässät won in 2013 (before that in 1971 and 1978). And if Porin Ässät do not win, the worst possible winner is Rauman Lukko. I am pretty sure a disappointed Ässät fan threw this skate into the field after Lukko won – all hope was gone!

Bilingual kids – Finnish and Danish

It was wonderful to notice how the twins started speaking Finnish when in Finland. I speak Finnish to them at home but they usually answer in Danish and I have been too lazy to force them to use Finnish with me.

At the airport the other one got silent, when she was asked questions in Finnish but the other one came to rescue and answered on her sister´s behalf. They need to communicate in Finnish with my parents and as my mom is hearing impaired, they need to articulate clearly with her. After few hours with them, the main language used was Finnish. They make mistakes, typical for foreigners speaking Finnish – we do have 15 grammatical cases in Finnish – but for me that is fine. It is enough for me that they can communicate and survive in Finland with the natives.

I have been reading a book about bilingualism by Francois Grosjean. He speaks 4 languages himself and writes, that his best language varies – based on his whereabouts and people he is communicating most with.

Grosjean writes about a complementary principle which is very much my experience with our twins:

“Bilinguals usually acquire and use their languages for different purposes, in different domains of life, with different people. Different aspects of life normally require different languages.”

My parents are concerned, that the girls will forget their Finnish in New Zealand. I am confident they won´t. I will still be speaking Finnish to them and I have already found Finns in NZ with kids – the twins are forced to speak Finnish with them. Here in Denmark they speak Danish with the Finnish kids – as they all go to Danish schools and Danish is just simply their strongest language.

Back home

After 8 days in Finland we flew back to Denmark. At the airport in Denmark I got tested and had to wait for the result before we could enter Denmark.

No negative test needed before flight

Luckily Finland was a “yellow land” at the moment. That meant that I did not need to have a negative test before flying. The problem in Finland with the test results is, that when you need a proof for negative test at the airport, you have to go to a private test center and it costs 100-200 Euros depending where you are in Finland. Where I was staying in Finland, it would have cost 200€ to get tested and have a PDF document for the test result sent by e-mail. I was very happy to slip that cost.

It was not easy to check all the rules and changes day by day so travelling during the pandemic is definitely a challenge. And it is fine with me – I can totally understand it. We managed to follow the rules and had all the documents needed with us (except the old passport of mine) so we got through all the formalities in both countries. But it took a lot of researching!

The next flights will be a bit longer and the formalities and requirements will be something else. But I will write about that when I hopefully sit in our quarantine hotel somewhere in New Zealand…

Missing piece

I had my last day at work last week. It feels frightening not having a job or not really knowing what I am going to do the next couple of years. It feels like a piece of me is missing.

Your job and identity

I would define my professional identity with Before and After Teaching. I studied languages and pedagogical studies in Finland and eventually got a job as a language teacher in a business school. I liked my job and the school and students. A teacher in Finland has a lot of freedom and they are trusted experts. Days were never alike and you got to cry every spring when the classes graduated.

Then I met my Dane and moved to Denmark. I wanted to try something else than teaching – I thought I would go back to teaching once I had learned Danish. Life happened – I never got back to the classroom. I managed to learn Danish but it took a long time and by that time I was no longer a teacher.

The great unknown – career abroad

I have had quite a few jobs during my almost 15 years in Denmark. I even tried working as a substitute teacher in a private school in Copenhagen. I got a job a couple of years ago that I really enjoyed doing and where I felt I was improving and learning new skills every day. I felt the same drive as what I had as a teacher in Finland. And now I had to leave that job and jump into the great unknown.

We (me and my husband) have discussed that my task in New Zealand will be to help the twins to settle and give them the best possible start in the new country with a new language. And I am fine with that – it is a privilege to be able to do that. But knowing our twins I think that they might be fast in integrating and making new friends. What will I do then? I´m afraid I will feel restless without a job.

Redefining yourself – again

So I will have to redefine my professional me again. I have always said I would love to be an entrepreneur. But I was a teacher and being an entrepreneur was just a silly dream, I told myself. Well, now I have a chance to develop that idea, I guess. I get exhausted by thinking of the possibilities but also excited. When you are moving to another part of the world, nobody knows you. I can dye my hair blue and wear hippy clothes and pretend I have always been avant-garde like that? I guess I am not doing that.. However, now is my opportunity to take the time and think: what do I want to do (professionally) in my life? Or do I need to do that?

Karriereverweigerer

German language has a word for a person whose priorities lie somewhere else than in her career. I am not a career person – if career means being ambitious about your title, how many people you manage, how much money you earn etc. But I have always wanted to have a job with challenges and possibilities to grow and learn and it is important for me to do quality work. We Finns are quite similar to the Germans – hard work is highly valued. Nothing wrong with that – if that is what you want. But people who openly say that their values are different, are often considered as lazy.

When I stayed at home with our twins for 2 years, that was pretty damn hard job. I felt (every single day) that if I was in an office, at least I could drink a cup of coffee when it is still hot. But I loved being with the kids and chose to do it (again, we were privileged to be able to do that financially) even though it was not a standard in Denmark and I had to justify it (many Danes told me I was doing my kids harm by having them at home – they would not learn to cope socially with other kids) over and over again.

Now I need to find that same mode again – even though the kids are bigger and they don´t need me 24/7. But I am pretty sure that a new country, new culture and new language will give me a new status at home – a status, which I myself have to learn to cherish.

PS. I had this post as a draft for couple of days. I have already done some research in LinkedIn, applied for a freelance job, found a full-time distance job I am considering of applying… I try to stop myself – this post is something I need to read myself, again and again.

Hygge in Denmark

I must say I love living in Denmark and have not even considered moving back to Finland. There are many good things about Denmark and here are my top 3:

1. Hygge

hygge/ˈh(j)uːɡə,ˈhʊɡə/Lær at udtale

noun

a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being (regarded as a defining characteristic of Danish culture).

Sometimes it feels like the purpose of life for every Dane is to have it ´hyggeligt´ all the time. And what is wrong with that? Nothing! I have learned to love the word and everything that comes with it.

Every now and then the Danes try to have ´hygge´ so much, that they get stressed. For example social gatherings: many are so busy to book all kinds of ´hyggelige´ social arrangements with their family and friends, that they get stressed, because they don´t have any weekends left for doing nothing. Well, now 2020-> we have had a lot of hygge at home with the closest family, so I am sure the entire country goes crazy, when the restrictions stop one day. Cannot wait 🙂

Working in Denmark

Denmark ranked high at OECD´s Better Life Index. Only 2% of the Danes work long hours (over 50 hours per week) whereas for example in France the number is 8%.

Copenhagen is also a Nordic metropolitan. Many companies have their Nordic headquarters here and the job market is good for people who can speak Nordic languages – even if you don´t speak Danish. Many companies offer nice benefits from free physical training, cheap lunch, recreational activities etc.

The hierarchy is flat and Danes are straightforward as managers and colleagues. For me, as a Finn, that was a relief. I changed my career completely when I moved from Finland to Denmark and did not know what to expect outside the school environment that I was used to. I adapted fine and have been enjoying working in a few Nordic and global teams for both international and Danish companies.

Laidback Danes

There are rules and laws, of course, in Denmark. But it is more socially accepted to break the rules sometimes than what it is in Finland. This irritated me so much when I moved to Denmark but now I appreciate the attitude of the rebellious Danes, who march to the barricades, if they think the government is not doing things right. Maybe not as much as in France but definitely more than in Finland. A good example of this all is maybe Christiania, the freetown or self-governing society, where they bend the rules.

At work the laidback attitude can often be seen in clothing, which is often smart casual, also in institutions, that are more formal in many countries, such as banks and consultancy companies. Meetings are not formal and everybody can freely express their meaning, despite their title. This is purely my subjective experience from the companies I have worked for.

Folkeskole

I come from a country that has one of the best school systems in the world. However, I still find the Danish system very good. I used to be a teacher myself in Finland, so I have experience from Finland as both as a pupil but also as a teacher. Here in Denmark, I can only see how my own kids are doing at school.

I could go on and on about this but I try to keep it short. When our twins started their school career, I was not happy about their academic challenges. I thought they were not learning enough.

The school is very focused on “trivsel”, meaning well-being at school. I can see now how important this is. The twins´ class is working so incredibly fine as a team, we have not had any problems with mobbing or somebody not having anyone to play with during classes. Both kids love their teachers and play fine with everybody in the class. This is so important also for the academic work. The class can focus on the learning during the classes and group work is never a problem, no matter how they create the groups.

I don´t know how I would feel, had one of our twins any learning challenges. Luckily they don´t and I think that this focus on well-being and group dynamic in school will benefit them the rest of their life. They are socially well-behaving and trust people and are content in social arrangements. This is so important also later in life – to know how to interact with people and how to respect all kinds of people and personalities. I am happy to have my kids in Danish school and can only hope the system in New Zealand is at least half as good.

Living in Denmark

I have lived in Denmark for almost 15 years. Have to admit, I am getting more and more Danish, every year. I wanted to go back in the memory lane and try to remember the things that irritated me in the beginning. Went through some old Facebook status updates to freshen my memories… And don´t worry, my next post will be about the the things I love about living in Denmark 🙂

Danish Language

I often heard comments in the beginning like “why don´t you speak Danish” or “you have to learn Danish if you are going to live here” etc. etc. Especially taxi drivers – who, by the way, had an accent and were certainly not born in Denmark. Would have expected a bit more understanding from fellow immigrants… Also my local Italian pizza place owner (Italian) wanted me to order in Danish, not English. I refused to go to that place after that episode (good excuse to make my husband to get the pizzas. They were the best in town and did not deliver – could not stop buying there..)

However, when I finally learned a bit and started to speak Danish to people, they looked at me as a big question mark, obviously not understanding what I tried to say, and started speaking English…

Today, I still have an accent – and will always sound foreign here. Danes often ask me if I am from Iceland or Faroe Islands (where they learn / speak Danish but have a notable accent). However, I still face some situations, where I cannot get myself understood. The other day I went to buy a medicine for my daughter. It is called Molusk. In Finnish we put the stress on the first syllable and as Molusk was a new word for me, I pronounced it in the Finnish way Mo´lusk. The apothecary looked at me in despair and did not know what I wanted. I explained him what the medicine was used for and he looked like having a revelation – aah, you mean ´Molusk! I was like, “really”??? I got home and told our twins that they are never ever allowed to be one of those Danes who don´t understand any Danish unless it is spoken with a perfect, native, Copenhagen accent. They looked at me like “c´mon, we listen to your Danish every day”… So one big plus for the twins – they don´t only learn two languages in our bilingual family, they also learn to accept accents in Danish!

Found this quora thread when I googled Danish and accents + attitudes. The quote below is one of the comments in this thread:

It’s true to some extent. Denmark is an extremely centralised country, and the Copenhagen/Rigsdansk accent is totally dominant. The result is that all ways of talking that differ from the Copenhagen/ Rigsdansk standard will be seen as strange/silly/stupid. That goes for both local Danish accents and dialects, and foreign accents. According to researchers Denmark’s is tied with France as the least tolerant country in Europe with regards to the national language. There is very little variation, and as a result a lot of Danes find foreign accents tricky.

Weather excuse

Coming from Finland I am used to severe cold weather during winter months. Here in Denmark, the entire country freezes for few days, if it gets below -5C and – God forbid – it snows. The trains are not running on time (if at all), there are traffic jams and accidents everywhere (as some idiots are driving without winter decks or are just bad at driving on icy roads). Even my bike stopped working one year – the oil could not tolerate the cold weather. After that incident my dad bought me proper bike oil in Finland and sent it to me.

If we are lucky, we might get snow enough for a day or two in winter to go sledging with the kids´. You´d better have a sledge in your storage – or act fast. The sledges are sold out in a minute, in case we have snow in Denmark.

Customer Service

The first customer service incident I remember was in the bank. We wanted to have a shared bank account with my husband (then boyfriend). I had my account, he had his – and we wanted a new one, shared, and delete the old accounts. He was able to move my money from my bank account to a joint account by writing an e-mail to somebody in the bank (he did not know this guy – had never even met him). I wrote to him that maybe next time he should not do this – maybe better to check with both parties first, at least. No answer… We are not customers in that bank anymore, by the way.

The other thing is (that annoys me insanely) that you spend time writing a service ticket to customer service, explaining everything as detailed as possible, and then you get the reply asking questions, that are answered in your ticket already. OR you get an answer to a question you did not place…

On the other side – when you do get good customer service, you remember those places and go back to them. And happily pay extra for the service.

DIY in Danish style

In both properties that we have bought in Denmark, we had this same issue – kitchen counters were put up so, that it was impossible to install a new dishwasher without destroying the counters or cupboards. Very nice. I was once discussing this with my colleague at work and he told me (he is a lawyer) that he had done exactly the same when renovating his apartment. I was speechless. But why?

It is expensive to have professional people like electricians or carpenters working for you here. And even if you had the money, it is not easy to get a professional when you need one – they are fully booked. That is probably why many people try to fix things themselves or get help from a friend who has done that before.. Something I was so not used to, moving from Finland. The country where men are supposed to build their own houses and do all the renovating by the book – best if you can do it yourself like a pro, but if not, then you definitely get a professional to do it. Not in Denmark – or at least in Copenhagen.

I have become Danish in this account. I cannot be bothered to stress about every detail in the house anymore. My dad gets nightmares every time he visits us or hears about our old windows or doors or heating not working…

Finns everywhere

There are Finns everywhere in Denmark, especially in Copenhagen. Do not expect nobody can understand you when speaking Finnish here.

Against the odds

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.