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…

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.

How to prepare a child to move abroad

Our twins are around 10 years old and not (at all) alike. The other one has been heart broken about us moving away, her missing all her friends, not being able to speak and understand the local language… just to name a few. Now that we got the border exemption, flights and the quarantine hotel booked we decided to contact the school here in Denmark and also all the parents of the twins´ classmates.

Find the pain

The more troubled twin seemed almost like a new person when she came home from school after all the adults had gotten our e-mail about us moving. She had been talking to her friends about our plans but had not really had any adult in the school to support her and apparently some of the kids thought that it would not be possible for us to move. She was relieved that “now the others believed her”. It has always been a big thing for her to be believed – that she does not lie. So maybe that was the trick? To get the adults in school and around other kids´ behind us to support her?

One morning she told me that sometimes she is almost happy about New Zealand. I asked her why, and she said that when she got the date for our move, and found out that she would still have time to go to a new club at school (starts 1,5 months before we move) and that she could still get the computer (she would have gotten a computer from school after summer), she said that she feels better. These things were never mentioned when she was really unhappy and crying – the the issues were about friends and family forgetting us while we are away. They have also talked about that at school – that we will keep contact with the class and that everybody would love to be in our shoes and move to New Zealand.

Next Steps

We decided to involve the twins as early as possible so that they would have time to get used to the idea. The next steps will be:

  • Getting them involved: “house hunt” online together online and make lists of things that they would like to have in our new home.
  • Language: I told them that we will drop the Finnish lessons they have been having every other week. Instead, I will teach them English. We will start once a week and see if we can practice at least 2-3 times a week the closer we get to the move.
  • Get to know our new home town online together: We will find out together what Christchurch looks like, what do they have there, how the climate is etc.

I am planning to start this next week. The other twin does not seem to be concerned at all and is talking about the move to everybody. The other one, however, is still quiet about it sometimes and prefers not to talk about the moving too much. I think I need to get them involved separately, because the happy twin will get the other one even more shut down with her positive approach.

It is not easy and my mother´s heart is sometimes aching for the silently grieving little girl. I can only hope this will turn out fine and that we all will get the experience of our lifetime.