Mark from San Francisco, CA, USA and currently live in Helsinki, Finland.
1. Why did you move abroad?
I moved abroad with my Finnish wife and 2 children. We wanted to try a change of lifestyle and wanted the children to learn Finnish.
2. How do you make a living?
I recently got a job working for a Finnish start-up company called Scoopshot.com. Scoopshot specializes in “crowdsourcing” both photos and videos for media consumption. It has been a very nice experience working in a Finnish company. I am learning different cultures and working with many creative individuals and we are all working toward a common goal. They have been very friendly to me so far and they have embraced international folks now at their Finnish company.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I speak with parents back home about once per week and use Skype. Nothing beats using Skype for free when you are so many miles away from home.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Helsinki?
I enjoy the nature, peace and solitude that living in Finland provides. I also really like being near all the other European countries for quick travel. I never have to worry about jet lag again when visiting European cities.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Helsinki?
Well, I think most will say that the worst thing about living in Helsinki and Finland is the weather. They can have long and cold winters and the summers can be very nice but short.
6. What do you miss most?
I think what I miss about California the most besides friends and family is the foods I got used to. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area I had access to the best food from around the world and freshest ingredients. In Helsinki they have been slower to adopt ethnic foods and they just don’t have all the ingredients to make great food, but things are slowly changing.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I joined many different social networks via Facebook and others when I first moved to Finland. These groups featured mainly expats and some Finns and they were very helpful in making friends and networking. We are currently renting a smaller home here than in the US and have been adjusting by just not having as much junk in our life. We definitely downsized and dropped many material goods, but it feels good.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
People rarely smile at you in public. It is very difficult for folks to smile and say hello, but when you are able to make a connection, you will find them friendly and curious.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Myth would be that it is cold year round. Actually, Finland is quite warm and humid in the summer time. Last summer they had a few weeks of 30-37 celsius (86-90+ F) and most summers are warm from June through August.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living is actually a bit higher than where I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area. Basic things like gas and food are a bit more expensive. Since we don’t earn as much here in Finland, we just have to be careful about what we purchase, etc.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
Go into your new country with an open mind an don’t expect things to happen overnight. It is a slow process to adapt and overcome culture shock, but if you remain positive you will find nice things you enjoy about your new country.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started my blog to share my experiences with friends back home and to keep a diary of my time living in Finland.
Mark's blog, A Scandinavian Interlude
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