There is something comforting in waiting for a bus and knowing the minute it will arrive. Similarily it's reassuring entering a bus and knowing the public transport etiquette and how things work. But maybe that's my opinion – because I'm one of them; one of the infamously silent Finns.
Not that I'm really silent; not that I'm even really Finnish, having lived abroad most of my life. But there is something absurdly cheery about a few of the classic stereotypes (that sometimes hold very true) and can always be expected in Finland; consistency in this changing world. For the last four years my last connecting flight to Helsinki has always been easy to recognise, and I've always felt a little bit of Finland –of home- already. It's the only one where you spot visible woollen socks (worn with pride all year around) and for some reason there are always a couple of people with dreadlocks. And let's not forget the Marimekko hipsters!
I've lived abroad for most of my life, and for the past four years studied in Scotland, and now I'm moving to Finland. Yet despite reassuring familiarities, it is still very different moving back to Finland, my 'home' country, than it is to visit twice a year. It just doesn't feel like home – I've left my life and friends in the oil capital of Scotland. With an ever more globalised world, with the ease not only to travel but to work in different countries, it seems like home has become an ever more fleeting term and has begun to change its meaning.
The archaic concept of home makes me a foreigner in my own country. My mom laughs and tells me I sound like I'm stuck in a novel set in fifteenth century Finland. Others have asked where I'm from because of my strange accent (not Russian; not Swedish), and I'm just as bewildered at my American accent as they are. There are also things that I need to get used to here. My current challenge is to mentally prepare myself for the future- winter is coming. It feels as ominous as if I was a character in the Game of Thrones and Finland was Winterfell. Visiting in winter is ok (snow!), but actually living with the darkness will be a challenge. Bring on the parkas and villasukat!
Rather than symbolising something constant and somehow self-defining, home can become a temporary state of occupation. Over the years I've come to learn that feeling that it isn't necessarily connected to language or a cultural identity that connects you to people in geographic proximity – but what you make of your own life at that time. It's also material: it's where you park your bike and hang your hat for the night. It's your corner shop and jogging route; and it's your friendships and the people that are part of your everyday life, and it can change. As a foreigner, I can still make this my home.
Living abroad on my own has in some respects prepared me for moving to Helsinki. Having built a home once shows that you can do it again. You may be forever an expat (even in your home country), but that doesn't need to be a negative thing. Yes, it will take a while to get used to the food prices – and the fact that you can't get a glass of wine for under 5e! (University life, you have absolutely spoiled me.) We also need to adjust to some Finnish ways: even meeting friends is as precise as the bus schedules themselves. But that won't stop me – or anyone else who ventures in to Helsinki in pursuit of happiness - from making a home in this beautiful city.