Expat view

As my flight soared over the wintry landscape of Finland, I was struck with a mixture of emotions. The sight of snow-covered pine trees was both majestic and eerie, making me wonder if my new life in this country would be as daunting as the icy terrain below. As a journalist, I had left behind a familiar world in India to embrace a new chapter in a land of sub-zero temperatures and limited daylight, aware about the struggles that international talents face in finding employment here.

Upon landing, I was greeted by frosty breeze and the gloomy darkness at 4:30 pm reminded me of a deserted midnight street back in India. My phone showed the temperature at -10 degrees Celsius. However, the drive from the airport to my residence in Helsinki seemed like a good start with glistening buildings boasting of Soviet and Finnish architecture, complemented by the beauty of nature.

Finally, I arrived at the service apartment and just as I was settling in, my phone beeped again - it was going to snow. I donned layers of warm clothes and merino wools and ventured out to experience my first snowfall in Finland. I walked around the lanes of central station - the beautiful snowfall, the smiling faces around, people walking on the streets, and my apprehensions were calmed. I remembered a Finnish saying that there is no bad weather, only bad dressing, and thankfully I was all prepared.

People in Finland are reserved – unless it’s a Saturday night in a bar. Finns come alive on Saturday nights in bars where shared tables and cooped spaces enable easy friendships and conversations about culture. The whole city transforms, with people bar-hopping, drinking, and lining up at food stalls at 3 am.

Though not the chattiest folks, Finns are quick to help and eager to share their love for their country. Once, when I inquired about a Finnish delicacy, voisilmäpullat (butter eye bread), someone went aisle to aisle to find it, sparking an hour-long conversation about all sorts of breads!

Though Finland’s global reputation of being eco-friendly is not lost on me, nature and sustainability woven in everyday life is a constant reminder. I often see people queuing at supermarkets to return plastic bottles and cans for recycling.

Here, I am at the centre of a small Nordic country where public services are world-class and often free for citizens. Free healthcare, education, and libraries are available to all. As I write this from a library surrounded by workstations, gaming zones, sewing machines, and a children's area, I wonder if it would be considered "freebies" politics in India.

Sonali Telang
The author is a journalist who recently moved to Helsinki from India. She likes to write about environment and climate change. In her free time, she enjoys indulging in classic rock music, watching movies, and travelling to explore new places and local cuisines.