View RSS Feed


What it means to live abroad

Rate this Entry
by on 6th-August-2009 at 04:21 PM (1787 Views)
I believe that most people who decide to move and take up residence abroad and this includes myself,go through what can only be described as a cultural shock.Some people feel that they can adjust quickly,others may take some more time.

With regards to my own personal experiences,I found looking back on the early years,that there were definite stages of change with in myself and coming to terms with living abroad and a new country,culture,customs and language.

* Tuorist or Honeymoon period
* Cultural,customs,language shock
* Settling down and adjusting to a new lifestyle
* Anger at being isolated
* Finally coming to accept and begin integrating in to the new society

Tuorist or Honeymoon Period

When I first arrived in my destined for country,Finland.Everything was taken as though I was only on a holiday.Everything was extremely exciting and at times I would feel, much as Peter pan felt in those classic childhood books.There just was not enough time in the day to explore,everything I wished to explore

The excitement of trying new foods,discovering a new city and being amongst a language that I had absolutely no knowledge of,was adrenelin pumping and very addictive.But unlike a tourist you are not returning home.I had the constant feeling that a dream had come to fruition.It really resembles getting married for the very first time,the excitement of getting there and the adventure lying ahead of you can be over powering in it self
The culture,customs,language shock period

I found, that after the initial euphoric almost, state of my thinking,which lasted for some 3 months,I became aware of the very different culture surrounding me.I constantly had the feeling of not being able to be totally independent.I could not simply phone to the authorities/doctors and generally getting about without having to rely on my wife or if not around,asking strangers if they spoke any English,was to become a reguler habit

I felt very much as a child at times and I didn`t like it, one bit.I felt at times that my freedom had been taken away from me.I had no work for the first 3 months,so any savings I had were being eaten away at an alarming rate.I believe that was the only time when I thought,things are not good.

I was fortunate to get work in a really nice but noisy night bar as a waiter,situated iin the center of Helsinki.It was to change the way I felt drastically.I not only was earning an income,but more importantly,I was getting to know some local Finnish people.I have friendships with those very same people today,21 years later.They taught me enough Finnish language to perform my job and showed me a little bit more of the Finnish Lifestyle.

For the first 8 months,I was working in downtown Helsinki.After work,0200,we would all go for a drink at a late bar and return to one of my co-workers home to bathe in a Finnish Sauna and continue partying.I was rarely to get home before 0600.It has been many years now,but I owe my Finnish friends a big debt of gratitude
Settling down and adjusting to a new lifestyle

After the initial shock,I began to find my own way.I was more confident moving around the city.I spoke a smattering of the pigeon Finnish Language.Well,I could ask for simple things in Finnish.My job was both invigorating and allowed me to get to know more Finnish People.I used to frequent a local bar with my wife,Pub Angleterre.It was and still is a local hang out for British Expatriates living in Finland.However after 2 years,I just got fed up listening to some constantly blaming Finland for thier problems and woes.At one point I just said”If it is so F`ìn bad here,go back home”I do not know if they took the advice,as I now prefer to mix with the Finns.

The lifestyle in Helsinki/Finland is a lot slower than in London.It took me some years to slow down and to come to terms with the fact that I was the one who had to change,not the country and it`s people.London is a go,go.go. society,Finland as a whole and the people of Finland tend to have a more,We can wait attitude.Manjana is the closest I can define it.I have met friends and spent several hours going to the shop for bread!
Anger at being isolated

After adjusting to a new lifestyle in a new country,all I can say is that I began having dough-ts.I became very angry at myself and others.Questions in my mind included,”Am I really in the right country”,”Why cant I get the authorities to understand my English”.”Where can I get decent British food”.

I became obsessed with keeping something British around me.Everything and everyone else was to become the focal point of my intense dislikes-The libaries didn`t have good English books,the weather was cold and the food rubbish.How my wife put up with my constant complaining is still to this day a wonder.I became angry because I could not learn the Finnish Language,while at the same time my wife who speaks 8 languages ,was saying that it is easy to learn.

This time had to be my darkest period.The more I tried to get out from the chains,the tighter they would become.Alcohol began to play a larger part in my life.It was to drown out feelings that I should have just gone through and experienced.I would have come to a period of acceptance much more quickly.One day I was going home,the next I was staying.This put an immense strain on my new Finnish Wife and myself.The bright eye`s I once had became dull and the sparkle had disappeared fro them.I felt very isolated at times,even when my wife was present
Out of the blue and final acceptance

In it`s easiest way,I stopped making comparisons between the two countries and sunk myself into the Finnish Society.I gave up trying to change the host country and people.I learnt to stop looking at the facade of the local people and rather began to see and understand them as people with emotions and feelings like myself.

You can only see what you know and people from different cultural backgrounds may perceive the same event in differing way`s

I ave now been living in Finland for 21 years.My stay here has had many up`s and down`s,trials and tribulations.Through it all,I know that this is my home and life as Expatriate could be worse. I would not give it up lightly.

Hyvää Suomi.

Submit "What it means to live abroad" to Digg Submit "What it means to live abroad" to Submit "What it means to live abroad" to StumbleUpon Submit "What it means to live abroad" to Google

Updated 6th-August-2009 at 04:38 PM by Griffin63 (Correct url)

Personal Diaries


  1. Janna's Avatar
      I have never lived abroad but it's something I really want to do one day. I would love to experience all these things you described, yes the 'bad' ones as well. I think it's a great thing to see and live a different culture.

      I have to say I really enjoyed your story, it's good to know how it's like, oh and give your wife a really big hug for her support, I can only imagine what she went through to put up with you
    • klarah's Avatar
        thanks for your story!
        I lived in Ireland for 16 months and have to say that get used In Ireland is much easier then here in Finland. I think it has one reason: People! I have been to Ireland as an au-pair and now I've decided to try Finland because I have learned for 2 years finnish in my homeland and now I would like to learn Finnish properly. Ugh, it is impossible to learn it! Ok, I'm here only one week and maybe my conclusion is too fast but....big BUT is still there. I live in town where I didn't want to end at all and from there maybe comes my anger or disappointment or I don't know how the feel named. In this time here works 'the cultural shock' and if I could i would give it up all. Of course I can! Why not? Because NOW I'm here and it was kinda hard to get here so I can't give it up! I have to give time myself and people I live with and bla bla bla I'm soooo impatient and wish I could move time faster forward.
        Anyway I should sometimes read again your story and realize why I'm here and that everything is not so black how I see it for the first sight

        Btw. How long did take to learn finnsh language properly, that you understood and spoke in every day life situations?

        Thanks again!
      • edvanderpier's Avatar
          hello guys,

          thanks for your stories. am getting scared about coming over. . . . am supposed to be there by september this year. why does it take so long to get used?

          Will i manage? am an african. wonder if the british feel terrible in Finn, what bout us? . . . just thinking aloud.

          but i still want to come.. . . . . will see . .