“Finland is quiet and sometimes it gets too much. That’s why I occasionally need to go abroad and get the noise of a big city, then come back. I like to have both sides. Mexico City is one of the biggest cities in the world, lots of traffic and the noise of people. They are complete opposites. I lived there all my life, until I was 30. I miss the sun, nice weather, food and people. People in the sense that I can kiss and hug them, have contact.
“They are teaching me Finnish, but I speak English to them. My favourite word is “noniin””
I become Finnish when I’m here. I keep my distance and I never touch anyone. I become another person. I also try not to speak too much and not to laugh loudly. It’s hard. I feel like some Finns find the laughing annoying, but I don’t want to annoy people so I just try and moderate my laughter. I feel like I need to ask “is it okay to laugh now?”
I think it’s a human need to have contact with people. I miss that. I have persuaded some Finnish friends to learn salsa. With music, when you are dancing and listening you are moving with your body and you get relaxed. When you dance as a couple you need to learn to touch somebody.
I met Otto, my boyfriend, in Tampere. I never imagined that I would find love so far away from my home country. We were 18 people in my Erasmus Mundus Master’s programme, representing 15 different countries; Finland not included. That was an amazing intercultural experience. But we all experienced culture shock and we didn’t know how to integrate into Finnish culture. Still, many Finns approached me and I made some friends.
“It gets harder to be in touch with people back home as the times goes on”
Finnish men are more sincere and more respectful. I think that that’s what made the difference. They are shy but eager. Quite different to Latin guys. Otto approached as a regular guy. I didn’t imagine he wanted to have something else with me. It was very neutral and he never tried to touch me. Latin guys they don’t care. They just go and approach and they try to have much more contact. I really appreciated it, it made me fall in love. This respect for distance was unique.
I have had the opportunity to meet his family and they are really nice. Otto’s parents are curious and want to learn about Mexico. We have spent Christmas together. It makes it really special because I know that Finns don’t open their door to just anybody, to strangers. They make me feel very welcome and I feel like I have a second home in Finland. We go to visit my boyfriend’s family quite often. There is a nice lake near by and going to the sauna is magical. They are teaching me Finnish, but I speak English to them. My favourite word is “noniin”.
My parents haven’t visited me here. I hope to bring my mum here next summer. She never asked why I stayed, I think she doesn’t want to get that deep into my reasons. I think it might hurt sometimes that I’m so far away. In Mexico, in Latin cultures, the families are quite close and they will be together until the end. She was okay when I said I’m staying in Finland, but I could feel she was upset. So I don’t want to talk about that with her. I told her I’m fine and feel safe, I’m with Otto, it’s amazing and I have a job. She never asked but I felt that I had to justify it somehow.
“I love the peaceful moments in the nature and walking in the forest. Here people focus on their own lives. I can do whatever I want and no one is looking”
It gets harder to be in touch with people back home as the times goes on. My group of friends is getting smaller. But we chat, that’s our main way of communicating. Sometimes Skype. I go there every year and I notice that I can see fewer people. They are doing other things and it’s not the same. We share life experiences and I tell them about my life here, struggles, what I’m doing and so on. My friends have not visited. They are busy working and in Mexico it’s hard to get good holidays. You get maybe 2-3 weeks per year. So they can’t travel too much. I could go back and work there, but maybe not for a long time. I couldn’t stand the traffic for a long time.
I like being in nature and standing by a lake. That was one of the reasons to stay here. I just like sitting there to observe, meditate and breathe clean air. I love the peaceful moments in the nature and walking in the forest. Here people focus on their own lives. I can do whatever I want and no one is looking.
For me it’s important to meditate, especially during the dark times of year. I have to do maybe forty minutes to one hour a day. Maybe not every day, but four times a week. That helps me a lot. At some point I felt like I was going crazy and I thought it’s the lack of sun. Meditation is breathing and listening to some audio. Dancing, also, because I know some moving meditation. I do it early in the morning. I just forget everything. I put in my earphones and the audio and then I just start to relax and breathe. When you are stressed you feel the pressure on your heart and chest. I felt like I could not breath. I learned the techniques in Mexico before moving and it has helped me to manage the culture shock. I’m out of my comfort zone here, but after meditation my breathing is better and I can work easily.
My introduction to my current job at TalentAdore was on the first day of Startup Sauna, a famous accelerator programme for growth companies. I felt privileged. I didn’t know what to expect. Everybody – my friends and boyfriend – were like, “wooow, you are going to meet the best entrepreneurs in Finland.” I met some of my new colleagues for the first time there and I just dived straight in without a hesitation.”
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This interview was recorded in 2017 in Helsinki by Peter Seenan. If you’d like to be involved in this project please visit our contact page and submit the form.