Susan Fourtané lives in Helsinki, where she combines freelance journalism and writing with Philosophy studies, teaching, her passion for the arts and the closeness to nature.
AFTER living for many years in several countries, I came to Finland on vacation as I had been told wonderful stories about the land of wondrous nature and four beautiful seasons. It was September 2005 and I was living in Prague.
It was at this point that I had the feeling I had been yearning so long for, a warm, tingly feeling difficult to describe. After ten days, with that growing feeling I returned to Prague and made arrangements to move to Finland. A dream come true and a year later I moved.
The three main reasons for foreigners to move to Finland are: a Finnish girlfriend/boyfriend/spouse, Nokia or the University of Helsinki. I had none of them. Those being apparently the right reasons the government considers valid for extending the residence permit too. Trying by all means to follow my dream, I spent the three months my non-EU citizen tourist visa gave me trying to find a job and making connections. The circle was always the same, when applying for a job they asked me for a residence permit and for the residence permit I needed a job offer. It was Catch-22. How to deal with this? I only had my determination, the certainty that Finland was my true home, and the knowledge that I was going to fight to remain here.
At the end of November 2006, with the expiration of my tourist visa I was forced not only to leave Finland but the EU for 90 days. I went to Tallinn, Estonia, where I spent three months until I was allowed to come back. It was a time for reflection and introspection.
Back in Finland with another three months ahead of me on a new tourist visa, I got a job offer from a company led by two wonderful people who became my first family in Helsinki. I applied for my first residence permit and after a long wait I finally got the stamp on my passport in September 2007.
Nowadays, EU citizens don’t need to apply for permits anymore and can immediately work if they have a job offer. Things are different and very difficult for any non-EU citizen. The permit is valid for a year after which a new application costing another 200 euros is needed. For my second and third permits I applied as a freelancer, which required proof of a certain level of income, a clean criminal record, a detailed list of activities and long waits at the Foreign Police Office.
Almost four years have passed. Despite the difficulties, Finland is my home, the place where my ashes will merge with the Finnish nature. It is where I can breathe and feel the energy emanating from the forest and strength from the deep sea invading my body, filling my soul with the sweet knowledge of having found my place in the world.
Sometimes when people ask me where I come from I simply say, it’s not important where I was born as I never felt that to be my homeland. I am a citizen of the world with a Finnish heart and that is all that matters.
Is anything impossible if we truly want something in our heart?
To see the beauty of Finland you have to open your heart and feel the warmth in the cold, dark winters. You need to feel love coming from the land of your dreams.
If you can feel it in your heart, then you really, REALLY want to live in Finland.
First published in the Helsinki Times on June 24th, 2010. http://www.helsinkitimes.fi/htimes/expat-view/11605-do-you-really-really-want-to-live-in-finland.html