Life as an expat comes with its own set of challenges: Being away from family, learning a new language, building new friendships and understanding a new culture, just to name a few. What many don’t understand is just how rewarding the lifestyle can be once you’ve begun to find your way; this is what makes it all worth it.
As I say goodbye to Tampere and welcome my own new set of challenges adjusting to expat life in the UK, this is a perfect opportunity to share a few of my tried-and-true tips for integrating as an international talent:
1. Just say yes
There are a whole new set of experiences waiting for you in Tampere. Even though you may not always feel up for a new adventure, do your best to “say yes” to every opportunity or invitation that comes your way.
I recently shared this tip with an international considering a move to Tampere. She was visiting Tampere for only a few days with her husband. They visited a church on Sunday and were invited over for coffee by another couple - complete strangers in an unfamiliar country. In a situation she could have easily said no, she instead said yes. I loved getting the text, “We are taking your advice and not saying no to an invitation.” It turned out to be a great experience that would shape her perception of what may soon be her new home.
2. Fill up your calendar
Create a separate calendar just for local events. Within the first few weeks of your arrival (and frequently after that) scour the internet for events in Tampere, if something looks interesting add it to your calendar. This way you will always have a curated list of what’s coming up just in case you find yourself with some extra time or feeling a bit lonely. You might find a new hobby or meet a prospective friend but you will definitely learn more about the city and begin to feel more socially connected.
In my first month in Tampere I did just this. One of the events I registered my husband and I for was a bike tour of the city happening during Night of the Museums. The tour was in Finnish and we didn’t have bikes, but we just said yes. Early in the event we heard others speaking English and naturally gravitated towards them. We hung out with the group of three that evening and connected on Facebook. Soon after we got an invitation to join them at the public sauna. (Frankly, at this point we didn’t know what to expect of the sauna!) We said yes and are still friends to this day.
Here are a few places to look for events:
Facebook – Click on “Events” and scroll down to see the “Popular events nearby” section
3. Learn Finnish (or at least try)
You may have heard the tales of the difficulties of the Finnish language. While you certainly won’t learn it overnight, there are great benefits to trying to learn. Make a commitment to strive for progress over perfection.
In Finnish class I met friends and made professional connections. Outside of class, even a small amount of Finnish significantly reduced my time spent staring at grocery store shelves; it helped me order coffee shop at my favorite café; and it gave my Finnish friends and I hours of amusement as they tried to teach me new words.
Finally, if you are looking for a great group of internationals and internationally-minded Finns, join any of the Tampere Ambassadors events!