Growing up in the United States, I never imagined I would ever live anywhere else. It’s pretty ingrained in the subconscious of [most] Americans that the USA is “the greatest country in the world,” which is perhaps why so many friends and family were shocked when I announced I would be moving to Finland after getting married, instead of my wife moving to the States.
Sanni and I first connected in 2006 on a pen pal website. Right away, we had chemistry—although not romantic at first. We found it easy to talk to one another about absolutely anything. We never expected we’d meet in person, which may be why we felt so comfortable opening up to a person on the other side of the world; someone who would listen and never passed judgement. We could always be our true selves
Over the years, Sanni and I managed to keep in touch, but it wasn’t until 2014 when we reignited our initial spark. After confessing our mutual affections, our valued friendship quickly became a heartfelt romance. Before long, we were talking about getting married, and in March of 2016, we eloped to Ireland. Then, following an amazing honeymoon, we both flew back to our respective countries.
We talked a lot about where we should live together, ultimately deciding that it would best for me to move to Finland. We wanted to start a family and agreed it would be easier to do so in Finland than in the US, but it would also allow me the opportunity to learn more about Sanni’s homeland and the culture which raised her.
In December of 2016, I relocated to Pori, having only visited briefly twice before. In an instant, I went from living alone to living with a wife and dog, from having a steady job to having no job or any prospects—all while immersed in a new country, an unfamiliar culture, and a language I could barely understand. It was indeed a bit overwhelming, but despite all of these challenges, I remained positive and hopeful.
Every day presented new opportunities and experiences. Soon I was meeting new people and making friends. After surviving my first Finnish winter, I had learned to ski, began learning Finnish, and even lost about 10 kg from the general increase in activity. By summer, I had found a job. We visited the kesämökki, picked berries, and attended outdoor festivals. By the time my first year in Finland ended, I had been to several different parts of the country from Helsinki to Saariselkä. And since then, so many other wonderful things have happened, including the birth of our son in 2020.
I consider myself very fortunate. The people I have met in Finland have been so welcoming and accommodating. It minimized the culture shock and helped me to feel right at home in this new land. I moved here for love, but it turns out that the Finnish lifestyle suits me. I feel more free here, more connected with nature, healthier, and just happier overall. The US will always be my first home, but I am also proud to say, “Suomi on nyt kotini.”
Kolumni on julkaistu SAM Magazine 1/2021 helmikuussa 2021.
Matthew Bowen is an American living in Pori, Finland with his wife, Sanni, their son, Edvin, and their dog, Pipo. You can follow their journey on Matthew’s Facebook blog, My Life in Finland (www.facebook.com/MattinFinland/).