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.fa­ce­­tin­Fin­land/).