I’ve always been a believer in having a connection to your hometown. Growing up in Maryland, I spent a lot of time around the water, ate crabs (in every form imaginable), cheered for the Orioles and Ravens, and plenty of other Marylander things. In fact, you’ll always find Old Bay seasoning in my kitchen, even here in Finland. But now that I have moved across the world, bought a house, and started a family, I have been reflecting about how I have been connecting with Finland, and more specifically, my new hometown: Pori.
My first lessons in how to be “Porilainen” came from my father-in-law who was excited when he learned that I was a fan of ice hockey. I quickly learned that the Pori team is Ässät and started listening to games and eventually attended one in-person, which was great. Now, I have several pieces of apparel featuring the team, including a custom jersey with BOWEN on the back. True, the team doesn’t always do too well, but as a Baltimore Orioles fan, I know how to love a losing team, haha. And of course, I now have a healthy disdain for Rauman Lukko, the Ässät rival. My brother-in-law introduced me to pesäpallo and the Porin Pesäkarhut. And in 2019, I was delighted to discover an American football team, the Pori Bears. They all have my love and support as a Pori resident.
After living in Pori for several months, I began meeting a lot of new people and making friends. At first, most were immigrants like me, but then I started meeting more Finns. Through these interactions, I began to pick up more and more about Pori and what makes it such a wonderful place. And as I have so often read articles listing the top places to visit in Finland, Pori is rarely among the suggestions, and I can’t really understand why.
Earlier in 2021, I got a call from a friend who told me that the city of Pori was looking for rakkauslähettilät (love ambassadors). I decided to apply and to my surprise and delight, I was one of five who were selected, out of 87 who had applied. And since becoming a love ambassador, I have had many new opportunities to learn about the history and culture of Pori. I make posts on my social media where I share in great detail what I have been learning.
It still surprises me that Pori is not on more of those lists I was talking about. There’s something for everybody here, I think. Maybe in time, things will change and Pori will become more appreciated around the world. But for now, Pori is my home. I have officially started planting roots here and now I have a son who was born in Pori. I want him to always remember where he comes from and to be connected to his home even if he ends up moving across the world too one day. It’s more than just cheering for the local sports teams, knowing history, and understanding the Pori dialect. It’s about understanding how your hometown contributed to who you become, for better or worse. In my son’s case, I hope growing up in Pori awakens his karhu spirit and that stays with him throughout his lifetime.
Matt Bowen is an American living in Pori, Finland with his wife Sanni, their son, Edvin, and their dog, Pipo. You can follow their joyrney on Matthew´s Facebook blog, My Life in Finland (www.facebook.com/MattinFinland/).