Published in SixDegrees 27.3.2014
Portuguese Tiago Ferreira loves sarcasm and engaging in deep conversation. That is why he likes life in Finland.
What do you do here in Finland?
I study tourism and work part-time in a bar. In my spare time, I do a bit of photographing.
When and how did you end up here?
I came here for love – but it didn’t last. I moved over in June 2008. Since then, I’ve been in and out the country but keep coming back. Due to my studies, I’m pretty settled here now. Being in Finland allows me to save money for my travels and to challenge my views and opinions on things, which I enjoy.
What attracts you about the Finnish culture?
Well, I’ve mainly just been in Helsinki, so whatever I say about Finns is based only on the people in the Capital Region. But judging by them, Finns love to have meaningful conversations about anything and everything, there are no forbidden subjects or taboos, and for that I am always happy to return here. I love the way Finns use sarcasm. When you say something really obvious they reply with sarcasm, as if a reminder that they expect you to be a bit smarter than that.
What culture shocks did you experience when coming to Finland?
When I first came here, I was always late. Finnish people are very punctual. Although I’m usually on time these days, I still tell people when agreeing to meet them that I will be 5-10 minutes late as a precaution. In the beginning, the use of alcohol also shocked me. But I must admit that I have integrated into that part of the Finnish culture now quite well myself. I started to enjoy it, drinking beer when going to sauna and all that. It can be fun. The best way to learn to know the Finnish culture seems to be through alcohol and national celebrations.
Have you been able to settle and integrate into Finnish society?
Yes-ish. I feel like after three-and-a-half years here, I should be able to speak Finnish fluently. And I can only manage the small talk part. I’m quite strict with myself in that regard because I think it’s arrogant if you live in a country and don’t bother learning the language. Apart from the struggle with the language, I think I’ve settled in quite well. I like living here; I like how the Finnish society allows me to follow this lifestyle. I’m not the type to actively seek the company of other foreigners and get into groups with them. I attempt to blend in as a regular Helsinki citizen. I’ve set myself goals that I go towards, for example when I go to Kela I want to be able to sort my things out using Finnish.
What were/are your worries about life in Finland?
Coming here, I was worried about achieving a better level of living. And, of course, I worried about the relationship with my fiancée at the time, wondering if we could make it. But I didn’t really know anything about Finland before so I didn’t have so many expectations or worries either. Now I worry sometimes when meeting girls here if they really like me or just the idea of me as an exotic foreigner. You definitely get more attention from women over here than you would back home in Portugal. After a while, it gets boring. You feel like a piece of meat sometimes. People tend to draw conclusions when they hear you’re a Latino working in a bar, and I don’t fit into that stereotype.
How has Finland changed you?
I think that Finns, as many faults as they may have, are good at listening and talking. In that way, they affect your views on things. To get in talks with the Finns, it’s essential to get their sense of humour. After that, you can talk about anything with them.
What are your future wishes for your life here?
First, I want to graduate to gain the feeling that I’ve achieved something. After that, I’m not sure what my plans will be. But I’m definitely not going back to Portugal. The country is being led by sex, football and crooked politics, and it’s not an environment that I aspire to be in.
What is your favourite Finnish word?
I’ve got two: punainen polkupyörä (red bicycle). Because those are the first Finnish words I’ve ever used in a real conversation. I’m also very fond of the word mahtava (great, awesome).