British expats ‘left out in the cold’ by UK Government says expert
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Many Britons dream of relocating overseas, but few make the move to Finland. British expat Alicia Iredale, however, followed her partner north and made the move during the pandemic, in May 2020.
After living with her Finnish partner in England, Ali “made the decision to try out living in Finland together”.
The couple first moved to Pietarsaar, where Ali’s boyfriend’s parents live.
She explained: “We stayed with them for seven months when we first moved until he managed to get a job which was in Kerava.”
The country, she said, was “very beautiful with a lot of forests. Each season is beautiful in its own right.”
Planning to stay in Finland permanently, Ali is adapting to life in the Nordic country, even if the “harsh temperatures of winter and the dark days” were “difficult to adjust to”.
She recalled last year, when “it was as cold as -25 degrees and there was only daylight for about five hours a day”.
The widely different weather was not the only major change in Ali’s life, as she said she hadn’t met any fellow Britons.
“I have not met any other British people in Finland but I am part of a Facebook group called ‘Brits in Finland’ which has about 1600 members.”
While Finland doesn’t have many British expats, there are many non-Finnish in the country.
Ali continued: “There are many immigrants in Kerava, I am currently on an integration course which is for immigrants and there are people from all over the world.”
The “integration course” is mandatory for anyone who wishes to stay in Finland long term.
Ali explained: “In order to get unemployment benefits/social security you have to partake in the immigration course which is organised by the Government or alternatively find another language course organised by a private company which must meet the Government requirements.”
The alternative is, of course, to find employment.
But with limited Finnish skills, Ali said the hardest thing about moving to Finland was “the language barrier”.
She said: “I personally find it very hard to feel ‘at home’ without speaking the native language and understanding the basics when going for example to the supermarket or pharmacy.
“Now I have a basic understanding of Finnish and can use it to carry out day to day activities and have simple conversations.”
The “integration course”, which lasts one year and teaches “the Finnish language, societal norms and how to integrate into the community, including finding work” has helped the British expat with language skills, but also with meeting people.
Ali said she’s “only met people from my course. I don’t have any Finnish friends or acquaintances.”
She mentioned “many clubs, sports groups, talking groups to go to” and believed they would be a good way to meet people.
But again, the language barrier was an issue, prompting Ali to say her top tips for fellow Britons who may consider a move to Finland to “study some Finnish”.
“Even if you speak just a little of the native language, Finns will show more respect and appreciation. Look into some language groups when you come to Finland.”
And she reiterated: “Be prepared to commit to learning the language.”
Finding a job was another difficulty for Ali, who said “it is extremely difficult to get employed without a sufficient level of Finnish”.
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