17/06/2017

Multicultural Couple Problems: Google Translated Recipes

Multicultural Relationship Problems: Google Translated Recipes

Sharing your life with someone who comes from a whole different world to yours gets adventurous at times. Mundane tasks like washing the dishes, booking appointments or cooking a meal can turn into a self-exploratory tour into your own weird habits and shortcomings.

Time teaches you to ignore these things. When you date someone from another culture for a few years you fall into this weird familiarity where cultural differences are taken for granted and not given much thought. That is, until they cause a catastrophe.

As I'm currently working full time AND trying to finish my postgraduate thesis simultaneously, my caring boyfriend, a French-speaking lifesaver from Québec, Canada, has stepped into this insanity and attempts to make my life more bearable. That comes in the form of cooking our dinners. When I drag myself home from the LUAS (the tram system in Dublin), I can freely fall on the couch, take a few deep breaths and then continue my data transcription project while Alex works his way around the kitchen.

The problem is, I used to be the one to plan the meals - as a former professional restaurant cook it was more than natural for me to come up with a few improvised meals worth eating. Not anymore. The ball has been tossed to Alex.

I've shared a few Finnish recipe sites with him to use as an inspiration.

The emphasis here is on the word FINNISH.

I don't know how Google Translate works around your native language, but I can tell you Finnish and automatic translation softwares are not friends. It hasn't been that many years since my private Finnish Facebook update about trying to find a new apartment in Helsinki turned into yours truly attempting to sell her black roommate and depressed fridge.

That probably should've worked as an indicator for me to NOT let Alex use these softwares to translate Finnish recipes. Halfway through the cooking process of chicken-cauliflower curry I heard Alex shouting from downstairs:

"You know what, I'm really starting to have doubts about this meal."

"Why's that?" I asked.

"Well I mean, I fried the chicken, I fried the cauliflower, and now they have been in the oven for like 5 minutes - but what's the point of putting them into the oven for just 5 minutes?"

"Wait - you what? Why is the curry in the oven?"

"Well the recipe says to fry the ingredients on a frying pan and then put them into the oven --"

"Oh my god! No! No it doesn't!"

"Yes it does! It says to put them into the oven for a few minutes, take them out and add the curry-flavoured yoghurt --"

"... WHAT? What did you do to the yoghurt?!"

"Well half of it is in the oven now and the rest is here on the side mixed with the curry paste, since we obviously don't have curry-flavoured yoghurt..."

"You were supposed to fry the ingredients, then add the yoghurt and curry paste on the pan and let it simmer for a few minutes!"

"Well that's obviously not what's happening in the French version of your recipe. It clearly states to add the curry-flavoured yoghurt into the mixture in the oven."

"Oh my f--"

Summa summarum: the dinner was delicious despite our linguistic shortcomings. Note to self: don't trust translation softwares.

Have you ever tried to translate things and failed massively? Do this kind of things happen in your multicultural relationship? Share your stories in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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04/06/2017

Interview in ExpatFinder.com | New Job and Other Updates


'We have discussed this with my Canadian half and came to the conclusion that Ireland might not be the place to be for us...'

I'm not dead!
Not yet at least - turns out attempting to write your postgraduate thesis full-time while working full-time leaves you on the brink of insanity. Take my advice: sleeping four hours a night is not, repeat, NOT enough rest in the long run.

Yes, you heard it right. I got a job. It was a series of weird events and unplanned job interviews but in the end I actually landed a pretty decent position here in Dublin, nevermind the hardships immigrants occasionally face to get employed to a position that matches their level of education.

More stories of that in a bit - before that, I wanted to share this interview I did for ExpatFinder.com, a website providing information, technology and support services for a global network of expats. Their questions really concentrated more on the everyday aspect of my life in Ireland, so in case you're interested in learning how the daily ramblings of a Finnish migrant in Dublin have worked out for me, read the interview here:


So as mentioned, life has been a rollercoaster during the last month. My last semester in Trinity College Dublin is finished, which brought along the insane project of writing my postgraduate dissertation. For the past five weeks I've been running back and forth Ireland - and even flew to Scotland for a weekend - interviewing people and transcribing the data. My research concentrates on the role of cultural heritage in the creation of a sense of belonging amongst children of Russian-speaking immigrants in Ireland - in other words, how children of Russian-speaking migrants from the former USSR navigate their way with this kind of hyphenated identity, belonging to multiple places and nowhere at once. I'm head over heels with this project, and hearing people's stories and thoughts about growing up in a country different to their parents has been a truly eye-opening experience. I've also had a chance to brush up on my rusty Russian and drink a glass or two of kombucha.

As for the job, it was a bit of an accident. After working for Activision I swore to myself never to land a similar kind of top-secret confidential job where I'm not allowed to share a thing about my day since it gets really lonely, tiring and draining in the long run, but you can guess how that worked out.

I work as an outsourced contractor for one of the largest technology companies in the world holding their EU-headquarters in Dublin. Perks are great and breakfast is free. I'm happy. Also I was late from the second round of interviews so I have no idea how I actually got this job but here I am.

For this entire time living in Dublin I've felt like I'm somehow in-between: not Irish enough to get an actual good job, my CV having written IMMIGRANT with large red letters all over it, and too educated and experienced for more casual, lower-level positions at the same time. I didn't even get a call back from a cafe despite having a vocational qualification and work experience as a restaurant cook. At the same time, whilst applying for higher-level jobs, interviewers seemed to have been genuinely surprised about my level of English - this I find a little odd. I mean, look at my CV for god's sake! I studied in a British university for a semester, lived in Canada for a year and now I'm about to finish a postgraduate degree in an Irish university - you'd expect someone like that to be pretty decent at speaking English, right? No. A quote from a recruiter: "But I mean... Your English is perfect! I really didn't expect that!"

The stigma of an immigrant in the employment market wears me out sometimes: I wish it was possible for me to attach a video recording of myself speaking English to my job applications, giving me the chance to prove I can handle this language pretty damn well. Being from Finland has turned out to be a weird paradox of expectations and prejudices - whilst majority of people have the conception that "all Scandinavians speak perfect English", there's that small portion of people who are not even sure if Finland is considered part of Europe ("Well it's not part of the EU at least, is it?"), asking me for work permits and visas. However, turns out speaking Finnish in the Dublin job market is a true blessing: the companies needing someone for their Nordic market are ready to fight for you. Once I submitted to the inevitable and decided to enter the localisation game, I accidentally created a salary bidding war between two employers who needed a Finnish-speaker with quality assurance and IT experience. I still wish it was possible for me to be useful to someone for my professional skills, not just for my Finnish language.

New blog posts about actual topics are on their way, but in the meanwhile, bear with me and my sleepless life! If you have any suggestions about topics for blog posts, hit me up!

Have you ever worked in a confidential job you're not allowed to talk about? Have you found it hard to find employment while living abroad? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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01/05/2017

BELFAST VLOG | Giant's Causeway, Rope Bridge, Game of Thrones Location!

Belfast Vlog: Giant's Causeway, Game of Thrones, Rope Bridge

Hi lovelies!
Alex and I took a weekend off from being productive postgraduates and headed to Belfast, Northern Ireland. The second day of our adventure we spent touring around the north coast of the island of Ireland, enjoying the breathtaking scenery and historical locations.

Northern Ireland is officially part of the United Kingdom, but the landscape of course is very similar to the rest of the Irish island. We had a chance to check out places like...
Carrickfergus Castle: an amazing old castle in County Antrim, dating back to 1177...
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge: a 20-meter long rope bridge 30 meters above the sea, linking the tiny island of Carrickarede to the mainland...
Giant's Causeway: a UNESCO world heritage site of approx. 40,000 basalt columns caused by a volcanic eruption 50 to 60 million years ago...
The Dark Hedges: a tunnel-like path framed with trees, most known for its appearance in the Game of Thrones TV series as the King's Road.

A proper blogpost with guides and tips of our tour will follow, but for now, enjoy this little vlog to give you a sneak peek!



Have you been to Northern Ireland? Would you like to go? Would you enjoy more vlogs like this?Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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22/04/2017

10 Finnish Stereotypes Your Finnish Friend is Tired of Hearing

10 Finnish Stereotypes Your Finnish Friend is Tired of Hearing


I've lived abroad for long enough to have answered the classic "Where are you from?" at least a hundred times. Well, we all have at some point of our lives, so we all know what comes next: wherever you come from, whatever your answer might be, the person asking the question tries to make sense of you and break the ice by telling you that one thing they've heard about your home country.

When you come from a country like mine - a puny, irrelevant Finland somewhere between Russia and western Europe - there are only so many things people know. Are we like Swedes? Do we hate everyone? Funny or not, believe me, after hearing the same things over and over again throughout the years there's a point where even a calm, silent Finn has had enough of your bullcr...

...What I'm trying to say here is: here are 10 Stereotypes Your Finnish Friend is Tired of Hearing! Clinically tested by yours truly!


1. "But you're from Finland? How can you feel cold?"

How? How about by not dressing properly?

My Finnish skin doesn't make me immune to cold temperatures. Yes, there indeed is a chance I'm more used to cold than someone from a more southern hemisphere - in other words, I'm not necessarily wearing a coat in +15C - but there is a limit. That limit is very easily reached in a place like Ireland, where the humidity gets into your bones and freezes you from the inside no matter how many layers of scarves you're wearing. The Atlantic wind is ruthless, folks.


2. "Your education system is so flawless. Why would you move abroad to study?"

Probably because I wanted to study somewhere else than Finland.

Yes, education is great. Yes, it's free. Yes, we rank incredibly well internationally every year. But also no, we do get homework, we do have exams and our teachers are not rich. Thank you for verifying that.

If you're interested in finding out why I left Finland, check out this blogpost: WHY I MOVED ABROAD. It will reveal the secrets of Finnish emigration on my part.


3. "Finland? You speak Swedish/Russian/English there, right?"

Well, you're not entirely wrong there. Finland is a bilingual country: Swedish is the first language of roughly 5% of Finns. And well, at school we indeed learn English and even Russian sometimes.

But the answer to your question here is NO. The logic to my first language is pretty simple: Finland - Finnish. Finnish is my first language. No, it's not anything like Swedish of Norwegian.  No, it doesn't sound like Russian either. It's the odd-one-out orphan separated from her brothers and sisters at birth, and while Estonians and Hungarians took a southern turn, we got stuck here in the North.

How does it sound like? Ask me to demonstrate one more time ("Just say anything!") and you can be sure the example I'll give you is something sort of hääyöaie or tunturikyyhky (for some reason deemed incredibly hard by my quebecois friends).


4. "What do you know about problems, you're from Finland..."

As a postgraduate in conflict studies and international politics I've noticed not everyone is aware of the complexity of Finnish history. On our last Independence Day I posted a short message on Facebook congratulating my tiny little homeland, took the bus to the campus and walked to my seminar. One of my colleagues had noted my status and wished me happy independence day. Everyone in the room fell silent and looked slightly confused until someone finally asked: "Wait... Independent... from who?"

Finland is your fairytale come true - a Cinderella rising from poverty, war and famine to the promised land of Angry Birds it is today, and it's true we're doing incredibly well nowadays. It doesn't mean we haven't had issues. It doesn't mean we don't have any issues. The fact that you mostly hear Finns complain about the lack of proficient heating in their apartment abroad doesn't mean it's the biggest problem their delicate Finnish skin has ever heard of.


5. "Finland? Hey, I have a friend from Sweden called ____! Do you know him?"

Yes, Björn Persson, of course I know him. He's a cousin from my mother's side.

No, I don't know your Scandinavian friends. We're quite a few million people in there, with a few borders and language barriers in between.

Finnish Food


6. "Norway, Sweden, Finland... What's the difference?"

Say that one more time and I'll show you why Finns are always depicted with a knife in their hand.

... Just kidding. There's a point in there though - you wouldn't say "Germany, France, Spain - what's the difference?" to a guy from Madrid. Despite us all being from northern Europe, our cultures have their own really distinctive features, the languages vary and the history of each country is very different. We don't even eat the same things: Finns have their mämmi, Swedes have their surströmming and Norwegians have... whatever it is that they eat. Don't even get me started with Danes. They can't even understand each other sometimes.


7. "You must really enjoy this summery weather seeing you don't have summer that up in the north."

Why yes thank you, see, in Finland we live in eternal darkness and this is the first time I've laid my eyes upon something so bright.

... Come on. Even Iceland has its summer! Stop with the polar bears and penguins. Finland might be in the northern Europe, but that doesn't mean we're still living in the Ice Age. Our summers are usually between 20 and 25 degrees Celsius (sometimes even 30!) so thank you for being concerned about my vitamin D intake, but believe me, I'm doing just fine.


8. "Can you introduce me to one of your Finnish friends? All Finnish girls are so blond and beautiful."

I refuse to introduce any of my lovely Finnish gals to anyone who doesn't know a thing about Finland. How would you know to appreciate their incredible stubbornness and blatantly straightforward way of stating their opinion?

Yes, some of us are blond, but I'd like to remind you we're not talking about that weirdly culturally stereotyping adult film about Swedish sluts having fun in the sauna you probably inspired yourself from - we're talking about 5,5 million people. We come in all shapes, sizes and colours.


9. "I'm not gonna hug you, I know how jealous of your personal space you Finns are."

Thank you for leaving me without love and affection to protect my national pride.

More seriously though, we're all different. It's true we're most likely not going to jump to your warm embrace of kisses and back rubs unless we've lived in such a culture for some time. We might even need some guidance with such gestures at first. But as someone who's been bootcamped with this stuff for three years now I can assure you I'm almost prepared to reach out for the hug now. Almost.


10. "You must be so amazed by all this freedom since you come from a communist country." 

I don't even know what to say to you.

I admit, I have been amazed by the variety of brands in Canada in the past. It's true we don't have that many international chain stores and restaurants in Finland. It's true I've probably looked really confused while listening to you blabbering about Lucky Charms because I have no idea what the hell that is.

But last time I checked, it was referred to as "nordic welfare system", not communism. Sorry if our high taxation rate insulted your freedom.

What kind of weird stereotypes of your home country have you heard of? Do you ever wish you didn't have to reveal where you're from all the time? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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18/04/2017

Travel Article App Spring Giveaway!


Springtime gains momentum and summer holidays lie ahead. Do you have a weekend getaway planned? I'm personally trying to convince Alex to escape to Faro, Portugal with me at the end of the semester.

In case you're planning a trip to Canada's East coast sometime soon, I have exciting news for you! Couple of my travel posts about Canada's fascinating French-speaking province are now available for download as a GPS-guided tour on GPSMyCity travel app.

What's that, you ask? GPSMyCity allows you to download an unlimited amount of travel blog posts to your iPhone from hundreds of carefully selected travel blogs. The app gives you an implemented GPS-tour taking you through all spots mentioned in the posts - offline. I mean, does it get any better than that? Possibly, if the lovely guys and gals at GPSMyCity developer team introduced a "free donut voucher for every dowloaded travel article" campaign of some sort, but I've been really content with working with them all this time.

Normally you could get a GPS-guided tour implemented to my blog posts to your phone without the need for a wifi or roaming with the price of $2, but our springtime seasonal giveaway now lets you download two of my posts entirely FOR FREE. We all love free stuff. Go ahead and try the app out:

5 REASONS TO VISIT MONTRÉAL

MY QUÉBEC: 3 X 3 THINGS TO SEE, EAT AND ENJOY

The giveaway runs from Wednesday 19th to Tuesday 25th of April. It costs nothing. Downloading the app from the AppStore is completely free, and so are these articles for the time being.

 What are your holiday plans? What would be the cheapest non-European travel destination from Dublin? - asking for myself! Share your stories in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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08/04/2017

The Sunshine Blogger Award - The Strayling


The Sunshine Blogger Award - The Strayling

What a Saturday: the wonderful Emilia On The Road nominated me for the Sunshine Blogger Award! Thanks a million Emilia, it was exactly the spark of sunlight I needed to see in this pile of assignments, dissertation interviews and graduation chaos. Writing a blog always makes the work feel all the more meaningful when you know it's appreciated!

Here are Emilia's questions for the award:

1) What is the first thing you usually start missing from home after having been gone for a long time?
- I'm not good at missing things. I know I'm expected to cry over the lack of all those stereotypical Finnish emblems like salty liquorice, sauna and good vodka, but hear me when I say I need none of that. But there's one thing... I miss cardamom. Yes, I know:"What?" Finnish people love to shove that stuff all over their bakings, and it's available in every store, crushed, in these nice, easy-to-use long tubes. But not elsewhere. The rest of the world wants their cardamom from sketchy ethnic kiosks as entire pods you have to tear open one by one with your tiny little fingers and crush the contents with a knife.

2) What languages can you speak and are you brave enough to use them all?
- On paper I speak six languages: Finnish (my mother tongue), English, Russian, French, Swedish and German. I also took a beginner's course in Mandarin Chinese so I'm able to understand basic phrases and characters, and two courses of Irish Gaelic of which I now have passive knowledge. In practice I can get by with all of them as a tourist, asking for directions and whatnot, but when talking about anything more complicated I rely on my big four: Finnish, English, Russian and French. Russian is my favourite one of them - wait, do people usually have favourite languages or am I just being weird again?

3) What has been the most potentially dangerous situation you've ended up in on a trip?
- Whoah! Had to think of this for a while - I've stayed incredibly safe during my travels. I guess losing a passport in Moscow was a bit of a drag, but the only even slightly threatening situation happened in Paris while I was waiting for the tube with Alex. A teenage boy tried to forcefully kiss me while I was boarding the train and then proceeded to push Alex - too bad the kiddo was so tiny I didn't even notice and the only reaction he got out of Alex was a confused raised eyebrow. Still makes me laugh.

4) What is your preferred way of travelling - planes, trains or automobiles :)?
- To be frank, I hate flying nowadays. I honestly have no idea what happened, I've been on a plane 28 times during the last three years - I guess it was too much for my poor anxious soul and now boarding a plane is just a pain in the ass. Trains for the win!

5) What are your travel plans for the ongoing year?
- We're absolutely totally broke right now (thank you, Dublin's rental market), but are planning on spending a few days in Faro, Portugal after the semester is wrapped up. I really, really want to get out of Europe for a bigger trip maybe at the end of the summer when my master's thesis stops acting like a stone in my shoe, but have no one to travel with.

6) Do you prefer staying at hotels or hostels, private rooms or dorms, or is it couch surfing or house sitting all the way for you?
- I'm a cheap-ass traveller. I don't even remember how it feels like to stay in a hotel - snoring, weird smells, people screaming their lungs out behind your dorm door, beach party 24/7 - it's all I know. I always find the cheapest possible hostel and hope to stay alive through the stay. I've seen some weird shit by now....

7) What places or countries would you recommend to a nature lover?
- There might be some slight bias happening here after living in Canada, but... I mean, Canada. All of it. Everyone should visit Banff National Park at least once in their lives because believe me, that place leaves you in awe. Let's try this out: Google Image search "Canada". That photo you see? That's Banff for you. Go!

8) Top 3 - Countries with the Best Food
- You probably expect me to say "Italy" but I refuse. French cuisine is a blast especially if you want to explore the fascinating world of intestines. Personally I absolutely ADORE Russian food, I could live off pelmenis (dumpling-like dough pockets filled with meat or potatoes/mushrooms and served with sour cream). The last one... I say Mexico. Spice is life.

9) What part of being a travel blogger do you love the most?
- All of it! Writing is my passion, editing is my calling, coding is my secret lover. Having the chance to share your thoughts and experiences with other likeminded people is just the best thing ever. It also offers me the perfect counterbalance to my otherwise overly serious, academic life where everything is terror, death, international human rights law, torture and conflict resolution. On those days when my morning starts with a 2-hour lecture about sexual violence as a weapon of war it feels good to come home afterwards, sit down with my computer and a cup of tea, and just talk about some random fluffy happygolucky travel adventures.

10) Are you interested in getting to know new people when you travel or do you prefer to keep to yourself?
- I'm an extrovert in a closet so yes, I absolutely love meeting new people. People might not always be as excited to meet me because I can be cringy, but that doesn't stop me from trying to know everyone! There was this one time only when I attempted to stay away from my dorm mates in Marseille - two Finnish girls had been checking out my boyfriend out loud right in front of my face, completely oblivious I understood every word.

Now for my nominations!

The Sunshine Blogger Award is an award from bloggers to bloggers - in other words, it's a way for us to spread our love for the inspiring blogs that we have discovered and to show our support to the blogging community.

So here's the deal. If you've been nominated, you'll need to...

1) Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog
2) Answer the questions you got from the person who nominated you
3) Nominate other blogs and give them questions to answer
4) Notify your nominees through social media or by commenting on their blog
5) List the rules and display a Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post

I'm nominating the following wonderful, talented bloggers:
The Sunshine Blogger Award1. Dignifiable
2. Moore Misadventures
3. A Lovely Life, Indeed
4. Meo

Here are my questions for you:
1. Do you prefer to travel alone or with someone? Why?
2. How much in advance do you plan your trips?
3. Have you ever visited a place you were really looking forward to, but then ended up disappointed in it?
4. Is there that one thing you can't travel without?
5. Have you ever met someone unforgettable while travelling?
6. How many countries have you visited so far?
7. Do you attempt to meet locals while travelling or do you prefer to stay by yourself/other travellers?
8. What motivates you to write a blog?
9. What is your favourite place/country you have visited? Why?
10. Share a memorable travel story with me!


 Feel free to copy and answer the questions. Let me know if you do, I'd love to read them! Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Love, Melissa

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26/03/2017

Where Is 'Home' for an Expat?

Where is home for an expat? - The Strayling

Moving abroad from the familiarity of one's home country can be an exciting and terrifying experience at the same time. But what happens when you visit home after years of living abroad? Suddenly not feeling at home in your own country can take you by surprise. Where's your home now, expat?

Every migrant must have heard the classic, silently judgemental comment at some point of their foreign journey: "So... when will you stop this aimless wander and come back home?" It's a harmless wish expressed by someone who loves and misses you back in where everything is just like in the old days. Someone wants you back there so things could be like they used to - you could stroll around those same old streets, buy those good old local groceries and chit chat away in your native language. It's an invitation to that reassuring familiarity, suggesting that anything and everything you experienced since leaving your home country's soil was just a temporary displacement, like a journey made by Bilbo Baggings, and in the end you can always fly back home into the open arms of your welcoming native land. But does it really work like that?

If you were born and raised in a single country to parents with a single nationality, the case looks clear at first glance: you grew up in Finland to Finnish parents, what's the problem? Your home is in Finland. Stop acting like a special snowflake. However, this blog post is not written with the thought of contesting the idea of 'home country', despite the complexity of that very notion to those individuals who have migrated at very early age  - it's to contest the idea of 'home', and how our sense of home can shift as we ramble on around the world and plant seeds of ourselves in all its different soils.

The experience of migration inevitably involves the confrontation between 'home' and 'away' - to travel is to move, to estrange yourself from familiarity and inhabit an unfamiliar space. That unfamiliarity in a new space goes by the name 'culture shock': the habits we found comfortable, reassuring and deeply rooted in our spine are gone, and have been replaced by some sort of anomaly that only poorly replaces the things you hold dear. If you're from a northern nation like yours truly, entering a southern culture sphere with much less personal space and much more kisses on cheeks can be an absolute shock for someone like us who are used to silently staring at other people from a distance. The 'Away', the opposite of your home, is filled with these anomalies, unfamiliarities and wrong kind of bread. Everything back home was so comfortable.

But as time goes by, your survival instinct kicks in and you start inhabiting this unfamiliar space with more confidence. Kisses on cheeks? Bring it on, bro! Embrace me like the latino you are! A bottle of juice and a bag of crisps for lunch? Whatever you say Tesco, I'll take your meal deal, I'm too hungry to fight it. As the days, months and years pass by, these unfamiliarities turn into familiarities: your every morning starts with a bag of apple-cinnamon oatmeal and instant coffee, you surf the tube system eyes closed and speak the foreign language in your sleep. You're on track with everything going on in your host country, every local celebrity photographed drunk in a bar, every politician embarrassing themselves in public, every reform made to a healthcare policy.

Vancouver Art Gallery - The Strayling

Then you encounter that person. "When will you stop this aimless wander and come back home?" And as the plane lands and you enter that once familiar soil of your reassuringly familiar home country, you expect everything to have stayed exactly as they were since the day you left.

But it hasn't.

Why does rye bread make my tummy ache so bad? Why does Finnish coffee suddenly taste so bitter? What new transportation system? Wait, where did they put that new tramline? No sorry, I haven't really followed the news, don't know what's going on in the politics. Yeah.

The home your family talked about suddenly feels so alien. Why? What did you do wrong? This is your home country, you've missed salty liquorice since the day you left, and died to spend a day in the summery, sunny streets of Helsinki just like back in the days. Why does it feels so... not at all home?

Our understanding of 'home' comes from familiarity. What is familiar is what we feel comfortable with; we surround ourselves with things that make our everyday life run smoothly, simply. What is not often considered in the notion of migration, of estranging yourself from familiarity and your home country is that travelling doesn't only include a spatial dislocation, the act of leaving the familiar place, but a temporal dislocation. My Finland is the Finland of the past, the one I left three years ago: this 'past' is now associated with home that I can no longer return to, because it doesn't exist in the present. This is why 'home' is always a question of memory.

This 'home' we crave for becomes a mythic place of no return - the geographical location exists, Finland is always there if I wish to return to its familiar sounds and smells. But the time and place of the home country we knew has passed on, has morphed the way us emigrants have evolved and changed. The terrifying realisation of not knowing where you are while standing in the middle of that shopping centre you've spent time in since you were five years old - it was renovated while you were gone, and you're now completely at the mercy of your friend to lead you through corridors and shops you've never seen before. The corridors you knew are long since demolished.

What that person asking you to come home means with 'home' is that space you inhabited as the person you were years ago. But it ignores the pain of an emigrant who returns to this space and is put on the mercy of others' hospitality, of accommodating you on their sofas and futons, of letting you use their monthly bus card so you could stop spending your now foreign currency on single tickets. Home is not being on the mercy of public wi-fis as you no longer have a Finnish phone number.

You have become a visitor in your own home country.

The empire State building in New York, USA - The Strayling

The nostalgia of walking the streets once part of your everyday reality only carries you so far. Day by day you start missing your oatmeal-instant coffee breakfast (possibly because that once so familiar Finnish nutrition is now completely alien to your digestion system), your new vacuum cleaner you just bought back in Dublin, the smell of the Guinness factory roasting malt on weekends.

You wanted to return 'home' to your family and friends, to salty liquorice and sunny days in Helsinki, but those expectations you put into this experience inspired by your memories can't be dug up from your luggage you spread on your family home's floor. You're a stranger in your own Finnish skin, speaking your native language feels reassuring and alien at the same time. You accidentally answer to people in a wrong language and get judgemental looks from your friends as you try to explain you don't do it to seem special. It's just... what you're familiar with now.

Your family and friends were not there to see you change. They didn't sit on your back as you were lost in Montréal, they didn't hold your hand as you accidentally kissed someone on the lips while trying to go for the wrong cheek first. They weren't there as you shed your Finnish skin and started asking 'how are you?' from every person encountered, when you learned to chit chat about weather with the Irish. But the same way those people didn't see you change, you weren't there to see your home country change like they did.

The unexpected, unfamiliar space entering your bubble of familiarity in the form of a culture shock, requiring the shedding of your skin, an irritating itch (as put by Sarah Ahmed) moulds you little by little. Travelling is about the surprises in sensation: different smells, different sounds, different tastes and people. As time goes by, those surprises become more and more rare. The shedding. You've become a summary of all your lived experiences around the world and no longer fit into the old mould of that person you were when you first left.

Fishing huts in Porvoo, Finland - The Strayling

This experience of leaving home and returning to an unfamiliar place is the failure of your memories to make sense of those changes: 'failure which is experienced in the discomfort of inhabiting a migrant body, a body which feels out of place, which feels uncomfortable in this place', as put by Ahmed. You can no longer inhabit this once familiar space in the way you thought would be familiar.

My parents divorced when I was very young, and none of us stayed in that home, in that city, after it was all over and life went on. Despite my dreams occasionally still taking me back to that apartment in Espoo, nudging me towards a place my subconscious still believes is my home, it's a place of no return, a space which no longer exists. I believe this experience has affected my abilities to adapt to change, to the feeling of displacement and making myself feel easily at home in an unfamiliar space. 

Exactly the same way I identified my 'home' as the place where (as tacky as it sounds) my heart was as a child - by my family, not in a certain geographical location - I now as an adult identify my home by my Canadian partner, Alex. He's my anchor, the familiarity I will carry with me wherever I go - the mixture of French and English, of chocolate spread on my toast and of rising intonation when asking questions (something I really had to practice so he'd understand I'm asking a question!). The memories created with him are my present, and the memories I have of Finland I will always associate with my 'home country', but no longer with my 'home'.

Home is where your heart is, right?

(This post was inspired by Sarah Ahmed's wonderful article Home and Away: Narratives of Migration and Estrangement, and Avtar Brah's book Cartographies of Diaspora: Contesting Identities.)

 Where is your home? Have you felt like a tourist in your home country after moving abroad? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Love, Melissa

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