A Kiwi in Helsinki: It’s time for number 21, Mel from New Zealand.
Mel and I met through this blog. That’s definitely a first!
Where are you from? I’m from New Zealand. My family lives in Auckland, which is the largest city in New Zealand. But I’ve lived in four different towns around the North Island. So I’m from all over.
For how long have you been living here? I’ve been here eight months. And when you are from New Zealand, it’s about as far away as you can get. It takes about 26 hours and two planes to get here. So when you step off that second flight it really does feel I’ve come as far as I can go. I think Finland and New Zealand are similar in size, population and even shape. And we’re both countries full of beautiful nature. Obviously, the weather is a lot more extreme. Back home, a good winter is a really warm winter. And now I realise that’s not good here because people want the snow for the light; and the air is clear and it’s dry and this is all totally new to me.
What do you do for a living? I worked for a non-governmental organisation that supports people in prison and their families. My job has always been supporting families who have somebody in jail and training other people to do that. I also did a bit of teaching in the community welfare sector. But being in a new country, I kind of used it as an opportunity to focus on my writing and editing. So now I write articles about Finland for my blog, for another website and for a magazine at home.
So you moved here with your family? Yes, with my husband and our three-year-old son named Miko (she spells it). It was a name we invented and it was very exotic in New Zealand and then we came here and it’s one of the most common names ever (laughs).
Maybe that wasn’t just a coincidence, maybe you already knew that you would live in Finland. How do you like Helsinki? I really like it. Everything seems a bit hidden. I think because of the weather, cafés often have two doors, so you have to go inside to have a look and that’s quite new to me, but it also gives me a really good feeling when I find places I like. It feels like you’ve discovered a secret that you to want tell other people about or you want to keep to yourself.
What is one of those secret places? Maybe not so secret but probably my favourite place in summer is Skiffer, the little island with the pizza restaurant. That was something I didn’t know about. I’ve been down to Kaivopuisto a few times but hadn’t known you could go across, so I’d say that’s definitely my favourite place in summer. And another place I love in summer is Pihlajasaari, a small island.
What is your dream? My dream would be to ice-skate really well (laughs). I’m an absolute beginner, but also to be able to live here but return home for extended holidays; to be able to somehow see my friends and family and spend time at home.
The older you grow, what is getting easier for you? The older I get and being in Finland, being nude in front of other people becomes easier in sauna (laughs). I just had my first visit to the old and famous swimming hall in Yrjönkatu. We’re quite British in New Zealand and we’re quite conservative about nudity. So it’s probably a good time of my life to arrive here and care less about that. Also, I’m probably enjoying my own company. I’m definitely a people person and I’m meeting lots of great people, but I don’t need other people as much as I maybe need it too for my own happiness. That feels good.
What is one random fact about you? My grandmother taught me to drive when I was eleven. She had a tiny little car and she didn’t like driving, so she would get us to drive her to the shops. And she’d always tell us not to tell our parents. I think that’s quite a New Zealand memory because I’m certainly not the only eleven-year-old kiwi to drive. It still happens and it’s illegal, but it tells a bit of the essence of New Zealand. She also taught me to drive a tractor when I was too young to even push the clutch down, because I was too light at that time. That’s one memory I hold really dear.
If you could be another person for one day, whom would you choose and what would you do? If I had a position of power, like a king or queen for a day, the one thing I’d love to do is put a ban on people making stuff. I feel like there is too much stuff in the world, like plastic flowers. Plastic flowers drive me crazy, also plastic bags. And I haven’t really thought of the repercussions for those manufacturing jobs that would be lost. But I’d just love to put a hold on people making stuff, so that we all had to stop and start using what we’ve already got. That’s always a secret dream of mine, but I don’t know who I’d have to be, possibly queen of the world.
What book do you read at the moment? I just read The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Though, my favourite book is called Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a Nigerian author. It instantly became my favourite book, which is huge because I love reading. The story is about a Nigerian woman living in America. In a kind way she offers insides into the crazy questions people ask her. And I have to admit, I’d probably have wondered some of those things myself, but it’s just another life that I could never experience as a woman from an African nation who moves to America. She lets us in and it’s really humorous and she is really clever.
Thanks so much!