A new restaurant has opened near my work and I was idly complaining on our internal chat that it has an English tagline but a Finnish-only website. It is petulant and a lazy of me to complain, as the real reason for my annoyance is my frustration at not yet having a real working understanding of Finnish.
Liv, who I work with, commented that people use English titles and taglines because it is considered 'cool'. She said that in Denmark, in the 90s, some movie titles in English with difficult words were 'translated' to other English words that weren't so difficult. Her example was that "Die Hard: With a Vengeance" was changed to DIE HARD MEGA HARD.
I had the pleasure of visiting Papershop today. They had something in particular I wanted so I walked over to Kruununhaka at lunchtime. It's a lovely little independent shop and they have a very nice online store, too.
I stocked up on Christmas cards...
and a few other things.
Coincidentally, they have this beautiful double-sided wrapping paper that I bought in Sydney last Christmas.
(All images are from the Papershop website).
And I discovered that there is an Anton and Anton almost opposite.
Mariankatu 15, 00170 Helsinki, Finland
+358 45 359 9319
Today I left my bag on the bus. It was silly and absent minded - I could blame hauling ice-skating gear and the pram, but really there is nothing and no one to blame but myself.
It had pretty much everything in it (wallet, keys, but thankfully not phone) so as soon as we got inside I looked up Helsinki transport's lost property office. They're not open on Sunday so I sent an email inquiry. I wondered whether I should cancel my cards but decided not to.
About an hour later, my phone rang. A passenger had found my bag, and said he would meet me in 20 minutes in Kamppi to return it to me. He said I could check that everything was there but of course I knew I didn't need to.
A few weeks ago I lost a different bag. I was walking the kids home and it must have fallen out of the pram without me noticing. I mentioned it to my team at work and they told me that I should enquire at the Police Station. Sure enough, it was there, completely intact, nothing taken from it.
So, aside from my appalling track record when it comes to bags, the interesting thing about this is the honesty and respect for others' property that is such an important part of the culture in Finland. It's one of the really nice things about living here. I can't imagine this happening in London or Sydney. And it's not a strictly positive pleasure, or a god forbid a 'wow' thing: just a deep solid substrate that make me want to hug the city. I hope I remember this feeling in the dark depths of winter.
I first heard of the idea of 'third culture kids' from Dan, sitting around our kitchen table in Sydney, talking about a possible move to Helsinki. It had been an idea often used in the thinking of Marco Steinberg and the others in Sitra's Strategic Design Unit. 'Third culture kids' are defined as children who grow up outside of their parent's passport country. Dan and I are not third culture kids, but the idea has resonance with both of us, perhaps partly because my father was a refugee from Eastern Europe, and Dan spent the first few years of his life in Switzerland.
I was also interested because I had for quite a while resolved myself to the fact that the idea of 'home' would not be a straightforward one for me. Adolescent restlessness had cemented itself with eight years living in London: both Brisbane and London felt like home now. But neither completely - there was always some restlessness in each place, some discomfort. Living in Sydney for the next four years had shown me that it was not easy to move back. I had resigned myself to the fact that there would always be some pull to the other place.
As a couple where one of us was from Australia, one from England, this is magnified: both us feel the pull to our families, on opposite sides of the world. And now we have two kids in the equation, who we pull along with us.
One of the hardest things for me, moving from Sydney, was taking Ollie (then three years old) out of his lovely preschool, away from our very good local friends and from his familiar neighbourhood. He feels the move more strongly than us, perhaps because for him, Sydney was more unambiguously 'home'.
So now, settled in Helsinki, I am more cautious about moving again. That's not to say that we won't - just that the decision weighs heavier.
When I realised there was a book about third culture kids, it didn't take me long to download and read it. I can't say I loved the book, as the tone tended to be a bit hokey at times. But there were some interesting points that I want to remember in the coming months and years. They center around the importance of acknowledging and remembering the experience of living elsewhere, and of finding ways to support the development of children's identity when the cultures around them are shifting.
Offer comfort. Moving away can cause grief, and the best way to deal with that is to acknowledge it, and not to ignore it or try to solve it, but to offer comfort. Be there for the children, let them know that their sadness is real and acknowledged. Just be with them through the sadness.
Talk to the children about them being third culture kids. Helping them to name their situation helps them to understand their situation, and why they are different, which is an important part of them forming their identity.
Form family rituals. Simple family rituals are especially important for third culture kids. They can be very simple (e.g. you get to choose your meal on your birthday) but are a good way of creating rhythm and structure, especially when the family may move every few years.
Have a strong network. If you are living away from family, have other adults who the kids can look up to; trusted people who are part of their lives.
The importance of objects. Objects that remind you and the children of their previous homes can be a good way of acknowledging and remembering the experience of living elsewhere.
Take care on re-entry. Moving back to your home country is very different to visiting. Treat re-entry seriously, plan for it and make sure that both adults and children have support during the process.