This week (Thursday, to be exact) marked five years since I moved to London from Finland. I moved here on the 8th of February in 2013, which now feels like something someone else did in another life. I’ve never been so scared to do something in my entire life, but, at the same time, so absolutely sure of something, too.
I came to London for the first time at the age of 14, after which I visited the city every single year. I always knew I wanted to live here, but after a 5 month internship I did here in 2011 without making many friends, I was a bit nervous to try again. The more time that passed after coming back home, though, I became more and more sure that I wanted to give it another go, and that this time I would give it my all. So, I saved money for about a year and then, in February 2013, I boarded the plane to Gatwick.
I remember the day I moved so clearly. I remember being in the taxi going to the airport, looking at the snowy landscape of Helsinki, suddenly feeling so full of excitement and absolute clarity about the fact that I was doing the right thing – I just knew it. I was nervous, of course, but mostly I was just so happy and excited. In the end, my first months in London weren’t the easiest (you can read more about that in my moving to London story) but I’ve also never been prouder of anything in my life.
When I was working as a receptionist in a hotel in Helsinki whilst I was saving money to move to London, I had a customer who had lived in New York for about 40 years, since she was in her early twenties. As I got chatting to her, I asked her why she had decided to move to New York and, more importantly, why had she never come back. She just smiled and said “As soon as I got off that plane in JFK I knew I’d made the right decision and that I was home. I just knew.”. I still think about that conversation with her as it was then that I realised that that was exactly how I felt about London and the UK.
All of this isn’t to say that I wasn’t happy in Finland – I definitely was, but it did feel like I could flourish more here. My interest in British music and culture was a big part of why I wanted to move to London and I still get a smile on my face when I go to the pub and they play music that I love. It’s such a tiny thing, but it’s one of the many tiny things that make up for the bigger picture that still makes me happy to be here.
It’s been hard too, of course. I sometimes miss Finland, and especially my friends and family (I wish I could ship them all here!), more than I can say. And even though I love the English culture, it’s still not my own and sometimes I can feel like such an outsider and in those moments I miss the Finnish ways of life so terribly (mostly during summer & spring – they can keep their winter…). But the feeling of nostalgia and melancholy always pass, and most of the time I’m more than happy here and definitely not ready to go back any time soon. If I moved back, I’d just miss London and England, and the people here, instead, so I can’t really win!