LIVING abroad is a very multi-sided way of existence, which can lead you to things which may seem odd to everyone else. While aware that this probably destroys the little credibility I had left, I confess to ten weird things this Finn does while living abroad.

  1. Make long distance phone calls to a pet

More than once I have called up my mum in Finland and asked: “Could I please speak to Nipsu?” Nipsu is my Chihuahua. She then takes the phone to him, placing it nearby on speaker so he can hear me.

These are a few minute conversations of senseless baby talk on my part and uncontained excitement from his, as he can hear me but not see or smell me. My family has two dogs and two cats, and each of them have participated these conferences by barking or nuzzling the phone. Although troublesome and indeed weird, these short conversions have picked me up more than once. 

  1. Play the game

There is a Finnish board game called ‘Alias’, where you are supposed to explain a word without actually saying it.

Sometimes I feel like my life is a one long game of ‘Alias’. The bad side of speaking half decent English is that when you don’t know a word, it’s often quite special vocabulary

. Still, these are the times when the wits (and patience) of your fellow people get tested, such as describing vertical blinds to a shop worker this week, complete with hand gestures. No point in shyness, because you are only going to end up frustrated and your sleep interrupted by the sun.

The game is usually extremely satisfying for all parties involved, both of us rejoicing that we finally got there. My British friends, who have never played ‘Alias’, would be brilliant at it by now.

  1. Have a lot of feelings

One thing that they don’t tell you about living abroad is that you get frustrated. Often, and without any sense of proportion.

Some days all that is required is that self-checkout is out of receipt paper and I curse this entire island into the depths of the Atlantic Ocean.

Extreme? The same happens when I visit Finland and I wish that the land of my fathers would destruct in a reindeer-caused mayhem after Helsinki dared not to have snow the short time I visited.

I can just assume it’s to do with trying to make sense of your surroundings, which are either not familiar by default or have changed while you have been gone.

  1. Cry

Speaking of feelings, you are also not immune for to sudden well-ups. I can go on weeks without paying a single thought to Finland and all of a sudden a single bar of Panda liquorice being sold at Holland and Barret is all I need for a little sniffle between the lentil shelves.  

  1. Amuse yourself

This has happened to anyone who speaks another language, when you spot a word which means something else.

My favourite is the clothes line Per Una which forms the Finnish word for a potato, 'peruna'.

These are moments of very solitary joy. You need to explain your giggles afterwards and face other people's puzzlement as you talk about potatoes. 

  1. Get lost in translation

This is a combination of three, four and five. Sometimes there would be a perfect word to convey my feelings or to describe something but there is no translation for it. The moment this happens you feel very alone.

  1. Prepare for the worst

In my last column I spoke about how homesickness often culminates into abstract things, such as tastes, smells and sounds.

I hate cooking but keep cardamom in my kitchen cabinet as it’s the main ingredient of Finnish coffee bread ‘pulla’ and therefore a smell central to family celebrations. Sometimes I keep some in my handbag for extra comfort. 

  1. Take it personally

The problem with living in two cultures is that you’re fiercely protective of both of them. I make equally cruel jokes of both Finns and Brits but if anyone tries to criticize either of them, no matter how justified it is, it leads to an argument.

  1. Speak into a vacuum

When speaking a language the general population doesn’t understand, people tune you out and stop paying attention. I usually seize the moment to speak of those around me (nothing mean though, as that tends to backfire) or sing embarrassing songs. The feeling of social freedom is intoxicating and I think everyone should experience it at least once. 

  1. Keep them guessing

When people ask me where I’m from, I tell them to guess. This causes some discomfort, as people don’t want to offend me by getting it wrong but I think this is a fair game because the moment I tell them I’m from Finland, people ask for a lengthy presentation about the geography and culture.

As I basically do the national tourist board’s job for them, I am allowed to have some fun for the few minutes I am mistaken for a Canadian.  Having this column ruins my party trick though, as I have now been outed more than once before the game has ended. Better enjoy it while I can.