I don’t seek the company of other Finns, as I have never felt that kind of need for a community or to network with them. It is, perhaps, just as well, as life has taken me to places where I have been the (practically) only Finn in the village. So what was I doing in the Finnish church of London, the hub of Finland in the UK?

It was nothing noble. The church also has a café and a shop of Finnish products, and I couldn’t wait until my dad arrives next month with his gifts from home.

The complicated tube trip was an adventure of its own, bringing flashbacks of my first trip abroad alone, also to London, at the age of sixteen.

I felt the same overwhelming sense of anonymity of a large city, at the time intoxicating for a small town teenager. 

I felt the same giddiness I felt then and upon seeing a street sign for the Finnish and Norwegian churches my heart fluttered.

That’s me!

By the time I reached the buzzer I was really nervous, thank goodness some Brits came in the same time and I was able to sneak into the shop without saying a word.

Suddenly I was surrounded by familiarity, items the necessity of which the rest of the world has not yet recognised: pine sap washing liquid, Moomin crackers and powdered cranberry.

When it was time to take my treasures to the till, I suddenly felt extremely shy.

I was closer to another Finn than I had been in months and all of a sudden I wanted to cling on to the anonymity I had felt moments earlier.

In three steps I was about to give up my uniqueness and become one of ‘them’, these blondes in black and white-striped designer shirts.

Then I realised I was wearing a black and white-striped dress.

I have a faint voice at the best of times but now I was inaudible as I spoke to the cashiers in a raspy voice of umlauts and rolling r’s that had not been used in months.

“It’s been a while I’ve spoken Finnish face to face with anyone.”

They were sympathetic, bizarrely even embarrassed, because they used Finnish every day, as if their experience of living abroad was somehow lesser than mine.

We talked for a long time, mostly about my background as I taught the cashier to recognise the coins in her till.  

After the currency lesson I had coffee with the cashier and the ‘pulla’, a Finnish cinnamon roll, was fresh out of the oven and it tasted like my graduation party and a hasty airport before saying goodbye to my family once again.

I mentioned in my previous column that living abroad can make you a tad emotional.

I was suddenly welling up about the possibility of suddenly having a ‘pulla-coffee’ in the middle of London and being surrounded by people who knew what it was.

Still even there I was a freak, as I had already known in university that I wanted to stay in the UK and could go on months without speaking Finnish to anyone.

It was fascinating to hear about the volunteers’ experiences of living abroad as they were so different to mine.

They lived in a multicultural environment, where it’s self-evident that people come from a variety of backgrounds and are used to finding comfort in (quite largely represented) fellow Finns.

I can’t even remember the last time when someone hasn’t asked me all about Finland upon first meeting, over the years my nationality has become a central identifier.

They were a part of a close-knit community, and I was that Finnish girl.

Still we were united in a choice to live outside the physical borders of our shared native land.

While finishing my coffee I came to a conclusion that there isn’t a right way to be a foreigner, even an ‘outfinn’, and I felt a sudden wave of tenderness towards us all in this land of teadrinkers we had decided to love as our own.

I told the cashier, frustrated by her still stiff English, to be proud of her ability to express herself in another language and that she shouldn’t give up if people ask her to repeat herself on the phone.

It could be just a bad line, don’t give up.

As I stepped outside green autumn leaves, which would be red and gold in Finland by now, twirled around my feet as I stepped back into anonymity and into my world. 

I still wouldn’t play accordion at their next tango evening.

But it was nice nevertheless.