Never mix substances, you might unexpectedly wake up in Finland…
You are not in a relationship with a Finn, you don’t work for Nokia and… you come from Switzerland. So, W*T*F* are you doing in Finland ?!??!?? The question usually comes along with a puzzled face that expresses a mix of incredulity, anxiety and interest. For those of you who can’t sleep at night because they are wondering what brought me to this weird country, here is the answer: a dangerous mix of passion for languages, the need to be in an international environment and the desire to change career. Still can’t understand how all this had me waking up in Helsinki on a cold January morning last year? Well, it goes like this:
The languages lover
On a lovely summer evening, I am attending a language café on a terrace next to the lake in Lausanne, Switzerland. My intention is to practice my Spanish. Everything goes fine until a tall blond guy joins our group. We go for the usual Where are you from? and he replies Finland. I know that this country exists somewhere North on the map, but I have to admit that it is more or less all I could tell about it. I am very intrigued because the only other thing I know is that Finnish is not an Indo-European language. As the idioms I have studied so far belong to that linguistic group, I am interested in discovering something new — yes, the innocence of ignorance, I did not know on what I was about to embark…
Switzerland and the rest of the world
My passion for languages, cultures and people has probably been fostered by growing up in a country that counts 4 official tongues and, more specifically, in Geneva where almost half of the inhabitants are foreigners. Since primary school, my world has been supported by friendships of diverse skin colour, food and tradition. The more culturally different they were from me, the more my classmates would interest me. But at the point where you join me in this story, I have been living for 3 years in a small town in the green district of Gruyère. Cows, mountains and chocolate, it looks like a postcard and I love it. Nevertheless, it lacks the diversity and the open-mindedness I have been used to. Sometimes, I have the feeling that my neighbours and colleagues are not aware that there is a whole universe out there, where what is at stake is at least as important as the fact that the municipality has decided to build a new roundabout in the center. The longing for international places and the challenging, exciting and nurturing life they offer starts to grow bigger and bigger.
A new career? Again?
My interest in others, the beauty I see in our differences, is one of the many reasons why I love my job as a paramedic. It is also the logic that lies behind my career shift from translating papyri in a library to putting intravenous accesses at the back of a yelling ambulance. Ok, I admit, it is not that obvious at first sight. But when you look at it, what I love in life — and what I am actually good at — is meeting people and understanding what matters to them. When I was carrying research as a historian and a papyrologist, I was meeting people through time. I got to know their lives, worries and joys through the documents they left. In what might appear as dusty papers, emotions were vivid. Entering the life of someone on a car accident scene is much more brutal, but still very similar: it is all about human beings experiencing something and requiring my full attention. Slow motion deciphering a papyrus under the UV light, fast-paced rhythm injecting drugs and constantly reassessing the patient until my colleagues and I got everything and everyone clear, safe and secure.
Because of different elements that have a lot to do with certain egos, as well as with the public healthcare system, a paramedic in Switzerland has (almost) no opportunities for career growth. After a few years, as the frustration was growing, I decided to join the company’s internal training team. In that tiny space, I could make good use of my academic skills, teaching my peers and working on improving the quality of our treatment algorithms. But I soon found myself stuck again.
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker, fill with ice, shake vigorously
So, after that lovely summer evening where I discover Finnish language, an idea slowly emerges. What if I put it all together — the non-Indo-European idiom, the international environment, the new career –, shake well and see what happens? Three months later, I come to Helsinki for a trial week: do I enjoy it here? Could I live here for a while? Answer: YES! Back to Switzerland, I pack my stuff, leave the job, the flat and the mountains and on the 2nd of January 2018, I land in Helsinki…
Want to know what happens then? Read my next post about my first steps in the capital of Finland.