Katerina was born in Athens, and she was raised on an island in the south of Greece. She studied philosophy, psychology, and pedagogy in Athens. She met her half-Finnish, half-Greek fiancé in university in Athens. He speaks Finnish fluently, but he didn't visit Finland often. The pair decided to move to Finland during the Greek financial crisis, and fell in love with Finland a they visited in the summer. They soon moved into a Helsinki apartment owned by her partner’s parents.
“Everything was green, everything was sunny,” says Katerina. “I loved it, it was so beautiful.”
While transitioning to life in Finland, the couple was “super excited.” Katerina says she was overly optimistic when she first arrived. Now, she would warn that it can be difficult, especially when you move to Finland without a job. Because she didn't know anyone in Finland and didn't have a social security number, the transition was tough. She got a part-time job as a cleaner, and qualified for a KELA benefit for people with higher education degrees. However, it was difficult receiving social benefits because of the difficulty of having her credentials recognised.
Regarding culture shock, Katerina notes that Greek people tend to be louder and more animated than Finnish people. She says that her wild gesturing and loud conversation would draw strange looks from passers-by, and she eventually got into the habit of asking politely whether she was speaking too loudly.
"Now when I go back home, my mom is like ‘why are you so quiet?'." Katerina says.
Katerina appreciates the trustworthiness of the Finns she has met during her time in Finland.
“When they say they're going to do something, that's it,” she says. “It's going to get done. In my opinion, this quality is rare in Greece.”
She saw this quality as a huge relief, and says it helps her feel safer in Finland than she did in Athens.
Despite her appreciation for Finnish culture, Katerina acknowledges that the weather and darkness are hard to get used to, especially for someone coming from a sunny island in Greece. However, she points out that even Finns struggle with seasonal depression.
Katerina also struggled with finding job opportunities for foreigners. She attributes this to the fact that, unless you work in tech and finance, it is difficult to have your qualifications recognised and find work. For Katerina, it took about a month; she would certainly recommend beginning this process prior to your arrival.
If she could give her past self a piece of advice, it would be to not let your enthusiasm get the better of herself. She would encourage herself to be more prepared for things to not go smoothly.
“It can get pretty tough, but I would definitely do it again,” she says. “I do not regret it. Moving to Finland has changed me in so many ways... It made me stronger.”