Episode 24

The Life of a Dutch-Finn in Papa New Guinea & Beyond: Eline's Story

This week, Jean sat down to talk with Eline, a Dutch-Finn who grew up in Papua New Guinea. Eline and Jean met at Jyväskylä University, and bonded over their shared experience as a “third culture Kid,” or children who grew up in a culture different both from their nationality and birthplace. Read on, or give Episode 24 a listen, to learn more about Eline’s life in Finland.

Eline is half Dutch, half Finnish, but she grew up in Papua New Guinea. She moved there in 1982 with her parents, who relocated for their jobs in education. She was the only white girl in the village setting, and that made her feel different; however, the people she met in Papua New Guinea made her feel very welcome.

During her childhood, Eline’s family often visited Finland and the Netherlands. When she moved to the Netherlands permanently in 1999, the adjustment was difficult. She had a hard time making friends, and it took her awhile to understand that it was okay to be different. She gravitated towards other immigrants, because they felt more familiar. Although it took a bit of time, Eline finally came to understand that her differences and her unique experiences were actually a strength.

Eventually, Eline finished university in the Netherlands. After graduating, she decided that it was not the place for her. She wanted to travel a bit more, so she went to Spain and applied for a scholarship in Finland. In Finland, it is common to study at any age. This made Eline feel comfortable going back to school for her masters there. After her husband passed away, she studied while single-handedly raising her children.

Studying at the University of Jyväskylä, Eline found that her multicultural background was a great asset to her education. Her international background is difficult to explain to others; When people notice her accent and ask where she is from, she finds herself often answering differently. Over time, she has grown to appreciate her diverse cultural traditions more and more. She celebrates different cultural traditions from each country where she has lived, allowing the cultures to coexist within her life rather than contradicting one another.

Eline loves Finland — especially its close proximity to nature — and she has enjoyed spending time there since 2013. Nevertheless, she is looking for a less homogenous place with a more international feel, and she misses the ocean and the sunshine. She is planning to take a gap year in Spain to see how living there might work out for herself and her family. Despite these plans, Eline insists that home is where you make it. There is no need to pick a single geographical location, because home is where your loved ones are.

UPDATE: Eline successfully moved to Spain despite the coronavirus outbreak.

*Third Culture Kid - a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up.