My Neighbor Next Door is from...Finland

A new blog monthly articles series from AAA Translation’s Susanne Evens, My Neighbor Next Door is from… aims to expand multi-cultural knowledge and break down divides by letting readers get to know immigrants from various countries…one neighbor, friend and/or business colleague at a time.

This month’s featured country is Finland. Finland is a Nordic country in Northern Europe, bordered by Sweden to the west, Norway to the north and Russia to the east. Estonia lies to the south across the Gulf of Finland. From the late 12th century until 1809, Finland was part Sweden. It was then incorporated into the Russia Empire as the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland, until the Russian Revolution of 1917 prompted the Finnish Declaration of Independence.

We recently interviewed Mia Eriksson, who was born and raised in Finland and has been a full-time neuroscience student at Texas Christian University (TCU) since 2012. She also works as a teaching assistant in a chemistry laboratory at TCU.

Q. What are the cultural differences you notice between Finland and the USA?
Everything is different. Here, people always smile, which can be exhausting. In Finland, people don’t smile as much. It’s not to be mean or rude. When someone in Finland smiles, you know it is genuine. Also, Finland is much more socialistic. Education all the way through university is free, and healthcare is free. Here, you have to pay a lot for that. Another difference: in Finland people stay to themselves more than here; we value privacy.

Q. What brought you to the U.S.?
I came to the US on a student visa in 2012 to start my studies at Texas Christian University.

Q. What is something most people don't know about Finland?
Finland is actually incredibly beautiful. We have cold winters with snow, but, in fact, it is not like that year-round. We have warm summers, and it is one of the most natural and greenest countries in the world.

Q. What do you miss the most about Finland?
I miss the privacy. I miss being able to just relax and be in my own little bubble, without having to worry about people thinking that I’m being rude or that something is wrong.

Q. What is the biggest misconception you encounter when people learn where you are originally from?
We do not have polar bears!

Q. Any other comments to add?
Don’t feel weird about asking somebody about their home country. I’ve heard the standard questions a million and one times so I have answers ready to go. I’d rather people ask than make assumptions.