Expat Insight – Relocation and Pregnancy
Varun and Divya Galande moved to Finland in the spring of 2017. Their relocation was unique and intriguing because Divya was pregnant at the time. Despite the additional considerations for the new baby during the move, the family has settled into Finland well and offers a unique perspective to the relocation experience.
“It’s a good life here in general. Initially, I thought that we shouldn’t have moved, but over time, we got used to the climate and the culture. And things are getting better now. It’s quite nice. The support that FRS provided was really helpful. Life here is totally different compared to Dubai: the temperature, the language and everything related to the pregnancy. We didn’t know what to do! FRS was a great help; the moving and everything related was seamless!”
The Galande family has been going through a lot of big changes in a short amount of time but feel that Finland is a very good place to deal with them. “I missed home terribly because nobody I knew was here, and I didn’t know anything about the system for the child health care or city of Helsinki. But the reception was really good. Even if I had a silly question, it was handled well. There was always someone who spoke good English” Divya says.
“I think the work-life balance is supposed to be better here. However, the company is getting a lot of business which is keeping us busy. Of course, it’s good for the company as we’re growing so fast” Varun adds. “Basically, I want to finish my work day quickly and get back to my family. One good thing is that we live very close to my office. And the new subway is quite convenient” he continues.
Language, often considered as a major barrier, hasn’t dampened their spirits either. “Almost everyone here speaks English, so it’s helpful. Unfortunately, nobody in our building speaks English. Nevertheless, they are lovely people; they try to talk to you, but the problem is that I don’t understand Finnish and they don’t understand English! But we still try to communicate with each other, and they are always smiling making the interactions pleasant. Overall the people are very nice. Whatever help we needed we got. Whatever questions we had were addressed. In that way it’s quite nice. I haven’t seen this kind of hospitality in other parts of the world” Varun says.
One of the challenges the Galandes have been facing is social life. With the baby being born and work taking up a lot of their time, they haven’t had the opportunity to make local connections. “The social life has been challenging. We didn’t do much in the beginning because we were preparing for my son to be born, which can be a long process. My mother and father came here when he was born, then my in-laws came as well. So maybe now we can start growing our community back to what we’re used to. Divya wanted to be a part of a community and a nurse helped her by telling about these communities for new mothers”.
Despite this, their positive attitude shines through. “The next phase is to really mingle with the society, but that hasn’t been done yet. We will need to do it soon. We also want to learn the language, so maybe we will start some Finnish classes. I know a little Finnish, but only I can understand myself” Varun laughs.
Cultural differences in childcare are important factors for parents in a new country to understand, and it is therefore good to have a trusted person who can explain some of the peculiarities.
“It’s totally different to raise a child here. In India the child must be kept warm, 30 or so degrees, and here it’s nothing at all like that. They told me ‘It’s fine, you can put him out on the balcony in winter!’ and I was like ‘Are you really sure!?’. Also, in India after the baby has been delivered, a lady comes and gives the baby and the mother massages for a few months; it’s part of a thousand-year-old tradition. Here it’s not at all like that” Divya laughs.
“Maybe that’s why we have a huge population – all the nice related services!” Varun jokes.
“Here we follow the Finnish customs and lifestyle with the baby, because it seems like the right thing to do in Finland. Lots of time outside even when it’s cold and such. If everyone’s babies are fine after going outside, so will ours” Divya says and smiles at the baby, who looks at us with his large eyes, knowing that the adults are talking about him.
Finland has made a big positive impact on the Galandes, enough so that they are planning on staying here for the long term. “The number one thing about Finland is definitely the nature; there’s so much of it regardless of where you live. Second is that it’s so close to other parts of Europe that travelling is easy. The third thing is safety; Finland is really safe. The taxes are different than in Dubai and India, but you also get a lot more for them. Also, the tax expenditures are closer to the people” Varun says. Divya focuses more on the baby. “I would love to raise our child here. I’ve seen many documentaries and witnessed it myself. They take good care of the children and the kids are actually happy. It’s like children are meant to just live and grow up. In many other parts of the world there’s so much pressure on the kids, you have to study and learn this and that.”