Expat Insight – The Gagarin Story

Cecilia Gagarin and her husband Arlie Capalad moved to Finland from Australia in 2016 for her work. Despite the massive differences in climates, they have adapted to their lives in Finland exceptionally well.


The couple was interested in moving to Finland for many reasons. “I was offered a good opportunity to help my employer with the transformations that are currently happening there. The opportunities and the tasks were very interesting. We also wanted to experience the Nordics, because we hadn’t really been here before. So, we wanted to see what the life was like. It’s also very close to other European areas that we want to travel to,” Cecilia says. “We’ve already been to Berlin, London, Prague and Norway. It really is quite easy,” Arlie continues.


Arlie has studied Finnish very actively and has already achieved good results. He answers to many questions in Finnish. Arlie and Cecilia feel that Finnish is difficult but sounds musical. Cecilia especially likes to listen to children talking Finnish, because it sounds like they are singing.


The climate, usually one of the big challenges for foreigners, has not bothered Cecilia and Arlie. “The climate is very different to Australia and at first we were quite afraid that we might not be able to stand the cold. But after staying here for one year, we can say it’s really good! We were actually able to adjust to the climate. The Finns always tell me that there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.”


The couple has faced several positive surprises. They believe that Finns and Finnish companies should be prouder about things like the public transportation and healthcare system. “Compared to Australia, it is really much easier for us to live here. We don’t need a car, we don’t need health insurance, and the public transportation is very good.” Cecilia thinks that Finns really underestimate how beautiful Finland is. “For example, if you go to Denmark and Sweden, they think that they are great in all things.” Cecilia believes that nature is something to brag about. People are quiet but actually very intelligent. Cecilia thinks that it is in the Finnish character to be very shy and modest. “But there is a lot to love in Finland and I am glad that we came here, because I think there’s a certain honesty about the people here that I really appreciate a lot. You don’t find it anywhere else,” she says.


However, the move has not been without some memorable incidents. “The first time I received a letter from, I don’t remember where it was, but it said I needed to go to the post office. The only one I knew was the one in the city center, so I went there with the notice and told them that I want to pick this up. They told me that I needed to go to Hämeentie. So, I took a tram there and started walking. After 30 minutes, I couldn’t see the place, so I asked a student if she could help me. She gave me directions and finally I found it after 45 minutes of walking in snow when I was completely soaked. Turns out it was 5 minutes from our place,” Arlie says and laughs.


Cecilia urges all companies to consider their foreign employees’ needs. “The number one thing that made it so easy to move was the professional relocation help that FRS provided. I think it would have been difficult if we didn’t have that. I hear about people who struggled, who didn’t have the same assistance as we did. They struggled with the benefits from the government, they struggled with getting the papers in order, they struggled with this and that. But with FRS, all the things we needed to do we received help with. Looking back that actually made it so easy for us to settle here.”


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