10 Questions: Peter Seenan
- How have your breakfast habits changed since you moved from Scotland to Finland?
After almost six years of living here I’m finally getting used to being woken with a cup of coffee. It’s always tea back home. I can understand why coffee is the drink of choice when it’s minus 20 outside and there’s not much trace of the sun for a month or two.
- What was your very first Finnish experience?
I first came to Finland in 2004 as a 21-year-old Erasmus student. I don’t think I ever really knew what I was letting myself in for. The words “Finland” and “Helsinki” sounded so other-worldly to me and in the back of my mind the prospect of going far North to what I considered the edge of the Earth made me feel like a bit of an adventurer.
- Out of all countries you’ve been to, why did you choose Finland as your country of residence?
I like the drama of the changing seasons and the extremes of weather. It makes me feel alive. The quality of life is better than anywhere I’ve ever lived. I also fell in love with a Finnish girl.
- What’s the story behind your Finland 100 project Finland My Home?
I’ve been asked countless times by Finns, “Why are you here?” since I settled here and I love reflecting on this question because I always have good things to tell. The longer I’ve lived here the more I’ve thought about this because Finland has become my home. At one time, though, I thought it an impossible dream because of the language.
Because of the challenges I’ve faced I knew there would be plenty other very determined immigrants here who’d gone through a lot more than me, so I decided to start asking people to reflect on life in Finland and the journeys that came before. The response I’ve had so far has been overwhelming.
- What are the biggest differences between Scots and Finns?
There’s more ribbing and teasing in Scotland but about the same amount of dourness. Finns and Scots don’t take themselves too seriously and everyone relies a little too much on alcohol. One thing that stands out is independence. Finland fought for it, while Scotland said no very recently.
- It’s often said that Finns are difficult to get to know but very loyal as friends. How did you make your first Finnish friend?
My first Finnish friend was a girl at university in Helsinki when I was on Erasmus exchange. 13 years later I still remember the moment she came up to me because I was impressed by how confident and friendly she was. We stayed in touch once my studies were over and I’d left Finland. Finns are easy to have as friends. Friendships aren’t complex and company is the most important thing, not entertaining them.
- What’s your favourite Finnish delicacy?
Karjalanpiirakka from a bakery in Töölö. The stuff you buy prepacked from supermarkets is so dull and I don’t understand how anyone could eat them cold straight from the packet. Why no one sells Pekonikarjalanpiirakka is a mystery to me.
- What do you show your friends and family when they come visit you in Finland?
We find any sauna and jump into the sea. If it’s winter we do the same and gingerly go through the hole in the ice. I don’t think Finland’s a country for marveling at ornate churches or for sitting on tour buses, it’s best appreciated by escaping the city and experiencing the natural beauty in one way or another.
- You work for a Finnish startup. What’s the startup scene in Finland like?
I like it and I like to give back by mentoring. There are many opportunities for people who don’t speak Finnish fluently and startups here are always looking for people with language skills so they can expand to international markets.
- How do you relax?
Swimming long distances in the sea and lakes, sitting on the terrace at my girlfriend’s country place, and sauna – sometimes five times a week. There’s nothing in the world quite like walking down a pier from a sauna and plunging into the water, and in Helsinki you can do that in your lunch break.