"I met my partner in London in the final days of 2004. I thought she was French because she had glorious hair and smoked cigarettes. When she told me she is Finnish, I was not disappointed, on the contrary! I always had a good feeling about Nordic nations, for instance from playing soccer in Denmark when I was younger.
We set up our next date in Paris and for the third time I came to Helsinki. This year marks 10 years since I moved permanently to Finland. Moving here was not self-evident. My partner first tried to move to Oakland, California where I was living, but she would not have been eligible for a residence permit or nationality based on our relationship. A permit would have required a lot of time and money. When she received an interesting job offer in Finland, we decided to settle down in Finland.
I was not worried that there would be discriminating attitudes towards homosexuals in Helsinki. I would not have moved to a place where I'm seen as a freak or where I would risk being discriminated against. I also knew that the legal system of a Nordic welfare state is liberal, and I was enticed by the stability. Even if gay marriage is not permitted in the US, the political situation is volatile and everything can change in a heartbeat."
Divine treatment in city offices
"Moving to Finland was easy, I was basically told “Welcome, fill out these forms”. I was treated like a god everywhere I went! I of course knew that not everyone receives the same treatment at the migration services as I did. Running errands in also other offices has always been smooth and easy. I remember a moment where we were traveling abroad and that same morning we noticed that my partner's passport had expired. I thought that we would not be able to leave but my partner just mentioned that she will call the police and take care of it. "No way!", I exclaimed, but it just so happened that she got a temporary passport and we could board our flight.
I have never encountered homophobic attitudes in Finland. I also only have super positive experiences from working life. I work as a lawyer with mostly American clients and colleagues, but I also have some Finnish clients. I don't speak Finnish, but I don’t get any stick for it, a bit of light-hearted teasing perhaps. I have of course racked up some Finnish vocabulary over the years. There are some terms I don't even always remember in English, like haalari (overall) or kypäräpipo (helmet beanie)!"
A more relaxed family life
"It's easy to live in Finland as a rainbow family. We have three children and we have not encountered dismissive attitudes at school, in early childhood education or with doctors.
The only thing I'm wondering about is that I see many lesbian couples with kids in Helsinki, but I have yet to encounter gay male couples with children.
Building a family life has been effortless: applying for maternity leave benefits or signing a child up for school was easy. I'm also astonished that the City of Helsinki offers a free lunch to school kids at the parks in summer. It's absolutely amazing.
Even if there is high appreciation for education in Finland, the school days are quite short and the workload manageable. Children are able to learn without being put under terrible pressure. In the US, kids sign up for music and sports hobbies in order to build up a portfolio and be able to get into good schools. I also sang in the choir, played the cello and went to soccer. I didn't stop to think what I truly wanted, and the next thing I knew I was studying law. In Finland, kids have hobbies for their own fun. And furthermore, even middle class parents in the US work such long hours that I would hardly see my children if we lived there."
Life is better here
"We live in a green residential district and the neighbours tend to spend quite a bit of time in each other's yards as well as their own. I perhaps find it surprising that I have more barbecues in Finland then when I lived in the US. I've become quite good at it.
Many important people have entered my life through my neighbourhood and the kids. It is possible to get to know people, especially if I put a bit of personal effort in it. The biggest problem in Finland is the month of November, I would rather spend it at my mother's place in the US. On the other hand, this autumn has been very sunny, so it's not all bad. And the wildfires of California, the pandemic and President Trump's term have made a lot of American friends consider whether they are able to stay in the country. Nobody asks me anymore why I moved to Helsinki, people are more interested in the practicalities of it. Even if Finland is not on the top of their list, it's not far from there either. Life is simply better and happier here."