Marcelo Meijome: It was a bit strange at first
It was only for two days, but I could already see that this was a place where we could live. It was easy to get around the city, and everyone’s English was good, so I had no problems communicating.
The great work-life balance gives American 3D designer Marcelo Meijome more time for personal art projects.
In late 2018, I was working in Indianapolis when one day a recruiter contacted me regarding a job opportunity overseas in Finland. At first, I thought it was a scam. Both me and my wife were looking for new opportunities, and we had considered moving to California. Eventually I ended up flying out to Helsinki for interviews at VR company Varjo. It was only for two days, but I could already see that this was a place where we could live. It was easy to get around the city, and everyone’s English was good, so I had no problems communicating.
Helsinki has things you would find in a big city compacted in a small area. We live in Kruununhaka, and we tend to go to places where we can walk to, whether it is to buy groceries in Kallio, or for a walk by the sea. My wife is Korean and we both like Korean food, and there happens to be a Korean restaurant just down our street. One of the hesitations we had was the weather. Not just winter – we are already used to cold winters of Indiana. But we weren’t prepared for the darkness. Even if you’ve read about it, you don’t really understand it before you experience it. On the opposite, the summer has been a nice surprise – we never stop to marvel how late it stays bright.
What surprised me was how big the tech scene is in Finland. Even many American companies like Epic have offices here. This is a pretty good place for not only developers but designers: if you are looking for new opportunities, there is a vast amount of job postings. Also, in general, I think the work-life balance is really good. Here, as long as you get your work done, the working hours are much more flexible than in the US. It was a bit strange at first but now it would be difficult for me to change back to the old way. This past year I have been trying to do more design projects on my own time. I have always struggled to find time to do these things, but with more flexibility from work I have been able to do more personal projects.
Pizzeria Via Tribunali was one of the first restaurants we went to and it has become one of our favourites. The location on a cobble stone street is very nice, and even if the area tends to be more touristic, it turned out they serve really good pizza and tiramisu. At times the restaurant is very busy and it is difficult to get a spot. Get the Angioletti as a starter and the Con Salame pizza.
Tervasaari is one of the small islands next to the city and it is very close to our home. The island is nice for going around a loop, and sometimes we even go for a run there. Especially during the summer when you can enjoy the sunset while sitting on the hill. Many people bring dogs here, and they jump in the water. We don’t have a dog but we like to go here to watch other people’s dogs.
Oodi opened soon after we had moved to Helsinki. The library is super modern and has nice architecture even from the outside. Before Covid we would go here often. There is a computer section that has 3D printers people can use with a very modest price. It is interesting to go and see what people are printing. The terrace at the top floor is a nice place to hang out.
We had seen Instagram pictures of wooden paths surrounded by tall reeds. For some reason, we thought this island was farther away – we didn’t expect a nature spot that nice and secluded being so close to the city. We visited Lammassaari first time last year. We thought there were supposed to be sheep on the island but couldn’t find them. Later we learned they are on the nearby island Kuusiluoto.
Café Birgitta is in a wooden building next to the sea and has really good pastries, coffee and sandwiches. When the weather is nice, there are chairs out on the terrace. But even during the winter it is a nice place to go to. We enjoy living by the sea and having the water close by – the only downside is that it gets very windy.