When you move to a new country, you start balancing between your former and current countries – living in ‘Abroadland’. You’ll encounter various situations, people and places, and go through many changes and challenges. Sometimes it can feel like living multiple lives in one lifetime! Abroadland explores the topics related to this life overseas.
Our family has been abroad since 2011 and we have experienced:
• 4 intercultural moves across the continents: Finland -> Australia -> Singapore -> Australia -> Switzerland and 12 homes in a variety of locations.
• Freelancing, studying, volunteering, being a stay-at-home parent, working in full-time employment and as a contractor.
• Attending primary schools in three countries – both international and local schools, day care in four countries and having nannies from two additional countries.
• Having a baby abroad.
• Lots of travelling
• Moving independently and once with the help of a company and moving with only suitcases and once having some of the belongings shipped. Also, moving to a new country and continent with two weeks’ notice.
• The challenges that come when one spouse works in another city or travels a lot, and the difference of living in a country where you know the local language versus one where you don’t.
I’ve been capturing some of the experiences into the book Greetings from Abroadland together with some wise words from intercultural experts, with the hope of giving insights and inspiration to other families.
About the author
Helena Jalanka is a designer, foreigner, mother and many other. She comes from the land of thousands of lakes and reindeer – Finland, and currently she lives in the land of chocolate and cheese – Switzerland, with her husband and their two sons.
Helena has a Master’s in Art and Design, a Bachelor’s in Communications and she has also been studying social psychology. Her work background is in digital media and recently she has been focusing on visual storytelling. You can see projects samples in her portfolio.
Besides working, Helena enjoys being with family and friends and in nature. She is also learning German by taking courses and drawing cartoons on “German for Mummies” Instagram account.
1. What things inspire you?
My biggest sources of inspiration are nature and everyday encounters. I love to combine fun and useful, and I aim to make things that delight and impact people.
2. How was the process of making ‘Greetings from Abroadland’ book?
During the seven years abroad, my family had experienced so many hellos and goodbyes, international moves, homes, travels, projects, schools, hobbies and events. ‘Greetings from Abroadland’ book was born out of these experiences as I thought, why not to share them.
I had been drawing cartoons of daily situations as a foreigner – it helped me to deal with the experiences and to see humour in them. The book formed around the images. When I was making the book, we had just had our second child and moved from Australia to Switzerland so they were quite hectic times. Interestingly, making the book was also something that gave me energy in the middle of the changes.
3. Tell something that most people don’t know about you.
I can clap my hands super loud, my first – and so far the last – car was a VW Kleinbus -68 with a disco ball inside, I have a yellow belt in karate and as a kid I named my pet frogs according to Finnish icebreaker ships.
4. What do you like most in your current living place and what do you miss most from ‘back home’?
I admire the mountainous nature and the old architecture of Switzerland. Plus it’s a peaceful country with clean air and water!
From Finland I miss mostly the people – I think missing the friends and family is the biggest price you pay for living elsewhere. I also miss the Finnish language, the sea, summer cottage life and Karelian pies (Finnish pies made from a rye dough and rice porridge).
5. What are your favourite landscapes?
Nordic archipelago, tropical islands, rain forests, Alps and Australian beaches. So basically all the places where nature surrounds you and you feel more connected to it.
6. Is there a quote you like at the moment?
“I live, wherever I live.”, by my older son.