While browsing the web the other day, I stumbled upon a very fun blog called “Katz & The City” that piqued my interest. I was able to get a hold of Katz aka. Katariina to ask her a few questions about her expat life in NYC.
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from the peaceful country of Finland.
How long have you been living in the U.S. and are you here to stay?
I came to the US first time in 2002 through a student Work & Travel program to work for the summer in the Hamptons, NY. I did that three more summers after that and once I graduated from the university I was offered a permanent job in the US and moved here.
Why did you decide to move to America and what do you do?
I decided to move to the US since I had a hard time obtaining a full-time job in my field in Finland. Once I was offered this opportunity in the US, I had no doubts about moving here. Also, I had met a man in New York City almost a year ago and that relationship was getting more serious.
How did you get your visa/greencard?
I received my greencard through marriage to my then boyfriend. My employer was also willing to sponsor me, but I didn’t want to be depending on the job.
What was the most difficult part of your immigration?
Knowing that I would not be able to hang out with my family more than probably once a year.
What do you enjoy most about living in America, especially New York?
In NYC: The fact that everything you need is just a short subway ride away. In America: Versatility of different states.
Is there anything that you miss from home other than family?
Proper saunas, licorice (except now there’s a Swedish candy store in NYC that sells it!) and a slower pace lifestyle.
What techniques worked best for you to learn English?
I’ve always been good with languages and was fluent in English when I first came to the US. I think the best way to learn a new language is to surround yourself with the language and little by little you start picking up bits and pieces and putting them together in sentences.
Have you found a good source to buy Finnish food in America?
In New York we’re lucky, because we can get our favorite Finnish dark rye bread, fresh baked here locally. Two brothers from Finland started baking it in Queens, NY, a few years ago and now for example Whole Foods carries it. There are also many Swedish restaurants that serve Finnish type cuisine (like meatballs, mashed potatoes and lingonberry jam). And Swedish candy store Sockerbit carries Finnish chocolates and candies.
Looking back at your migration to the U.S., would you have done anything differently?
I don’t think I would change anything. I’m proud that I did all the paperwork myself even though a lot of people suggested I should hire an immigration lawyer to do it on my behalf. I had no problems with the documents or the process and everything went actually quite smoothly and swiftly.
What are the biggest differences between every day life in Finland and America?
In Finland meeting with friends was more impromptu than here. Here we’re always shuffling with calendars trying to find time for dinner with friends, but back in Finland they’d just come and ring my doorbell without any warning. I liked that.
You’re an active blogger and I can tell you’re having fun with it. What made you start a blog and what are your future plans with it?
I first started blogging in Finnish so that my family and friends back home could see what I was doing and share my experiences here. It grew along the way and now I write in English and have readers all around the world. I’d like to keep blogging about travel, wellness and NYC, but try more video blogging in the near future.
What are your Top 3 Tips for future immigrants? Anything in particular for other Finns?
- Check immigration advice boards on the internet.
I got so much valuable information from them and was able to ask questions from actual immigration lawyers free of charge.
- Try to be patient.
Dealing with USCIS can be very frustrating at times. You can spend hours on the phone on hold and being transferred from one person to another and once you get someone to talk to they are very short worded with you. Demand thorough answers.
- Be organized.
- Store all your immigration related paperwork in one folder, keep copies of all applications you submit and payments you make and write down the names of the people from USCIS you talk to.
At some point you might feel sad and scared about leaving, but taking the chance will stop you from all the “could’ve, should’ve, would’ves”. Dare to live. My motto has always been “Why not!”
Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise.