I moved to Finland with my husband almost 6 months ago. During that time I have been working on creating my new jewellery range as well as learning to speak Finnish. Whilst my Finnish language skills still have a very long way to go, I am very happy with my jewellery. So, a few months ago we decided that the jewellery range was ready for sale at Christmas markets, and set about the task of booking into some local markets.
Just finding the markets was the first challenge. For me, Googling Christmas markets in Finnish was quite difficult given my limited language skills but I persisted and did manage to find a few relevant sites, though didn’t find any markets we eventually decided to attend. Even my husband found it difficult to find much information despite being a native Finn as it appears that many of the local markets are either not advertised on the internet, or are only advertised a short while before the market takes place (well after most of the stall holders have signed up). Apparently, to become a stallholder at many of the local Christmas markets you need to know the organiser(s). Luckily my mother-in-law knows some of these organisers and was able to book me in. Without her assistance, I would have only attended one market this year. In total we booked four markets from late November until just before Christmas.
Given my lack of Finnish language skills I obviously couldn’t attend these markets by myself. I had lots of assistance from my husband, mother-in-law and aunt-in-law who all attended markets with me to be my official translator. In fact, one day we had two markets booked so my husband and I attended one market while my mother-in-law and aunt-in-law were at the other.
Whilst I knew before attending the markets that I would struggle to communicate with customers in Finnish, I hadn’t realised exactly how much my language skills would affect me. When I was selling at markets in Melbourne I liked to hear the comments that people made while looking at my stall. I often found these comments a good source of feedback on my products and stall display, and sometimes they gave me ideas for new designs and products, or reinforced something I was already considering. Not being able to understand these comments in Finland not only makes it harder to gather this type of feedback, but also leaves me feeling a bit left out 🙁
Getting to and from the markets was also a bit of a challenge. I get very car sick as a passenger so I prefer to drive rather than sit in the passenger seat. I have been driving in Finland for almost 6 months now so the road rules, driving on the right-hand side, having the gear stick on the wrong side etc. are not a problem. However, I have very little experience in driving on snow and ice covered roads as we just don’t get these conditions in Melbourne. Driving on a completely white road where you can’t see the middle line or even see exactly where the edge of the road is can be quite disorienting the first few times. It also doesn’t help that many of the road signs, including speed limit signs, are illegible as they are covered in snow. Today driving back from the market for a large stretch of the road I had to drive exactly in the narrow tyre tracks left by other cars. Deviating from these tracks even slightly meant driving through slush at least 20cm deep, and consequently losing some of my ability to steer the car. I can’t believe that I had a number of people overtake me today in these conditions, particularly since each time this happened I was actually driving at the speed limit!
Overall, I have enjoyed my market experiences in Finland so far. I’m looking forward to my final market for the year – next Sunday (21 December) in Vääksy.
I am so lucky that my husband and his family are so supportive! I could not have done any of this without them.