Vern and Selvie

Vern and Selvie are trying to count how long have they lived in Raahe by now. Vern has the result half a year and Selvie 4 months – happy compromise is 5.

The couple completes each other perfectly and cheerful laughter gives rhythm to speech. Vern is like a solid rock and Selvie joyfully bubbling creek, hands automatically finding each other and gazes connecting to find confirmation on joint memories. Being together for 8 years has obviously not been boring. The couple also shares the same workplace, which tends to cause “some extra drama” occasionally, but the brighter sides beat the worse by far, they say.

Smiling couple on their home porch.
Vern and Sylvie thrive at home. Photo: Aira Meriruoko.

The couple comes from Australia and Indonesia. To Raahe they have moved after being offered a tempting job opportunity and neither of them had a clue where they were going, when accepting it. The list of countries where Vern and Selvie have worked leaves breathless: India, Fiji, Japan, China, Mongolia, Saudi Arabia and Bolivia… Besides relocating for work, the couple has found time to travel all around Europe, except to the Nordic countries their adventures have not reached before. When they found out that Raahe is located in northern Finland, very close to the Arctic area in their perspective, they were expecting to find everlasting winter with polar bears and other wild animals roaming on the streets. It was a true surprise when the reality was something totally different with 4 seasons and all.

In the spring 2018 when they arrived, they had nothing but few clothes with them. When going through housing options Vern happened to notice an ad of a small detached house with own garden. When connecting with the seller, it occurred that the house was owned by an estate and all the movables could be bought with it. Vern and Selvie seized the opportunity and now the house is organized to their liking with love using the old furniture and second-hand store findings. While nesting the summer came and the garden became green for the first time, which felt like a tiny miracle.

The western culture and excellent language skills that locals have, feels good to newcomers. They praise beautiful and well-cared gardens and old wooden houses, the small seaside town has its own character and it is pleasant to walk on the streets at peace. The city’s welcoming has been great according to Vern and Selvie – one can familiarize with people even though Finns are more quiet than what they are accustomed to. It is easy to recommend Raahe as a safe and child friendly living site for colleagues and co-workers who are arriving from the other side of the world. Working with locals is going fine and some of them have taught few words of Finnish too. Learning the language has sent the couple to a course as well: after the first lesson Vern is convinced that he will never learn it, whereas Selvie giggles that, the teacher promised she would speak Finnish in six months.

Both of them have a good splash of contributor within. During his business travels Vern has taught the locals English and children to read and write. Selvie on the other hand hopes to bring a piece of her own culture to the city by establishing a restaurant to Raahe, where she could hire unemployed people and in that way help them to have a new start in life. She could also import decorative items for sale from Indonesia, which would give some income and prosperity to her home country too. Giving back to the community recurs in both of their talks and the genuine desire to be part of developing things for better.

Being at home, shopping together and cooking are the kinds of things to the couple’s liking. The price level of Finland still continues to amaze and prices are calculated in three different currencies. In the summertime, they have been barbecuing and hosting guests, visiting the beaches and pubs as well as travelling to nearby locations. They have also had time to see Finnish baseball and ice hockey, which were both new acquaintances – the rules are still a bit of a mystery. Vern’s first relatives have already had the chance to visit them from England. More than light summer nights, especially Selvie is looking forward to winter and falling snow. The garden covered with snow feels like a wonderland, which her relatives are also excitedly coming to witness. Although Vern is joking that, the group might be in a sudden hurry back to warmth when the first crush with snow is over.

Project work is bound to end at some time, after which they have to make a choice that gets even them serious. Raahe starts to feel like home. The couple has decided that the house will not be sold, that is for sure! Even if the work would still take the couple to travel the world, this is a good place to come back.

Wooden museum building by the sea.
Photo: Leena Törmälä.

Text: Aira Meriruoko, 2018.