Name a more Canadian thing. That's right - you can't! Sorreyh.

Au revoir Canada, bonjour Finland.. Eh?

This post was most recently updated on August 20th, 2019.

Reading Time: 9 minutes.

Is this seriously my first ACTUAL post about Canada? What a major gap in my content! However, living in Canada has been fairly hectic (with the work, family and trips), so I haven’t been able to write much about our life here – unlike when we were living in the States. Which, conveniently, brings me to the main point of this rambling – This post works as an announcement of sorts: I’m wrapping up my life in Canada, and moving back to Finland. I’ll be out of the country in about a week, so in case we still have some catching up to do, now’s the time!

Wrapping up the rather mobile life I’ve had for about 3 years seems like a big thing – and don’t get me wrong, it is – but the actual changes it’ll bring about are going to be pretty reasonable. I’m staying in the same company, (partially) same job, the blog will go on as usual, but I’ll be posting more dog pictures on Twitter again. However, chances are, I won’t get to meet as many members of the North American SharePoint community at different events anymore, as flying to this side of the pond from Europe is fairly large of an effort.. 😔

All over the place for 3 years

I’ve had the fortune of being easily persuaded to move abroad. This has meant, that I’ve had the opportunity to experience life in a bunch of different places around the world.

I’ve now worked for Valo in 4 cities, in 3 different countries on 2 continents over the last few years. And that’s not counting moving inside Finland! Out of Valo’s current 4 offices, I’ve worked for 3 (I wonder if there are any positions open in Krakow…)

Just kidding. The next few years we’ll be rooted in Finland. But before talking more about the future, let’s do a quick retrospective of the last few years!

Below, you can see a map of our adventures (excluding any trips in the North America – just shows our home towns!)

Even in Finland, I failed to ever move back in the same place.

The map above is interactive – but below is a detail out of it: the 3 different places I’ve lived in Finland in the last 3 years (and I guess the upcoming few months!)

With the overall picture out of the way, what actually happened in the last 3 years?

In 2017: Wisconsin, United States.

'MURICA! I'd love to say I'm sorry for this picture, but I'm actually not.
‘MURICA! I’d love to say I’m sorry for this picture, but I’m actually not.

My wife moved to United States to finish her studies, and of course I accompanied here. Who’d turn down a chance to see the world, right?

"Welcome to America! Here's your Patriot-branded birdhouse in the colors that won't run."
“Welcome to America! Here’s your Patriot-branded birdhouse in the colors that won’t run.”

The experience turned me into a huge fan of United States. I wasn’t, really, before we moved there – but having seen what a vast and varied country full of awesome people it is, I can’t help but like it a lot.

Just a couple of photos from Colorado – the (second?) most beautiful state in United States!

One of the highest points of Colorado.

Our time in United States was spent getting to know people, working (mostly remotely) and going on EPIC roadtrips.

Ain’t that a beauty? It’s sad it kinda burnt down. Wasn’t the most reliable car I’ve had, but loved the comfy leather seats (except when it got hot) 😅

Living at large in America of course meant buying an American car, too. And while it might’ve consumed roughly 3 times the amount of gas as my car back in Finland did, it was still cheaper to drive since gas in the USA is practically free.

Sorry, guys, but it had to be said… 😜

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Feeding the #Caddy. Again.

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Yeah, the MPG was like 10 for this guy. It’s super lucky that gasoline is practically free in the States!

Overall, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting 40 out of the 50 states! Me and my wife were pretty much bedazzled by the beauty of the country, and we even named our daughter after (the prettiest) one of the states!

Who would’ve thought Arkansas was super pretty? Not me, but I was happy to have my expectations exceeded. Arkansas definitely made it to our list of most beautiful states.

And the prettiest state of all was probably South Dakota. Just heart-stopping landscapes, breathtaking mountain views and intriguing, barren Badlands. Oh, and Mt. Rushmore. And buffalos. And ghost towns.

The Black Hills were breathtaking.
The Black Hills were breathtaking.
BUFFALOS! Or bisons, as I guess you should call them. They're awesome - kinda like bulkier moose.
BUFFALOS! Or bisons, as I guess you should call them. They’re awesome – kinda like bulkier moose.
Also, why is the plural form of “moose” not “meese”?

In addition to all the pretty places, there were the weird but impressive places… Like Las Vegas. Or the Badlands. Or Cairo (IL). Or the Carhenge. Well, and Boston and Washington DC, that were directly out of Fallout -games for us.

The Carhenge - inspiration for your landscaping and yard decoration efforts!
The Carhenge – inspiration for your landscaping and yard decoration efforts!

However, in time, my wife graduated and we embarked on our last, quite grandiose roadtrip. It took us, among other places, to Niagara Falls, where we could see the Canadian side – which kinda looked like a lot more fun…

Seeing Canada from the American side of the Niagara Falls. It looked like a lot of fun – and honestly, it is, as I had the pleasure to uncover about a year later!

After traveling across the United States to Los Angeles, and catching a flight to Finland, we thought we’d settle down for good.

But that wasn’t meant to last. Almost instantly, we got an offer to relocate to Montréal. And again, who wouldn’t take up such an offer?

In 2018, me and wife moved to Montréal.

In the beginning of 2018, we moved to Montréal to help start up Valo’s new office, the North American headquarters. A French-speaking city with a culture, that’s a weird amalgamation of Europe and North America, was a fascinating place to explore.

The weather felt very familiar and homey right away, though.

In Canada, I’ve focused so largely first on just surviving in a country with foreign language and a lot of things to take care of, then working, and finally on family, that I don’t have 200 000 pictures. That’s roughly the number of pictures I have from United States… 😅

Instead, here’s a photo from the office.

The Montréal experience

It’s been awesome living in Montréal. It’s a big and multicultural city with endless things to do.

The restaurant scene in Montréal is unbelievable. Despite never really going to the same place twice, we saw maybe 0.1% of Montréal’s restaurants! And while I DID actually calculate that percentage, it’s likely inaccurate, as the restaurants in Montréal tend to come and go.

Oh – one other thing. For the first time in my life, I’ve actually been interested and even felt invested in how the local sports teams do (Go Habs Go! Allez l’Impact Allez! Wait, that’s actually not very imaginative…) and even bought some swag.

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#gohabsgo #gohabsgo🔵⚪️🔴 😎

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Montréal Impact game on Saputo Stadium.
Montréal Impact game on Saputo Stadium.

From the bright, hot summer days to moody spring nights, Montreál’s got it all. And it’s really a city that offers you endless amount of exploration.

Since we had our dog Miina with us, I ended up seeing a lot of the city with her. Well, except for the places where you can’t take a dog, which weirdly enough in Montréal means a lot of places!

While the government apparently greatly dislikes dogs, most people seem to be fine with them. Some of the coolest moments were with Miina, either in the dog park or in the Mt. Royal park.

Even some odd restaurants allowed dogs on their patios!

Miina even made it to the wrap-up article of Valo’s year in Canada:

Valo Intranet North America - featuring our former official Chief Happiness Officer Miina.
Valo Intranet North America – featuring our (former) official Chief Happiness Officer Miina.
https://www.valointranet.com/blog/general/valo-2018-wrap-up-global-growth-and-new-endeavors/

There’s one thing in particular, that I’m NOT going to be missing, though: the bureaucracy. The government of Quebec absolutely loves bureaucracy, and especially expats seem to get tons of it.

I once got a request from one government official for 12 different documents, most of which were issued by different government officials, with whom they just for whatever reason didn’t communicate with. If you want to avoid grey hair, hire an accountant, and stay as far away from any public services as possible. The paperwork will kill you otherwise.

End of 2019: Finland

My wife, daughter and dog already returned, so I’m following suite. I’ve got the last few weeks on the continent – having just returned from Charlotte, in a week I’ll be flying to Boston for another SharePoint event, and after that to Finland. A worthy end to the adventure in the New World.

What’s new in Finland?

I’ll still be working for Valo, but I’ll transfer to a slightly more technical role. I think that to some extent, working for increasingly difficult technical support cases for 3 years (starting late 2016 as a technical support engineer, then to an escalation engineer, and in the end a senior escalation engineer) means that I’ve seen enough of that, for now. It’s about time to jump back to actual development tasks :)

At the same time, I’m taking on a new project: this summer, me and my wife bought a house in Finland, and for the next n+1 years will be renovating it. Got to have something to do, right?

That’s a wrap!

I’ll be missing this continent and all of the colleagues and friends we’re leaving behind. But such is the nature of life, that all good things come to an end – what’s left for us is to hope there are new good things to replace them. And I’m hopeful.

The years in Canada and United States were nothing sort of awesome. The experiences and new friends we’ve made will stay with us for our lifetimes.

Anyway – while I’ve enjoyed the last few years of being all over the place, I’m happy to settle down. This blog will continue as it has, although maybe concentrate a little bit more on the development side of things :)

Living on the other side of the world is a bit tough, though, when you have a baby. That’s the biggest reason which made us slowly think about returning to Finland – having the support of the family and public institutions makes such a big difference to how smoothly your everyday life runs.

If anyone’s interested in hearing more about the life of an expat in Montréal, or to catch a pint before I’m leaving, feel free to contact me on Twitter.

Cheers!

Antti K. Koskela

Antti Koskela is a proud digital native nomadic millennial full stack developer (is that enough funny buzzwords? That's definitely enough funny buzzwords!), who works as a Solutions Architect for Valo Intranet, the product that will make you fall in love with your intranet. Working with the global partner network, he's responsible for the success of Valo deployments happening all around the world.

He's been a developer from 2004 (starting with PHP and Java), and he's been bending and twisting SharePoint into different shapes since MOSS. Nowadays he's not only working on SharePoint, but also on .NET projects, Azure, Office 365 and a lot of other stuff.

This is his personal professional (e.g. professional, but definitely personal) blog.
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