Wambui Njuguna is an Ashtanga yoga teacher based in Helsinki. A true blue third-culture kid, she was born in Kenya and moved to the US at the age of ten. She has worked in Chile and the Middle East and received an MA in Applied Linguistics in Chicago, IL. Wambui has written for elephant journal, The Helsinki Times, The Seattle Globalist, Ananda magazine, Rebelle Society and Afro Punk. When not involved with yoga, she can be found checking books out at Helsinki’s state of the art libraries.
What do you do here in Finland?
I am an Ashtanga yoga teacher. I work together with my husband organising and leading yoga workshops and retreats throughout Finland, Europe and Asia. I have worked as an English editor and Finnish-English translator on two Ashtanga yoga books. I am also a mother to a six-month old boy and have recently started a blog, documenting how yoga can help during pregnancy and throughout motherhood.
When and how did you end up here?
I moved to Helsinki in 2010. I ended up here to be with my Finnish husband, start a family and live the yoga life together, while sharing the teachings of yoga with others.
What attracts you about Finnish culture?
I appreciate the reliability of the people. There is not so much empty chat which amounts to nothing. People say what they mean and do what they say. On a bureaucratic level, there is a good degree of efficiency as well. Finland is also a tremendously friendly country for mothers. It is a family and, in its own reticent way, a people-oriented culture. Now that I have a small boy, I very much value the time I have to be a mother.
What were/are your worries about life in Finland?
When I first arrived, I was worried about navigating a society and system in a language that was completely foreign to me. The longer I stay, however, the more comfortable I feel about being able to access information. Much is offered in English, but still, it’s been worthwhile for me to study Finnish because, without a decent command of the language, there is a lot one can remain in the dark about. I also notice that now that I am the appointed English speaker for my child, it will take much more effort to keep my Finnish up. I have a feeling quite a bit of Finglish will be going on!
How has Finland changed you?
Finland has made me more resilient and patient. I find that things move at a slower pace than in the US and that I had to commit to decisions, stick to them and wait it out, even when it felt like nothing was happening. Finland has also made me more self-reliant; this is not to say that help and support is not available. It is. You just have to find it and ask for it.
What culture shocks did you experience when coming to Finland?
The homogeneity of the population and culture. It’s one thing is know, on a rational level, that a country in which immigration has been only a recent phenomenon will not have a diverse population. It is another thing altogether to live that reality. I notice Helsinki is getting more and more diverse but if you travel pretty much anywhere else throughout the country, the demographic is still remarkably monotone.
Have you been able to settle and integrate into Finnish society?
To a certain extent, yes. The nature of my work is such that I am on the road a lot, so I am not consistently in Finland for long stretches at a time to get involved with projects. However, it very much feels like my base. I think I have also changed my criteria on what it means to be settled and integrated in a society, which is interesting to observe.
What are your future wishes for your life here?
At some point, most likely once my son starts school, I look forward getting re-enrolled in some Finnish classes. I managed to study the basics and it will be nice to go forward. I trained as a linguist before moving into the field of yoga, so I am a sucker for learning languages and words.
What is your favourite Finnish word?
It’s difficult to narrow it down to just one. I have three. The first is aurinko because it has a nice combination of open vowels and strong consonants and sits perfectly on the mouth with its three syllables. It also has a positive meaning...who doesn’t look forward to feeling the sun on your skin after a long, dark winter? The second is a phrase: löylyn henki which was one of the first phrases taught to me at, surprise surprise, my first visit to the sauna. I like that it has a mystical aspect to it, meaning the spirit of the steam. My final favorite word is hengittää because, well, it is the main tool of my trade. I am constantly encouraging people to inhale and exhale with awareness!
Image: Justyna Jaworska