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Finnish Mikko and his family say China feels like home


04-05-2017 13:47 BJT

Full coverage: President Xi Visits Finland, Meets Trump in U.S.

(Source: CGTN)

As President Xi pays his first state visit to Finland, our reporter Cui Hui'ao visited a local Finnish family right here in Beijing. The family of five has been living in the Chinese capital for nearly 20 years and all three kids speak fluent Chinese. Here's a look at their home away from home.

Mikko Harju, a lawyer who now works for a Chinese law firm, was first assigned to China twenty years ago with telecom giant Nokia. He said back in the late 90s, most Fins coming to China were with the telecommunications company. Mikko says when he first arrived in Beijing, there were many things that surprised him.

"The number of bicycles definitely surprised me. I knew that there will be a lot of them, but you cannot imagine before seeing it, especially how many people were with bikes in the city," Mikko Harju said.

Married to his wife Mila just before his assignment, Mikko started his family in the Chinese capital, with three kids: Alissa, Eerik, and Joose. However, as much as they were curious about China, after living in Beijing for four years, Mikko and his family wanted to take a break and ended up returning to Finland. It was only until two years later when a second assignment sent Mikko back to China. And that's when the family felt like they were coming home. 

"It was partly you knew where you are coming to. Maybe also not so exciting anymore, but we were certainly happy to have the chance to come back to Beijing," Mikko Harju said.

In 2007, Mikko bought a house in the Shunyi District of Beijing. He says one of the first things he changed was adding a sauna to the house, as its a staple in the Finnish household. He also started bringing his kids to the ice-hockey rink, another Finnish tradition.

"In school, I tried to pingpong and badminton, but I am not the most agile guy, I think I'm a little bit too big for those sports, and hocky suits me better," Mikko's son Joose Harju said.

"I know Joose' brother Eerik better because we've played for the same club both during middle school and high school. We played as defensemen. My impression of Eerik, or most Fins I know is that they are quiet, and they are serious about ice hockey. They are very good at sports," Family's friend Shen Xiwen said.

Shen says he enjoys conversing with the Harju brothers, as they both speak fluent Chinese and can understand pretty much all of the cultural references. And that is something their father takes pride in as well.

"China will be a big influencer in the world going forward for sure, even much bigger for our kids than for ourselves. I think it's super important for the kids to be able to communicate in Chinese," Mikko Harju said.

"As I was born in Beijing, Beijing basically became my home, Chinese food and Chinese culture is what I first experienced. so Finland is like my second home. I think Xi Hongshi chaojidan (tomato with eggs) is really good. I really like that," Joose Harju said.

Both Eerik and Joose say they are not sure where they will go for college after finishing high school. But their ties with China will always remain a significant part of their lives, as very few Fins have had the opportunity to live in another country for so long, and experience another culture so deeply.

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