Attracted by the atmosphere

Bram and Liesbeth de Priester have left the Netherlands, their home country, and are now renovating a home for themselves on Harjukatu in Nurmes.

After they retired, Bram and Liesbeth de Priester considered what they wanted to do next. Moving abroad seemed like a good idea, but de Priesters' plans did not suit just any country. They were tired of their busy home town and wanted to move to Finland and North Karelia in particular.

"After you retire, you must think about what you want to do next. Do you just stay at home and stare out of the window?" Bram de Priester describes.

In the Netherlands, the couple left behind their grown-up daughters and their stone house in a town called Oegstgeest, which has about 20,000 residents. The De Priesters, who know a couple of words of Finnish, are now making a home for themselves in an old wooden house on Harjukatu Street in Nurmes.

Burnout eased in Finland

Bram de Priester says that he visited Finland when he was 25 years old. He fell in love with Scandinavia and kept travelling to Finland again and again, and finally, each year with his wife.

"I was on the brink of a burnout at the time. I felt at ease when I was on holiday in Finland, but I always started to feel worse again when I returned to the densely populated Netherlands with its population of 16 million," says Bram de Priester.
"The atmosphere here is different from in the South. It is somehow more open," Liesbeth de Priester explains.

That is how the idea to move to Finland for a year came about. They looked for a house online as they were camping in various parts of North Karelia.

"We found a nice old house in Lieksa, but it needed too much renovation."

Then, the couple fell for a wooden house that was on sale along Harjukatu. Initially, de Priesters looked for a temporary residence, but then they acquired Finnish citizenship and in March, they moved permanently to Nurmes, at least for the time being.

Project in the form of a wooden house

They made the decision to buy the house quickly, but it is a long project to turn an old house that is in poor condition into a home.

Being a citizen of the European Union made paper work easier after which they had to look for a construction company. Despite the language barrier, they have managed to get things done. The couple uses Google translator when they talk with the construction workers.

"Finns always say on the phone that they cannot speak English. However, when we meet them on site, we can easily communicate with them in English," Bram de Priester says.

It was important for de Priesters to ensure the proper heating of the house, as they are used to mild winters. The house has district heating, and they have also placed an order for a new fireplace.

"First, we just cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more," says Liesbeth de Priester when she refers to the demolition waste container that has already been emptied once.

Currently, they are painting the interior walls. There has been plenty of work with the wooden house so they have not had much time to get to know the surroundings.

"When we moved here, we planned that we would have started to learn Finnish straightaway. However, the renovation has taken up all of our time," Bram de Priester says with regret.

Uncertainty about flowers

Once the construction dust has settled, the couple plans to get busy in their garden. They wonder about the plants that survive in the Nordic climate.

"In the Netherlands, flowers bloom around the year. I don't know yet what we can plant here," ponders Bram de Priester, who is interested in gardening.

De Priesters say that they look forward to having Dutch guests who they can take boating on the lake, for example.

They plan to travel to the Netherlands from time to time to visit their children and Liesbeth de Priester's elderly mother. Bram de Priester says that the couple also misses the vast selection of organic food that is available in the Netherlands.

"And the cheeses," adds Liesbeth de Priester.

The article was originally released on the local newspaper Ylä-Karjala 4.6.2015. Writer and photographer Tyyne Karjalainen.

Bram and Liesbeth de Priester have given their approval and permission to translate and publish the article here in English.