A decade abroad in Spain

Emilia Lilius Credit: Emilia Lilius

Exactly 10 years ago, Emilia Lilius, 32, traded Finland’s winters for the sunny streets of Spain’s Costa de Sol.

Driven by a desire for sunnier climes and a break from Finland’s frigid winters, she began one decade ago what was meant to be a temporary adventure in Spain.

“Finland is so cold and dark and just depressing,” Emilia says, “me and my ex came here just to see if we like it.”

What began as a year-long exploration turned into a decade-long love affair with Spain’s Mediterranean lifestyle. “Here we are 10 years later, and this is definitely my home now,” she says.

Finding home in the Mediterranean

Emilia’s journey from substitute teaching in Finland to a freelance online marketer in Spain has been marked by both challenges and achievements.

“Transitioning to Spanish life wasn’t easy,” she admits. The structured order of Finland gave way to the more relaxed pace of Spain, where bureaucracy and adjusting to local customs is a main challenge for many expatriates.

“Everything in Finland happens with rules […] here, everything takes so long,” says Emilia. “But I’m now more flexible with my time as well. So I don’t mind if somebody’s a bit late and I don’t mind if I’m a bit late.”

Yet, despite the initial barriers, Emilia has embraced the advantages of her new life.

“Everything is more relaxed… I can give [my child] more quality in his life here,” she says, “Because here we can go to the parks, walk, swim. It’s like beach, pool, mountains […] and everything is quite cheap.”

Connecting locally: sports and Spanish

Socially, Emilia found her niche quickly through her passion for jujitsu. “It was easy because I do jujitsu, so I found local friends right away through jujitsu,” she says.

Overcoming the language barrier was an essential achievement for Emilia. “The language barrier was difficult at first because I didn’t speak any Spanish when I moved here.”

Now, the 32-year-old Finnish speaks Spanish fluently and even humorously recalls: “I’m fluent, like, I can… I gave birth in Spanish!”

While she plans visits to Finland to reconnect with family, she sees no place for herself in Finland’s long-term future.

“Maybe when I’m older, retired, and need some extra help. But at the moment I don’t see myself living in Finland,” says Emilia, content with the life she has cultivated with her friends and family in Spain.

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Written by

Talyta Franca

Talyta Franca, Class 2026, Northwestern University in Qatar.