"It was a coincidence, just a mere coincidence that we ended up in Åland, but we love it here. We’re so happy to live and work here," say Sunita Mehta and Naresh Kumar.
They welcome us in their apartment in a newly built house in southern Mariehamn. The house lies within a stone's throw from the seashore and the neighbouring woods with walking trails. Also, for Naresh it’s only a half-an-hour walk to his job at Crosskey, an IT company that develops and supplies banking systems.
"It's wonderful to be able to walk in peace and quiet and without being afraid of heavy traffic," he says.
Looking for new experiences
The couple comes from north-western India; Sunita from the state of Rajasthan and Naresh from Haryana. Both have a profound IT education and they had good jobs in their home country. But when the company offered Naresh an employment in Stockholm, his answer was “Yes”.
"I wanted to experience a new culture and meet new people," he says.
Sunita stayed in India and visited Naresh in Stockholm regularly.
Finally, when the company asked Naresh if he could think of moving to Åland and work for Crosskey, one of their customers, the answer was another ”Yes”.
"It was then I started to think of moving too, it became too complicated to commute between India and Åland," says Sunita.
Sunita admits that her life in Åland wasn’t easy in the beginning. She didn’t have a job and there were no people on the streets – the emptiness felt scary for someone who is used to constant crowds and noises in an Indian city.
"The shops were closed in the evening and you couldn’t see a single person anywhere. I thought something serious had happened because everybody stayed indoors," she says.
Now it feels different. She has learned to appreciate serenity and security and nowadays there are also several food stores open late in the evening, also in the town centre of Mariehamn.
"I really love being here. It's so peaceful and a small town has a different type of atmosphere. Here people meet and know each other and stop for a chat. It’s also nice to live so close to nature and you can go for long walks even in the evenings without having to be afraid."
What’s more, now she’s got a job as Floor manager for customer support team at an Ålandic gaming company Paf. This means that, unlike Naresh, she sometimes also works evenings and weekends.
"We both enjoy our jobs. They correspond to our education, feel completely right for us and the language is English," they say. They also understand some Swedish and want to learn more.
Wonderful with snow and rain
In freetime they like going for long walks. They play badminton and chess and have made several new friends to spend time with. Stockholm is close whenever they wish to see more people and action.
"However, we don’t visit it often. And when we do, it’s for shopping ingredients for Indian food, even if there’s a fair choice of them in Åland too."
Sunita has experienced one winter in Åland and is looking forward to another one.
"I saw snow for the first time last year and it was absolutely wonderful. Nor do I mind the rain. I come from a desert state in India where rain is considered to bring happiness!"
Closer to the family
If they move from Åland, they will move back to India. The family ties are strong.
"But we want to stay here at least two to three more years!"