Marke Liimatainen – A Young Finnish Photographer in Los Angeles

It is always great to interview people who really love what they do for living. Unfortunately not that many people are like that, Marke Liimatainen is a very fortunate young lady.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Marke, I’m 28 year old and I’m from the smallest village you can imagine, Tervo, Finland. There is less than 2000 people living in there, a lot of lakes, forests and not much to do. I live in Los Angeles, I moved there about six years ago and studied photography in Santa Monica College. After graduating I got a job from a local photographer’s studio and have been working as her assistant ever since. I also shoot my own projects when ever I can.

Did you always wanted to become a photographer?

No, not at all! I wanted to be a police officer, a cake baker and a writer. I became a photographer by an accident, really!

What happened?

Well, a lot of people told me I take nice pictures and I should consider doing it for living. When I was working as an Au pair in Culver City, California, my host family gave me my first dslr-camera and it really gave me a big push towards becoming a photographer. I didn’t know how to use it, so I decided to take a class in Santa Monica College. The teacher was amazing, he was so inspiring and he had the best stories, and I just started to get into photography more. After taking the class the teacher told me I should consider enrolling SMC full time. I talked with my host family, and they agreed. I though about it for a half second, enrolled and never regretted!

Is there any particular award or an achievement throughout your career that you are particularly proud of?

Even though I’m just getting started as a photographer, I have few things I’m really proud of. A photo I took was selected as the “best portrait” in my school’s photography exhibit. It was the first time I was ever “the best” of anything, and the level of photography in my school is very high. I couldn’t believe it when my friend told me. Second one was when I was selected as the “Best Mentee” by Young Photographers Alliance. Just to be selected to the program among hundreds of applicants was huge, and then being selected the best among all the amazing photographers….Again, couldn’t believe it. That was pretty cool!

Did any funny or exiting things ever happen during your photo shoots?

Yes, all the time! One of the coolest things was when I was able to bring models to this small airport, and we set up a secret agent type of a photo shoot. I had rented guns that looked real. We were doing the photo shoot in the end of the runway in front of a small airplane, running around with the fake guns while small planes were taking off and landing. Another funny one was re-creating Pinocchio with a modern twist. I had my models dressed up as drug dealer and a human puppet. It was a lot of fun to shoot, because the models were really good actors and I was literally rolling around in the dirty ground laughing.

What motivated you to move abroad?

Coming from a small town, I always wanted to see more. I remember being like 12 years old and reading these books about this young woman who went all sorts of amazing adventures. I wanted to be just like her and create my own adventures (the books were Katja-books by Ellinor Rafaelsen).

Where all have you lived abroad? What place was your favorite and why?

My first time abroad without my parents was when I was 17 years old and did an internship in a film workshop in Arhus, Denmark with my friend. It was such an amazing experience and I absolutely fell in loved with Denmark. After that, I lived in Hillerod, close to Copenhagen for a bit. Then I moved to Milan, Italy. I spent there almost two years, working as an Au pair. After that I still wasn’t ready to settle in Finland, so I found an amazing family from Culver City, close to LA and became an Au pair again. My favorite place will always be LA, I just have so many amazing memories from there.

What have you learned from living abroad?

Oh, so much! I leaned who I am and what I want to be when I grow up. I was just a kid when I left Finland, and I feel like I have been raised by all the people I have met during my travels. Of course I have always been able to call my mom back home, but I have also got second or third opinions from people from different cultures, which has been awesome. I feel like I would be a completely different person if I never left.

What is your secret to keeping a positive attitude while living abroad?

I am happy in LA. I feel like I have the best second family, friends and a job, and everyone is always supporting each other. If I ever feel down, all I need to do is talk to my absolute favorite person in the world, 8 year old girl I used to look after. She is super smart and really funny, and she always makes me smile. It is great to spend time with kids, because they have an amazing attitude and such an appreciation towards little things in life.

What´s the best place you´ve ever traveled to?

Death Valley was pretty amazing. And I love San Francisco. And this little town called Cefalu in Sicily, so beautiful!

Do you have a bucket list? Would you share with us a couple of things on that list?

Drive a formula one car. Skydive. Write a book. Visit Naples. Take a lot of amazing photographs.

Do you have a bucket list? Would you share with us a couple of things on that list?

I really want to stay in LA. I love my job, my boss is the best and I love going to work every day…who can say that?! I feel so lucky. I want tp become a better photographer, keep doing my shoots to stay creative. I am just happy here. Finland will always be a place where I grew up and and a place where I love to visit, but I feel like I am the happiest in Los Angeles. And that’s what life is really about, being happy, right?

Connect with Marke


Models in photos:

Airport: Jonas Lind and Sun

Pinocchio: Fred DiBella and Martin Mikitas

Anu Patrakka – A Finnish Freelance Writer/Artesan/Photographer Loves Her Life Portugal

I don’t recall anymore how I found out that Anu Patrakka from Finland lives in Porto area. I have never been to Portugal but my sister’s ex-boyfriend’s family spent a lot of time there. One of Finnish bosses was a super fan of Portugal, he loves “fados” – and of course a good port wine which comes from porto ( also known as Oporto in English). Porto is the second-largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, and one of the major urban areas in Southwestern Europe. The urban area of Porto, has a population of 1.4 million.

In 2014, Porto was elected The Best European Destination by the Best European Destinations Agency.
But let’s see what Anu tells us in her own words about her life outside Porto – and how did she get there from Finland.

Taking a leap to the other end of Europe.

Olá! I’m Anu from Porvoo, Southern Finland. I live in a small village near Vila do Conde in Northern Portugal, close to the amazing city of Porto. Before coming to Portugal I worked for more than 20 years in Finland as a secretary/executive assistant. In the end I got rather tired of the business world and decided that it’s time to do something else. I left my job, packed a few things and came to Portugal. Nowadays I live with my Portuguese partner/husband and his elderly mother on a real farm, quinta.

How did you end up living close to Porto, Portugal?

This is actually the second time I live in Portugal – I took a year off from work some 6 years ago, and spent 6 months in Aveiro and another 6 in Espinho. Back then I visited Vila do Conde and thought that if I ever come back to Portugal to live, I will live here. The city has everything; a river, the seaside with beaches, a  small centre with a weekly market, an old part of the town with ancient buildings, nice restaurants and cafés and a metro connection both to Porto and the airport. It is calm and quiet except on market days, and safe enough. I lived near the centre of the city for a year or so before moving to the quinta.

How do you find the lifestyle in this village compared to your hometown in Finland?

Living on the outskirts of a small village is not such a quiet life as you would think. There’s plenty of action going on, with the neighbours doing this and that, farm animals running loose and the village parties. By now I know more people here than in the city in Finland where I lived for almost 9 years. Everybody knows everybody and everything about everybody, that is so true! The neighbours also help each other when needed, without being pushy.

The Portuguese health care works just as well as in Finland. I’m basing that on my personal experience as well as having seen how well my mother-in-law has been treated in hospitals. However, the financial crisis with its cost cuts has affected the health sector. In addition, it is mostly to the families to look after their elderly people, and you can have assistance at home only from the private sector – if you can afford it.

Most things in Portugal are clearly cheaper than in Finland; house rents, property prices, food, wine, dining in restaurants and clothing. Cars, combustibles, electricity and water are quite expensive. Public transport is  quite good by my standards at least, but of course it depends on where you live. Even in the villages you have a grocery store or two, and an ambulant fishmonger, baker, vegetable seller etc. who stop round the corner almost daily.

The winters in Portugal are a lot milder than in Finland. However, it may be very humid, up to a point that is nearly intolerable. We have a machine to help with that. The temperatures may go below zero at night, and  only the more recent houses are equipped with central heating. Even in winter, when the sun shines, it shines with all its force and there is a lot of light, unlike in Finland. I love that.  In summer it may be very hot especially inland and in the South. Where I live, a few kilometres from the  Atlantic Ocean, it’s windy most days. The heat waves may last a few days, and bring along forest fires. They  are actually the worst thing about summer, when there’s a lot of smoke in the air.

What kind of an advice would you give to someone considering a move to Portugal?

Travel a little bit in Portugal to choose the place where you want to stay. Ask suggestions from people who live here or have been here. Find out about the practicalities – e.g. it may be advisable to arrange a permanent travel (or health) insurance before you leave your country of origin. A housing agent will help  you to arrange your first apartment, and a written rental contract is very useful when arranging the taxpayer´s number that is needed for almost everything.

It helps a lot if you learn to speak at least a little bit of Portuguese. With a basic vocabulary you can easily handle the everyday life, but you get so much more out of your life here if you speak the language.

At the moment Portugal is very attractive for at least Finnish pensioners; they don’t need to pay income tax for the first 10 years. The pensioners remain in the Finnish social security, hence Finland pays for healthcare in Portugal. To make all this happen it is needed a bit of paperwork, of course.

How do you make your living now – and how would you like to develop that career?

I work a lot but still need to work on generating some income. I run the household including the garden and kitchen garden, I do my bit in looking after my mother-in-law – those are the everyday “musts”. I write  Normaali Irtiotto blog and have a photo blog PhotosAlma (in English) and a lifestyle blog (in Finnish). So far I’ve had one photo exhibition in Lisbon, and I need to find more use for my photos. I’ve written two unpublished (so far) novels, and will soon start working on a third one. I teach Finnish and work as a guide when asked to do so. And, if all this is not enough to occupy my days, I design and manufacture unique Milmanda handbags.

What is the essence of the area to you – what do you absolutely want your friends to see or feel about it vs. your country?

In this context I’d like to talk to you about Porto. It’s a marvellous city that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Just the laidback atmosphere of it, the beautiful old buildings, little specialised shops, cafés, restaurants, the street artists and street art, the River Douro with all the bridges crossing it, the uphills and downhills of the city, not forgetting the abundance of port wine cellars on the other side of the  Douro and the rabelo boats on the river. Porto bustles with life, every day, all day and night, and has  everything to offer for a visitor; even beaches.

What do you absolutely miss from your country/elsewhere heritage …or elsewhere?

I miss my family and friends, of course… and some food ingredients, e.g. cholesterol-free baking fat, the  variety of dairy products, rye bread and salmiakki, the salty candy. In the winter I miss the central heating  and a bathroom with heated floor.

Knowing more about life and having lived with your decisions for a while (like work) – would you still choose to be there and why?

Yes, I would. This is my home. I´m daughter of Carelian emigrants, and I never had strong roots in Finland. I
remember well, when after the first few months in Portugal a friend took me to the Caramulo Mountains.  We climbed up to 1000 metres and I looked down to the valleys, over the forests and the fields with sheep a-grazing and birds chirruping – I felt very strongly that I had found the place, the country where I belong.

What should everyone know and understand about Portugal and its culture?

I’m still learning to understand the Portuguese people – the people who explored the world and have a magnificent history, but today are one of the poorest countries in Europe. The essence of the Portuguese soul is in saudade, the longing for the times gone by. The melancholic fado songs are all about that.

The Portuguese welcome foreigners warmly were it just to visit here or live here. I’ve never met such sympathetic people anywhere. On my photo shoots people often stop and talk to me, curious about why I’m photographing a door knocker or whatever. They actually really talk to me, a perfect stranger – about their lives.

I feel very fortunate to live here. I may not receive such a nice salary, but in other ways my life has become a lot richer.

Thanks to Anu from for taking the time to write down here thoughts, you can see below how to connect with her.

Connect with Anu:
Anu Patrakka @ LinkedIn/
Anu Patrakka @ Facebook

Share this interview with your friends – and let us know if we could interview you via email for our website.
Contact us via email!

Vienna – Jul 14 2015

ZWEITBESTER … is a cool bar & restaurant in the 4th district.

It is a place where you have great food within the ambient of always changing exhibitions of interesting artists.

It’s a real nice location to meet each other. Tom and I checked that place and tested all drinks and meals. 😉 
Entrance fee: Just a smile 😉
Tuesday July 14th, 2015 at 19:00

Google Maps:

Closest train station:
U4 Kettenbrückengasse
U1 Taubstummengasse

Please RSVP and invite other friends to join!


Tom & Christian
Email EuroCircle Vienna team
EuroCircle Vienna Group at Facebook

Austin – Jul 31 2015

Photos by Alejandro Carrasco

Please join us for our annual summer white party to celebrate the gorgeous weather and friendships (new + old)!
We are going back to the original scene of the crime as we try to top last year’s success at the RIO rooftop by the pool. Come dressed in your sexy, classy favorite shade of white and be ready to party! Oh yes, we WILL have a dance off again so bring your moves.
Drink specials secured for EuroCircle:
– $5.00 Tito’s vodka cocktails,
– $3.00 Lonestar,
– $5.00 house red & white wine
Why: Do you have to ask??
SPECIAL NOTE: Starting July we will be requesting donations at every event in a suggested minimum amount of $5. The amount collected will be used to fund an awesome holiday party in December. { $5 donations are suggested but not mandatory. If you attend the events regularly and plan to attend the Christmas party -you know who you are-please consider the donation}As you all know I’m sure, there is no membership fee to participate in EuroCircle and we all want to keep it that way.
But the Austin entertainment venue market is competitive and it is especially tough to find a great venue in December that would host us for free. So chip in a little to keep the good parties coming! We’ll just be spending it on YOU!

Hosts: Szilvia, Adnan and Emma
EuroCircle Austin Team

Katalin Kiss – Read this Hungarian Master Stylist’s story at our website.
Haute European Salon & Beauty Products
4533 Ruiz street Austin TX 78723
S: (512) 368-­‐5880
C: (512) 797-­‐9351

New York – Jul 18 2015

4th Annual Event 2015 Hosted by Katie Lee Presented by Social Life Magazine and St. Barth Tourism.

Open Bar – DJ – Hors D’Oeuvres – LIMITED AVAILABILITY

Featured Sponsors: Ferrari, St. Barth Properties, Carlyle Catering & Nest Seekers

Spend a night to remember at St. Barth Hamptons, an unforgettable evening set in Bridgehampton that evokes the ‘haute romance’ of the planet’s ultimate luxury destination…St Barth. Once a year, nestled amongst the charming villages and sprawling farm fields of the Hamptons, is a gala to remember. From one season to the next, there is a singular event that emerges as a beacon to which all others strive. Sought after by Manhattanites and coveted by the most sophisticated Hampton-socials. St. Barth Hamptons, the pinnacle event of the summer is the season’s must-attend affair, set in a billowing white tent under the stars in Bridgehampton. An evening of exquisite tastings and overfilled glasses of champagne, bask in the company of elegant brands, watch sleek models cascade down the catwalk during the fashion show, and enjoy the live DJ perform throughout the evening, as you dance the night away.
St. Barth Hamptons… Join us.