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Did a reality show help a Sault native find true love?

Roy Rissanen appeared in matchmaking reality show; leaving Canada for Finland this summer
20210317-Roy Rissanen, Sault native on Finnish reality show photo supplied
Roy Rissanen. Photo supplied

SooToday has followed up with Roy Rissanen, a Sault native who sought true love on a Finnish TV reality show entitled Maajussille morsian maailmalla (Farmer Wants a Wife).  

“It was quite the conclusion,” Rissanen said in a telephone interview from his home in Halifax Wednesday.

You could say he did indeed find true love.

But not with a lady.

Rather, a country.

Upon returning to his home and work in Halifax after taping several episodes of the show, Rissanen, 48, realized that throughout the whole process, “there was more to this than I expected.”

He realized he had fallen in love with Finland, the land of his heritage.

“I started contacting the Finnish embassy in Canada, and then the Finnish government, and I renewed my Finnish citizenship,” Rissanen said.

“I started the process of selling off my business and all my stuff and I’m moving to Finland (to live, work and build a new life there)." 

He has also filed a Finnish citizenship application for his Canadian-born son.

“There’s such a draw with the culture. I was born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie in that Finnish community, and the Finnish community there was very strong 20, 30, 40 years ago. That was a huge influence in my life. Even though I was born and raised here in Canada as a dual citizen, that culture was ingrained in me.”

Rissanen said he had travelled the world after joining the Royal Canadian Navy, “but I had never felt at home since leaving the Sault until I landed in Finland to do that show for three weeks. It was an overwhelming feeling of ‘coming home.’”

“When I went to Finland, I felt these are my people, this is my home, this is my food, they talk like me.”

“They tell the same jokes,” Rissanen chuckled.

“It was just such an overwhelming feeling of being home and feeling an identity again. I tried to get home to the Sault at least once a year over the last 20 years but every year I went back there were less and less (Finnish people) as the community got older.”

“Those original people who had emigrated, they kept that language strong, the culture strong, the dances, the choirs and things like that, but every year you could see it getting less and less,” Rissanen said.

“I love different cultures through travelling, different food, different people and different points of view. I love it. But it’s kind of nice to have the feeling of being with your family.”

Rissanen said he had already made the decision to move to Finland while taping parts of the show in Canada.

“Plane tickets are bought,” he said, he and son Lex departing in late June.  

“I’ve already got some work lined up with a real estate office over there (having worked as a realtor in Halifax), to do some work with them, and we’ll see where things go from there,” both father and son set to brush up on their Finnish language skills

The cast and crew of the reality show finished filming their fourth episode of the 11-episode saga in January 2020 before COVID put things on hold.

The final episode, with Rissanen and three other men with links to Finland and their female friends, was scheduled to air last week on Finland's MTV3 channel.

Rissanen said feedback he received through social media while taping the show was strong and supportive, one Finnish responder informing him he had known his grandfather, having gone through the military with him and later worked with each other.

“It was heartwarming. It was really nice.”

“The show itself ended with the fairy tale ‘happily ever after’ ending, which everybody likes to see, but we all know how ‘happily ever after’ works in real life,” Rissanen said.

As reported earlier, the original series, entitled Maajussille morsian, is taped in Finland with residents of that country, the new spin-off Maajussille morsian maailmalla attempting to play matchmaker between Finnish residents with Finns (or people of Finnish descent, like Rissanen) living abroad.

Participants pick three Finnish women to get acquainted with, aiming to build a friendship, and ultimately, hoping to find that special ‘chemistry’ with one of them.

“We went out to Pine Island...I basically borrowed my aunt and uncle’s cottage on Pine Island, and we spent some time on St. Joe’s Island (to serve as the ‘farm’ setting for the show),” Rissanen said. 

“I did make the selection in the whole process of meeting the three women and did end up picking one of them. Unfortunately, in the best of circumstances, that kind of dating isn’t easy, but when you put the time difference, the distance and a little bit of a language barrier on top of that, I knew it was going to be difficult. We played out the show the best we could but you can never force those kinds of things.”

“We had such a good time. Every day, two of us would take off on a date for the day and spend some more time together with each other.”

It should be noted this was all consensual, Rissanen the perfect gentleman.

While good friendships were built, ‘true love’ was not to be found.

“There were no head over heels, deep feelings. If the situation was different, like we were living in the same town then maybe we might have tried dating,” Rissanen said, noting how difficult long-distance relationships can be.         

Finding true love can be difficult under any circumstances in today’s increasingly complex world, and some may question the entertainment industry trying to play matchmaker through a reality show.

However, Rissanen said “I’m a romantic at heart.”

“I love romantic comedies and I believe in romance. Everybody deserves a ‘happily ever after.’ I figured it was time to get back into the dating scene. If I could’ve found true love at the end of this I would’ve been over the moon. You have to try. That’s why I stepped up with the show and wanted to do it. It was a great experience. I got to meet a lot of great people and it literally has changed the direction of my life,” Rissanen said, cheerfully and confidently adding he’s still carefully looking for that special person.