Autumn 2012 I moved to Finland because I married a Finnish man. Before I moved here I didn’t know much about my future home because I had just travelled to Finland two times. I thought I knew how to use English to communicate with in Finland and I knew some Taiwanese people here already so I though it wouldn’t be that difficult to settle down here. However, after being married here for a week or two, I had the feeling that I wanted to go back to Taiwan. Little by little I got to know that the life wasn’t going to be the same I thought it was like when I travelled here. I knew I was going to be here for long time or even for the rest of my life.
Not just only the weather, food, the way of transportation and the people are different here also the culture shock reduced my self-confidence. When I went out to talk with people or when I tried to do anything, looking back now, I used the Taiwanese way of thinking and doing. That limited my own behaviour, and doing things that were normal and accepted here made me think that I had done something wrong and I felt guilty. That made me avoid social contact and interaction, I just stayed home for almost a month in the hands of one sort of a culture shock. All the communication around me was in Finnish and I wasn’t quite able to follow what is happening around me as completely as back home in Taiwan. Eventually my reducing self-confidence prevented me from going out and I started to close down into my own shell.
When the winter started to set in and the darkness got to be all around, I started to have depression symptoms and that reduced my ability to function even more. This made my husband to spend more time and energy to take care of me and I was feeling more of a burden and I felt guilty for that, even though he didn’t say anything of the like. I was worried if this situation would be getting worse, and how would this influence my marriage. I was afraid that it would go to the worse.
One day when I was staying home sitting during the daytime not really knowing what I can do here I was reflecting about what is going on in my life. Was I regretting to marry into here? What can I do here? Can I talk about my feelings with anyone, even with my husband? In the end I knew that all of the situation was because of the different country, different culture, different environment, different people. All that I didn’t know well enough and how I was still using the Taiwanese way of thinking. I decided to give up a little of the way I had been used to think and start little by little to care less about what the people are thinking about me and what I do. This for me was the first big revelation on how to overcome the culture shock for me. If I could be more openly me, showing my feelings and emotions, being able to talk about what I am, then I knew I would settle down better and I would start to feel more at home here.
Now that I have lived here in Finland for 4 years I have learned to be more open and I dare to talk more about my own ideas and stand by them. I can share my opinions with my husband, my friends, in school and even at work. I have more courage and confidence to overcome and face the difficulties that might lay ahead in the future. I have been able to give up the part of my Taiwanese thinking that limits me and have acquired the part of the Finnish way of thinking that whatever lies up can be faced and overcome with friends and family.
What I would like to say to someone facing these difficulties in their new home country is that do not close your mind but try to figure out what the actual problem is and do not think too complicated. Try to find someone you trust and do not be shy to talk with them, and try find the way for yourself to sort out the issue in a way that you are comfortable with. Do not run away from the problem but instead face it and tell yourself and believe in yourself that you can solve the situation. That gives you the positive energy to get through. Remember, if it could be, just let it be and it will be.
My advice to the Finnish spouses is: be patient, be present, be there for the spouse. Find the way you can comfort and give support. For me it was my husband being patient, listening to me and hugging me every day to make me feel good and loved. Try to find a way to make your culture shocked immigrant spouse feel safe, loved and understood. Give them stability, predictability and do your best to help them get involved with the everyday Finnish way life.
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