“Is there anything in particular you would like us to know about your children?”
We had recently moved to Finland, and were visiting our children’s new school, both excited and anxious about having them start in the prestigious Finnish school system. The teachers were giving us a tour of the state-of-the-art facilities, when they asked us the question. There were plenty of things I wanted the teachers to know about our 6- and 7-year-old children and about our family. But I hardly knew where to begin.
We had left our home, friends and life in the Mediterranean for new opportunities and closeness to family in southern Finland. Our honeymoon period in Finland was just ending after a couple of months of enjoying an unusually warm Finnish summer. We had eaten copious amounts of ice-cream and strawberries, swum daily in the nearby lake, and we were even getting used to the sound of Finnish silence.
When we first started to seriously consider moving to Finland, it seemed like a no-brainer: the Finnish education system is possibly the best in the world, Finland is a safe country - we adopted many of the usual arguments that families use to convince themselves to moving to Finland. We had visited Finland regularly enough that, although our children and my husband had never lived here, settling in to a town we knew from our holidays didn’t seem like too dramatic a change. Of course, the thought of leaving our friends and the Mediterranean way of life made us sad and occasionally even doubt our decision. But we found ourselves reasonably content in Finland from day one, largely thanks to my parents who helped us settle in.
So, although I was a little disappointed that my son hadn’t immediately fallen in love with the taste of blueberries yet or that my daughter didn’t love red currant juice (all those vitamins!), I could deal with the small cultural glitches. We had discovered that people weren’t as cold and distant as everyone claimed they were - we had already had several lovely encounters with strangers on the beach and in the park, which reaffirmed my belief that we would all find friends eventually. Nobody seemed too taken aback by my husband’s dark beard and loud (by Finnish standards) voice. Even though most people still responded with a blank stare when I greeted them on my morning walks in the forest, it wasn’t a problem - I’d made it my mission to make them eventually come around. Even the tedious task of sending out numerous job applications and the prospect of perhaps having to start my career from scratch didn’t seem too daunting.
What I was concerned about was language. Before moving to Finland, our children already spoke reasonably good Finnish, considering they had never lived in Finland and had no Finnish-speaking friends in Spain. Only days after moving to Finland, they started absorbing funny little expressions like tavallaan (“in a way”) and toki (“certainly”) from those around them. However, their strongest languages in Spain were Spanish, their father’s first language, and Catalan, the community language. Also, they were exposed to English at home every day as it was the language my husband and I spoke to each other. How were they going to keep up all the languages? How were they going to keep up their Catalan when even their Spanish was slipping only after a few weeks? And what about their English - we didn’t want them to lose what they already knew, but my husband also needed to start learning Finnish - how were we going to juggle the potpourri of languages? Was it even worth it?
There were plenty of things I wanted to tell the teachers about my children’s language skills and cultural influences, but what exactly?
Should I tell them about the language thing - that our children were - for lack of a better expression - trilingual and a half? Or perhaps bilingualish?
Should I tell them that so far they had been growing up between at least four or five different cultures - Finnish, Colombian, Spanish, Catalan and that of an international immigrant community?
Should I tell them that they knew the song “Sata salamaa” almost word for word but they didn’t know if Vesa and Aino were a boy or a girl’s name, or that I had to explain what välkkäri and lukkari were? Or that they knew how to use the expression sikahyvä but also struggled to correctly conjugate everyday verbs like tykätä and lukea? How was I to tell the teachers about the mishmash of languages and cultures that constituted our family without putting them to sleep?
I didn’t know, so to keep it simple, I just told them that they were bilingual and said we would love for them to do extracurricular Spanish, and if they needed to do S2 instead of the usual äidinkieli, that was fine. I don’t know if omitting the details really mattered in the context of a Finnish school. It mattered to us, but it seemed too complicated to get into. I decided that I could always bring up the language-thing during our first official parent-teacher chat later on.
Language is complex. Even though people often say that children are sponges and learn languages immediately through immersion, even they have to readjust. Our children are still learning to differentiate between kärpänen, ampiainen and hyttynen. Their go-to language when they play together is still Spanish - at least for now. As a multicultural and multilingual family, we’ve only just begun the process of adapting our communication as we settle into our new lives in Finland. We still don’t know how our children’s relationship to their various languages will evolve over time.
So, yes, it’s complicated. But for now, I take comfort in the caption under our 6-year-old’s self-portrait on his eskari wall. His teacher interviewed him and wrote down what he wanted to tell others about himself. The caption states our current language situation perfectly. It says: “In my family, we speak Finnish, Spanish and English - tavallaan.”
“Olen turhautunut”. How many foreigners want to answer that every time someone asks them, politely, how things are going in Finland?
I am frustrated.
Hear me out. I am not frustrated by the impossibly long integration process. I am not frustrated by the bureaucracy. Not by the cold, the darkness or the job market situation. And not even by the mämmi that my Finnish partner stocks up in the fridge and tries to make me eat.
I am facing the worst frustration you can imagine. The one that so many foreigners, immigrants, intercultural family members feels. The hardest one to tackle because it is so personal and challenging. And yet, the one that everyone, immigrants, partners, NGO’s and government should invest time and attention in: being frustrated with yourself.
First, when it comes to do and observe the basic things of life.
That Finnish mechanism, that makes it impossible for you to open the window as you would like to. The bus machine. How the weather changes and you never know if you should wear two coats or not. How you wont find wine in the supermarkets. Or how, really, you can’t use your sauna as a drying place.
All those little things, that you don’t even think about when you live in your own country become a real hassle here and endanger your own well being and self-esteem. It may sound odd, but I promise that a daily struggle with a simple window does make you feel really helpless.
Second, by your inability to actually know and understand people.
In your home country, you know at what time it is the smartest to send an email. You know if you can call again without being rude. Whether or not to smile, answer with words or body language. You know when to tell your joke, the topics that are off limits with strangers and close ones.
But how does an immigrant get to know all these things in a new country? Having a Finnish spouse helps immensely. But even though, how do you grasp the nuances that will make you go from clueless and frustrated to fitting and at ease?
It’s only after having made a bad joke and smiled in the lift to your neighbour, spent 3 or 4 winters in Finland, that you can learn. That frustration, caused by your own limits has another source, often extremely difficult to face : time. Integrating and adapting takes time and accepting that you don’t have any power on it is frustrating.
Third, every time that you can’t communicate.
You dreamt about verbityypit yesterday and you don’t even bother anymore to answer when a Finn says “Finnish is so hard. Did you think about maybe learning Swedish?”. Because yes, of course you did. You downloaded Duolingo, and felt so empowered when you recognised immediately that “äpple” was apple and “banan” was banana. And yet, here you are, afraid to open your mouth at Alepa because you know the second the cashier hears you, he will switch to English.
It is frustrating. Because it takes so long. Because you don’t see any progress. Because you question wether you really need it or not. Because you constantly forget that one word that you use li Here you are, frustrated immigrant, unable to plan, kind of hating yourself more or less all the time. Sending application through the TE website without even believing it would work. Asking your Finnish friend to read your cover letter and seeing the anxiety in his eyes while he reads. Because he doesn’t know how to explain that there is a difference between “työ", “töissä", and “työssä”.
The most critical phase regarding frustration in the integration process is that moment towards adaptation, when you won’t feel clueless anymore in most of the situations. Until then, you might feel frustrated when you face a situation that feels new but that you have already faced before. You’re frustrated with yourself because you are not adapted but feel like you should be.
Therefore, to deconstruct self-frustration, here are my 5 advice:
And guess what? Frustration is a - healthy- sign that you are actually learning and going forward. Instead of the Finnish language, let's take my favorite example : the beloved Finnish window.
Here are briefly what the four stages of competence are:
Unconscious incompetence: I don’t know that I can’t do it. I move in my new home, I like my big windows and how they bring in so much light.
Conscious incompetence: I know that I can’t do it. The sun shines. I want to open them and get fresh air in. It is blocked. I spend 15 minutes trying to understand how that lock works. I fail pathetically and ask my Finnish partner to open it for me. Which he does, in 4 seconds.
Conscious competence: I know how to do it if I am focused. After having observed my spouse doing it a thousand times, I can open the window. If I take my time. And if I’m in a good mood. And if I move slowly.
Unconscious competence: I know how to do it and don’t even think about it. It’s warm - try to picture it for the sake of my demonstration-, I go to the window, open it, end of story.
Now, notice that frustration appears at stage 2. This is the critical moment where many people give up, don’t have the tools to keep observing and trying.
They drop it because they don’t take the time to understand that frustration is part of the whole process of integrating.
We are all, as immigrants, in the 4 stages of competence at the same time. Use these 5 tools, and let us know what are your frustrations and how you deal with them!
And until then, if you see me walking towards a window, get ready for a lot of swearing.
It could be a cultural thing, it could be a regional thing, or it could just be me, but here’s the thing: there’s been so much I didn’t expect during pregnancy. Where I grew up, women are reminded daily - if not hourly - that it is our purpose in life to have kids. Forget about how that decision can affect all areas of your life, some of these not very positively. People insist on how lovely it is to have kids, how much of a societal need it is… and they conveniently leave out how harrowing the whole process can be.
So, here I am telling you about my own experience with the matter, trying to be honest about what surprised me and what didn’t. For the courage to do this I have to thank the honesty of other mothers that came before me.
I want to start by saying that I consider myself an educated woman, one who loves reading and entered this situation willingly. That is, my partner and I chose to have a kid. And this is where it starts: choosing to have a baby makes me part of the 36% of people in South America who plan their pregnancy. So apparently, I am at least aware of family planning (thanks, mom and dad!). Yet I was still not very well instructed on how difficult pregnancy can actually be. I knew of cases where people had to stay in bed for 3-6 months, but I mostly thought that only happened in extreme circumstances. I was hoping to have a normal pregnancy, one where I could still do what I needed to do: do lab work, write and publish papers, and do other kinds of work. I was actually able to do some of those, but not all, and not for long, and definitely not for lack of trying. So, here’s a bunch of stuff I expected, and some I didn’t.
I was expecting nausea, as this is fairly common during pregnancy. It happens to around 60% of women so I thought this would be my case too. And boy did it begin soon, during the second week already. It is commonly believed that this only happens during the first trimester, so when the first trimester and nausea ended together I was quite happy with myself. Turns out, it can come back! And it did in the third trimester. Not too happy about that one! Luckily, in my case, it is mostly a morning thing and in the third trimester it has not been as strong as in the first one.
One of the first things I noticed when I suspected we were successful in conceiving was how my nipples changed colours. I had read that it can happen, and it did in my case. What I did not know was that other parts of the body change color, too; that was interesting to see! The most obvious one I noticed was the hair line, the one that goes from in between the breasts all the way down to the navel and ends in the pubic bone. This line darkens during pregnancy, and it can also become a bit hairier (luckily not between the breasts, though).
When my half sister was expecting she was quite swollen. I was hoping that came from her mom’s side of the family, and that maybe I had inherited a luckier set of genes. Nope! It seems my mom also had swollen feet during her pregnancy. Of course I only found this out now, because people ::couhgMOMcough:: for some reason ::coughgrandkidscough:: never discuss how bad their pregnancies were before you are pregnant – so I was not very lucky in this department. Soon I realized this was related to me standing for too long, so of course it meant I had to reduce the amount of time I was standing and therefore no more long lab work time for me. In the last trimester though, I woke up some days and my feet are all swollen and I just have no idea why it happens seemingly randomly.
EXPECTED BUT DID NOT HAPPEN
It is funny that one of the most characteristic anecdotes people have from their pregnancy is how much their cravings affected them and their relationships. It is also funny that this did not really happen to me. During the first trimester I wanted spicy Korean soup -Ramen- more often than not but I was not dying to eat them constantly either and since I do love Korean spicy soups anyway this was not the disgusting combination of food I was told to expect to want to eat. I was expecting some weird craving like olives, mayonnaise, pickled onions and blue cheese – things that I detest – yet this never occurred. Quite the opposite, I hated them even more and as little as smelling or seeing them made me gag.
I was told by many that I at some point I could become quite angry, either at friends or my partner. Curiously enough, this also did not happen. At least until now my husband was saved from being yelled at randomly by me. I do feel more sensitive to some feelings though.
When I first started to feel the fetus move I had some trouble sleeping. However, in time I regained my sleep and it might be related to the fetus having some change in sleeping patterns that allow me to sleep more or just being lucky in this department. There are days when I wake up a bit too early and I do hit the bathroom quite often, as expected, even during early hours of the morning but mostly I can go back to sleep afterwards. I think that something that helped me sleep was that I bought baby pillows that I used to place my belly in a comfortable position at night.
Socially expected feelings
The narrative is that, when pregnant, a woman is inundated with overwhelming joy and love. A kind of love never before experienced. I have been suspicious of this narrative for a while, especially after reading about some mothers that felt nothing like that, which caused them to feel very discouraged and guilty. They would blame themselves for being such horrible people for not feeling these things that apparently everyone else does. I felt that these were traditional ideas of womanhood being imposed socially, and that there may not be any truth to them. Perhaps women have felt the need to say it out loud to be socially accepted. However, once a friend that is not a very traditional or religious person confided in me that she did feel that when expecting - I believed her because she mentioned this in private, with no one around to prove anything to. This led me to reading a bit more about it and concluding that some may feel this love and some may not. And that is fine.
At around the same time, something else made me curious: reading in a blog of another very unconventional woman that she only started developing a relationship with her baby once the baby was born and realizing that meeting the baby was like meeting any other new person in her life. So I read more about different experiences and concluded that this too is a possibility, and that this is fine and I am in no position to judge how a person feels about their pregnancy.
I have to thank all these brave women that I was lucky enough to meet and that were honest about their feelings regarding their children, however taboo the topic might be. They helped me and now I do not feel bad at all for not feeling the “overwhelming love” that I am supposed to feel. I am content with my pregnancy, but I do not feel this fairytale type of love and I welcome openly any form of feeling that happens onwards, however the delivery goes and whatever I feel when I look at my child once they are born.
Of course the fetus moves inside me, but I was not expecting the baby to have hiccups. It was quite obvious that was happening because of the rhythm. I immediately read that it’s normal, and also asked the nurse and doctor and they reassured me it is fine, I have nothing to worry about if the fetus is having hiccups. It is just that I was not expecting it.
Pain during baby movements
Normally when people talk about baby movement there is this aura of awe and happiness about it, and people love to mention how magical it is to feel the human-to-be move and such. I was waiting to feel it, and it happened a bit earlier than expected for a first timer. However, as the baby grows and runs out of space, these movements become amazingly uncomfortable. By the time they are more visible, the pain is quite strong and hard to ignore. This makes writing very difficult, if not impossible. It does feel like the baby is either doing yoga or karate inside and it is not fun or enjoyable in any way. “Can you feel the baby move? Awwwwww” It’s more like “yes, and ouch”.
My vulva hurts!
As the baby grows and the belly becomes heavier, I’m starting to feel an increasing pain in my vulva. I asked and checked and it is apparently normal and related to the weight of the belly and having my vulva endure all that weight. Although it sounds quite logical, I was never told this could happen and never heard a woman complain about this before. Needless to say, I was not prepared for this.
Something that can help with this is getting a pack (kylmä/lämpöpakkaus) from the pharmacy, freezing it and placing it in your private area, it can be quite relaxing!
Although a part of me knew I would be tired I did not expect it to be this level of tired. I find it harder and harder to walk, move, or even sit as the pregnancy advances. I am more comfortable laying down but at the same time my head will not be convinced that I should be like this the whole day. I try to go for walks at least but doing all the yoga, exercises and things that are supposed to be helping my body get ready for delivery seem like a daunting effort I am not going to be able to make. I am sure some pregnant people can even run during pregnancy -or play and win tennis matches- yet each pregnancy is different, and I think that one has to be realistic about one’s limitations and try to avoid comparisons.
Feeling bad about my body
The status quo is feeling uncomfortable about one’s body. Very rarely do I find a person – in particular a female identified person – who feels happy with their body. I am more or less at a stage in my life that I learned to accept how my body is even when I tend from time to time to look at older pictures and wish for “that body” rather than the present body I now have. Pregnancy made the awkwardness worse. I am aware of the fact that luckily, I do not need a “perfect” body for my line of work. I am not a model or actress, or singer and I do believe women and other people of different genders have no need whatsoever to comply with current and unrealistic standards of beauty. I am also aware that being beautiful itself is no indication of worth and there is no need to make any effort to be beautiful. A person is worthy regardless of their physical aspect.
This does not mean that I am impervious to the media’s push to have a particular type of body, in particular when trying to find something that could fit me while my belly is growing. I am a Latina and with a good-sized butt – and proud of it, mind you – so I was horribly frustrated trying to find pants that could fit me even at the mommy section of shops that for some reason was now full of skinny jeans. I just could not fit in those things and could not understand who could possibly want to be made even more uncomfortable than what one already is at this particular moment in life.
Finding clothes during pregnancy is hard, in particular if one is not very much into what is considered feminine. Too much of the pregnant people clothes tend to be too “sweet” and “pure” and have a kind of “virginal air” and this is not at all my style and I did not feel comfortable with it at all.
I am aware that this stage is short lived and that mostly my body will change once the baby is born, however I can’t help from having these feelings, so I rather acknowledge them and share these experiences than pretend they are not happening.
Every pregnancy is different. Some people will have it easier than others, so this is just what happened to me. A positive thing in my case was that I am mentally in a better state than before and hope to continue being so, despite the difficulties that may rise once the baby is here. Even regarding the detail about the painful baby movements, I can say I quite enjoy my partner’s reaction when the baby kicks and he feels them. It is really cute in a way even if the kicks can be super strong.
Emmekö monikulttuurisina perheinä ole samanarvoisia kuin kantasuomalaiset ydinperheet?
Minkä takia miestemme kanssa joudumme kohtaamaan niin paljon rasismia ja ennakkoluuloja?
Miksi vielä 2000-luvulla meidän täytyy todistella ihmisille, että puolisomme ovat ihan tavallisia perheen isiä ja aviomiehiä?
Työpaikkoja on kyllä haastava löytää. Monet menevät siitä, mistä on "helpoin" ja perustavat oman yrityksen. Sellaiselle alalle, joka on tuttu ja turvallinen. Ei tarvitse kokea pettymyksiä työnhaussa. Nähdä niitä ennakkoluuloisia katseita. Toiset sitten, kuin onnenkaupalla löytävät suomalaisilta työnantajilta töitä.
Ihmisten ennakkoluuloinen ja rasistinen käytös muuten vaihtelee paikan mukaan. Asiakas kun menee pizzeriaan tai sellaiseen paikkaan, jossa olettaa "karvaranteen" työskentelevän tai oleilevan, on hän asennoitunut kohtaamiseen. Tuolloin käytös ei ole niin rasistista. Pientä kuittailua lukuun ottamatta. Kun asiakas hyppää esim. taksiin, jossa ei oleta turkkilaisen kuskin olevan, asenne voikin olla täysin erilainen. Silloin kohtelu saattaa käydä aggressiiviseksikin. Ei kunnioiteta tämän tekemää työtä, eikä kohdella inhimillisesti.
Vaatii tietynlaista luonteenlujuutta mennä yksiin voimakasluonteisen turkkilaisen kanssa. Toki varmasti Suomestakin löytyy vielä näitä kahden kulttuurin perheitä (joita myös duoperheiksi kutsutaan), joissa nainen on alistettuna kotona. Sitä emme kiellä, mutta se on nykypäivänä kyllä melko vähäistä. Toisinaan on hyvin turhauttavaa, kun joutuu todistelemaan muille, että minulla on ihan yhtä hyvä mies kuin sinulla, vaikka onkin syntyjään muualta.
Tästä päästäänkin siihen, että mitäs kun kyseessä on kantasuomalainen ydinperhe, jossa vaimo on alistettu. Mies on ehkä väkivaltainen, henkisesti tai fyysisesti. Asiaa hyssytellään. Varmaan kaunistellaankin. Säälitään eikä uskalleta kohdata asiasta vaimoa, saati miestä. Duo-perheissä tilanteen oletetaan olevan aina tämä: ”Sehän on ihan väistämätöntä!”
”Nyt joku murisee siellä, että: "En mä kaikista niin ajattele. Vain joistain tietyistä." Niin, mihin se raja vedetään? Ja sit juorutaan, kuiskitaan, huudellaan. Kerrotaan kaverille ja sen kaverin kaimalle. Haukutaan, syytellään. Kuitenkin jokainen sisimmässään tietää, ettei asia pidä paikkaansa. Vielä ajatellaan, että se on ihan ok puhua tuollaisia, et kyllä ne sen kestää.
Onneksi on tarjolla vertaistukea. Samankaltaiset hakeutuvat toistensa luokse. Jakavat tuntojaan ja murheitaan. Heitä ymmärretään. Ei kyseenalaisteta tai väheksytä. Maassamme toimii erilaisia järjestöjä ja yhdistyksiä, jotka tukevat erityisesti kahden kulttuurin perheitä, yksi niistä on Familia ry.
On lohdullista tietää, ettemme ole yksin. Tuhannet muut kärsivät samoista murheista ja käyvät läpi samoja haasteita ja tuntemuksia. Toiminta kasvaa vuosivuodelta, mutta sen eteen pitää vielä tehdä paljon, että ihmisten tietoisuus kasvaa ja suhtautuminen muuttuu.
Blogimme tärkein tavoite on auttaa tässä tehtävässä ja siksi halusimme kertoa ajatuksistamme ja kokemuksistamme myös Duo Blogissa. Joten suvaitsevaisempaa lokakuuta koko jengille! Pidetään lippu korkeella ❤️
Terkuin Aino ja Mia
Aino ja Mia kirjoittavat Kahden kodin kuiskauksia -blogia. Tekstit kertovat Hämeenlinnassa asuvien monikulttuuristen perheiden arjesta.
Hei, olen Mia 30 vuotias äiti ja vaimo Hämeenlinnasta! Perheeseemme kuuluu minun ja turkkilaisen mieheni lisäksi kaksi poikaa. Kohta 6v ja 2.5v. Olen lähihoitaja. Työskennellyt vanhusten kanssa usean vuoden ajan, mutta nyt olen hoitovapaalla ja lasteni kanssa kotona. Toimimme tukiperheenä lähinnä viikonloppuisin. Blogin puolella olemme vasta aloittelijoita, tosin ajatuksen tasolla tämä on muhinut minulla jo pidemmän aikaa. Hyvä ystävä, samat arvot ja ajatusmaailma niin siitä se ajatus lähti. Blogimme on saanut ihanan vastaanoton.
Olen Aino, 36 vuotias äiti Hämeenlinnasta. Perheeseen kuuluvat tytöt kohta 4v ja kohta 6v. sekä Turkin kurdilainen mies. Olen alun perin Kouvolasta ja Hämeenlinnaan muutimme kesäkuussa 2017. Hyvin olemme viihtyneet. Olen koulutukseltani parturi-kampaaja-maskeeraaja, mutta nivelteni takia en voi työskennellä unelma-ammatissani. Lapset, bloggaus, harrastukset ja koti pitävät minut kiireisenä.
Mietin pitkään mielessäni, että miten voisin kertoa muillekin perheemme arjesta ja haasteista joita kohtaamme. Keväällä kerran kävimme Mian kanssa leikkimään ajatuksella ja pohtimaan mitä keksisimme. Mia kertoi, et on pidemmän aikaa jo haaveillut blogista. Mikä sen hauskempaa kuin kirjoitella omia tuntemuksia, ajatuksia ja kokemuksia tästä elämästä. Niinpä perustimme suvaitsevan ja monikulttuurisen äitien blogin!
After travelling around the world me and my ex-wife decided that we wanted our children to grow up in Italy. My ex-wife is American and I’m Italian so our two boys are bilingual. After few years in Italy, the economic crisis became quite severe so we decided that for our family´s future Finland was a great option. Our family moved to Finland from Italy in 2012.
Our oldest son at the time was 9 years old and the little one was 3. The choice to move was not an easy one, we were worried that the kids might have a hard time in a country where neither of us had any cultural connection, so we decided that to ease the integration process for the boys we would send them to the International School of Vantaa (ISV).
I had a meeting with the school principal in which I familiarized with the Finnish school curriculum. I was quite impressed and the fact that the school had a Finnish as a second language class reassured me that eventually the kids would learn Finnish.
My oldest son was 9 years old when he started 3rd grade, he was very enthusiastic about the school and the teacher, but after 3 years we realized that his Finnish was basically only a passive language and his vocabulary was extremely limited.
The fact that we were not speaking Finnish at home and that with all his friends he was only speaking English were the causes of the problem. Also, I realized that most of the kids at the school were bilingual in English and Finnish and that only few kids were attending the Finnish as a second language class.
The school had little interest in the outcome of these few kids nevertheless knowing that they would never pass the matriculation exam to get in to Lukio.
After a difficult negotiation with our son we were able to make him realize that moving to the Finnish school was the best idea, but definitely a difficult one at 13 years of age.
For the little one the situation was even worse because in the English kindergarten Finnish was not encouraged, so considering the age of children and their knowledge of English, when outside in the courtyard he was mostly playing alone.
So, my advice based on my personal experience would be that if you are an intercultural couple with children and neither of you speak Finnish or you do not speak it at home, even if difficult at the beginning the best choice for your children is to go directly to the Finnish school, eventually maybe lose a year of school but giving your child a better chance to integrate in the long run.
Written by: Babbo
Mr. Hubby and I are from two worlds. As some of you know, he’s a Finn and I’m South Indian. Though neither is a true representative of what we supposedly represent, (or so we individually believe). But, as the days of being married go by, we seem to be in some kind of match. Neither of us is “sportive”, but each thinks they are the ones being a good sport. But, it seems that we’ve been playing a ping-pong of sorts. Every answer or thought must be replied to by a fitting response launched by other. Not in vengeance or anger, but, the pattern is just how it seems to be — a game that must be played. Not for wins or tournaments, just a pong for a ping.
And through those very same sportive eyes, I find that other married couples also seem to be playing this game, too. It takes a Mr. Husband and a Mrs. Wife to play. No mixed doubles are allowed: you can’t pair up husbands against wives. But, yes, you can have sideline referees. It takes a special couple to play this game.
The net exists, but it gets constructed only when a verbal volley is tossed to the opponent’s side of the table. All verbal tosses can be accompanied by hand or neck gestures. Bystanders and cheerleaders can accompany them with drumbeats, whoops or grunts that can indicate “See, that is exactly what I too was saying. Now, don’t you believe me?”
In this first brief missive, only a few types of special serve moves and play patterns will be discussed herewith, as follows.
The “No reply” Move
When one partner is asked a question in the first ping, a “No answer” can be the return pong. This is by far the most versatile. Depending on the type of culture, the return pong can have multiple interpretations. These can vary from: It’s your work woman, do what you need to do. Or, Why do you have to ask me each time, you already know my answer on this one. The repartee pong can be clarified.
Clarifying a No-reply
Danger occurs if, the return pong is along the lines of “<unintelligible consonant>+oh” . In Finnish, a Joo (pronounced Yoh) meaning yes, can sound just like the English “No”, especially when heard from the precincts of a kitchen with the veritable South Indian pressure cooker singing in its own steam, going hush-hush-shooooh. A steamy debate can ensue if the exact unintelligible consonant in question is not clarified before any action is acted upon. Most often the steamy debate coincides with the last shoooh of the steamy pressure cooker. Bring on full-tropical summer in Finland!
Types of interaction
Of course, the levels of interaction can be interpreted either from suave, silent Nordic and Scandinavian streams, or from highly expressive Italian or Greek realms. A no-reply can be a weighty response. Indifference. A great insult. To balance this great insult, nothing is better than a volley of words, with actions and many exclamations, effectively demonstrated by hands, waving fingers, shaking heads and wild gesticulations. To keep the bliss in the air, it is advised to occasionally at least grunt a response. A blocked sinus and a whopping large handkerchief when wielded in an accurate position, accompanied by clearing of such passages can also be considered a good response. The noise effects when echoed from the false-ceiling-ed bathroom can accentuate the effect. An effective Tamilian word, known throughout South India, Dei, when used with a warning tone and when breathed out at sufficient volume is also known to have the same balancing effect.
A draw is reached when both sides agree to a truce and then begin again, this time unannounced and with the launch of another service mode. A draw can also be called forth by the losing side. It need not be acknowledged. But, it can be indicated and initiated by the enaction of pauses and breaks.
Pauses and Breaks
During the break, choice treats can be served. When one side is winning, it is imperative to serve the specialties that are specially unliked by the other. The factors that affect the un-likability of such treats can range from various aspects of smell, the color, the lack of garish colors on the packaging, the extra-sugar that is an inherent property of the treat, or it could be truly minimalist, plain, black and uninteresting as sticks of special Finnish salmiakki (liquorice). Specially salted for added effect. To enhance the minimalist effect, such humble sticks can have deceptive white centers. A total ying-yang complement. The production and offering of such humble treat sticks is also known to have a ripple effect: it can cause sideline cheerleaders to quickly take sides. True loyalty can thus be even tested. Partners will know who is on whose side.
The effect of family ties on serves
Family strings or ties or the lack of such thereof can drastically tilt the stakes in this game. This can take all forms and shapes and affect a so-called winning volley. A serve that was going well and did not hitherto receive a balancing repartee can be dramatically impacted by a single tie. If one partner is ponged about someone’s cousin who visits once too often, another tie can be pulled out, literally out of the closet and used to draw the game. What is so special about that single piece of material. Especially if it was given to the Mister by his uncle as the first gift when young Mister, umm… Master’s voice… first cracked or some equally cracked reason. The offensive object — if it is garishly colored and hangs as the first visible thing in the shared cupboard — can be used to dramatically alter the ping-pong game. Pull it out and say, “What about this tie, it has been just pupating.” If it has any shred of strings left, pull at it and give it a good tug. It can pull at lost heart-strings and then remind the offender that an often-visiting cousin brings back precious memories of one’s almost lost homeland. Never mind that the cousin is the nephew of the niece of one’s cousin by marriage from the father of one’s maternal great-grandmother. But, that is precisely how all ties are to be maintained- frequency is the name, even if it stares at you from the cupboard. Best not to discuss other such familial-and familiar ghosts that hang in other closests.
Acing the game
Mr. Hubby and I, well, we seem to have reached the supreme ace level at this special ping-pong. As many seem to know, this Missus talks in her sleep. Recently, Mr. Hubby reported waking up one morning with his digestive system warning of a noisy start to the day. It needed to release some air. And just when the air was voluminously and ceremoniously being let out, Missus said in her sleep, “The elephant is trumpeting.”
I wonder who else has reached similar levels of expertise at this special game of ping-pong?
Written by: Mary Ann
After spending about a year or two in Finland with my suomalainen mies, and because my momma was particular about politeness, I quickly learned the words for thank you and sorry – kiitos and anteeksi. I also picked up some other sounds and grunts from the Finns around me—Yoh-oh and non-iin—and learned to use each with different intonation and meaning. But, I mixed up my double consonants and confused my mother-in-law when I tried to practice my Finnish with her. I would tell her I was making this delicious keittiö and she would wonder how our kitchen had suddenly become tasty. Only now after 4 years, have I finally got it right, keitto for soup, and keittiö for kitchen. And, my sweet mom-in-law? Well, she has learned to decipher my own special version of Finnish.
When I left Finland’s shores, I didn’t realize that words and mannerisms of a place kinda become entrenched in the very fibre of our being.
We were rushing to get our connecting flight in Istanbul, just fresh off a Finnish flight. And, there was I, very politely trying to make my way between the crowds at the airport. After the quiet and peaceful Helsinki airport, it was a “shock” to find myself in a crowded airport. It was only when I was finally seated and ‘seat-belted’ in the plane that I realized: I had not been saying “Excuse me,” but “Anteeksi.” No wonder then, that I had to jostle my way between the weaving queues. All the while this polite me was spouting Finnish in auto-mode, but no one was able to understand what I was saying!
Fast forward to the land of Genghis Khan. Mongolia and Mongolian. Where one learns that it is Chinghis Haan, not Genghis, with a J, but Chingg-his, and definitely not Khan with a “k”, for the great one was a Haan, a King. Mongolia, a beautiful land and lovely people. Far removed from the history of terror and rampage. And in their midst, a kantasuomalainen man, and me, an Indian.
Habits, they die hard. New ones get picked up easily, and if one is constantly hearing certain expressions used by those around, one can also, quite unconsciously begin to use those very same words.
Being the “agreeable” person that I am, I’ve always felt the need to verbally agree with things people say. And what better way to do it than to use Yoh-oh—the Finnish equivalent of yes, of course, yeah, and suchlike—spelled in Finnish as Joo. What a strong word. Much better than the “Yes, yes,” that I used to use as an Indian. Only, in Mongolia, the Joo, bothered our friends. And really bothered them. During a short tea break at our Mongolian language school, I was busy discussing something with my mies, and loudly said, “Joo!” I was agreeing with him and using my classic Indian head-shake for emphasis. When I said “Jooh -oh,” for the second time, our Mongolian language teachers popped into the classroom, concern writ deep on their faces, “Is everything Ok? Are you well? You’re not sick, are you?” Baffled, and with an extra vigorous Indian shake-of-the-head that emphasized my answer, I said, “No!” The Mongolian teachers sighed their relief. Apparently, Joo is a sound that Mongolians use when they are in grave pain, it is the “sound” of pain. Almost like an “ouch” but only for more grievous wounds and injuries.
And so, it was that I had to quickly learn other expressions, I didn't want our Mongolians to think that I was constantly in pain. I remember telling myself that my choice of word or expression also had to complement the great Indian headshake. And so, I found many other Mongolian expressions and put them quickly to use.
After less than a year in Mongolia, I’d picked up lots of Mongolian-isms. Once, we had a visitor from Finland who was busy narrating a rather dramatic story. And when she was describing the events that befell another Finn, I blurted out, “Tiimo!” To which our Finnish friend, said, “No! Not Timo!” She was annoyed that I hadn't kept up with her narration and also wanted to correct my pronunciation, especially because by then, the legendary me was known for mixing up her double vowels and for using incorrect pronunciation. It took a bit of explaining to tell her that I was not talking about our mutual Finnish friend Timo, but that I’d used a regular Mongolian expression to show my surprise.
But, it’s not just me who gets into such predicaments. The peculiar way of rolling one’s head to show that you agree with someone or something is that is quite unique to Indians. But, my husband remarked that perhaps I had learned this habit from pigeons who visited the ledge under the balcony of our apartment in India. From their angle of observation, the pigeons had to tilt their head to look at us. Kinda like in half-agreement till they turned their head to another angle and gazed at us with their other beady eye. It soon became my husband’s favorite way of spending time when we were at our apartment. He would gaze at the pigeons with their bobbing heads and they would stare him down, shift focus, nod and tilt head and begin again. They knew they were safe as we were too far up above them. The Husband was thrilled about having discovered that “not just Indians, but even the pigeons in India tilt and shake their heads.” Hmm, I bade my time. After our return to Finland from India, someone remarked and told my husband that he had picked up a queer mannerism - apparently, he wobbled his head his head whilst saying “Joo.” I smiled my quiet smile and said to The Hubby, “Yeah! It must've been those pigeons.”
Hienoisen pettymyksen kohtasimme kuitenkin, kun tiedot ja kuvitus afrikkalaisen serkun kotimaasta ”Hiirenluurannikosta” pitivät vain yllä mielikuvaa sellaisesta Afrikasta, jota stereotyyppisesti ajatellaan. Tässä menetettiin mahdollisuus kasvattaa lapsia ja kirjaa lukevia aikuisia ymmärtämään Afrikan monimuotoisuutta. Suomesta kirjoitettiin hyvin monia asioita ja monipuolisesti - toki stereotyyppisesti, mutta ”Hiirenluurannikosta” todettiin lähinnä ettei siellä voi juoda hanavettä ja siellä on aina vilinää ja melskettä eikä koskaan rauhallista. Hiirenluurannikko toki saa olla sellainen ja se kuvaa varmasti joitain oikeitakin paikkoja Afrikassa. Itse olisin arvostanut hiukan valistuneempaa näkemystä Afrikan maista, jota tämän mielikuvitusmaan pohjana olisi voitu käyttää.
Kiitän tekijöitä aiheeseen tarttumisesta ja toivon, että edelleen saamme lukea Siiri Siimahännän seikkailuista tulevaisuudessa. Täytyykin etsiä Siiri Siimahännän ensimmäinen osa “Siiri Siimahäntä halusi hienostella” käsiini. Ehkä Siiri ja Sara voisivat seuraavaksi tavata ”Hiirenluurannikolla” siellä he voisivat tutustua monipuolisemmin afrikkalaiseen elämäntyyliin! Lopputulema kirjassa on ihana, olemme erilaisia ja meitä ei ulkomuoto voi määrittää. Suosittelen kirjaa muille lapsiperheille mielelläni, mutta parhaiten kirja voisi mielestäni sopia luettavaksi 4-6-vuotiaille.
“Eivät kaikki ole samanlaisia, vaan ihania ja omanlaisia.”
(Arvostelun on kirjoittanut yhteistyössä lastenkirjoja ahkerasti lukeva kahden kulttuurin perheen äiti ja hänen 2-vuotias tyttärensä)
Olemme odottaneet puolisoni oleskelulupaa kohta puoli vuotta. Odotus on ollut raastavaa ja saanut epäilemään valintojamme. Pahinta on, etten tiedä, milloin odotus päättyy.
Tapasin Suomessa asuvan puolisoni Tinderissä, ja menimme viime kesänä naimisiin. Puolisoillani oli jo oleskelulupa. Halusimme kuitenkin hakea lupaa perhesiteen perusteella, koska se on pysyvämpi ja siinä on vähemmän ehtoja kuin muihin syihin perustuvissa oleskeluluvissa.
Jo itse naimisiinmeno afrikkalaistaustaisen ihmisen kanssa vaati paljon dokumentteja puolisoni kotimaasta, ja siihen meni useampi kuukausi, varsinkin kun Suomessa ei ole kyseisen maan suurlähetystöä. Onneksi puolisoni kotimaassa sukulaiset auttoivat dokumenttien hankkimisessa. Muussa tapauksessa hänen olisi pitänyt itse lähteä paikan päälle keräämään niitä.
Saimme tarvittavat dokumentit ja pääsimme naimisiin. Sen jälkeen haimme oleskelulupaa miehelleni, ja myös siihen tarvittiin kaikenlaisia papereita. Meidän piti muun muassa molempien kirjoittaa selvitys siitä, miten olemme tavanneet, kuinka monta kertaa tapasimme seurustelun aikana ja olemmeko asuneet yhdessä. Tämän oli siis tarkoitus todistaa, että avioliittomme on aito. Aika hakemuksen jättämistä varten piti varata Migristä jo pari kuukautta etukäteen.
Hakemusta jättäessä emme tienneet, kestääkö prosessi viikon vai yhdeksän kuukautta. Tällä hetkellä vahvimpana mielessä on huoli siitä, ettei tiedä, mitä tulevaisuudessa tapahtuu. On raastavaa, kun joka päivä käy katsomassa, onko vastaus jo tullut. Mitä jos käykin niin, ettei puolisoni saa oleskelulupaa? Jos emme saakaan asua yhdessä Suomessa? Muutanko minä puolisoni mukana hänen kotimaahansa?
Asia vaikuttaa elämäämme myös konkreettisesti. Puolisoni ei esimerkiksi voi tehdä töitä niin paljon kuin haluaisi. Emme myöskään voi lähteä tapaamaan sukulaisia hänen kotimaahansa. Toisin sanoen, kaikki tulevaisuudensuunnitelmamme ovat jäissä siihen saakka, kunnes päätös oleskeluluvasta tulee.
Kaikkein eniten itseäni tilanteessa ahdistaa se, että tulevaisuutemme on jonkun toisen ihmisen käsissä. Joku siellä jossakin arvioi hakemukseen kirjoittamiemme asioiden perusteella, onko avioliittomme aito. Tästä seuraa se, että tietyllä tavalla alkaa itsekin epäillä omia valintojaan. Ei parisuhdetta, mutta sitä, olemmeko tehneet oikeita päätöksiä tulevaisuutemme suhteen.
Tuntuisi todella loukkaavalta, jos viranomaiset sanoisivat minulle, ettei parisuhteeni ole aito. Ei siinä ole mitään järkeä. Ei meillä varmasti ole mitään pelättävää, mutta jos joutuu odottamaan useita kuukausia, sitä alkaa ajattelemaan kaikenlaista.
Yksi harvoista asioista, mikä tässä tilanteessa on auttanut, ovat vertaiset ihmiset ja ymmärtäväinen perhe. Se, että on ihmisiä, joiden kanssa tästä asiasta voi puhua. Tietyllä tavalla tämä myös vahvistaa parisuhdettamme, koska olemme yhtä lailla molemmat mukana tässä tilanteessa. Onhan tämä myös tietynlainen testi parisuhteelle, että kestääkö se tällaisen. Kaikkien ei kuitenkaan tarvitse tällaista koettelemusta käydä läpi, eli onko se sitten reilua?
Pitkässä oleskelulupaprosessissa voisi auttaa se, ettei lähtökohta olisi tunne siitä, että meitä epäillään. Viranomaiset tuntuvat olettavan tilanteessamme olevan jotain hämärää, ja meidän tulee todistaa, ettei näin ole. Miksei lähtökohta voisi olla aito parisuhde, kunnes toisin todistetaan?
Teksti perustuu nimimerkki "MM" haastatteluun
(Mina Iranta, suunnittelija, Familia ry)
Worst part has been my last two years because my TE-office official is an immigrant as well. Our conversations have been mostly over the phone and in Finnish. She has a very strong accent that makes it very difficult for me to really understand all she says and the letters I have received from her have had some bad grammar mistakes. During the conversations I have had to ask her to repeat herself many time to make sure that I have understood what she had just said and that made her very impatient and she often had very vocal sighs of frustration.
During these two years I have studied myself a new profession here and I was expected to report the progress of my studies to the TE-office which I did. However I did have to keep asking if the official had received my reports to which she often replied with a delay of well over a week. Same thing was happening when I asked for help and clarification, I had to wait for a long time for an answer. I am not expecting them to answer to me right away, they do have hundreds of people to manage per person after all. I would appreciate some acknowledgement that my emails have been received.
Now that I have graduated there was time to update my plan of employment. Again, all I got was a phone call not a face to face meeting. During that phone call I was briefly interviewed and quickly asked what kind of work I would like to look for. I didn’t get a change to really express my wishes of what I would like and would not like to do because the occupation I studied qualifies me to do many very different kinds of work. All I was able to say was that I would like to do office work and that pretty much concluded the call. After that I started receiving the work offers that mostly had job description of customer service over phone. Exactly the kind that I do not like to do. The jobs seem to have almost always a requirement for fluent Finnish which I do not have.
The situation for me is very frustrating and I am certain that I am not the only immigrant facing these issues. For me it would be very important and helpful if I would be able to have face to face meetings where to really go through the plan and where my hopes and wishes are listened. I would like to have an official who would acknowledge me and my questions in a reasonable time. Most of all I would like to have an TE-office relationship where at least one of us was fluent in Finnish. These decisions made in and with TE-office do have a big impact on my personal economy and wellbeing.
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