As children, most of us are taught: If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
And so, whenever possible we silence the voice inside when it has something to say which does not sound so nice. But in some situations, despite the noblest efforts, it doesn't work. The not-so-nice voice which is suppressed seldom disappears, but on the contrary, has tendency to develop into some other unpleasant symptom - tension, bitterness, or frustration
Some time after settling in Finland, I began to notice something about myself, and in many friends of mine from various countries. We had a tendency to complain. Sometimes a lot. The subject of our criticism: Finns and Finland.
"All they know are forms."
The lack of communication!!
"I said hello to my neighbour and they just ignored me completely."
The shops that close too early!!!
"Where in the world are we?"
And something one friend of mine had a particular frustration about:
"CAN'T THEY MARINATE THEIR OWN CHICKEN!!??"
(At which point I understood that there might have been otherwise a certain amount of stress involved.)
Of course one can try to take such complaints with a bit of humour (especially the latter). However, when it is one's spouse who is frequently complaining, it can become a sensitive issue in the relationship. The one who has to endure the complaints may take the criticism personally, and become upset.
When I became aware that my Finnish family and friends were sometimes sensitive to my criticism, I first tried to stop it completely. When that didn't work, I then tried keeping it within the circles of my foreigner friends. Sometimes when I was just fed up with some situation, I admit, I didn't try so much.
Being one who can "see through a brick wall in time", it eventually dawned on me that I had seen this kind of behaviour before coming to Finland. I remembered my experience with some very good Russian friends back home. I recalled that they were very often criticizing something about Canada, or Canadians.
The educational system!
"What? You never learned this in school?"
The work life!!
"They really have no clue what they are doing..."
"Apples and potatoes here taste like grass."
Despite having a great love for Canada, I was somewhat aware also of its many defects and deficiencies, and so I never took such comments much to heart. Rather, I remember just feeling a bit confused.
Was their educational system really so much better than ours? (Likely.)
Were their professionals more efficient in their work life? (Possibly.)
Could their apples and potatoes really taste so good? (Hmmm... I really must visit Russia one day.)
My experience was the same with other friends who immigrated to Canada from different parts of the world. Though they had some good things to say about their new country, there was also frequent criticism.
Only after moving my life from Canada to Finland was I really able to understand. (The brick wall, remember?)
Even with so many very good things which come with living in Finland, still, for many, complaining, criticizing - yes, even whining at times is a way to deal with the stress and change that comes with moving one's life to another country.
To try look at it from this point of understanding may be helpful for those with a spouse, or friend, from another culture. That when he or she feels the need to complain about something, the listener is patient, and doesn't take the criticisms personally.
To understand that most people, when faced with such a big life change, may in some degree or another feel the need to unburden themselves through complaining about the differences of their new environment. If we give patience and understanding, it is more likely that in time the person will adapt well, and learn to love their new home.
It is my experience that when my husband and friends have been patient with my complaining, often what was born in my mind almost immediately, after the initial relief of "letting it all out", was an ability to see the other side of the issue - the positive things.
Of course, it is important to keep in mind that some grievances may not have any valid basis (the chicken remark comes to mind). However, many will have roots in a real problem, and every country has its own particular ailments.
Adapting to the ways of a new country is a process. For some it may be very quick, and for others it could take more time. I still have times when I feel the need to state my grievances. In these situations, I try to keep it within the circles of my foreigner friends, so as to spare any possible, and definitely unintended, hurt feelings.
Though my process has been long, and occasionally still some need to complain remains, there is an important addition to it - an appreciation and love for the good qualities of the people of the country, and their enriching influence on my own personality. And this is largely in thanks to a very patient husband and supportive friends, who have allowed me the process.
Kahden kulttuurin keskeltä - Duo blogi
Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kulttuurien keskellä.
Toivotamme sinut lämpimästi tervetulleeksi osallistumaan blogiyhteisöömme: lue, kommentoi ja kirjoita!