If my spouse and I talk about music or movies, cultural references often have to be explained because we did not grow up watching and listening to the same things. Cultural and religious festivals also need to be agreed upon in advance since we both celebrate different ones in our family of origin.
Today, May 21st is the International Day for Cultural Diversity, a day on which all kinds of cultures and families are celebrated — especially those that do not resemble typical families in which there is one mom, one dad and everyone shares the same cultural and linguistic backgrounds. When we navigate the realm of families, International Day for Cultural Diversity acknowledges that families can look very different, with family members speaking different languages, sharing different backgrounds, and sometimes having just one parent, or two moms or two dads.
Are you already familiar with language baskets? A language basket is any basket you can find at your home, filled with objects around certain theme. You can use language baskets to expand your child's vocabulary or to help them learn new words. You use language baskets in any language, with children of different ages and levels of language capacity.
Onko kielikorit sinulle tuttuja? Kielikori on mikä tahansa kori tai laatikko, johon kerätään esineitä tietyn teeman mukaan. Kielikoria voidaan käyttää lapsen sanavaraston laajentamiseen ja sanojen oppimisen tueksi. Kielikoria voi käyttää millä tahansa kielellä ja eri ikäisten lasten kanssa taitotasosta riippumatta.
It is evident that the number of couples and families in the world whose partners are from different countries has increased due to multiple factors. It is therefore important to ask how daily life is lived when different worldviews, cultures, languages, and religions are shared.
It is apparent that intercultural families are a natural flow in the process of the world becoming a global village and it is a good way to become interested in and understand other countries, societies and cultures. In this context I would like to take a look at intercultural families in Finland where I am a resident. Before trying to develop a response, we should review some figures and evidence.
I would say that it was quite a complicated path since I was quite on a rolling coaster on-and-off studying Finnish. I was quite passionate about this language at first, then I was occupied with other activities in my life and Finnish language was no longer a priority. Long story short, I started learning Finnish again in the summer of 2021. It was the first summer in Finland that I did not go to work and stayed at home all day cramming Finnish instead.
My 10-hour daily routine for learning Finnish include 2 hours of speaking only in Finnish preparing for YKI test, 4 hours of reading one selkokirja, 2 hours of watching series and films in Finnish and the rest is for doing grammar exercises in various kinds of grammar book. I do believe I completed learning Suomen mestari 1-2-3-4, Samalla kartalla 1-2, Harjoitus tekee mestari 1-2-3-4, Hyvin menee 1-2, Ykinköö ja Ykäänkö and several language books available in the library. I did enjoy and sometimes hate the process, and, occasionally, I simply wanted to give up. However, I believe that the crucial element to my success passing YKI 4 level is not the learning process but hope that drags me all the way.
I promised to write about long distance relationships and my own experiences living in one for the month of February – the month cradling Valentine’s Day in its grasp. Even though the topic was my own idea once I started to plan the actual post, I got nervous. You see, the initial reaction for many people when hearing the words “long distance relationship” is doubt. On top of that I am a pessimist at heart and instead of blog posts I mostly write fiction in the category of drama. How can I write a blog post which is honest to myself, not written like a drama or not as a list of insecurities? I don’t want to publish something like that, especially in February even if the Amor’s arrow has a long, long, long distance to go.
Let’s see how that goes.
In late 2019 me and my partner had been in our intercultural relationship for four months when he needed to leave Finland (we are the study abroad cliché). Four months are not much to get to know someone, yet we decided to try to continue our story in the long-distance format. The plan was for me to go to meet him twice during the next half a year, first to visit and next to stay since I got an internship position in his country.
Then, as you might guess, Covid happened.
When I entered the classroom she thought –“why is she wearing full make-up matching her flamboyant clothes and high heels for a university lecture at midday?”-. The first time I saw her I couldn’t stop noticing her deep black hair which she clearly dyed to blend in Nicaragua. - “Who is this chela (blonde in Spanish slang) trying to fool?” Certainly, first impressions could be misleading but Varja and I managed to overcome culture clash and find each other as friends. Time, distance, and life situations have tested our friendship which have lasted over 15 years. At this point, it is worth recapping some our experiences.
The MenTalk initiative was undertaken by an organizational collaboration between Familia and Perhelinna/Trapesa during the 2021 autumn season in Espoon keskus. MenTalk is a closed peer support group model to provide a space where men can bring their daily difficulties that derive from an ideal image of masculinity, which could have been passed onto them or developed over time.
By sharing experiences and questioning our behaviors with other men going through similar issues, we intended to discuss and find improved ways of communication, understanding of needs, feelings, behaviors and boundaries.
For the past month and a half, since I began my internship at Familia, I have been working as a part of the BElingual team which aims to support families with under school-aged, multilingual children. There are over 70,000 intercultural couples and families in Finland, with half of them including intercultural children. Because of this, a project like BElingual certainly has a place within the contemporary Finnish society.
My experience at Familia ry intercultural families advocate association.
My time at Familia has been truly an enriching experience. Enrichening because of the range of tasks I have gotten to complete together with the other staff members, as well as every now and then getting to spread my own wings as an intern and independently work my way through situations. I say enriching also because of the various little nuggets of insight I have gained by working in an organization with this wide range of services offered to a client group as multifaceted as intercultural families. In addition, I have gotten to connect and cooperate with many organizations with different missions and clientele, as well as universities and Familia’s lovely volunteer base learning from each experience something new.
My internship was timed between summer and fall so experiencing the different seasons in the associations work was an interesting journey through the types of tasks all while maintaining my professional perspective as a social services practitioner (sosionomi). I got to apply my professional view not only in the practical outcomes of my work but also practice self-reflection in the light of the work and situations.
The summer was all about intensely focusing on one or two assignments and independently taking the time to get to know the organization, its history and having the freedom to try different things out in the projects assigned to me. I got to voice my thoughts and ideas in project meetings. I was included in the conversations as a staff member. I felt heard and I also got to hear others. Sometimes I was positively challenged in conversations, and I also got to challenge others. In my case, summer’s biggest task included connecting to volunteers and professionals around antiracism project and participating in coordinating its workshops (Ymmärretään yhdessä/Let’s Understand). I also got to work on some educational material on communication for intercultural couples, which opened my eyes to a whole new plethora of factors behind work among couples and more specifically intercultural couples.
Fall on the other hand, brought with it a different kind of “arki” or everyday schedule where some of the activities that were not active during the summer suddenly became a big part of the work. This part was more about learning to work within a larger staff community and finding one’s own place in it in the middle of deadlines and meetings. The different meetings and briefings offered me a front row seat to witness how this community of multidisciplinary staff each got to shine in our own area of expertise in the various activities Familia offers from peer groups to language classes, and independent projects such as the afore mentioned antiracism workshops or mental health projects including a webinar, I was given the opportunity to organize on the topic of intercultural women’s mental health in Finland.
This internship has taught me to be a part of a work community. A community that values its members as professionals with insight and experience, while also acknowledging the cultural resource each can bring to the table no matter how it may differ from the person sitting next to them. I learned to value a workplace where not only is the formal goal, to support and advocate cultures and diversity as an external goal, aiming at societal and structural change, but where we also include this same focus as part of our work culture and office environment. I saw an example of how not to be afraid to live out values at the coffee table. Oh boy, did we have some enjoyable “kahvipöytäkeskustelu” with different team members. I got to sit at the table with co-workers and volunteers with different life experiences and cultural perspectives from mine and feel included and welcomed as an intern, as an intercultural woman and as a human being beyond the labels and titles.
Thank you, Familia!
Summer- Autumn 2021
blogi - blog
Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
Toivotamme sinut lämpimästi tervetulleeksi osallistumaan blogiyhteisöömme: lue, kommentoi ja kirjoita!
Kirjoittajina voivat toimia kaikki kahden kulttuurin arkea elävät ja aiheesta kiinnostuneet. Kynnystä kirjoittamiselle ei tule nostaa liian korkealle ja kirjoittaa voi joko omalla nimellä tai nimimerkillä.
Blogissa esitetyt näkökannat ja mielipiteet ovat kirjoittajien omia, eivätkä edusta Familian kantaa.
Kahden kulttuurin arki on itsessään kiinnostavaa ja siitä kirjoittaminen voi avata myös itselle uusia näkökulmia!
Blogikirjoituksia voi tarjota sähköpostitse (info@ familiary.fi) tai yhteydenottolomakkeen kautta. Lopullisen valinnan julkaistavista jutuista tekee Familian henkilökunta.
We warmly welcome you to participate in our blog community: read, comment, and write!
Anyone who lives and works in the world of intercultural families and is interested in the topic is welcome to contribute. The threshold for writing should not be too high, and you can write either under your own name or under a pseudonym.
Keep in mind that the views and opinions expressed in the blog are those of the authors and do not represent the position of Familia.
The everyday life of intercultural families is interesting and writing about it can also open new perspectives for you! Your story matters and helps to raise awareness about the opportunities and challenges within intercultural families.
Blog contributions can be submitted by e-mail (info@ familiary.fi) or via our contact form. Final selection and edition of the stories to be published will be conducted by our staff.
Welcome to join us!