Last year me and my partner moved to Finland from Denmark. As a native, he was coming home after a year of living abroad, but for me it was a new, both exciting and scary adventure. Neither me nor my partner had an interculture couple in our extended families, so we both knew that we are pioneering in this. That is how started my Finnish journey, about which I want to tell in this blogpost.
Before moving to Finland, I heard a lot how difficult Finnish is. So, I was preparing myself that learning this language would not be easy. But it was much more difficult than I could have expected: new language group, puhukieli, cases, monikon partitiivi … Luckily, in Finland there is an opportunity to take an intense Finnish course and I applied to it almost immediately after landing in Finland. But it was summer and the queue for the course was quite long, so I got my spot only six months later, in January. While I was waiting, I was applying for jobs and building my social life. The first months my social circle consisted mostly of my partner’s family and his friends. And this is where the struggle started – in most situations, I was the only foreigner in the room. The conversation switched to Finnish quickly and I found myself talking mostly to my partner as in most of the cases I did not feel brave enough to approach the new group of people and ask them to switch to English. I was very welcomed in my partner’s family, but most of them are not fluent in English and I could feel that in some situations the translation was not there.
Very often it was exhausting to be constantly in silence around people talking. Finally, my Finnish course began, and I started to learn the language vigorously. I have never felt so motivated to being able to understand Finnish: I had five hours of classes every working day and in addition I tried studying a couple of hours every day at home. Slowly I started understanding more, and it became easier for me to express myself. I felt proud on the day when I realized that I hadn’t switch to English while talking to my in-laws.
Even though I am still far from being fluent, I believe it is important to find victory in small things."
But I also feel that we should address more often how mentally exhausting is the language learning process – from awkward moments when someone talks to you in Finnish, and it takes moments for you to realize that your answer is needed, to your brain thinking in 3 languages in day.
When we talk about intercultural couples, we should also point out a moment of a language mixtures in a brain, when you forget a word in English, remember it in your native tongue but you need to express yourself in Finnish. For example, me and my partner spoke only English in the beginning of our relationship, which is neither mine nor his native tongue. Now I try speaking Finnish regularly and there is mixture of FinEnglish in our everyday conversations. And how much effort it takes to always think in your second language and add a third one on top!
In addition, I am going through the process of integration, while my partner is at home. We have different backgrounds, different cultures and different challenges we face. I feel lucky to have my partner’s support, but sometimes it feels like roller-coaster with great ups and scary downs. Luckily, most of the problems can be solved with the help of communication and openness. In addition, there are services that help me go through integration smoothly. For example, me and my partner took part in the “Plus Workshop Weekend brunch: integrating into Finland” organized by Familia. We could talk about the process of adaptation to a new country through a new angle. I also attended different support groups that included working on my mental health. We had group discussions related to different problems one can face during integration into a new country. Talking about it helped me feel that I am not alone and that there are communities where I can find support.
It has been a little bit over a year since I moved to Finland. Looking back, I see that a lot has been done and a lot of work is waiting ahead. Sometimes I still feel out of place and lonely, but then I remember what therapist once told me: “Integration is a difficult process. Only after 10 years of living in a new country I was able to say confidently that I left for good, and I have a new home. It is important to give yourself time and find things that make you feel good in a new place. It can be a new community, hobbies and even a coffee place next to your home. Find those things and stick to them during good and bad days”. This advice helps me get through the dark November evenings and wait patiently for long June days.
My advice is to be kind to yourself and give yourself enough time to go through the process of integration. Try to find new things and new communities that will support you. And ask for help when one is needed."
By Viktoriia F.
blogi - blog
Ajatuksia ja kokemuksia elämästä kahden kulttuurin keskellä.
Reflections and experiences from the life of intercultural families.
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