Jamal Abdelaziz was born and raised in Morocco. He moved to Finland for what was supposed to be a temporary stay. However, life took unexpected turns, and Jamal found himself spending 18 years in Finland. During his time there, he tried to maintain a connection to his Moroccan heritage, celebrating traditions, maintaining language skills, and connecting with the expatriate community.
Despite his efforts to stay connected to his cultural heritage, life in Finland inevitably influenced Jamal. He became deeply immersed in the Finnish culture, learned the language, and embraced many aspects of the Finnish way of life. “What I liked so much was its values of equality, those societal norms that slowly shaped my daily routine. With time, my work, friendships, and even personal preferences became connected with the Finnish culture”, he added.
However, after nearly two decades, Jamal decided to return to Morocco, expecting a seamless reintegration into his home country. “I never questioned myself if issues were going to arise upon my arrival. I was extremely surprised that going back home was far from what I anticipated” he says.
Jamal discovered that while he had evolved into a mix of Finnish and Moroccan influences, he no longer felt Moroccan entirely. There was a cultural gap that left him struggling with a sense of displacement. This term is known as reverse culture shock.
There was this internal conflict. I changed during my time in Finland, and then when I went back home, I was not sure where I fit in. The cultural values and expectations I internalized in Finland sometimes clashed with those in Morocco, and suddenly I was not sure who I was in this context
Jamal found it challenging to readjust. Everyday interactions felt somehow unfamiliar, and some aspects of the Moroccan culture seemed strange and even uncomfortable. “I was wondering all the time how come the lifestyle and values that were once second nature were now feeling strange”, he says.
Transitioning from Finland back to Morocco brought challenges to Jamal. He remembers how he needed to pay attention to communication styles and social norms. “In Finland social norms prioritize personal space, but in Morocco collectivism and hospitality is embraced. I needed to adapt my behavior in social settings”.
Additionally, Jamal had to navigate the different dynamics in the workplace. He got used to the egalitarian and flat organizational structure from Finland. Other challenges included adjusting to everyday lifestyle differences, shifting back to always using Arabic after getting used to speak Finnish daily in Finland, and even adapting to express emotions differently.
I was back home, finally! But suddenly, I felt a form of “reverse homesickness”, where I longed for the familiar aspects of Finland. It has been emotionally challenging trying to cope with this yearning while trying to establish a sense of belonging again
Now, back in Morocco, Jamal faces the task of reconciling his dual cultural identity, navigating the complexities of reverse culture shock, and rediscovering what it truly means to be Moroccan in a changed landscape.
Currently, Jamal is receiving guidance from a cultural mentor and support of friends.
editor: yvette ahonen
Haluamme kertoa juhlavuotemme kunniaksi 35 tarinaa kahden kulttuurin perheistä
ulkaisemme 35 viikon ajan 35 erilaista tarinaa, jotka kuvastavat monia haasteita ja mahdollisuuksia, joita kahden kulttuurin perheet jokapäiväisessä elämässään kohtaavat. Haluamme näiden tarinoiden heijastavan todellisuutta ja tarjoavan vertaistukea, voimaannuttavia kokemuksia ja inspiraation lähteitä sekä lisäävän tietoisuutta kulttuurienvälisyydestä ja monikielisyydestä Suomessa.
For 35 weeks, we will be publishing 35 different stories that reflect the many challenges and opportunities intercultural families face in their everyday lives. We want these stories to reflect reality and serve as an accessible peer support, source of empowerment and inspiration, and increase awareness of Interculturalism and Multilingualism in Finland.