I’m Henrietta and this is my life. I am studying social services in English. I have stayed in Spain for many times and I will do my exchange there the next year. My best friend lives in Spain. My Russian speaking parents live most of the year in Spain. I love travelling and I have a lot of friends in different countries. My boyfriend and his family are from Congo and speak Kinyarwanda.
So, tell me, am I 100% Finnish person who´s home is in Finland?
No, I am not. I can´t say that I share the Finnish culture as my own. I was born to a family who are Finnish but used to live in Russia before I was born, and we had a lot of Russian friends. My father was teaching Russian in courses for adults and I always attended as a helper for him. My parents belonged to a Russian church congregation. In my childhood I was surrounded by Russian language. We never celebrated basic Finnish holidays.
When I got older, we started to travel a lot to Canary Islands. I started learning both Spanish and English. During my teenage years I learned even more Spanish when hanging around my Spanish friends. I was in an English church congregation where I had most of my friends from. I travelled, lived and studied in Tenerife. Since my teenage years I have been travelling mostly alone around Europe, meeting a lot of friends from different cultures and backgrounds.
I met my boyfriend a couple years ago. He is originally from Congo, but he has lived in Finland for 11 years. When we met, he was living on his own in Kajaani and a half a year later I moved in with him. We have some cultural differences for example the way act in front of our parents and family. Sometimes people look at us in a weird way when we are outside like we are not supposed to walk together or something. We have faced some bad comments also from random people. This is not only coming from Finnish people but also from the people of his culture, so we face racism from both sides.
Most of my friends have an immigrant or foreign background. Many times, I have heard comments from other people about me hanging out with immigrants. Sometimes I feel like I am lost with my culture, my own surroundings. When I am around my Finnish friends I feel like I am not a part of them and my customs are from other cultures, but when I am with my immigrant friends and my boyfriend’s family I feel like I am not a part of them either and I start to miss Finnish things.
Why do I have to be just a one thing? What is being Finnish?
Always people have had the need to put other people into boxes. The concept of a Finnish person is outdated. Finland is globalizing constantly. The cliché of a person who is white, blond, speaks Finnish as a native language, lives in Finland, has a Finnish name, owns a Finnish attitude and character does not work anymore.
I feel like as a Finn I am expected to be more “Finn”. Like me going to a summer cottage, listening to Finnish pop music, being a girlfriend of a Finn.
For me it is the hardest thing to understand and face that how other Finnish people won´t accept the diversity and differences and can´t see it as a positive thing. It is hard to face racism because of love, because of my relationships. It is hard for me to integrate with this culture, to find my place in the society as a part of Finnish community.
To make integration easier for me as well as for other, the concept of a Finnish person needs to change also as the common attitudes. We can´t fight against it. Finland is changing along with Finns with it. I am expected to do or have something to define me as more Finnish.
I know that in my future I will have a multicultural family. It is my dream to have a family with my boyfriend but also it is my fear. I don´t want it to be hard for my children, or for us as a family. Before even having children, I want to make sure that they would have a safety net built by friends from different cultures and backgrounds. Can I give a home to my children when even I don´t know where my home is?