Host blog post
the creator of mysalmiakkilife.fi
Living an ex-pat life is an eye-opening experience. It has changed my perspectives and enriched my personality. But how is it when you are seen just by your difference from the majority?
I am a white person. Yes, I have dark hair and eyes, even my skin is toned, but overall I am white. Not so unalike from Finns for the first look. But still, I am different, I am “the other”.
It hit me quite strongly a few weeks ago when we had “talkoot” on our street. Even if I know the majority of our neighbours, I understand it might be difficult to remember my name. My husband and my kids have international names that are easier to remember, while my name is typical Slavic. Also, the fact that we are the only non-Finnish family on the street makes us “the others”, if people mean it, or not. Just to be honest: we love living there, we have found friends between our neighbours and people around are super helpful.
So what had happened? After the talkoot we had some picnic on the street and I came to a table to pick up some food. Two of our neighbours were sitting there, both I know by name and speak with them in Finnish. They were in the middle of discussion when I understood something like: “... and this Slovak girl was there too...” I just smiled and said: “This Slovak girl is me.” I know, they didn’t mean anything bad. I wasn’t harmed or felt offended. It is just one example of how we pick up the only existing difference and use it as a description of a complex person.
This Muslim family, that black woman, this Asian man, that gay couple, that girl on the wheel-chair… Just name it. Imagine how we might describe people if there is no such “first-planned” difference. What would we say about those people? I might not be “that Slovak girl” but “the neighbour who makes good cookies” or “the one who tries to learn Finnish” or “women who brought us Tatratea (Slovak alcohol) for our last talkoot”...
Isn’t it somehow fascinating and unfair at the same time how we tend to pick up the one difference by which we tackle other people? I realized this just when I became the minority, the other, the stranger. Such shortcuts in conversation might save us time to identify who we speak about but limit our knowledge and perception of people.
I wish we could try the harder way. Not to bring race, nationality, religion or sexuality to the table. Rather find who this person is as a human, as a friend, neighbour, colleague… We can find more in common than we originally thought.
Written by: Lubica
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