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Somehow always on the fringe: a rant

April 24, 2014

I had an “I hate Finland” the other day. These days don’t come along very often, but when they do I have this lingering feeling of downright annoyance with living here.

Yes, it is tough being an immigrant, coming to a country and not knowing the language. It’s tough having all these great ideas and then being told, “No, you can’t do that.” I get really sick of this sometimes – is it any wonder why people don’t want to take risks here? We’re always being told, “No.”

In the past I spent a lot of time asking for help, information, participation or making contributions only to be shoved off or ignored altogether… It actually put me off on trying to do more. I have now had two cases where I have been approached by parties that rejected (or rather outright ignored) me in the past because I actually had something to offer. Why didn’t they listen the first time then?

I still strive to find information, but I feel like I miss a lot of it here in Finland. Knowing the language is of course extremely important in order to integrate, but somehow I always feel like I am on the fringes of society – learning a lot but never learning enough to make a meaningful contribution. It’s a bit frustrating actually. There’s a whole country and society to discover and I’m running out of time!

I admit, I feel like I am still trying to find parts of myself. I will not deny that I have it good: I have a great family, nice house, a good job that provides me with a lot of autonomy and I am healthy.

We all have dreams, right? Sometimes I see myself doing something different… but the “No” attitude shown by some segments of society in this country has to go, especially if you are trying to help people!

I think we should be allowed to have dreams even if we cannot see them through. Saying no to a dream is pointless.

Vague, obscure and nonsensical rant over. 😛

7 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2014 11:23 am

    Coincidentally, I was chatting with a (Finnish) investment banker at the weekend, who was comparing the appetite for risk-taking of Norwegian venture capital firms with very risk averse approach of their Finnish counter-part… It seems it’s safety first!

    • April 28, 2014 7:29 am

      I think the overall feeling here is indeed risk-aversion… The Norwegians are sitting on a lot of oil money, not much here other than trees and water! (Oh, and mining, but that is a discussion for another time.)

  2. April 26, 2014 5:26 am

    This is one thing that keeps me from thinking about living there, if even for a short moment. I have respect for the land that my ancestors once walked, but I’m not sure I could deal with the red tape.

    • April 28, 2014 7:31 am

      Well Leo, it’s not just the bureaucratic red tape – on some level you get used to it. It’s the lack of encouragement and cheerleading from society at large to try and succeed.

  3. Frederik Dutoit permalink
    April 28, 2014 12:56 pm

    I could very well be wrong on this but isn’t it Finnish nature to keep opinions for themselves? This way you won’t hear the positive reactions, negative ones always seem to get through though. 😥
    And then there is the resistance to change, we all have it, even if we think we don’t. Plant the idea -here you’ll get a no-, give people some time to get used to the idea. Being an immigrant sure doesn’t help but try to find some common ground, establish a connection before you cut to the chase. Don’t forget you’re trying to sell something, an idea in this case.
    Don’t give up, people notice, they just don’t always show it.

    • April 28, 2014 1:20 pm

      Thanks for chiming in Frederik, and for your words of support! Yes, it’s true – overall Finns are a people who keep their opinions to themselves and they’re not known for giving feedback of any kind – positive or negative.

  4. Sonia permalink
    May 2, 2014 12:44 pm

    I don’t know what you exactly address to, but it looks to me like something “yhteiskunnallinen” you were wanting to contribute? I am sadly more experienced on this “I hate Finland” days (well, slightly too strong word, but let’s say “It is not my kind of place, but I can handle this”). Don’t get me wrong: I have a great work environment and a large social environment, I have built during all these years and would not ever like to miss it in my life again, but the _society as a whole_ (and only as a whole), politics (and the worrying right-wing populism trends) plus the general mindset is not really my cup of tea – still not an obstacle to live a happy life here. There is always a way.

    About the limitations as an outsider: I am disappointed how nearly everything public/societal is overregulated, overpatronized, prohibited and overisolated giving the perception that opinions or proposals “from outside” (usually from us foreigners) are perceived as a threat. I am surprised by such a heavy administrative apparatus for a (very homogenous / small share of foreigners) nation of this size. It costs us (tax) money to maintain it.

    I tried several activities in public societies, unions or organizations, but my perception was that a foreigner is included only for a quota, not for making a difference. I stopped trying, it’s not worth the time and effort.

    According to the social theories of Hofstede, Finland scores high on uncertainty avoidance (as do many others Western countries, incl. mine) and I do understand that it has deep roots in the country’s history. It starts now evolving along the business start-ups due to the current economy situation and a desperate need to take action, which is good!

    Feeling ignored may be rooted in the general mindset of avoiding confrontation. I have experienced it locally that giving negative feedback or responses, complaining or discussing controversially is rather choked in silence, especially in not so familiar environments.This can be linked to the (typical Nordic) culture of seeking consensus rather than pushing own opinions through which may result in lukewarm compromises rather than in revolutionary solutions and innovations.

    Understanding and speaking the language: I think it’s most important thing not to be on the fringes of the society, still fluency does not change it much if the society sticks to the “own way” as much. Just browse the press for occasional judgements by foreigners who wanted to make a stand about _their_ perceptions, such as Umaya Abu-Hanna. The only reaction is “If you don’t like it, you can leave” or “Elsewhere is not any better”. This makes me sometimes feel that I’d rather “unlearn” 😉 a bit of the language in order not to follow the media so much… it’s proven to be bad for your health.

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