Who changed?

Since fall 2016, I'm a regular contributor to the magazine Yliopisto-lehti. I write columns, based on my experiences as a professional, an expat, and even simply as myself. Articles are translated and published in Finnish, but I'll be publishing a translation of my pieces in English here on my blog. 

Who changed?

(originally published on issue  Y / 06 / 17)

August will mark the start of my eight year in Finland. I left Italy to go on an Erasmus period and I never went back. With Finland, it was love at first sight. The nature, the peace, the deep honesty in people. I have grown up in a country where "honest" is synonym to "stupid", where you meet those who brag about not paying taxes and get public approval, where if you are not someone's daughter you don't get anywhere. And let's not mention sexism.

After few months in Finland, I realised no one was treating me as a woman, but simply as an individual - you may take this for granted, it's not - and my efforts were rewarded with good grades and a job offer. I observed Finns and I was fascinated by the love they felt for their country. There's an unwritten rule, by which only Finnish people can complain about Finland. I looked around and saw people of several nationalities and languages - again, not the norm everywhere - and I thought that maybe my place was really here. I called my boyfriend and told him to pack, we were going to move.

Seven years later I'm a Finnish citizen, I have two children and a new job. Over the years I've met other immigrants and heard of several small injustices, I've followed the news about the migrant crisis, and even hosted in my house a full family which was waited to be deported. In my other ear I've heard of thousands of migrants coming through Italy every day and I compare that with the ridiculous migrant quota Finland set. I remind myself of all the times not being a Finnish-speaker played against me, as a parent and as a professional. I think back to the love of Finns for Finland, and I now see a terrible insecurity as well. Was it there seven years ago? One good quality of Finnish people which impressed me at the start was how they are able to react fast and with imagination to any social issue. Today I struggle to see that aspect, or it seems very selective. And I wonder, who changed, Finland or I?


Paola Elefante

Digital Scaling Project Manager at Plan International. Proud mother & wife. Shameless nerd&geek. Feminist. Undercover gourmet.

One thought to “Who changed?”

  1. I'd say both changed - Finland and you. Finland, like most other "well to do" nations in the Western Hemisphere have collectively evolved from an open society into an apprehensive norm, thanks to poor (or lack of robust) immigration policies, that should not stop at "accepting them" but should instead mould them into capable additions to our society.

    You, on the other hand, have developed a more objective view on the state of the world and the immigration policies, owing to your education, experiences and life choices. Sadly, this doesn't align with the rosy image of Finland you once had, which reflects true love for Finland. You maybe want Finland to do better. You maybe wish for it to meet the rational criteria that could forever justify your choice in making it your home.

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