Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Letter To Finns in Satakunta In Relationships With Foreigners

To the Finns who are dating or married to foreigners who plan on moving to, or already live in, Satakunta,
Moving to a new country poses a set of challenges. You likely know this, as you've probably lived abroad yourself. However, it was more than likely a bit different for you, especially if you lived in an English-speaking country. You could read the paper, watch the news, and find out about events in the community quite easily, since you already knew the local language.

Your current partner, however, likely won't be able to have those experiences for many months, or even years. Finnish is not an easy language to learn, and not everyone is very good at learning a new language in adulthood.

If you've decided that moving to Satakunta, or anywhere in Finland, with your foreign oartner is the best option for the two of you, there is one very, very important promise you need to make to both you and them before making any arrangements.

You have to promise that you won't isolate them.

I know, this sounds crazy. "Why would I do that? I love my partner. I wouldn't want them to be kept prisoner!" Of course you wouldn't want that. but it's an inevitable outcome if you're not proactive in making sure they find out about community events, social clubs, and hobbies that relate to their personal interests.

I can't even begin to count how many immigrants I've met in Pori who thought this city was "dead". Hell, I was one of them for two years, since my ex refused to  let me go out. I, like many others, thought nothing happened here. For many of them, the reason is that they're never told about anything that their Finnish partner, or his family, wouldn't also be interested in. If they had children, for example, they'd only go to the MLL cafe, and maybe the Christmas and Vappu markets.

Or, sometimes, the Finnish partner will encourage them to go to events and clubs specifically meant for other immigrants. While this might be a good thing at first, it's detrimental to integration and the general well-being of the immigrant in the long run. Those groups tend to be full of horribly jaded, bitter people who've lived here for ages and yet somehow still haven't learned much Finnish or met many Finnish people that aren't their relatives by marriage.

This city isn't dead. You've lived here, so you know that. You know that every weekend there are bands playing and things to do. You know how many restaurants we have despite how small our population is. You know how many markets, events and events there are on seemingly random weekends. You know the summer is full of festivals, either in Pori or within two hours of Pori. You know we have many talented theater groups who are constantly putting on shows. You know Pori was once one of the biggest music cities in Finland, and because of this is still full of all kinds of crazy talented musicians. You know we have all kinds of cool, family-owned shops selling everything from designer clothes to comics to old Pori artifacts. You know it's safe to walk anywhere and everywhere.

You know your partner doesn't deserve to sit at home, and you know that, until they can speak and read Finnish, they need you to help them find out about their new home.

You are the difference between giving your partner a positive and fulfilling integration experience, or leaving them with nothing but resent and indifference towards you, your family, and your city.

I am not asking much from you. They will not learn about these things from Kela, or from their language course, or from any other officials. They will only learn from you; and if you fear the idea of your partner going out and meeting new Finnish people because of some weird insecurities you have, then do your partner a favor and don't uproot their lives and bring them here. They do not deserve to be your house pet. Once they begin to find their way and find new interest on their own through their own curiosity, it's your job to be supportive. Hell, you can - and should - join them.

A former housewife against her will

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