“My name is Que Anh, but people here call me Cinnamon. I’m 18 years old and I’m from Vietnam. I’ve been living in Finland 7 or 8 months as an international student and I study at the HAMK University of Applied Sciences. I’ve really enjoyed life here, even though my background is from a really big place, Ho Chi Minh City. It’s kinda peaceful here and there’s not so many people around, but I still enjoy it a lot.
I think the most valid reason for me to be here is that I’m really fond of the culture of the Nordic countries. I was considering Finland – Ireland a little bit – but in the end I got accepted to HAMK. I’m studying international business. During high school I saw myself develop into some kind of manager or leader in so many projects, and I have to say that I now think that I was born to do this. International communications, projects, management, meeting people and working with them, inspiring them every day. That’s my passion for life. I think that makes international business work for me. I don’t like to look at the subject from some kind of mathematics or finance or account aspect, to me it’s the aspect of working with people.
I think empathy is the most important thing when managing people. Without empathy or deep understanding of people you can’t motivate them from the inside. They might follow you because you have the authority or maybe you have the upper hand, so they have to follow you. But if you can inspire them by understanding them they will really follow you.
I would love to work in the media sector and marketing. Project management too. I try to set expectations on me rather than other people. I have a blog, it’s like my baby. I write every day and that’s kinda my everyday challenge. I expect myself to learn something new every day. Whatever it is, it has to be a lesson. So whenever I figure out something I try to write it in my personal blog. I have many followers. I put a lot of questions there and sometimes I answer them myself. Sometimes it is quite controversial there, but people are quite fond of the blog.
My parents say that this is my life, my path, my dream. “Just do whatever you want, we will always support you.” I miss my family a lot. They taught me to be tough, not strong. Strong does not work for my family anymore, it has to be tough. Life is so hard and if you are weak you can’t survive in life.
I’ve been suffering so many culture shocks and so many other circumstances. I think that people can’t really understand how it feels to be a “yellow girl”, how it feels to be an Asian living in a Nordic country. Everybody looks different here, they act different, talk different, behave different. So I kinda miss home, but that’s okay. I miss the crowded places, people, the heat sometimes and the food. This summer I will be in Vietnam. I will learn Kung fu with my dad and cook him some of the dishes I know.
It was the culture that I was really looking forward to experiencing before I came. In Ho Chi Minh City there’s 9 million people. I wanted to experience something that is peaceful, I wanted to see trees. Simply, that’s it. I wanted to see more fields, more nature. I wanted to experience sauna. I wanted to sit in a sauna and see what it feels like in such a hot place. And the food. The rice pie. I kinda like it. Because Asians like rice.
There is wisdom that I always keep in my mind. Without an aggressive ocean there wouldn’t be a skillful sailor. So that means that what I have here right now is energy, skills and knowledge. I had a tough childhood, a tough life when I was young. So that boosted me to try and study and work so that I can help my parents. They really had to suffer a lot because of me. It was the finance thing. They have two daughters, me and my sister. They had to work a lot to support us. And my parents grew up during the Vietnam war so it was really tough to earn a degree or have a proper job. It is so different here. All my friends from Finland, they are like, “my parents are CEOs, they work here and there.” And I’m like “wow, I don’t have that in Vietnam.”
I was travelling to Tampere the second day I got here because I needed a Finnish ID card. I sat next to an old lady, she is now 70–80 something. Called Eeva. We talked a lot and she trusted me and invited me to come to her house. We have been friends since then. Eeva gave me her address when we were on the bus and we spoke a bit of English. I got in touch with her and went to her house. She became my mum here. She helped me settle in Valkeakoski, she brought rice and all kinds of chairs and tables and beds, blankets and pillows. She even told her neighbours about me and asked if they have anything to give to me. So I went from having nothing to becoming the “richest” Vietnamese here. I was excited to go to her place because I got to know the local people. I had never seen white people before I came. I had never talked to any white people. The first time I ever saw a fireplace I was like “Wooow! I’ve seen that on TV.”
I think Finns take trust seriously so it takes time to build trust. The first time I had a sauna together was on Christmas. It was with Eeva. I was terrified the first time because in my culture we never let anyone see our bodies. We never expose our bodies to anyone else, but in Finland, oh my god! It’s a very normal thing to do. But I know that when a Finn asks you to go to sauna with them it means that they really think that you are inside their circle. So you have to take that and not say no. I managed and I really liked it. We had a small party and ate some food. We usually play games, eat and talk about Vietnam. Eeva really likes Vietnam. We also travel to her friend’s house in Kangasala sometimes.
Finland is a better place for me than Vietnam because it is still a communist country. But it’s hard to find friends in Finland because we are “yellow”, we are Asians and they are white. It’s still something that makes an invisible wall between us. We talk normally, but we are not truly connected and we don’t truly understand each other. It is still a bit distant between the two skin colors, at least from my experience. But not with Eeva.”
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This interview was recorded in 2017 near Tampere by Peter Seenan. If you’d like to be involved in this project please visit our contact page and submit the form.