“I usually sing in Finnish and people are moved to tears”

Jisook, 35


“When I lived in Korea I didn’t trust men. But the first time I met my husband it was different. He was really tall and handsome and he looked trustworthy. He came to me and very politely asked if he could talk to me.

When I moved to Finland it was January 2015. We got married on the 4th of July that year. It was a Finnish wedding. We had it near Lapua where my husband’s family lives. It was a small church. We had 50 guests. After the church we went to a party place, a small place. It was good and we danced waltz. I sang three songs, the Finnish national anthem, a traditional Korean song and one in English.

I also read out a letter in Finnish that I wrote to my Finnish family. My parents in law have always support to me, loved me and taken great care of me. In return I deeply respect them and I love them. I know I’m a lucky girl.

Three months later we had a traditional Korean wedding in Korea. My husband’s mum and dad also came to the Korean wedding. After that we travelled together. For my Finnish wedding my mum and aunt came to Finland. When my parents met my husband’s parents they just smiled, there was no mutual language. My mother in law learned how to say “thank you” and a few other things in Korean and she read a letter in Korean. Everyone understood it. My family appreciated it very much, everybody clapped. My other half is a good husband, but he can’t translate all my stories. That’s a problem. It’s the same when we are in Korea, I never translate everything. Just the short things.

That’s one reason I started to learn Finnish really hard. One has to learn the language of the country you move to. It is very important. My mother in law can understand English, but she doesn’t speak it. And my father in law never spoke any English. They are always talking in Finnish. My husband does not speak Korean. He knows “I’m hungry” because I always say that in Korean to him.

He always tells me that if I want to go back to Korea he can get a job there, but I don’t want to move there. I would forget Finnish and I really like Finland. I don’t like the darkness or winter, but I really like Finnish people. It’s very peaceful. My biggest problem in Finland is that I sometimes feel bored. I like that there is not that many people, because in Korea there is a lot, but here there’s so few. People always treat me really nicely here. My neighbour once offered to carry my bin bag when I was leaving home.

I didn’t want children, because I didn’t know how to deal with them. They are so small. I feel scared. But he always wanted a baby and I’m not young anymore. I’m 35. So we decided that we will try and get our children. I was surprised, because I’m really happy with my daughter and she is kicking hard and moving. My husband often cooks and cleans and if I have some problem with my studies, because I can’t understand all the words, he will try and explain to me what everything means. He is very patient.

Before I came to Finland I had travelled a lot: Czech Republic, Austria, Poland, Japan, and it was very beautiful. And then I came here and was like, “what is this?” It was so dark and always rainy. And there were no people.

We used to spend time with Ville’s friends, but now I have a Finnish friend and we speak Finnish together. She is called Terhi. She’s one of the most amazing women I’ve ever met. She was my Finnish language teacher and I was her student, but now we are friends. I’ve always been able to ask her if I have problems in life, sometimes it’s about studying, sometimes work, sometimes Finnish culture. She is my best advisor when it comes to life in Finland. I can’t explain how much I appreciate that.

My education is acting and classical singing. Singing was my first major, but I changed it to acting. I was teaching music and acting in Korea. When I was a child people would always ask me to sing, they said I had a really good voice. My friends and Finnish family know how good I am so they always get me gigs at weddings or private parties and I get paid for it. I have done 3-4 parties now. I usually sing in Finnish and people are often moved to tears. I want to continue singing in Finland and I have sent my résumé to theatres and other places, but they don’t have anything for me. I think that the Finnish music market is very small. Korea has many more different performers. There I would just go to auditions one after the other, but here I’ve never once had the opportunity to audition.

Now I’m just looking forward to meeting my baby who is arriving in July and I dearly hope that in the future all the work I’ve put into studying Finnish will pay off and I’ll have opportunities to use it on stage as an actress.”

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Pati, Poland: “I came to Finland because I wanted to learn Finnish”

This interview was recorded in 2017 in Tampere by Peter Seenan. If you’d like to be involved in this project please visit our contact page and submit the form.