My first months in Finland were hard and boring. I felt lost and didn’t have anything to do. My ex-husband would call people from these adverts in the newspapers about home cleaners. He’d ask if it’s fine that I don’t speak Finnish and I got some jobs as a cleaner or nanny.
I was so lucky with this apartment. I bought it in 2008 with a loan, which I paid off last year. I was supposed to pay it in 20 years, but I tightened my belt. It was in a bad condition when I bought it and I repaired most of it myself, learning as I went. I really couldn’t understand why people didn’t want to live in this area, between trees and nature. There are no buildings on either side so it feels like I live in the woods. To have something of my own for my children was the first and only thing I really wanted and now I feel a lot safer.
I divorced in 2005 and lost everything; I had to start from the bottom because I was left with nothing. Now, after many years of hard work, I own a car and a place to call my own. My boys live with me. Earlier my eldest son was living with his father but after he re-married I got my son back. I am now happy to have them both with me. Those years were hard but I’m happy because time puts everything in its place.
I came to Finland in 1994. In all these years, I’ve met many foreigners and heard stories about how lucky and happy they were when they came to this country, and how they felt like it was home. For me though, it was not like that. It was different because back then, 25 years ago, there were not many foreigners. Many locals even wondered what I was doing here, many asked what I was going to get from here. I had the feeling they didn’t trust me.
LAURA: Many locals even wondered what I was doing here, many asked what I was going to get from here.
At that time, Finns were curious but they kept their distance. I remember feeling bad quite often as people really made me feel kind of stupid because I didn’t speak Finnish and they assumed I had no general knowledge as I was from Mexico, considered a ‘third world’ country.
My ex-husband is Finnish and I met him in Spain. He got a job in Finland and suggested that I come with him. I didn’t really want to because the idea didn’t appeal to me, but in the end I had not much of a choice. When we arrived in the winter of 1994, the weather reached -20°C. I was in shock and weeks later I went back to Spain. I returned in the summer when the weather and nature was at its best. I was 23 then. I knew if I’d stayed in Spain I would have kept doing just the same thing there.
My first months in Finland were hard and boring. I felt lost and didn’t have anything to do. My ex-husband would call people from these adverts in the newspapers about home cleaners. He’d ask if it’s fine that I don’t speak Finnish and I got some jobs as a cleaner or nanny. Other than that I would just not do anything, apart from walk around. I did that for about a year. I remember I felt sad because I didn’t have friends and the Internet didn’t exist as it does today. We didn’t like to go to bars so meeting people was difficult. Everything was closed on Sunday, and on Saturday at 18.00. But luckily, things change with time and effort.
LAURA: After many years I knew my Finnish was good and I was as good or better than the others.
Today I can say I’m very grateful for having come to Finland and stayed. It has given me a lot of opportunities and I mean really a lot. One of them was the opportunity to study my profession with no fees. Studying is the most important thing I have done.
I have been here for 25 years. I have had to adapt. I feel I have integrated and adapted well. I also accepted this country as my home, I’ve learnt the language, and I’ve accepted all what is in it, without having to lose my values or inner self. When I have visited my friends and family in Spain or Mexico City, they’ve noticed I’ve changed, some say I’m cold. Here I’ve grown, I’ve learned. I really feel sad for those who haven’t been able to adapt. Their everyday living would be much easier if they tried. Yes, it takes time and effort, like everything else. No pain… no gain. I have seen the ones that don’t try and adapt. It’s a big mistake, they will never integrate. People say they will never stop being who they are, but you will stop being who you are because you are not in your own place.
Today I can say that I will always be an immigrant, but there are times when I feel very Finnish. I’ve been working for HUS [Helsinki University Hospital] since 2004. It took me many years to be able to show my Finnish workmates that I was as good as them. That was the hardest, but also the best thing for me. It took time to become a confident nurse and now I’m happy to be a member of the team. I’m proud of it. After many years I knew my Finnish was good and I was as good or better than the others. I was never treated badly there and also the patients were, and are still today, very curious. They always ask where I come from.
LAURA: I will always complain about the weather but as a Finn told me once, “Yes, I know, we don’t like it either but we must find ways to cope with it.”
What also makes me happy is the fact that my mother lives here [in Finland]. She has been married to a Finn for twenty years. Her illness and her treatment made her stay. Her life depended on it. In 1998 she had to come to Finland as her health was getting notably worse. Here she was diagnosed with Hepatitis C, which she got as a result of a blood transfusion in the early 70s. The doctors told her that her liver was failing and offered her an experimental medication that had to be yet tested. She had no choice but to try it or she would die. The condition given to her was that she had to stay here in Finland to be monitored. Today, 20 years later, at 72, she is well and living in Mikkeli. She is happy and thankful to Finland. Many people complain about the healthcare system but nothing is perfect anyway. Finland is trying, and it’s better than other places.
I work a lot with the elderly and I have learned so much from them. They value things so much more, because they didn’t have that much of anything when they were growing up. I feel like people have the need to talk and somehow they find it easy with me. There was once an older lady who came to the lab and started crying. I was asking her if she was scared or something and she said she couldn’t be with her husband anymore. I feel very happy when people talk to me and I wish I could help them, but I can’t.