“You need sisu to live here and I have learned how to have sisu”

Dani, 40

When my father got married to my mother he was a widow. It’s a hard word in English, I sometimes say “window”. I have the same in Finnish, I tell my friends I bought a kurkku, kinkku, kirkko. Great, I bought a church! No. Ham, kinkku! So when they got married he already had two kids, a girl and a boy. They tried to get pregnant but the doctor said that they won’t get pregnant. Two years later I was born.

My mother does tango. She is 70 years old and very small and she has only one lung. She had cancer. I went to visit her for one month last year. I needed to see her, I really miss her. I don’t know if my husband Markus will ever go to Brazil. I think he is a little bit afraid of going there. He is Finnish from Lapland. So he is super Finnish.

“Markus also has a 360-degree shield. It’s very difficult to get into his mind and emotions and everything”

We go to Lapland every summer. Last year it was going to be Markus’ mother’s birthday party. She turned 70, like my mother. The nice thing is that now I can understand a little bit of Finnish and speak to her a bit. They speak Lappish Finnish so it’s a bit complicated. When I’m there she tries to do the Finnish “helppo” easy Finnish for me. At first it was only Google translator. When they speak they cut the words. “Tule tänne” (come here) is “tu tä” and I’m like, “tutä what?!” It’s very funny.

I met Markus in Malta and I met his parents when we were living there. They came there, they wanted to meet me. His mother is very reserved. Markus also has a 360-degree shield. It’s very difficult to get into his mind and emotions and everything. I don’t really know how I fell in love with someone so different. Actually I’m oil and he is water. COM-PLE-TE-LY different. I went to Malta in 2014 to improve my English because I decided to have this sabbatical. I was working like Monday to Monday and I was travelling all over the Brazil. I had 700 people below me. I worked for seven banks and I trained people how to sell.

I used to travel and I would have three luggages ready. I would go home, take a shower, take another luggage and go back to the airport. I didn’t have a Sunday at home. The last time I did this I woke up and I didn’t know where I was. I had a breakdown and I thought, ‘No, stop.’ I didn’t want to work. I was in the North of the country. I woke up wondering where I was. I didn’t remember. I tried to find out. Eventually I called the reception and the guy answered “Intercontinental…” and I heard the accent. In Brazil we have these accents and you know where the person is from. It was automatic. So I knew I was in the North, but where. So I decided to ask him. He was desperate, like “Are you ok? Do you need a doctor?” He told me where I was and then I ordered breakfast. I had several assistants at that time so I called one. The time zone was different, maybe we were two hours ahead. I woke him up early in the morning and I told him to connect me to the boss as soon as he got to the office because I wanted to quit. My colleague said if I quit he would too, and he did.

“I used to travel and I would have three luggages ready. I would go home, take a shower, take another luggage and go back to the airport. I didn’t have a Sunday at home”

I had a lot of money, but it was hard, very difficult. My boss was trying to keep me, he said he would send me to Miami to his house. He was a very rich man.

But I decided I wanted to escape. I took my mum and we stayed two months in a spa, just having treatments. It was very nice time for us. She was already retired.

I love to live here and leaving Finland, leaving everything, is not really something I want to do. I also really love my husband. I want to have a family with him. We just bought a house. It’s two floors, so cute, very nice and new. Close to the forest and nature and everything. It’s just that I don’t know what happens if something happens to my mother in Brazil. I will feel guilty if I’m not there. I’m going to feel like I chose me and not her. I have been with her for 37 years, all my life. I never moved from my house, I always lived with her.

“I didn’t care at that point that it was Finland. I was in love and that was life”

It was the summer of 2015 when Markus proposed to me. 35 degrees at eight thirty in the night on our balcony. I had made some risotto and we were having champagne. He looked at me and said, “You know, I was wondering…” I thought it was weird that he would be wondering, he is very precise. And so I asked “What?” And he said “…If we should get married. It was so sweet. He didn’t have a ring, but I didn’t mind. What we have is very real, it’s us. I cried, because I cry a lot. I laugh a lot and cry a lot. Then he said, “But we have to move to Finland.” He said he couldn’t stay in Malta anymore without his kids. He had been there already for one year and he was suffering without them. I can only imagine, because I’m not a mother. But I understood. He asked me to go online and see what Finland was like, but I had accepted it already. He always says to me, “Let’s be efficient, move on.” I didn’t care at that point that it was Finland. I was in love and that was life.

I came here because of love, like many people do. I know many Brazilians who have come for love. You need sisu to live here and I have learned how to have sisu, every day. People have these stereotypes about Brazil, carnivals and caipirinha. I would like them to be more about our easy ways of getting things to happen, the inner happiness, how easy it is for us to move on with things. I think we don’t put too much weight on things that are already happening. Sometimes my husband says that we have to face some things and he stresses about it. I don’t do this.

I’ve worked for banks for 20 years. I started working when I was 16 and I turned 40 in December, so just over half of my life has been working, connecting people, doing meaningful things, having something meaningful. I tried work as a hotel maid to see what work is like in Finland. It’s hard because I don’t have Finnish. English is not enough. I did the job for three months, a lot of back pain, but earning money. I worked for Sol for Scandic. It was weird for me. But it was very nice, a very humble experience. To learn how work works in Finland and how taxes work. When you are here you need to learn these things. I really want to be active, I have applied for loads of things. I want to be a part of something.

I think I could get bored with Finland, like I did with Malta, even though I loved the place. I got bored in São Paulo. But you know, when I get bored, I do something. I don’t need to move from Finland. We will have Sushi, a dog. I think having a baby would be love, it would be me. I am a mother already for everybody. My friends call me to ask how to get wine off a shirt. This is my nature. People always consult me about things. My husband always wonders why people ask me and not the Internet. But they trust me, they want to know what I think.


More like this: 

Andrea, Italy: “Finland never pushed me to believe in something foreign to my heart”

Pradeep, India: “There is probably nothing similar between India and Finland”

Alexandra, Portugal: “When I go to Portugal I sometimes feel like a stranger”

Interview by Peter Seenan recorded in Helsinki, Finland in 2017. If you wish to support our work in sharing the reflections of immigrants please like our Facebook page and share Dani’s story. 

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