Originally I’m from India, my age is 30 and I came to Finland in November 2015. I come from the north-east part of India, the state of Bihar. We were transferred here with my husband, who was working for Neste Oil, he is an ‘expat’. Ours is an arranged marriage. Where I come from there is a lot of agricultural land, where people grow rice and other crops.
In Finland I identify myself as Indian, not Bihari or anything else. It takes time to settle here, to understand how to dress for the cold. But the cold is far easier than in India. In Delhi it was cold everywhere. But at least here you have a warm home. You don’t have to wear so much clothes at home, in the office or at school. So I thinks it’s easier to handle it here.
Even if I don’t know Finnish language I have created a world around me. In Finland I think Finns first give importance to Finns, but after that everyone is equal. If people think that you do something well then it does not matter if you are a Finn or a foreigner, you get treated well.
“Today I don’t have a job, but tomorrow I might have a job. So I’m not just sitting at home, but using my time to showcase myself”
I have seen many people coming from India or other places. I think that most of the people sit at home and don’t do anything and I don’t know if they want to do work or not. I mean, getting work in Finland is difficult. If you don’t do anything, you run out of time. Time is limited and you should use your time. The bottom line is that every day is not the same. Today I don’t have a job, but tomorrow I might have a job. So I’m not just sitting at home, but using my time to showcase myself. It is just unfortunate that I’m not employed.
In India I was working for IBM, like my husband. I have always had a habit of keeping busy. After work I would go to volunteer at an NGO called SOS Children’s Village and on other social projects. When I came here I didn’t know a single person. I was already looking for a job in Finland when I was in India. When we arrived here I continued searching for some work. I got 80 rejection mails, but then I got an email from the Finnish Refugee Council and they called me. So I started there in February 2016.
I found out about the Finnish Refugee Council because my husband’s colleague’s wife volunteered there one time. I told her about our plans to move to Finland and she gave me information. I have been going to the centre as a volunteer every week. I have been involved with indoor and outdoor activities. The Refugee Council gives some money for volunteers to spend on activities. You can take refugees to a museum, to Linnanmäki, to the movies. Indoor you play games, dance, cook or whatever and there is funding available. I have been going to the centre near Sörnäinen. There are many people from Iraq and Iran, but recently I have also seen some Chinese people. I go every Tuesday.
“When I get sad I open my Facebook to check my timeline to realise that my life is beautiful, why am I sad?”
There are many people doing this, it’s about 1.5 hours per time. Not many people speak English, but they are learning Finnish on the side. It has been very good and we have built trust. There are German, Finnish and French people doing this at least, but I have not seen any other Indians. We plan the activities together. My favourite activity has been bowling. It makes me happy when many refugees join and when they enjoy it. There is a stereotype that if you are in a hijab that you can’t do anything. But there were 2–3 girls wearing a hijab, and they won the game! They played very well.
I’m not worried about my income at the moment. I think that in the end I will have money, by God’s grace. What I will not have is time and energy to do these things. These things will push me in the future to do more things. When I get sad I open my Facebook to check my timeline to realise that my life is beautiful, why am I sad? It’s all about how you create positivity in your life.
I think there’s no point asking me about racism because if you live a big life you will also face these kinds of things in your home country. You go through all kinds of phases in your life. Embarrassing moments, somebody saying some things that you will think about for a long time. It happens in my country and here too. Finland is not immune from racism. It happens here and it happens everywhere else. Once I have accepted that then I can remove the negativity from my life. I don’t practice religion that much. I believe in God and respect God, but I think that I have to spend the time and energy on helping people rather than practicing religion. I think it’s equal. I want to convert people to do good things and utilise their time. I’m unemployed but not jobless. I’m in peace.
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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 Anjana’s story.