October 20, 2016

A convincing perspective on Finland

Tsui-Shan Tu

is a senior communications specialist at Finnfacts and has authored three books about Finland (in Chinese).

Recently while hosting an international media visit, I shared my experience of living in Finland with journalists from France and Switzerland. Drawing on my experience here as a mother, the topics inevitably ranged from the world-famous baby box, to the playgrounds in every commune and the teaching of preschool.

I was so enthusiastically positive that one reporter concluded: “You and your colleague are both foreigners, but are saying so many good things about Finland that it has to be a nice place to live.”

Her words lingered in my mind and made me ponder: Is a foreigner’s compliment about Finland more convincing to an outsider? Is Finland a comfortable place to live? Why do I enjoy living here?

As a person not born here, I have the chance to compare living in Finland to somewhere else. Naturally, I also look at Finland both from “inside”, yet from a different cultural angle; because of this I enjoy the role of being “the bridge”.

Although, after living in Finland for over a decade, I no longer know how “foreign” I still am, it doesn’t bother me. Part of me would always remain “foreign” while some other parts may not.

Over the years I have digested and put my experience of living here into published words (in Chinese), most of which have presented this journey in a positive way out of my genuine appreciation for “my new homeland”: be it the education system, the pure nature, the community spirit or the human-centred design. The grass under my feet is not always greener (note: the harsh winter is approaching), but every little discovery about Finland inspired me, and I felt joyful whenever learning a bit of something new.

Ultimately I understood that the process of exploring Finland had gone hand-in-hand with the course of shaping my new identity: be a foreigner in a strange land, an immigrant, a “new Finn”, and still be me.

Most importantly, I have been fortunate enough to meet and work together with open-minded, creative locals, which has helped me become part of the society, and made me feel at home.

The fact that my colleague and I, the two persons in Finnfacts who currently host international media visits to Finland, are both originally from somewhere else, is just one example of what foreigners can do here. It wouldn’t have been possible if we were not given a chance.

Being foreign can be challenging in many ways, but it can also become a positive thing. I sincerely hope it to be more so for many others.

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