yesterday marked my six years of living in Finland.
every year, on that day, i would think of where i was on November 2006. i would try to remember what i was feeling, what i was thinking. and i almost always came to the same conclusion: how quick time has gone, and how many things i’ve learned.
did it even occur to my mind back then when i was checking in to the plane that six years from then, i would be speaking Finnish on an everyday basis? no. that i would have a permanent job with monthly income (= not hourly)? no. well, i certainly hoped i would, but in reality, i knew my chances were rather slim.
prior to moving to Finland, i bought this small Learn How To Speak Finnish book (don’t remember if it was from Berlitz or Lonely Planet). it wasn’t the audio kind, just a written text book, and i had to figure out myself how to pronounce the ä, ö, and y (at first i thought the y is pronounced like the Indonesian ‘i’. my husband–then my boyfriend–laughed when he heard this. gee, thanks). i managed to learn numbers 1 to 10, but that was about it. when i found out that i was going to move permanently to this country, i decided to leave the book behind….
… because i would be handed to the professionals here. 🙂
i knew i had to learn the language, but on the other hand, i was impatient (have always been). having gotten used to the fact that finding a job in my home country is easy (= you don’t have to really study in the same field as the job you’re after or have a degree in it to land a certain job… as long as you really are good in what you do or what they expect you to do in that position, and also good in selling yourself to them, you’ll get it), right after i moved here, i tried to apply to various jobs, those that i clearly don’t have enough educations on but lots of experiences with. i tried applying for a visual merchandiser and fashion designer, even though my highest education was for advertising. needless to say, i never got any replies from them (who was i kidding?).
after i got the residence permit, we went straight away to register myself to the country’s employment office. that was when i found out that there are such things as free Finnish language courses. well, then, sign me up, please!
i got into one pretty quickly after that, and what do you know? not only was the language course free, i also got paid from the country to go to the course. how nice is that?
once i started learning Finnish for real, after about the first 3 months of the language course, i became impatient again. once again, i tried sending in my job applications, as a salesperson this time, in various places. i remember walking in to one of the most famous Finnish design stores after seeing a job opening announcement at the front door of their store, with all my strength and guts, i said, “i’d like to apply for the job, please.” when the manager of the store came to see me, and listened to my basic Finnish, she said, “unfortunately, the person we’re looking for has to be able to speak fluent Finnish.”
after that, i was so angry and ashamed. at myself, of course. how could i be so stupid to think that i would even have a chance to work at a store here in Finland without speaking fluent Finnish? i would have to serve customers, listen to what they want to get, etc. in Finnish, and with my minimum knowledge of the language back then, it’s a laugh that i even tried to talk to the manager of the store.
i continued learning the language at the course, but whenever i’m at home i’d complain to my husband how my brain was tired from thinking of the correct Finnish word for this and that, and because of that i’d always switch back to English. i began feeling sorry for myself, so sure that i would never be able to find a job with this language barrier. i could probably get a job that won’t require me talking to anyone in Finnish (in cleaning service, perhaps?), but i was a too untidy person myself to even think of applying for a job in cleaning service. i tried to seek friends in the same position as i was, and became pampered when i heard i wasn’t the only one thinking it’s ridiculous to learn Finnish when there are only about 5 million people in the whole fricken world who speaks the language. 5 million. that’s less than the population of my home city alone!
but when i told my husband all this, he reminded me of the other things i didn’t think about. how this country provided free language courses for people like me, and how this country even pays those people who goes to the language courses like me. other than those things, there are also about a dozen things this country has to offer for people like me that my home country, for example, doesn’t offer to expats/immigrants. so instead of complaining, shouldn’t i be thankful that i was given a chance to experience all this? and as a thank you, shouldn’t i give something back to this country?
even though it made sense, it took me a while to finally feel it from inside my heart. to feel: yes, i do want to contribute something to this country, rather than just saying it because it seemed right. at the end of my language course, which was about 10 months from the first day i walked into the class, i had to do an intern job. while i knew my written grammar, i felt way unprepared for the real world. spoken Finnish language is really something else, and i thought for sure it would take me some years until i could finally get a real job.
but God had other plans, it seemed. around 2 months after i finished my language course and the intern, the manager of the place i interned at gave me a call and asked if i was interested in working for them for real. remembering how pathetic i was when i interned there (according to myself), i couldn’t really believe that she was serious. but she was. and of course i was interested! are you kidding me??
i started out as a part-timer, doing a 10 hour job every week, and slowly moved on to 30 hours a week, until finally i got to my position right now.
i finally feel that i have done & given something back to this country, and i will keep doing so. looking back now, i can say that all it took was patience and persistence. and open mindedness.
so after six years, this is now where i am at. can’t wait to see where i will be in the next 10, 20 years. 🙂