Pia Gro: So WHY are you here? The case of including Diversity

by , under Pia Grochowski

By Pia Gro

I was born a Finnish citizen, yet I was born in Canada. This idea seems to confuse many people. I acquired two citizenships automatically at birth as a consequence of Jus Sanguinis (Citizenship inherited through family ties) and jus solis (citizenship granted by virtue of being born in a land). I lived in Finland for over six years-what feels like my entire adult life, learned the language, also made attempts at learning Swedish) worked, studied, volunteered, ran marathons both domestic and at home under the Finnish flag, and donated blood in this country. Time and time again people ask me when do I expect to return to Canada. I’m confused and sometimes frequently insulted by this question. I can’t help it I am-though I try not to be, it stopped being tolerable after the fifth year of living here. I could speculate about returning to Canada, but my life is in Finland, I wouldn’t know what to return to. On the few occasions I have come back I feel completely alienated and separated of everything. I find it strange that people can’t understand why. I have lived abroad for so long I can’t even legally vote in Canadians elections anymore. It feels after dedicating all I can of my life and soul to Finland, I’m still seen as a tourist, just enjoying life, going to tuomiokirkko and taken tourist snaps on a daily basis, and filing in postcards at café’s.

The sting of this of these questions come from the suggestion that I’m not included, in spite of participating politically, economically, socially, educationally in society, its not taken seriously. The question is to what extent do immigrants, mamu’s, second generation Finns, migrants, ex-pats have to participate in society until they are included, how does one escape the fringes of society.

People, upon hearing that I truly love being in Finland and feel at home here, grill me on many every aspect of my life: who I’m in a relationship with, have I dated Finns, where my family lives, how old was I when my mother died, who is my family is still alive and where are they, is it really colder in Canada, why am I studying here, and the classic: do I feel more Canadian or more Finnish. (Keep in mind people ask me this question even before I know their first name, like being different here means all aspects of your private life become public). The last question, on what am I, always leaves me in an identity crisis. Sometimes I feel I have to jokingly comment that if I were to answer that I would need to spend a night crying under a table in my underwear in order to finally come up with an answer. This is a euphemism of mine for saying that there is no right answer: it doesn’t work that way. I do feel very Finnish, and I am, but I am still often seen as the Canadian.

Sometimes I get exhausted answering these questions and wonder whether to take the questions as plain curiosity or an interrogation to my allegiances. What more do I have to prove? I feel constantly forced to push my Finnish identity more and more, I’m even considering taking on my mother’s maiden name so I can have a, “so now do you believe moment?” I get also frustrated when people act surprise that I vote in elections. People were surprised I was able to vote in municipal elections-and one don’t even need citizenship to vote in that. Others, including some family members of mine, act offended as a way of saying I’m not Finnish enough to have a say in their politics, like my votes will destroy their system. Of course I vote: it’s my civic duty. Even before I moved to Finland voting papers would be sent to my home, as they are to many Finns living abroad. One thing I always loved about Finland is how organized their diplomatic missions were at organizing oversea votes.

All this is a daily part of my life, it does leave me a reclusive, and I don’t always like meeting new people, as I’m tired of explaining my life to everyone. But I feel I don’t really have a right to complain: not every girl decides to move permanently to the other side of the world on her own at 19. I try to be proactive and patient, but I do find it confusing, and try to not be offended and tired by it. My plight is a joke in comparison to those who are faced with real and often violent cases of racism. I wonder whether I really have a reason to complain, these days I start informing people on diversity and it’s perfectly normal to live in a country where one is citizen. I just suffer from the systematic form, I’m overlooked for jobs, and employement as I’m seen as a risk, I could leave at any moment. Doesn’t matter if I stayed here for more than six years working in some of the most abusive and oppressive environments to make ends meet, if I were to actually get a real job I’d just flee. Its better to hire the Finn that does nothing but complains about the country and plans to move to France the first chance they get-the winters are easier there.

In Canada such discussions, the questions that is, would be considered offensive and ignorant, it’s a nation where it’s normal and encouraged to have multiple identities (and homes) in the world. Yes, one can be in two places at the same time, and with newer media it’s easier than ever. However it doesn’t mean one is any less of a citizen because of that: home often is where my feet lay.

The main part of this discussion is that as tired as I am of this. As offended as I get: none of this is a problem. It’s not meant to be offensive, but its just something new. I’m chasing rats in my head at every question pondering my background I blessed to come from such a multicultural country, and family that I do think twice about the issues. I believe in diversity, I believe it with all my heart. I call it a belief, because I feel sooner or later whether someone likes it or not diversity will come knocking at your door, at your work in your family. It’s pointless and perhaps harmful in the long run to resist diversity. I’m just wondering, as I’m trying to explain with my own case, when will diversity be considered normal?

  1. Enrique Tessieri

    I liked reading your post a lot, Pia. Many of the things you speak of happened to me when I moved to Finland a long time ago. I got fed up one day and made a fascinating discovery: I’m from here as well and have the same right as anyone else to belong here.

    Nobody can take away or define what I am. I decide who I am. If somebody has a problem with that, it’s their problem, not mine.