Thoughts of an Immigrant
On a dark, gloomy November morning, back in 2011,
our car rolled off the ferry – coming from Stockholm – in Turku and the radio suddenly came alive and started broadcasting the Morning News. That was the first time I heard Finnish language. And in that exact moment, I fell in love with it, and moving to Finland became my number one dream.
A dream for which I had worked hard for years. Lots of things have happened in the meanwhile but now as I am writing these lines in my living room in Jyväskylä, with my Finnish dog messing around begging for attention, I finally feel that I am in the right place.
The subject I am about to write has been in my mind for a while now.
I am a member of several immigrant/expat forums on social media, I keep contact with people from the integration course (including people from my home country) and I closely follow a – by the way really high quality – website where people share their experiences, feelings and their own immigration stories from all over the world. During these conversations I noticed this phenomenon, which I would like to ponder on and discuss with you:
There are these people, complaining about everything.
For example, about the price or quality of food in certain countries. Claiming that they have lost a significant amount of weight because they could not find any food of satisfying quality or they are not able to afford it so they are forced to bake their own bread at home for their families. Or claiming that the health care system is so horrible if a serious problem occurs, they have to buy a flight ticket immediately to go home because doctors in their new country are undereducated and not caring. Or that people are unfriendly/unhelpful/racist. Spreading fictitious information – like the low quality of education in Finland.
All of these are actual examples from forums, comments or articles written by immigrants/expats about their new countries. And let me clarify, we are talking about European capitals, big cities, welfare societies where shopping malls are growing like mushrooms after a rainy day. Not from war- or hunger affected places or developing countries!
As a naïve/empathetic reader, I can believe that they have had bad experiences – because let’s be honest, there is no wonderland, shit happens everywhere – but a single bad experience doesn’t define the entire country.
These comments and articles, full of sadness and bitterness are written by people not willing to open their eyes for new impulses. If someone is so unhappy with him/herself, (s)he won’t be content anywhere. If we focus on negative things, disadvantages if we are fault-finders, no wonder the world around us will be sour and miserable.
Everyone has challenges, difficulties and stress in their lives but it is down to the individual to find joy in it as well.
Things that has happened to a person doesn’t describe anything but that person’s life, the consequences of one’s decisions. All of us have good and bad experiences, but blaming someone/something else for our own actions never yields anything positive. Admitting our own responsibility leads us to be able to do and change things that we don’t like about our own life.
Complaining has never solved problems and it’s not going to either.
But hey, I am not a hypocrite, I also complain after a long tiring day or about getting bad service. If something hurts my feelings, I complain to my Mother, to my partner, to my closest friends but I am not writing an article about it on social media. And for f* sake, I do not draw generally applicable conclusions of it.
If someone asks me how is life in Finland, the first thing I mention will not be that the cashier was rude to me last week. People who do not understand this, do not understand the power of the written word. Writing is responsibility. The words you write down will live long, they will still appear when you are already six feet under. Texts affect, evoke feelings and thoughts. If you write bullshit about a country or anything else, on one hand, it describes you, but on the other hand, and this is even more crucial, it misleads the readers.
As a conclusion,
I would refer to this old story that fits perfectly and describes my thoughts much better than I ever could:
One day an acquaintance met the great philosopher Socrates and said:
“Do you know what I just heard about your friend?”
“Hold on a minute,” Socrates replied. “Before telling me anything I’d like you to pass a little test. It’s called the Triple Filter Test.”
“That’s right,” Socrates continued. “Before you talk to me about my friend, it might be a good idea to take a moment and filter what you’re going to say. That’s why I call it the triple filter test. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?”
“No,” the man said, “actually I just heard about it and…”
“All right,” said Socrates. “So you don’t really know if it’s true or not. Now let’s try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my friend something good?”
“No, on the contrary…”
“So,” Socrates continued, “you want to tell me something bad about him, but you’re not certain it’s true. You may still pass the test though, because there’s one filter left: the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend going to be useful to me?”
“No, not really.”
“Well,” concluded Socrates, “if what you want to tell me is neither true nor good nor even useful, why tell it to me at all?”