I did not think much about how life was going to be like before moving to Finland. Kati and I are highly compatible; our communication lines are wide open. Intellectually we are on the same wavelength and so is our sense of humour. We have a very similar attitude towards life, and it did not matter that she was paralysed. She could not move at all and needed assistance with everything. I knew deep in my heart that we could make it work.
I did consider the fact that that she would be relying on me for most things. Our relationship would have to be balanced very differently in comparison to a traditional relationship. Adaptation would be on the front row; I felt full of energy ready to face up to the challenge. I felt excited.
Things are not always, how you expect them to be. The first lesson in adaptation; lower your speed. Energy and excitement will work against you and only lead you to frustration and disappointment. The lessons go on, all with one thing in common; instead of raising the standards the thing to do would be to lower them.
The culture shock was a disappointing one. However, it did not matter because the most important which was our relationship what was flourishing and growing stronger.
My biggest problem in Finland would come to be one that I did not think about at all, discrimination.
Not much direct discrimination. All though you don't see it much, it does linger in the shadows waiting for a chance to jump out and bite you. Anyone who has suffered discrimination knows that it is one of the worst feelings; like a heartbreak.
The most common kind of discrimination is not the obvious one. Its ugly face comes out when you try to speak their language. Keep in my mind that the Finnish language is one of the most difficult languages to learn and the Finnish people are reserved and do not speak to strangers easily. One tries to speak their language knowing that it is going to be full of grammar mistakes. Still one hopes that he/she can open the communication lines.
The reward or should I say punishment for doing this you receive a higher-level discrimination form. They get a power trip and take advantage of the situation and become abusive. They treat as if you are less than nothing, just because you cannot speak the language like a native. Although this only shows their low self-esteem it still hurts like hell.
Do not get me wrong; not all Finnish are like this, not even the majority. Nevertheless, there are too much of these bad seeds around to make your hair rise.
My journey here in Finland sometimes seems as if it is a trip to learn about different kinds of discrimination. I have experienced at first hand the discrimination against foreigners. I also had the luck to work with various kinds of refugees, and have seen from up close what they go through which at times is horrible.
An attitude of "we will tolerate you as long as you know your place in the society and you keep yourself there". You are lower and no matter how hard you work you should keep yourself there living in a crappy house, driving an old car and wearing rags.
I have seen with my own eyes how even people that are trying to help them treat them in such condescending and a patronising way that it made my blood boil.
One sort discrimination that I knew that I would have to deal with was the discrimination against the disabled. Witnessing a disabled person treated as if they are three years old, mentally less abled or simply stupid. Sad, but true.
Of all these forms of discrimination, I have experienced in the last years, the one that infuriates me the most is none of the above.
Since Kati and I are working together on all our projects such as blogs, articles and so on. I keep myself in the background and do the creative work, and Kati does the socialising, promoting, public relationships, etc.
We share the workload and when she is approached about the subject that is more my area she asks me to deal with the person. When it is a crucial topic, I introduce myself before a continuing the conversation. Sometimes I do not do this and reply as if it is Kati answering.
I have heard about it but I never had an idea how some men speak to women. In a degrading way as if, they were stupid or lesser human beings. Not just strangers, but also people who call themselves friends.
A demeaning approach as if; it is a woman and that means that she is DUMB, STUPID, a THING not a PERSON. When I call them up on the way, they behave and speak, as they cannot comprehend that their comportment is not appropriate. They think that it is the right way to conduct towards a woman.
I ask Kati if this does not bother her and she tells me that she is used to it and does not care anymore. She does not let this ruin her day or her life. She reminds me that she used to be a model and that in that environment it is the normal way to treat a woman and it is a matter of taking or be thrown out.
It makes me sick to my stomach.
At moments, I look at my female friends that came as refugees to Finland. On the streets, they must deal with a condescending discriminating attitude towards them. At school, as they try to make something for themselves they must deal with the patronising discriminating attitude from the ones that should be helping. In their community they are discriminated by the males for they should not be anything more than just vessels to carry their children and slaves that take care of the house.
With all these factors against them, they still are always ready to help anyone. Underneath the tough skin they still love like no other. I do not think that I could ever be so strong as Kati or any of these ladies.