I’m following a blog group of expat-Finns, and many of these bloggers have children who are growing in a foreign-country with at least two languages and cultures around them. It’s been interesting to read and follow the articles about their lives, and what do those parents wonder about their children growing with that kind of environment.
I am one of those children too, just a grown-up one, and I’ve been often thinking about that richness I have, but also that feeling of being ripped on two parts my whole life… That feeling came back very strongly last week, when I was in France for holidays.
Just a little reminder, for those who don’t know me yet; I was born in Finland, from a Finnish mother and French father. I also grew up and finished my high-school in Finland.
Since I was a baby, my dad was talking in French to me, and my mom in Finnish. I have a two years younger sister, and at home, we all used to talk in Finnish and French. Basically we were supposed to talk in French with our dad, and Finnish wit our mom. Of course the fact that we were living in Finland affected our language-learning and Finnish became the dominant language for us. Before the elementary School we used to go for few years in a French kindergarten in Tampere. As all the kids were not half French, but some were fully Finnish, my parents still remind me how already on that early age I used to translate to other kids, when they didn’t understand something… And I did that a lot at home with my sister too.
When my friends in school spent holidays with their grand parents and cousins in Finland, we traveled every year to France to spend at least one month with our French grand parents and cousins. Actually, we spent almost all our holidays abroad, in France, there was not really other choices as half of the family was there.
In high-school, when I wanted to leave abroad for one year, I decided to go to France, to Strasbourg. I’m not sure why I choose France instead of England, Germany, Spain or Austria…I actually don’t even remember to have thought for other options, France was the most natural solution. And the year passed in a French high school taught me a lot. I finally learned how to write French, as in Finland I was always talking in French but never learning it at school. That also helped me to pass the more demanding French baccalaureate exam. It was also the first time and occasion that I was getting real friends in France, who were not related to my family… And getting stronger liaison with the country. I also had my first serious boyfriend and love there, which made me to take the decision that once I’ll finish high school in Finland I’ll immediately move back to France.
Well, that relationship ended meanwhile, and there were others, but one thing didn’t change; Once I had finished high school in Finland, I moved to Paris and stayed there for 6 years.
When I was living in France I came for holidays in Finland once or twice per year for a short time. I also traveled other places and countries but Finland was the mandatory place I had to go. And when I was in Finland I spent the holidays by running everywhere, to see all my friends and family… As all the expats when they go home for holidays (I just never considered myself as expat, as I was at home). Each time when I left from Finland back to France, I was feeling sad to not be able to stay more. But I was always happy to go back home. I always said that my home was in France and that I couldn’t imagine to live back in Finland any more.
Well, when I suddenly decided to move back to Finland last year, I’m not sure what I was expecting about the adaptation and feelings to be back “home”… But it have been surprising to notice that it takes such a long time to feel really at home. When I was in France last week, and talking with friends, my family, old colleagues… Everybody were saying “you are so French, you should live here instead of Finland”. And I was feeling so at home there, that I was also wondering why I ever left… But then I was thinking about all my friends and family that I’ve got back in my life when I moved to Finland, and also the new people and activities, as well as the quality of life, which I prefer here…
As France is the place where I feel REALLY at home; Today, what still bothers me, is that I can’t get rid of that little accent I have, when I speak French. People can say what ever they want about how cute it is, or how it makes me ME, or it’s my personality…etc. For me it’s not the same than to talk English or Spanish or German, for me French is my second language and I should be able to speak it as I speak Finnish.
Some moments I also really get tired about this so called richness of having two languages with two homes and cultures. Sometimes I would prefer to have one home country where I know I always want to come back, without missing anything else. I know I shouldn’t complain about this gift that I have, and of course I wouldn’t change that for anything… But some moments I just feel too ripped and tired, that I’m wondering how life would be if my both parents were only Finnish or just French.
worst funniest thing in this, is that now I’m dating a Spanish guy, who’s living in Finland… And I don’t know about the future, but seems that instead of two, now I’m having three countries and cultures in my life! 😉
When our first french cousin born, our Finnish grand-parents came to France with us. This is one of the rare pics that our both grandparents from Finland and France, are on the same picture…