About double-nationality

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.

Vacances à Préfailles 2

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.

The 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! 😉

Mummo et Lasse à St Pavace 1-3

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…


Back in Paris – back home

Since Ivalo the blog have been quit silent. I have had some inspiration issues, and problems to finish my many drafts on different subjects.
Now I’m writing from the bus to Tampere. I just landed back to Finland, after one week spent in Paris. Paris, the city were I used to live for 6 years and which I left last summer for Finland. Being in Paris felt extremely normal and at the same time very strange. Last time I was in Paris for holidays, was on summer 2009, and few months later I moved in there.

When I was a kid I spent my holidays in France, in Le Mans, with my French grand parents and cousins.  And during all past 6 years, Finland was the place where I went for holidays… To meet friends and family, to eat local food that I was missing, to do Finnish things. Now, that have changed again. Now I’m going for holidays in France, but sharing my time between Paris and Le Mans. No matter the country you are it’s always the same; your time is limited and there’s a lot of people to see and things to do. And as with my Finnish friends when I came to Finland for holidays, also my French friends have their life with work and family and I can’t suppose they are 100% available for me when I come.

And the biggest different with Paris now, is that I don’t really have a home there anymore. Luckily one of my very good friend hosts me whenever I need, and I feel at home in her place… But before I used to have my place in Paris, my home where I always went once the plane have landed. Now that place is not my place anymore, and it felt strange to not go there…

Being back in Paris 10 months later I moved out from there, was very confusing. Places and people haven’t changed, I still speak French and know how to use metros and how to behave and communicate in different places… Nothing is difficult, everything’s natural and goes normally. In a way I felt much more at home in Paris than in Finland! I think last years I got so distant with Finland that it still takes time to get to feel at home there…. A lot of people have told me that I’m more French than Finnish, despite the accent I have when I speak French. And I feel so too.

After few days in Paris, I still don’t regret I left that city, no matter how much I love it! Paris is still very tiring. When I take the metro to cross the city in one hour I can’t not to think how in Tampere I cross the city in 15 min by bike. Or when we talk about holidays with friends, I realize in Finland it’s totally fine to stay at home for holidays, in Paris it’s almost not possible to imagine that… Being in Paris now, reminded  my about the life style, the hurry, the pollution, the traffic – it reminded me why I wanted away from there.

But also spending evenings with my friends, with who I have studied, with who we share the same professional interests and with who we are in quit same life-situations – that makes me to miss being there. Drinking wine which is good and cheap, eating cheese and charcuterie, going to Japanese – Corean – Italian – French restaurants for half the price that in Finland….

I guess, like my Spanish friend once said, I’ll always have a kind of identity-crisis, as I will always be between Finland and France and never able to be in the both countries at the same time.

A language hodgepodge in Ivalo

Just using the word “hodgepodge ” can maybe tell you how confused I am with languages at the moment. I have never used that word before, and to be totally honest I just checked in the dictionary what word could be used in English for the Finnish word “sekamelska” :D.

When I was working in France I used French as my daily language at work, at school, at home… And when I was speaking Finnish with my friends or family every few months, I felt speaking it strangely and I was looking for words. And I used English only occasionally at work or with some foreign friends. Actually it was only in Brazil last spring that I started to use English daily, in all circumstances… And when I came to Finland and met new foreigners living here, I kept on speaking English, and Finnish.

Now, I work in Ivalo, in a tiny village in very northern Finland, where we could imagine people speak only Finnish! Well,yes, I use Finnish at work with my Finnish workmates, but also English with a Spanish colleague and some clients and French with my flatmates and clients…!  I speak those three languages so much during the day that sometimes I don’t know which one to use with who… I’m so used to talk in French with the clients that sometimes I don’t realize I’m talking in French for some Finnish or Dutch clients! Only when I see them looking at me very strangely I realize I choose the wrong language…. Or sometimes I say “pardon” for my Finnish colleagues instead of “anteeksi”.

Well, these are very little accidents and mistakes which doesn’t bother anybody else than me… I think so.

Sometimes not having only one common language with workmates can be a little complicated, as we have noticed with my Spanish work-mate. She doesn’t speak and understand a lot of Finnish so she misses some details and information constantly during her work days. I can understand that’s very frustrating so I try to translate her us much as possible during the day… Which make me to mix the languages even more!

I have noticed my French is being worst that it was when I was living in France. Now when I talk in French, sometimes I hear my accent very strongly and many times I’m looking for words that I used to use all the time! I also realize I do much more mistakes, especially on genders! Okay, my friends in France would probably say that I already did those feminine and masculine mistakes constantly…. (a very common mistake for Finnish people, as in Finnish language we don’t have genders). It’s frustrating. But it’s alright, I still do speak French as my second language and I have nice clients saying that I have no accent when I speak French (lovely French people always being so polite;-))!

Yesterday I was in Helsinki for an English test which I had to pass because I’m applying for an international master program next year….One of the eligibility criteria is to be able to prove my English level. So, I passed the exam at Pte Pearson Academy, and went from Ivalo to Helsinki only for that.

I have to say I was stressed because I hadn’t prepared for that test almost at all. I was actually thinking “it’s okay, I know enough English and it’s only to check my level” but at the same time being mixing all languages so much last months made me very uncomfortable about the test. And after the 3 hours I spent in the exam I didn’t know at all how to feel… If it went okay or not.

So it was a big relief to get an email today with my score which was even 2 points more than needed for the university! At least using 3 languages every day haven’t affected me too negatively ;-).


Christmas traditions…. Or not.

As everybody else, I have to share some Christmas thoughts too…

I could try to compare differences between Finnish and French Christmas habits, like the depressive Finnish Christmas songs and the horrible French Santa-Claus decorations (or maybe they are american first…?), but I am terrible on Christmas traditions!


I have a lot of friends for who Christmas is Holy. They have always celebrated it with their families, at home, without strangers (sometimes not even boy- or girlfriends), and for them is hard to imagine spending Christmas somewhere else.

We used to celebrate Christmas with my family when we were children with my sister, but even then, the ‘traditions’ changed often; Sometimes we were in France with our French grand parents and cousins (sometimes it was only me and my sister, sometimes our parents came with us) , sometimes we were in Finland with our parents or our Finnish Grandma and cousins… When we started to have boyfriends they came at home for Christmas or I went to their families.

And then I moved to Paris.

On some Christmas I was working and celebrating it with my colleagues in work, once my mom and sister came from Finland…

Then my sister moved to Paris too. Once I went to Finland and spent the Christmas eve with my mom and grand mom.

Then for several years we were having a “friends-Christmas” with all those friends who didn’t really have holidays and were stuck in Paris without their families. I liked that idea a lot, because everybody was bringing food and drinks, we were mixing Finnish, French and Caribbean Christmas habits and having good time together.


Last year for the starters we had creole ‘blood sausages’ (boudin créol) and ham, foie gras, grav-lax, roe….   

But one tradition I was always missing from Finland was the Christmas Sauna. When we used to celebrate Christmas at home we always went to the sauna the whole family together and put only lanterns and candles there.  In Paris I could do Grav-lax, Christmas cookies, even have glögi each year if I wanted… But I couldn’t have the sauna.

This year I’m in Ivalo, and I have Santa Claus as neighbor, snow and all real Christmas feelings! And I have to say that for the first time in years I don’t feel any stress about Christmas and I’m happy to spend it here, in work, with clients who are as amazed about the place that I am.   I realize now, that I’m in the tiny Ivalo-city, that the most stressing thing in Paris was all that commercial thing around Christmas. Everybody, all adds, tv, radio, clients in work….Were talking about the food for Xmas, about presents and shopping… And this year I don’t need to give present for  no-one! What a happiness! 😉 Don’t get me wrong. Of course I like to give presents and make people happy, but I prefer to do that when I don’t feel that I NEED to do it.

Anyway, of course Paris was beautiful also, with all lights and decorations. But now, in Ivalo everything feels different. Snow makes a lot. And the Finnish way to put real candles and lanterns in stead of screaming green and blue Christmas lights… Also Finnish decorations are much more sober and natural.


Champs Elysées in 2011

Okay, I have maybe one thing that I’m going to miss from France for Christamas. Foie Gras. I just can’t nothing on the fact that how ever the way to do it, is disgusting, I love to eat it once a year!



Christmas table in Hotel Ivalo

I think next time I will feel the real Christmas magic and the happiness of giving presents, will be with some future children… After all, for me Christmas is especially a party for children and families.

But I hope you all will have a merry Christmas without stress and enjoy the people around you, whether they are family, colleagues, friends, clients, neighbors….. ❤

Heading to Ivalo, but my heart is in Paris

The last week-end was suppose to be happy. It was my last week-end at home in many months and I was suppose to enjoy the time with my friends and family, and be happy.

And I did, I went to Helsinki Friday and spent the evening with my very dear friend… Talking a lot, drinking some wine and eating good cheeses… Around midnight we decided to go to sleep. She was already in her room and I was checking my Facebook quickly before going to sleep.  I saw a status of a friend who talked about 60 people dead in Paris. I immediately remembered last January and Charlie Hebdo attacks, I was still in Paris on that time. I started to scroll more my Facebook, and had a terrible feeling growing inside… Then I saw all the other statuses and articles about the attacks in Paris.

But the news were very confusing, unclear. It was difficult to understand what was happening exactly… More I read, more I felt bad. I started to send messages to my friends in  Paris. I got answers that everybody were alright… I decided to go to sleep and check the news better next day. I still wasn’t sure what was exactly happening, but understood that it was very serious.

When I woke up at 9  am Saturday morning I saw immediately that the amount of dead had grow from 60 to 120! I started reading news again, this time I couldn’t avoid tears coming from my eyes…

And that’s how I spent the whole week-end. I was with my friends in Helsinki and Tampere, but my heart was in Paris the whole time. Each time I saw the news or went to Facebook I wanted to cry again, my heart was tightened and I had all the time growing head-ache. I was talking with my friends in Paris and was relieved to hear that everybody were okay. But when I heard that one friend had loose someone, or that others were suppose to be exactly on the critical area Friday-night, but because the boyfriend was going to work  early next morning, they stayed at home… I realized how close it was. I was lucky. My friends have been lucky. But it could have been anyone. ANYONE.

And I can just imagine the relief that my parents and grandmother were feeling, because me in my sister are both in Finland at the moment. We could have been there too.

I was surprised to get messages from very old friends, with who I haven’t been in contact for years, and who didn’t know that I was in Finland… They wanted to know if I was okay, and if my sister and my friends were okay too. That touched me very very much.

And I was also waiting messages from other friends from who I got anything, in Brazil for example. But then I thought, Brazil is far. People who have never been in Paris, or in Europe, don’t feel the events in the same way. It doesn’t touch people who don’t know anything about the place…. That’s also why I think it’s totally normal that in Europe everybody are so chocked about what happened in Paris, but not about what happened in Beirut just before. Of course it’s as horrible, when it happens somewhere else, and every life is as important, and every death as sad. But it’s normal to grieve more something that we knew. That’s why I understand that my Brazilian friends haven’t asked me anything about Paris.

I’ve been missing Paris a lot last days. I’ve been feeling culpability and sadness to not being there. Even I know the ambiance is probably so horrible that it’s better to not be there. I’ve felt that I should have been there with my friends, the people with who I share the love for that city. Luckily I have my sister here, with who we’ve been talking and sharing the same feeling.

So that was my last week-end at home, before heading to Lapland. Now, I’m at the airport in Helsinki. My heart is still in Paris and I don’t really realize that I’m going to the north, even further from France and the city I used to live… Which is probably not the same anymore.




Cultural differences in Public Pools

I’ve decided to put my personal life and experiences aside for a while, and concentrate on the cultural differences a little more. This, because yesterday I went to a public swimming pool for the first time since I’m back in Finland, and I was surprised and amused about many things.

I used to go swimming in Finland about 10 years ago, when I was still in high school and it was part of the mandatory sport-classes… And last years in Paris, I used to go swimming with a friend, in public French pools.

I remember the first time I went to a swimming pool in Paris, I was almost shocked when I realized that the showers were common for men and women, and that’s why people were showering with the swimming suites. I think, each time we went to different pools with my friend, I was always complaining about that, because I felt very uncomfortable to wash myself with the swimming suite. And the most funny thing was, that sometimes even the showers were not mixed, women were still not showering naked! Of course there was always a few private cabins for those who wanted to shower naked and with some privacy, but they were not very used…

And yesterday in the Finnish public pool, in  Tampere, I was sitting in one of the four saunas (yes! There is not only one sauna next to the showers, but four!), and watching true the glass door all the naked women. There were old ladies, little children, middle-aged women, students, Finnish and few foreigners, all naked with their different bodies, showering, going in and out from saunas and behaving completely normally without wearing their swimming suites, or towels…

Maybe I need to mention that in Finland they are very keen on some hygienic facts, and it’s not allowed to go to the water if you haven’t washed yourself first, without a swimming suite, and also it’s not allowed to go the sauna with the swimming suite. So that’s why also people are used to go around naked… 😉


Wash yourself before going to the pool”

And I was trying to imagine this same behavior in French pools, but I couldn’t. French people are so prudish with some things. And I have to say that I became much more like that too when I was living there! Now, in Finland, I’ve learned again the Finnish sauna-culture and the fact that it’s totally fine to be naked in front of other people, because it’s part of the thing.

One year ago when I was in Finland for holidays, we were in a summer-house with a lot of friends, and I just couldn’t go naked to the sauna, because it was mixed, men and women together… And I hadn’t done that in years!

Of course often it depends on the context, and people don’t go ALWAYS naked, in public saunas for example, with completely random people. Anyway, now that I’ve got used to that I still pay attention how people behave naturally on those situations…

Back to public swimming-pools!

Another thing which I thought was new and interesting for me, was that everything was super clean and automatic! When we got there, we payed directly with our bus-card (public transportation pass) and took a wristband in a basket, which we showed to the same machine than the bus-cards, so that the bracelet was connected directly. And this automatic bracelet also worked as a key for the lockers, I wish I would have taken pictures about that! It was so futuristic :-D! Also the showers worked with automatic detection…. Like those paper-towel-machines in some public toilets, where you just swing your hand to get some paper.

I was very thrilled with all these details! 😀

One thing, which is odd, is that in France it’s mandatory in all public pools, to wear a swimming-hat, and in Finland it’s not.

Caution! Wearing a swimming hat is mandatory”

And I also noticed that it was very nice to swim, because even that we were there after 5 pm, so in the worst peak-time, there wasn’t any rush on the lines, like in Paris. Sometimes in Paris, it was frustrating to swim, when we were all the time pushed from somewhere. In Finland the whole system is much more organised, and people  follows all the rules… One moment there was even an announcement reminding people to not swim side by side, but in the row!

I also noticed that, like usually in Finland, people were here for really practice the sport. No-one was gossiping or chating at the border, like we used to do in Paris…. 😉