I have grown up around the world, so wherever I am, a very common question is where I come from. And that’s so hard to tell! My passport says I’m Finnish. If you count the numbers, I have spent over 60% of my life in Germany and less than 15% in other countries. If you go by language, I speak, read and watch English the most. So where do I come from?
I was born in Finland, but haven’t lived here much. I lived in Germany, China and Poland instead. Yet, my parents did a good job at teaching me the Finnish culture so well that I identify myself with everything Finnish very strongly. Funny enough I guess that in some ways I’m even more Finnish than most Finns are. For me it’s so important that my family lives all the traditions. On Midsummer we have a fire and I believe in Midsummer magic (such s collecting seven different flowers and putting them underneath your pillow in order to dream about your future husband – I actually saw mine once!). On Christmas I bake christmas stars and christmas bread, we have the typical rice pudding with a magic almond in the mornings, watch the Finnish Santa Clause on TV, go to the sauna and visit a cemetery, eat the traditional Finnish christmas food, sing before opening presents and much more. I have all Moomin mugs. I eat oatmeal and rye bread almost daily. I collect berries and mushrooms in the forests every autumn. I go ice-swimming and ice-skating every winter. A summer without at least a week at our lake house isn’t a summer for me. These are things I did during holidays in Finland as a child and I keep living them. So I am a proper Finn, right?
But when I was in London this summer, and it was the first day of my summer school, we had to introduce ourselves. There were young people from all around the world, Italy, Saudi Arabia and many more. When it was my turn, I said I was Lottie from Finland. Then the girl next to me introduced herself as Jana from Germany. Hearing that, I turned around straight away and grinned at her. I got so excited, because she came from my country and I was sure we would make friends! Or what? Oops! There you have an example of the confusion.
Also especially now that I’m in Finland, I really don’t feel that Finnish. I am just so different from the other girls here. Different life story, different hobbies, different attitude towards a lot of things. And I’m more outgoing I guess. Also do I have to think twice before answering a teacher’s question, first what the correct answer is and then how to put it correctly in Finnish. So even though I introduce myself as Lottie from Finland, that’s not exactly who I am.
What else about languages? We speak Finnish at home, thanks to mum and dad. I have even taken Finnish A-level exams (a year after my German ones, I know I’m crazy!) and scored full points in every subject. Yet, my English and German are much stronger. I love to read and watch everything in its original language, which is usually English, but still after going to school in German for 12 years, that’s my easiest and strongest language. It would for example be much harder to discuss work-related matters in Finnish for me, than in German. But then again when I sleep next to my sister and then talk in my sleep, she tells me it’s always in Finnish, which proves that that’s the language which I think in. So. Confusing.
I guess one word doesn’t answer the question. One word doesn’t describe my identity. I’m Finnish, but with very many influences from very many different countries. I’m a third culture kid (I explained that term here). But want to know what’s best about it? I can take all the positive influences from all ‘my’ countries. Celebrate Midsummer and Oktoberfest (and Chinese New Year of course). I can listen to German music, paint Chinese calligraphy and read an English book. And I can fit into very many very different groups of people. I can’t answer where I come from, but maybe that isn’t a weakness. Maybe it’s a strength.