Living between two cultures, what does it feel like?
I have not written much about this subject, but now that we have just returned home after spending a month in my home country, I want to share my thoughts about what it is like to live between two cultures, between France and Finland.
In a way I feel like I’m having an affair with my home country. Secretly I start to miss it every three months. In fact, according to my husband, I want to go to Finland every different season. Before Christmas I start to talk about a little autumn break in the north, then of course for Christmas we have to go to my hometown and experience the real winter. And then it is too long to wait for the summer to come. Again I start to ask: Can we go for a quick spring break? And then there is the Finnish summer – nightless nights, all that light and greenness – where else you can experience that than in a Nordic country?
Concretely, living between two cultures feels like this (or this is how I felt last week when we returned to Paris after spending a long period in Finland):
Firstly, our home felt strange and familiar at the same time. I kept opening drawers to find the scissors. The doors seemed to open in the wrong direction. And when I’m tired I start to mix Finnish and French. At the supermarket I said to the cashier “thanks” in Finnish. Merci, I tried to correct, embarrassed.
In the morning I secretly miss Finnish filter coffee “Kulta Katriina”, even when I have that perfect cappuccino in front of me.
Then there is always the moment when you feel lost because the routines that you kept in the other country, don’t work in the other. For example, in Finland I used to go for a walk with my daughter before the lunch hour. And afterwards she slept a couple of hours outside in pram. That does not work here! When we try to go step outside it starts to rain and she is not content. Besides, those daily walks are not so relaxing when the streets in Paris are too narrow even for a small pram. I return home and say to my husband: In Finland there are big snowflakes coming down – how lovely is that?!
The first week back is always difficult, and not only for myself, but for my husband, who has to listen to my complaining. And it’s the other way around when we go to Finland. I am sure this typical for bicultural couples. The grass is always greener on the other side, right?
Then a week goes by and then comes another one, and the everyday life gets you, and you just do what you have to do. The noise of scooters going by, the French language, your favorite bread at the local boulangerie and that Parisian life start to seem normal to you again.
And when life gets too hard, there are always those other Finns that live just around the corner, and they know precisely how you feel – the good and the bad.