By Tram via UN Volunteers
I am Tram from Vietnam. I got a chance to study Bachelor Degree Business Administration in Finland, the best coutry in education. I have lived here around three years and a half so there have been many many great experience, challenges that I did not get when living in Vietnam. I would like to share my story about language and culture barrier.
When we grow up in our country, we are affected by behaviors, thoughts, lifestyle from our surroundings. More growing up, we are eager to learn from other countries, how their life is, what makes them different from us…
As a Vietnamese student studying in Finland, I found it was quite difficult to adapt to a new life from the beginning, my head was empty when I came to Finland. At school, I attended a course introducing about Finnish customs and culture.
To me, the course was not enough. I needed more real experience and read more culture books. I wondered why Finnish females apply a lot of make up, why Finnish males are so muscular. The answers are they respect their body and want to be healthy.
Our body will not fucntion well forever but exercise helps us to be younger, avoid despression, sickness, be active…
In Vietnam, I only wore normal, boring clothes at home and at school and did not take care much about my body. Finland lets me know that I am a young woman, I need to pay attention to my appearance which says about me.
With a slim budget, we can buy stuffs from secondhand shops, even we can get a totally new one with a low price simply because the stuff is unnecessary from selllers.
Besides, sitting too much in front of the laptop makes me gain weight, move slowly, feel tired and I do not want additional fat.
To deal with this, I change my lifestyle by attending public events to improve my Finnish skills, do some excersice, read more books… I also pay attention on my diet by avoiding sugar and fat. I have eaten more fruits and vegetable. After a week, I feel healthy, positive and energetic.
It is commonly said that the Finns are very quiet in the public, at home… and respect the personal space. They do not communicate as much as Vietnamese people.
Disturbing strangers, their neighbors, the mutual area, making noise is not their style. It is normal in Vietnam that you can look everyone, everywhere on the street. In Finland, when walking on the street, you just look straight or look down the street. It is impolite that you look the Finns and the Finns realizes that you looked at them. This situation is called the private space. They do not want to disturb others.
I have learned that they are highly independent meaning that they try their best to deal with problems, limit in asking for helps and do individually. Being independent makes you creative, strong and learn from yourselves. You may think that why the Finns are so distant and cold with every body. However, once you understand the Finns and gradually adapt to Finnish culture, you will learn a lot from them and everything will become very awesome. Individual efforts make you more confident, dare to face with problem and you find solutions to control your own life.
In Vietnam, we have only two seasons: the rainy season and the dry season. However, there are four clear seasons in Finland requiring you to wear clothes seasonally. Finland begins the year with winter which is very long, beautiful, strong season.
In this time, we need to keep warm enough to avoid consequences in the long term, drink vitamin D for the sake of your bones and practice exercises. There are many interesting sports you only play in the winter, for example Nordic walking, downhill skiing, skating,…
When the spring comes meaning your life is changes since the ice and snow melts, you will see more sun lights, singing birds, small red buds… The life becomes flourished. I sometimes miss the sunny days in Vietnam as they are hot and energetic. Most of people like the summer as it is the hottest time in the year.
They will enjoy the nature, for example going swimming, going to the forest, attending musical events,… In summer, winter clothes should not in your wardrobe but summer clothes. Autumn is attractive by its yellow, red or even golden leaves. How you can control your heart when seeing many beautiful yellow trees.
The next aspect I emphasize is language. I faced with many difficultes because of language. I could not attend events in Finnish language, except music event J. It was hard to find a part time job and a full time job relating to my Business study with my limited Finnish skill.
I could not say that Finnish is difficult as we are all different and have specific points. The Finns prefer speaking Finnish rather than English with foreigners, they have high ethnic pride. Finnish and Swedish are main languages in Finland.
There are around 5% people speaking Swedish. Besides, there is Sámi ethical language. There are no gender, no position in Finnish but there around sixteen suffixes having differet meaning. It is a Finnish say that ‘Practice makes perfect’. It is very correct in studying Finnish and in generally, you should practice many times otherwise you will forget them quickly. You will be surprised when the information on the food pack are Finnish and Swedish.
There are more people speaking English in the capital Helsinki, you may find it easier to live here because of the crowd, language, jobs and many interesting things. Understanding Finnish language makes you more comfortable to live here as you can communicate with the locals, understand what is going on surrounding you, especially the culture, the Finns…
My life was not easy when I did not understand Finnish, there are news on TV, job advertisements, notices… in Finnish mainly. There are also programs, events aiming at the Finns so I missed chances to learn new things. Everyday, you just try a little bit until a certain time you understand that your Finnish skills are developed and do not forget to practice regularly.
Living in a foreign country will force you to develop yourself, to adapt to a new environment and have an opened mind. I try to work, save money for traveling.