The Immigrant’s Tales

I have written for a while under a tag “expat” – but the more I was writing, the more I understood that this doesn’t apply to me. There is a taste to the word “expat”, sweet and free, that is unfamiliar to my palate. I am more an immigrant and less an expat in Norway. Somewhere I have read a discussion of the differences between immigrants and expats, and since then this thought hasn’t left me. How would I explain that difference? In my post “Thriving in Norway” I made a try of explaining – and I feel that I have so much more to say about feelings of an immigrant. And how they differ from other kinds of foreigners.

We, foreigners in Norway, often view ourselves as a big group as opposed to the group of native Norwegians. But we tend to forget that this big group is not homogenous, and as we experience difficulties understanding the locals – we may also face difficulties understanding other foreigners with whom we identify us. I get a skin-close experience of it since I live together with another foreigner – and sometimes it feels like we have lived in two different countries, though we have lived in the same city in the same country of Norway for the past 11 years (20 in his case). Let me explore the differences.

1. For fun or for life

As I have mentioned already here on the blog, the difference between an expat and an immigrant is captured in this joke: “Why does the dog never catch the hare? – Because the dog runs for fun, and the hare runs for his life”. I know many expats from nice countries like USA, Great Britain, Spain. They seem more confident and relaxed. I may imagine that they could say: “Oh, you, Eastern Europeans, are so negative and complain a lot”. And before I used to feel ashamed. Yes, we do. We are more negative. But today I feel like: wait a second, but maybe, we have our reasons to that too! I don’t say that complaining is good, I actually came to see that it is quite ineffective – but didn’t it occur to you that those complaining Eastern Europeans come from a totally different reality, where the life was way tougher and harder, and they learnt to see the negative first?

As one article in Norwegian paper said: “those from the Sough come here running from the war, those from the East come here to work, while those from the West come here because of love”. This is a funny but true description of reasons for moving to Norway. While Somalians come as asylum seekers, and the Poles and Latvians come for work – you will not meet many Americans or Western Europeans coming here for one of those reasons. The most of them came because of the Norwegian boyfriend/girlfriend/husband or wife. I know only one who came because of work and prefers Norwegian socialism to his native USA system. But hello, one!

So yes, you, lovely Western people, may shake your heads and say: “Eastern Europeans are so grumpy!” But the thing is: you haven’t gone through their experience. You didn’t feel the desperation in your own country because you have slim chances to lead a respectable good life because your society is in chaos and those few with money win while the rest lives under the jungle law. You didn’t go through the visa process to get to Norway, and here you, maybe, didn’t have to show up at the immigration office (every year!) with a load of papers, impressive fee and a good reason to stay here. “I just like it here” is not a good enough reason. Not when you come from Ukraine, for example. For a Ukrainian you must be either a student, to be married or to work as a qualified specialist in order to get granted a permission to stay. Working in a café won’t do. Living together with boyfriend (if not already for two years and registered) won’t do. So yes, there is more desperation in our emotional lives, and sorry that we get so negative and don’t fly like butterflies.

I know that desperation by the name. In my last year of doing master studies I suddenly realized with horror that the master in sociology will not help me with finding a job quickly here. In this field it is more important who you know than what you know. And I would not have much time to look for a job after studies, because I need a new visa right away when I am done. So I set my master studies on pause and worked in two jobs, working on my substitute teacher experience and applying for the teacher jobs. I could work either in the sociology field or teaching as this was my education since I could be granted work visa only on the basis of job complying with my education. When I started working at school on the temporary one-year contract, every spring I would go through a great stress looking for a new position. Every spring I would send half a hundred applications, while working as a new teacher (which is a stress in itself), losing my sleep and getting more desperate as the time of my visa expiring was getting closer. Sometimes I would get a new offer just some weeks before the date. Imagine that emotional swinging and burnout! But then I didn’t know such words, so I just kept on pushing. So yes, I’d love to say: “In the end everything worked out fine” and swish off on my skis or a little boat, but I remember too well how many nerves that costed me when the countdown ticked and I was considering my options (travelling back to Ukraine, applying from there, making my boyfriend marry me for the papers). I was running for life. And it is possible that those running for fun would never understand me.

2. Freedom

Expats and immigrants have different share of experienced freedom. And I say “experienced” because in the situations when both seem to have the same opportunities, they may experience different level of freedom. That is closely connected to the point number one: are you running for fun or for your life? In my opinion, an expat may better negotiate his position and not take any offer because he has more options. In the end, he can always say: “F*k that, I am moving back to my country”. An immigrant usually has burned the bridges. Either because of the situation in his home country, or because of his decision to never come back whatever that may cost. And that puts you in a worse position. You are pressed by your decision on one side – and the legal requirements on the other. You are more willing to accept any offer, no matter how bad, because you don’t feel you really have an option. And, maybe, you really have them. But you cannot open your eyes and see them because you are stressed from inside out, you don’t have experience of freedom, so you bite your teeth together and head on.

If you have ever taken decision from a stressed state you know how different the outcome may be from the one taken when you were relaxed. Everything seems clearer when you are not desperate but at ease. Consider yourself lucky if you didn’t have to make your major life choices from the state of desperation. Not everyone is granted this privilege. Not even every person in your well-off country. And if you were so lucky, it may be not your achievement in some cases. It may be the security that your citizenship gives you. Which others don’t share. They are not worse than you. They just happen to come from more unsecure places.

3. Getting classified

I experience it every time when my Catalan man and I meet someone for the first time. “Oh, you come from Barcelona?” and the taste memory of sangria goes on in their heads – together with the pictures of the sandy beaches and all-night fiestas. “And where do you come?” – From Ukraine. – “Oh…” the pause. The mind is searching. Then usually the subject of the war comes up, especially in the last years. Before it was even less imagination. You know, I appreciate your reading the news, but I don’t want to talk about the war. Especially after it happened in my own city and thinking about it hurts, just a little bit, but still hurts.

You may be a foreigner in Norway and you never experienced that. Well, happy you. But I must inform you: there is a ranking of nationalities, also in this democratic society. On top you have USA, Australia and the Western European countries, on the second place the Eastern Europe goes, and after it goes the rest: Asia, Middle East and Africa. Sorry, but this is how it is. I know a black guy working as a top engineer (coming from an island of former French colonies), he complains that everyone assumes he works with cleaning. This is the story that the white person doesn’t experience, so how can you understand his feelings? So you think that everyone is equal – but the world is ranked and divided, and some get to feel it on their skin. While others not. And when those others talk loudly, it may make the whole experience look like your own hyper imagination. You start questioning yourself: did it really happen to me? Or am I making things up?

I remember when I was asked by my colleague: “Marina, do you notice that people change when they hear your accent? Many of them become ruder”. No, I said. I thought, those were just idiots – by nature. It was my third year living in Norway and I worked in a bakery in the rich part of Oslo, where well-established families and older people lived. They could be arrogant – but I never took it personal. I thought, that was the way they were. But my friend could tell the difference. Sometimes you don’t even notice when they treat you badly. Sometimes you do.

To see an easy example of ranking foreigners, ask yourself: how do you react at the sight of loud Spaniards or Italians? And at the sight of loud Somalians? Differently, no? When Spaniards make noise, people think: “Oh, they have so much temperament, it is so sweet”. However, with Somalians it is more like: “Those are just uncivilized folks!” The same phenomenon – the different reaction.

Another tale, a real story, comes from a café in Oslo that is run by an Eastern European girl who didn’t like to talk her language in front of customers. Once her employer, an Australian girl asked why it is so. Well, you know, the answer was, it is not so cool to be from that part of the world. The Australian was surprised – and decided to make a little experiment. During two weeks she was answering customers that she was Polish. After one week she said: “I don’t want to be Polish any more. It doesn’t feel nice!”

My another friend complained to me recently that she still feels inferior about her background, and in a bad discussion her husband can throw in a phrase like “Oh, this Eastern European bullshit again!” In the sociology there is a notion of “symbolic violence” (introduced by Pierre Bourdieu) which describes a process when the ruling group sets up definitions that the subdued group accepts. Like when Westerners define Easterners like uncivilized people – and Easterners start viewing themselves in the same way.

It is good to be proud of where you come from. But does it make you superior? The Western countries used to look down on others. But why? Because Americans built their fortune on slavery (once) and sweatshops (now)? Because European countries became rich exploiting their colonies? Germans were good at building up their own country after the war – but they got Marshall plan, while the Soviet Union, which had lost 20 million people in the war (20 million! It is like 4 Norways), had to build the country with no other resources than its own ladies, because the men were dead or injured, many of them. So, while feminists of Europe were fighting for equal rights and the right to work outside of home, the Soviet women were laying railroads, building up cities and harvesting the fields.

Norwegians believe they live in the best country of the world – but what did they did to make it so? In a way, they were lucky that the Americans started searching for the oil at their shores and found it. And they were good at equal redistribution of the profits – but again, theirs is a tiny country of 5 million with a strong democratic tradition. But does it make every Norwegian objectively better than any Russian and Ukrainian? Is it our lack of effort, is it our fault that we were born into the country that went through the collapse and has been chaotic through many years because it takes time to build the stability, especially in such big countries (one of them is the biggest country in the world)? Is it our personal failure? Is it your personal achievement?

To sum it up. I’ve been through many different phases here in Norway, I rose up from misery to hope, from despair to seeing possibilities, from unhappiness to happiness. And I even adopted this view on Eastern Europeans: we complain too much, we are too negative, we are pessimistic, we are passive-aggressive. But now I came to stand in the middle of my story – and you know what? I am tired of being sorry. Sorry for expecting the worst. Sorry for having so many bitter memories. I am tired of being sorry. Yes, I can be passive-aggressive too. Because I have so many oppressed emotions, of anger, depression and despair, that you, dear expat friends, maybe never had to experience in this country.

In the end, everyone has to fight his own battle and run his own race. But don’t pretend that we all start on the same line. Some people start ten steps ahead – just because they come from better families or better countries. Some go to that battle with weapons, while others – with their bare fists.  And in the end, it is all up to every individual and his effort (at least, the American dream tells us so). Yes, all of us have to tend to our gardens and work for our own success. But some start off with the nice set of tools – while others have nothing except their two hands. So if you felt like working in this garden (building your life as an expat) was no so depressive – congratulations, good for you! But don’t you dare look down on those who still have to toil with their fingers in the dirt. They are not worse than you, neither less smart or less talented.

Dear fellow immigrants, it is time to own our stories. To stand strong in our own truth. To define by ourselves who we are and what we are worthy.

What do you think or feel about it? Is this tale too biased, too personal, too emotional? Let me know if you agree or not, anyway!

53 thoughts on “The Immigrant’s Tales

  1. So interesting, Marina, and well written. You drive your point through well, I get what you mean. I think you’re right and this obviously isn’t something most people ever think of, if they haven’t been the underdog themself. Has Norway ever been to war, by the way? (Or civil war?)
    I can’t remember.
    There are so many things I wanted to comment on, but again I’m reading with my phone’s app which won’t let me see the text while I write so I can’t remember what I wanted to say.
    One thing that comes to mind: the foreign population is diverse, as you say. But what about the natives? I’m just thinking of what u said in my context and I would be in your native group over here, but even I have my issues and problems. Also, just being a Nordic native doesn’t mean you are born with a silver spoon, there are well off families and working class families. I’ve never been given anything without having to work for it (except yes a free uni education, but then I never got a job in that field) and my family knows no one important. Nepotism rules here in Finland and when I was younger I had a hard time finding work without any social connections. So should I be sorry if an immigrant thinks I think I am better, though I don’t? 😊 I’m not talking of you here, sweetie, just un general. For example, like you say, the foreigners hang out together and don’t mingle with the locals. But why not? I’d love to know the foreigners here. But where can I meet them??? There’s a huge gap between us, but why?
    Sorry if this comment makes no sense! 😂 Anyway, excellent post and thoughts worth sharing with the rest of us! I do believe you are right!

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    • Thank you for reading and thinking with me, Snow! There are many things to say, and I know how heated the debate on immigration can be. I am just a beginner of sharing my story, so I can admit that my writing can be too black-and-white, but I have to go that way to get more clarity. And so far – lots of emotions and some bad conclusions, haha.

      I totally agree with you that though Nordic countries seem to be champions at conquering the class inequality, still the class divisions exist and not every local is given the same opportunity. Though they love to repeat that yes, everyone has. But no, as you say, not the case. Thank you for sharing your story! It is the same here. If you studied smth special like bookkeeping or IT, even as a foreigner you had no problem at finding work. While studying in the field that is diffuse (like my sociology) puts in a weak position. You have either to have special talent and nerve, or have right connections. Network is everything in this country, too.
      So it is not locals vs. foreigners. It is also about ability to differentiate. Cuz some Ukrainians would go “What are you talking about? I had no problem here”. well, good for you. But is it like a universal truth? Same for the locals. Some had to fight more fights. And you know, we, globetrotters, could be the same tribe, no matter where. I am closer to you than to 100% Norwegian or 100% Ukrainian. Cuz I am not 100% anymore 🙂

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      • Well said, the last sentence. I’ve never been Finnish in my heart. Not 100% or even 10%. I’m surprised every time I notice something typically Finnish about myself, like the fact that I don’t mind silence (but I could never live in the countryside, I need a city – or beach!). Then I think, oh yes, it IS in my genes, after all!

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      • Haha, really? You have Finnishness in your genes? 🙂 Lovely remark.
        I would also add that genes are one thing, and the second is that we humans adapt and kind of change our code (if we want to survive and thrive). So I find more Norwegian traits in me too, I like silence and space around me. And I ask: did I become so here – or did I come here because of that? And more, we who have lived here and there would easier understand an expat from USA or Brazil than a true local from our country. I feel I have more in common with you than with some of my fellow Ukrainians now.

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      • Same here, Marina! I feel like I have more in common with you than my fellow Finns. I’ve always felt that though. People who have lived in different places are my kind of people. It changes you and gives you so much insight. Even if just expatting! You see things differently and it’s sometimes impossible to explain to someone who has only lived in their home country.

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      • Totally my thoughts! You are never the same after having lived abroad. That goes for people from my own country, Norwegians, and yes, any foreigners – it is much easier to find common ground with them than with some “true locals”, hehe.

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      • Oh, and back in the day, I knew many Swedish-speaking Finns who went to Norway to work, often summer jobs. They all said they went there because you could make so much more money than in Finland. The price levels are so different, though Finland is expensive, too. Actually, Norway is the most expensive place I’ve ever been to. Not Tokyo or London – in those places there are always options, ranging from low prices and matching quality to expensive luxury. But in Oslo, there’s only expensive.

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      • Some years ago there were so many Swedes working here. Like waiters were all Swedish speaking. Now the Swedish krone is stronger, and maybe, the youth unemployement went down, so Swedes are gone. Before it was a phenomenon: young Swedes working hard, living like 5 people in a room, saving money – and then going for a year to Australia with the saved money :)))
        Oslo is expensive. We are so used to it. We only notice when we travel – and then come back. Everything seems impossible. But when you live, you adapt 🙂 And again, in the world’s richest country we don’t live a richman’s life. I talked once to a Russian wife of a rich man and she said: “how can people afford taxi here? It is so expensive”. Well, you don’t take taxi here like in Moscow, every day. You take it once a year: after a Saturday’s party or New year party, and even then you try to take a bus, haha. The salaries are high, but you don’t go all luxury. You go to Spain and then you take taxi and eat in a restaurant every day, yes. But here it is lunch box, knekkebrød and a modest living :)))

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      • Yeah, this is luxury ala Nordics 🙂 Modest living in a tree house (or tiny flat in the city centre) and biking through the snow, haha. Sorry, but not everyone has his inside Amundsen :)))

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  2. Oh, have to add that (as we’ve chatted before), I do believe that locals here treat foreigners differently depending on if they are from a “cool country” or not. For example Latin American is very cool but for some reason Turkish isn’t. Anglosaxons are of course popular and a French accent could melt hearts. Whereas a Russian accent would not. Well, as for Russians, the older generations are a bit biased because the war is still alive in their memories: this little country of only 5 million (like Norway) had to send its young boys to war. Still rosy-cheeked and innocent, they walked straight into their deaths to fight the big bad wolf. The country was rebuilt by women and it was poor for a long time. Food was scarce, and so on.
    So, I’m wondering if I’m the same. Do I judge foreigners by their country? I sincerely hope I don’t. But to be honest, male refugees from war zones scare me a bit, when they lurk in large gangs at the railway station. I don’t know what their normal is, how traumatized are they. Should they be getting psychiatric help before wandering around in public? I don’t know. Has anyone thought of these things? How are they adapting? Will they ever pay taxes or do I need to pay for their entire life in my taxes? I just wish that the foreigners here would try to blend in and become a part of society. Learn the language. Befriend locals. Tell their stories. Interact with us. Have we made it easy for them to do that? Probably not. I’m wishing for utopia. With just peace and love, no crime or discrimination…

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    • To be honest, I do the categorizing too. We all do that. I don’t say “hey, stop thinking in stereotypes, peace and love”. No, we are humans. We think in categories, bc it is easier. But then again, I have to share this story – and I want to hear more stories, from more people, from different backgrounds. Otherwise our worldview is too homogenous, a story told by the Western and white. No?
      So, of course, I don’t say, go embrace a refugee on your street. Norway has the same problem: they admitted many refugees, and in this little city they make a huge proportion, making the local population afraid of losing their culture. And understand the locals too, theirs is the tiny culture. I don’t think, Norway is good at integrating the newcomers like them well, not yet. That gives the uprise to the new nationalism. I can understand the locals, but I also must note that if they want to profit from the global movements of people, they cannot pick only the best, leaving the worst behind. If you open the country for human migrations, you must count with that side too. Europe needs more people in future, it doesn’t produce enough of its own babies. And then it would be unfair to brain-drain the Eastern countries, leaving all the humans with problems behind, no?
      But what do you do with them? Is another question. Like you say, let them blend, let them share their stories. There is huge work to be done, on both sides.

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      • New nationalism, yes it exists here too. But you aren’t allowed to openly be one of them, it’s shameful. I’m somewhere in the middle. I’m a tax payer, that’s my primary role in Finland, it seems – to the state at least. I would like to have some control over what my money is used for but I don’t. I wonder if the happiness report interviewed any tax payers at all, or only people who are at the receiving end. Often these reports seem to forget where the money for all these “free” perks comes from. It’s from my sweat and tears, my waking up at 6 am in the dark to go to work. There was no money to build a children’s hospital so there was a private fundraising for that. Out of the 5 milloin inhabitants not all are working (children, seniors, unemployed masses)… so we are even fewer tax payers. It’s not realistic economically to take refugees here to enjoy the benefits when we can’t even afford to take care of ourselves. It would be nice to be humanitarian but where will we end up if this continues? Equality will mean poverty for all. Is that what my grandparents’ and great-grandparents’ generation fought for?
        As a globetrotter, like you said, I understand both sides – and I also wish I was somewhere else!😁

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      • The nationalism is such a touchy topic. On one side, it is shameful, like you say. On the other side, the new nationalism parties are on uprise in all of Europe, in Norway they form the government now. I started reading “Nearly Perfect People” (I mentioned it somewhere in a post) and I find his writing hilarious and full of insights. The subject of immigration comes up. The author says that Muslims represent only 3% of Norwegian population. Norway takes less refugees than Sweden and Denmark. But how loud the media can shout. It can blow the things out of proportion.
        I also liked a Swedish someone (sorry only scanned those pages) saying: “it is not problem of immigration. We have a population and we have problems, but it is not because of immigrants we have to solve them”. I liked that calmness. Because in media often the foreigners are presented as a problem. But here in Norway we have a problem of many people, Norwegians, not working and using the state benefits. There are jobs that locals will never take: like washing floors. And then some say: we need more foreigners to do the work. While really there are more and more jobs that locals don’t want to take. And the generous welfare state allows people to sit all their life flat on the couch. So this is just a problem as immigration, but immigration is more problematized in the media than the “laziness” of locals.

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      • We have that too, jobs no one wants though there is mass unemployment. And also the well educated unemployed who say even good, normal jobs are beneath them if they don’t get a nice salary and a title with the word “manager” in it. I have a master’s degree too, but I’ve never been too fancy for customer service work. One problem here is that the government taxes entrepreneurs very severely so it’s hard to start a company, even a one-man one. Which in my opinion makes it hard for us to compete globally in some fields that operate online, eg translating. I can’t compete with Finns who live abroad and get the same per-word-pay but pay little or no taxes. The government seems oblivious to these things.
        (Oh, must correct my earlier comment: actually seniors and the unemployed do pay taxes from their benefits.)

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      • I can imagine as the reality in Norway is pretty much the same when it come to start-ups. The more you earn, the more taxes you pay. It is like an incentive to NOT starting a business, because who wants to pay 50% tax? How much do you have to make?
        I know a lot of start-ups on Instagram made in Russia and Ukraine, and my friend was envious once. I said: “hey, if you wanna live in Ukraine, you can do a business on IG: but to survive in Norway? How much do you have to make?” the irony of living in the richest country. It is more lucrative to be employed and get your stable salary than trying to make that money on your own.
        I am amazed at the own business activity in Catalonia, but they say it is bc the economics is unstable so everyone makes his own job. Here it is so stable, so good. But what if I don’t want to work for someone else til the rest of my life?
        My another friend disagrees and says that the conditions for start-ups are very good in Norway these days. Well well, maybe I don’t see the whole picture.

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      • Exactly. I wanted to start a translating entrepreneurship and even acquired a large customer, a good and stable one, but… it wasn’t worth the effort because no matter how I calculated and planned, I would always be striving to break even. And many translators live abroad. A translator friend in Paris told me about her taxation and it was so different, you can earn a bunch before being taxed. Now that gives you some incentive, motivation to try to employ yourself. Wouldn’t it be good for the economy to have more businesses that operate internationally? Apparently not, because it is not something politicians here focus on. Oh well. Never mind. Like you said, it’s much easier and more lucrative to work for a company. You get sick leave when you need it and paid holidays. As an entrepreneur I’d be willing to work 24/7 but what’s the point if it just makes my life harder and I don’t earn enough to live off it. Plus you lose you right to any benefits even if you make 0 euros. It’s a crazy system. But, we are such a happy nation 😆
        How did this become a discussion about these things? I have no idea 😂🤣
        I also know someone who recently praised how easy it was to start up a company here. Easy, yes, you can do it all online, no problem. The problem is whether you have money of your own to back it up with…

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      • You are still such a happy country, haha. Namely, because of that :)))
        No, sorry for the irony. But I totally feel the same. I don’t want to plot conspiracy theories, but it looks like the system encourages those who want to stay just in the middle: with well-payed jobs, no matter if it is your passion, or you are stuck in it. I see it in my friends who would love to do smth else – but the money calling is stronger, even though the job gives no spark. This is in the world richest country, well well.
        I see it in the school system too: so much resources used for the weakest kids, the teachers work with the middle, while the good and ambitious ones just lag along. No focus on them. “elite school” is a bad word here. In my opinion, this is how you breed mediocracy and not excellence. this has been said before me. So yes, if you are a middle person, you are happy – but what if you have ambitions?
        What I see that the ambitious Norwegians move to LA, London, whatever. But again, Norway is such a little country, once a farmer community. Maybe, I expect too much. Maybe, you cannot get both stability and strive for excellence here – too few people to create that diversity :)))
        Am I too harsh on Norway? What would you say about Finland?

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      • I would agree. The system supports the middle class person, the one who doesn’t protest, question, dream or aspire. The one who doesn’t mind working in a cubicle, who works the same job in the same company for 45 years. The one who loves winter and has a nice summer cottage to spend the holidays in, and who wouldn’t change a thing if he won the lottery. It also supports the guy who is too lazy to work and just drinks beer all day feeling sorry for himself. And the guy who is an eternal student, always studying this and that at uni and getting student benefits all his life because he never graduates, just switches his major from one subject to another. The ambitious ones move abroad – or at least move their money abroad. There is no way to get rich by working hard in Finland. The more you earn, the more you pay in taxes (%). If you aren’t born into a family with something they own, like an apartment for example, it will be hard for you to acquire anything in your lifetime. Banks won’t loan money to buy an apartment if you don’t already have one to back up the loan. And so on.

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      • I could have written this myself! Snow, I am with you 😆 couldn’t have said it better. This is how I feel too. That if your dream is a house, a cabin, a volvo and two kids, Norway is paradise for you. But people with other dreams, vagabonds and the like should search for a new place, bc here there is not much space for freestyle 😆 good if someone can be happy with one job for all his life and moving to Spain for pension years. But other projects need other places. Though Norway can give some base. But the rest must be built with imagination)))
        Though buying a flat here is not so difficult, it seems. Norwegians prefer to own than to rent so everyone is buying a flat. You can end up with a loan for all your life, but at least you will own your place)))

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      • Yes, people here pay off those loans all their lives too. Happily so. And they are the well-off ones who were granted a loan in the first place! Having a full-time job isn’t enough to qualify you for a loan. You need to have 20% of the price saved up AND property as collateral. Flats here in Helsinki are expensive, we are no oil country like you and our wages are lower than yours (but higher than in France – though so are the expenses of living – food is very expensive here, as well as using a car, for example)… anyway, a small apartment in the center will easily cost 350 000 euro, just a studio or 2 bedrooms and 50 sq.m. And then it will need renovation etc. For a bigger flat (to fit kids in), half a million is no exaggeration. And this is just Helsinki for heaven’s sake, not somewhere legendary like Paris or London! Paying rent is like throwing money down the drain but if we wanted to buy, we would have to move out of Helsinki to the countryside. That’s not for me. A lot of my friends have moved, though. I can see the appeal in having your own backyard with apple trees and swings for the kids, even if you can only use them for a few weeks each year 🙂 But then you need a car to get to places… or two cars actually…
        Here, you can see the “middle” theme in clothing. The shops (all large Swedish chains) offer the same clothes. If you don’t like the current trend, too bad, that’s all there is available to choose from… (of course you can shop online but not all companies deliver to Finland). You don’t see many people with individual looks like on the streets of London. People look the same. Me too, because I am already so different on the inside, I want to fit in at least on the outside – but I’m less and less interested in fashion as the years go by. Also, if you want to buy something out of season, good luck. Going abroad and need a swimsuit in the winter – there are none in the stores. Want to buy sunglasses in March? There are none. I was just looking for sports leggings – there are none, they will all come to every shop at the same time in April-May and soon be sold out, and then you have to wait a whole year to buy them again. Same with winter coats, if you miss the moment they are in the stores, too bad… 🙄 This is such a small town!

        Liked by 2 people

      • True true, oil money has made us here spoiled and lazy 😆😆 in Norway you have to own some entry capital of 20% and a job contract – but no previous property as far as I know. It has been a buying boom in the recent year with prices growing 12% every year. Crazy! Now they have introduced a new rule to slow down the price growth: you have to own 40% if it’s your second property. To stop the speculants and help the young buyers. I don’t know if that helped them.
        About clothing in the middle: on point! Conformism is our second name 😆😆 but dear, your complaints made me feel like a metropole)) we have sports tights all year round! It is a national gear, btw 😆 h&m has them, all the sports shops. Just come! Bikinis arrive in march and sunglasses in january. The spring fashion season starts in January – and it hurts every year to see it coming. And wearing winter stuff for 4 months more 🙈😭😊

        Liked by 2 people

    • Wow, such an exciting plan! Which place in Norway have you thought of making your new home? Well, if you speak English, reading Norwegian is not so difficult for you (I teach Norwegian to Russian speakers and see their fighting with grammar and words, uff, hehe).

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      • Oh, such an unusual choice 🙂 I am an urban animal, and would never consider anything beyond Oslo. What attracts you to those places? Do you like solitude?
        Btw, since we are talking, I am working on a post talking about for whom Norway would be a perfect country. You seem quite informed, but if you want more, stay tuned 🙂

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      • I have been doing a lot of research in anticipation for this trip. And while I was born in a big city (Miami), I grew up in a much smaller one. For me to stay focused to write my poetry collections I have in mind, I would need solitude. I also love history, so the smaller cities would be perfect. I have thought about working in Boston, but not sure. Most of the European cities I visited last time seem much more bearable.

        I also miss doing outdoor adventure activities, so Norway, particularly Northern Norway, offers those opportunities. I definitely will stay tuned. ☺

        Liked by 1 person

      • So interesting! I just cannot imagine moving from somewhere around Miami to small places of Northern Norway (I can imagine the opposite direction, though, haha). We are all so different and it is exciting to meet people like you.
        Northern Norway is beautiful (I guess, you know. As well as you know about cold and darkness). If you like being outdoor in any weather, it is a huge bonus.
        If I were you, I would go there and live for some months – just to get the feeling. Bc visiting and leaving are two totally different experiences. Which places in Norway have you already been to?

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      • That is a good point you make about visiting and leaving versus staying for a few months. I’ve been to Oslo, Bergen, and Tromsø. Senja is on my list for this trip. What I need to weigh is if I would study first or find a job and where.

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      • It is said “don’t mix tourism with immigration” :), and I totally agree with it now. I have been so many places where you gasp “I wish I could live here”. But after a while you know, living there is not visiting. So if I’d move now (as I think) my research would be: live there and get the feeling of it.

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  3. Beautifully told. ❤ Oh, they are ugly, these double, triple standards. I cannot even imagine the stress. You've done wonderfully well. Now you can be so proud and give a short version of this post to everybody who ever gives you shit about anything.

    I know passive aggressive, I know negativity, complaints and the rest. From my own people who are not even eastern Europeans, strictly speaking (but Mittel). We sure are eastern compared to Italy and the west of Europe though.

    I may say that I'm a love follower but I was not too reluctant to leave all that behind.

    Now I'll be glad to read the conversation between you and Snow. 🙂

    You've got the power and my respect.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Manja. Yes, it looks that a human history is always marked by double standards. And I don’t even pick a fight against them – but I have learnt recently that we have to own our story and share it. Because otherwise how can they know? If we keep silent? So this is my project now. Not blaming anyone – but growing strong in my own truth and learning to communicate it. To work through the traumas and turn it into something better. I believe, we all are alchemists of our own existence: turning darkness into light.

      I know that negativity too, and as you say, I was not too reluctant to leave all that behind. However, as I come to understand the roots of it, in my own soul, it is easier to accept myself and my roots. Because I have no other roots after all! And I’ve been making myself poor, denying my heritage. For better or worse, I’m gonna own it now :))

      Thank you for your support. May power and respect belong to those who do the work.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Helloooo there! Well that was quite the open letter! Very emotional yes for sure, but I am sure very good to express it “on paper”. Even though I am from the Western Europe group I can absolutely understand many of the struggles. For one, as you know we have many foreign friends in common and secondly another thing for me is that people due to my exotic skin color may consider me from India/Pakistan/…. So when it occurs I am from Belgium, the tone is getting more positive,… And by the way I might know the French dude from the islands, he told me this : people do not even believe him when he says he is French, then they ask no but where are you really from?
    On point 1 and 2, you are right we are totally free and grateful for the fact that we can come and go as we want, as a EU citizen there is not too much demand on us, we do not even need to know Norwegian to live here.
    For point 3, well unfortunately that ranking will occur in various forms everywhere.
    I liked that one “No, I said. I thought, those were just idiots – by nature.” haha you made me laugh. I think this blog is totally helping you to feel less sorry about yourself so just keep on Marina! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hei hei 🙂 takk for sist 😆
      Oh ouch, the skin color thing is a shame. When people change their attitude when they learn that you are “not that kind of immigrant”. Shame.
      Possibly we know the same guy, we know quite a few, haha. I also have a friend, Norwegian with an Afro-American father. So people ask her about which country in Africa he came from. Or his origins were. Hello, he is African-American, he was from usa, not Kenya or Libya. But, she said, some would not stop. Norwegians try to be open-minded but they are still growing from a peasant nation closed to everything foreign. Some way to go still.
      When it comes to confession writing, yeah, I guess this is exactly what I am doing 😆 and it works well for me, so why not? I agree that it helps to free up some emotion, so I hope to keep on. Thank you for warm feedback 🙂

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  5. I feel this is such an important post… personal, but it has to be. Sharing different perspectives and stories is key. I was thinking about it a lot last year, with the whole refugee crisis ruling the spirits here in France, I felt how lucky I was to come to this country for the love of it and its dreamy capital, and being welcomed on every step (not saying everything was easy, though). I guess coming from a small country (= Slovenia) has its upsides, because most people didn’t know what to think when I told them my origins. Now, they’re slowly getting to know it through the good stuff. Whereas, my Romanian colleague told me how every time she talks with her mother on her phone in public, she gets suspicious looks from everyone. I love her for embracing her accent, though, she wears it so proudly. And I think that’s the only proper response, really. Anyway, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for stopping by and reading, Ivona! You may be right, coming from a smaller country gives few cues to people, in both good and bad terms. Maybe, they know nothing about it (and mix it with Slovakia on top, hehe), but then they don’t know in which box to place you, so they let you be, hehe. While your friend from Romania fits in a box, and sorry for her, that box is not so cool as some others. It is cool that she can wear her accent proudly. Judging in my own skin, as an immigrant you either start hiding your background, feeling ashamed of it, or you learn to be proud of it. Which doesn’t fall easy as it is not so normal among my folks. But then the victory is even sweeter 🙂 When I learn to do things I couldn’t do before. I wish for us all to learn that attitude like your friend has 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes exactly, they mostly just let me be. They do mix it up with Slovakia all the time, though, I had someone trying to convince me Slovenia doesn’t exist once haha believing I must have just used the Slovakian name for their own country, or another thinking it’s got to be some Russian province. I got some good laughs 😀 I think it’s funny too how sometimes I get the impression all the Slaves are at least half-Russian for Western Europeans, but that’s another topic, I guess. 🙂 It’s a learning process, indeed. I think you’re getting there by talking about it as honestly as you do, too. Good luck! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • People telling you that your country doesn’t exist?? Hilarious, haha. But I feel awkward for that person. Really, what kind of knowledgeable arrogance is it?))
        Yeah, Slavs are a bit overshadowed by the great Russia. But for me it doesn’t hurt. I come from Russian speaking side plus I am Ukrainian. So when talking with Croats I was so happy: they are just us! “Us” here is what? Russians, Ukrainians? I don’t know 😆😆 just like us, the same soul. I love it.

        Liked by 1 person

      • It is funnier for me, not feeling any connection to it and not understanding more than a few words 😆 That said, in our own way, we have an interesting relationship, the ex-Yugoslavia nations, too, I’d say…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Well, and why would you? It would be funnier if you felt some kind of connection. I’d love to explore that ex-Yugoslavia fusion once 😉 it seems very mysterious and still somehow native (bc of many Slavs in the picture there ))

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Marina!

    I found this article by pure coincidence, but you can’t imagine how helpful it’s to me right now!
    I’m also Ukrainian(привіт!) and though living in Europe last 2.5 years and coming to Norway as a high-skilled worker (software engineer), I had some fear to feel being looked upon here by the locals.
    But you’re absolutely right: one does not choose the county to be born in and to form an opinion about the person basing only on this is equally bad to a racism.
    I will continue to read your wonderful blog and I hope to meet you in person in Oslo, if you don’t mind 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Alex (pryvit)! Good to meet a fellow Ukrainian here! I am glad if my post came to you in the right time (whatever the coincidence it was) and could help in some way. It is always helpful to get a new perspective.

      There are many stages to immigrant life and self-perception in it. And for any nationality it is tough to start from the scratch, feeling like a baby, no language, no culture codes. We Ukrainians tend to look down on ourselves first, then we get this view from others. Then it takes time to revalue and to learn being proud of who you are. This is my personal process, but it can also reflect many’s experience. So I hope that sooner or later we can embrace who we are and present it to the world without false modesty. Because we are making this country richer – in so many senses. Especially Norway. It would definitely be more boring without all the foreigners here 🙂
      Welcome to Oslo (and welcome to my blog :)). If you want, you can add me on Facebook (Marina FM).

      Like

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