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Then he approached me so much, I could almost feel his breath on my face: “Yes, you have brown hair and eyes but you are way too white.” Said this dude after hearing where I am coming from.

“I can see you girls are of another race”, says my friend’s neighbor while we were walking together in the neighborhood. We are white Caucasian just like this neighbor.

“Are you Italian? You have brown hair and the shape of your nose is weird”. I hear at a seminar. No I’m not Italian, but close enough. I really don’t want to make conversation with you because you are rude. You just don’t comment on a random person’s outer appearance.

Plus the countless questions of where I am from and what I am doing here, some followed by suggestion to dye my hair blonde so I could be more like the locals. The fact that I speak the language fluently and I had no cultural shock whatsoever upon moving to Finland does not count. Now I should alter my looks. What next? Am I supposed to spend few thousands euros to get that weird nose fixed, too?

I am well aware of the fact though that my skin complexion worked in my favor here because otherwise I would have got nastier remarks and I think even faced violence as some of people I know did. But was negatively amazed to see how far people’s ignorance and stupidity can go. If you have a problem with the simple fact that a person has brown hair and most of people around are blonde then you don’t deserve the slightest drop of attention. To me this mentality of “change your outer appearance to blend it” is the most obvious form of following the herd. And I’ve never been good with that. It never crosses my mind to ask people about their background when we first meet and it’s definitely out of the question to make comments on their outer appearance. There are plenty of other subjects to open a conversation with and saying one of the above denotes lack of imagination.

Yes, I heard the excuse “but we are a small country and blah, blah”. That excuse would have worked maybe 50 years ago. It’s 2017 so snap out of it. People are moving around and I really hate to hear somebody playing the naive card “but what are you doing here?”. There are very few reasons why a person would choose a country and I’m definitely not interested in any of them. If they mentioned it fine, but I wouldn’t ask. Because it’s not my business.

As for dyeing my hair blonde to “fit in” let me tell you something: I would definitely hate having blonde hair. First, I really love my natural brown hair and I rarely dye it because there is no need to. If I choose so, then I would choose a color which is close to my natural one because blonde doesn’t fit me at all. Second, dyeing my hair blonde would take a significant toll on it because of the bleaching treatment, not to mention that I need to do that every time my hair grows because it looks hideous to have it half of two colors. I really don’t want to pour chemicals on my head and destroy my hair because of some people’s ignorance.

 

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Yesterday, I had a brief talk with my flatmate about her study period in Finland and from one subject to another we started talking about things one hears hundreds of times while studying or moving here. I don’t take these things as an insult but after hearing them so many times, it gets tiring and at one point not all people have friendly intentions when they ask you about your background and motives for being here.

  1. Where are you from?

I hear this one almost all the time. In my first years here it was normal as I was studying in an international environment and met people from all over the world so we did ask each other a lot where are we from. Nowadays people ask me where am I from because of my accent. Sometimes they don’t even bother and take a wild guess: are you Russian or Estonian? Or some start talking to me in Russian all of a sudden which make me have a complete block because I don’t speak nor do I understand Russian. Other guesses regarding my nationality were Italian and Spanish. I think the closest is Italian.

I do not mind the question but given the nasty reputation that Romanians have (lots of thanks to Finnish media for that), I do have some hesitation when answering, also depending on whom is asking. The nastiest reactions I got were from older people when upon finding out where am I from they stopped talking to me and ignored me completely. I remember in particularly two cases, an older lady and a man, who looked at me so disgusted, if spitting was allowed, I think I would have gotten a phlegm on my face. Once an older guy, after hearing my country of birth, he got so close to me, started staring at my face analyzing every feature: “Yes, you have brown eyes but you are too white for a Romanian.” In fact, my eyes are hazel and yes, Romanians are white unless you don’t mean a certain minority and I guess he meant just that.

  1. Why did you come here? Why did you choose this country? What are you doing here?

It’s quite difficult to reply to these questions because, besides family ties, I do have other reasons I am here but I really don’t want to explain them to strangers, they wouldn’t listen anyway. My Romanian friend told me that some persons ask with a kind of annoyance in their voice which implies “oh no, again a foreigner, what the heck are they doing here?”. I didn’t really pay attention to it but it might be very well be. They usually shut up when I mention family ties.

  1. You speak Finnish so well!

I do take this as a compliment but sometimes it goes too far. For example, I barely manage to say “hello, nice to meet you” to a stranger and they immediately jump to the conclusion that I talk Finnish very well. I know they are trying to be polite but it’s just ridiculous. Wait until we talk about life’s deep philosophical matters and nuclear energy. Then tell me how god my Finnish is.

I do know though that I make mistakes and my language is not as good as some claim. There were at least three persons who criticized my language skills. One of them did it in a very constructive manner and I appreciated that a lot (she is a teacher afterall). The other two were just being assholes. One of them cannot speak anything else besides Finnish and the other just English but for him is perfectly ok to make fun of people who are trying to learn other languages than English.

  1. Do you like it here?

Of course, I do otherwise I wouldn’t be here.

  1. What do you think about Finland?

Again if I start a long endless discussion about things I like in Finland (and there are lots of them) my interlocutor would probably get bored so I just say “it’s nice”. End of story. If they want to know more, they can ask. I’ll gladly answer.

 

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