I come from a multicultural family. My father is Finnish, he moved to Brazil in his 30s, my mother is Brazilian, daughter of a German father and a typical Brazilian mother; with Portuguese and French roots.
My parents met in Penedo, Finnish colony in the municipality of Itatiaia (RJ). Although I was born in the city of Rio de Janeiro, we moved there when I was still a toddler. I consider myself a living proof that the early life of a child and the influences received at that time are fundamental to build her or his personality and determine what kind of person they will be after growing up.
Until the mid-80’s there were still many Finns in Penedo. The commercial bias had not taken account of the small town yet at that time. Penedo had traces of “Brazilianness”, but the Finnish presence and culture was still very strong there.
My younger brother was born there and the lack of structure of a typical Brazilian countryside village, especially at that time, scared my parents after the near death of my mother during childbirth. After the bad experience they decided to move back to Rio de Janeiro.
The first years in the big city were very difficult for me because I lost all the freedom I used to have there, being able to play outside, horseback riding and climbing trees. My life was restricted to my bedroom and the school concrete courtyard. For being a countryside child, and for my different look perhaps, very different from the other children in many ways, I also suffered a lot of bullying from 5 to 10 years old.
The bullying is something which have marked me deeply but over the years I stopped being naive and learned how to react. Of course within the time I got also adapted to the city life. Nevertheless, I could barely wait for the summer holidays when I traveled and spent time in my dear Finnish village. There I could enjoy sauna the right way and have fun at the “Clube Finlândia” (Finnish Club, in English) where we danced Finnish typical dances.
I do not know if because of the difficult start my way to seek for adaptation was searching for the unconventional. Perhaps due to the difficulty of feeling as part of that world, I ended up identifying myself with groups which did not follow the rules established by the majority.
Music has always been my greatest passion since my childhood. I used to spend hours alone in my bedroom or lying in the living room floor listening to my mother’s records. As I entered pre-adolescence, I discovered rock and heavy metal. I also started piano lessons and, years later, started playing in bands. Wearing black clothes, torn pants, weird accessories, and walking down the streets with my group of friends who were just like me was wonderful, especially when people looked at us as if we were “lost souls”. I cannot explain why exactly it made me so proud. Probably because that group gave me strength and made me feel strong and accepted. There was the feeling that together we could show people that we were different, yes, but they had to accept us!
The truth is that I always had a void within me, which was filled with music and the idea of being “half-Finnish”. Yes, I believed that my difficulty to adapt should be because perhaps I did not have a Brazilian essence.
I lived this internal conflict, of course in different ways, until 2009 when I decided definitely to move to Finland. I had to test whether that eternal feeling of “not belonging in here”, “my life here does not satisfy me,” was something caused by factors hidden in my sub-conscious or, really, genetics influences our being in a way that, despite having lived most of my life in Brazil, my essence was Finnish.
Before I moved I came here several times on vacation, made friends, but for some reason never stayed. Leaving our safe haven, even if it is not the best of the best is always scary and difficult. You need to be prepared for it, cannot force it to happen. It is not easy to say goodbye to a life, just as it is not easy to start from scratch without having the slightest idea of whether you will be able to achieve what you want.
But in 2009, after six years of therapy which really helped me to have the guts to make the decision, I decided to leave. It was the best thing I did in my life.
I have my Brazilianness present in my language, in my extroverted way but, really, I am also Finnish. This is clear when I think of how my adaptation was easy. I do not mean I haven´t been through difficulties because of course I have been through many during the first two years. But I have never considered leaving nor thought I had made a mistake.
It makes me feel free to live in a place where yes means yes, no means no, and to assume you do not like something will not make you an impolite person. The straight forward way of Finnish people, which normally bothers some foreigners who mix it up with impoliteness, and the value given to the silence and individuality, these things really amaze me. Of course there is much more, such as the system focused on education, health and safety.
Finland is not the wonderland of fairy tales. There are problems, there are things I disagree with, and there is need for constant search for improvement as in any society, but even so, this is one of the countries that may be included in the list of effective role models.