Inverted racism in Italy

Some time ago I wrote in my Finnish blog  how I experience positive racism here in Italy. Several readers argued that racism can never be positive, so maybe I could say that as a Finn I have experienced inverted racism. In urban dictionary I found this definition of the inverted racism:

“Inverted (or reverse) racism means being prejudiced against your own race or valuing other races more than your own.”

With this concept I want to express the feeling that I am treated better than an average Italian just because I arrive from Finland. For some reason many Italians consider Finland as a paradise on earth. Maybe because they don’t know anything about Finland, or they know rally drivers, Räikkönen, excellent schools. How many times I have heard about their trips to Oslo, Finland, but unfortunately Oslo is the capital of Norway not of Finland. But for the Italians all the Nordic countries are the same and it is useless to explain that Finland is not part of Scandinavia. For the Italians Scandinavia includes Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland.

Last summer I caused a traffic accident, and somebody called police and an ambulance there. The police were mostly enchanted about the fact that I was a Finn. He said that he admires the calmness of the Nordic people and how we speak fluently foreign languages. A month later, when I went to pay a fine this same policeman asked me to pass by whenever and we could have a coffee together. Ok, the Italian men have the tendency to flirt with ladies, especially with exotic Finnish ladies. The ambulance drivers also started to tell how they had visited Finland and wanted to know why I live here. This is a very common question, why on earth I want to live in Italy and not in Finland. The Italians get especially confused when I tell them that also my husband is Finnish. Once a couple of Guardia di finanza (financial police) stopped me near the Swiss border. When they figured out that I’m originally Finnish they started to tell about their travel to Finland 20 years ago. Meantime a truck passed them and this customs is not commercial, so they should have stopped it. But instead they looked this truck passing them and instead of stopping it they continued talking about Finland with me.

Many years ago, when my daughter was born with C-section here in Italy the anesthetist said to me “Forza Häkkinen” and nurses told me how happy they were that once there is a patient from European Union and not one of the refugees – I was stunned to hear so open racist comment from nurses. Sometimes I hear comments that here are too many foreigners and then I usually remind the speaker that I´m a foreigner here. The answer is always that the speaker doesn’t mean people like me – white, European and graduated.

 

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Refugees

Lately here in Italy the most topical issue has been the number of illegal immigrants. This year 54660 illegal immigrants have arrived into Italy. The biggest groups are Syrians, Eritreans and Somalis. They can’t be sent back to their home countries, because those countries are not considered safe. I link a good video about the situation of Syrian refugees: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0_QrIapiNOw

The EU seems to be very reluctant to do something centralized to this problem. In addition, Greece has a huge amount of illegal immigrants this year. The Northern Europe seems to think that this is not their problem, this the problem of the Southern Europe, mainly of Greece and Italy. The truth is that most of the immigrants want to leave Italy and reach their relatives in Northern Europe. This weekend France closed their border to these immigrants and now we can see from the news pictures of immigrants sleeping on the rocks at Ventimiglia.

Now there are immigrants that sleep at the Milano Centrale railway station. The local volunteer organizations like Red Cross have arranged health services and food and drink to these poor persons. There are also small children that have to sleep on the floor with their parents. Some of them refuse to go to the shelters, because they don’t want to be registered. The registration means that they would have to stay here in Italy and wait the official refugee status.

I’m sad to see these persons, they have lost everything. Some of them show signs of torture, they are psychologically tired. It is not an easy decision to walk through the desert, be raped and tortured just to get to Europe. They across the Mediterranean Sea with small boats and often they are saved by Italian military boats. Nowadays there are also boats from other EU countries to save these poor humans. Naturally, you can ask how they finance these journeys. It is very expensive to travel here. Today I saw that they pay about 2000-3000€ to get to Europe. Therefore, we can only suppose that the poorest class stays there and suffers. Nevertheless, what I have heard often the whole family collects money to send some relatives to Europe.

However, as long as these persons keep on coming Europe can’t leave Italy and Greece alone. No country can handle these huge masses of persons. As the situation in Syria remains critical, there is no hope to expect the number of Syrian refugees to diminish. I also think that it would be wiser to register all these immigrants and those that have relatives in other EU countries let them reach these relatives. In addition, it would be better let registered persons travel inside EU instead of thousands non-identified persons. In this way, it would be possible to keep track on these persons and react to possible radicalization of these persons. There was a plan to deliver 40 000 immigrants from Italy and Greece to other countries. Now it seems that many, especially, the Northern European countries don’t want to participate in this plan. Finland takes 750 legal refugees every year, now they plan that some of these 750 refugees could be from this huge group of illegal immigrants. I’m ashamed to say in this context that I’m Finnish. Unfortunately, Finland won’t open to new refugees during the new government. The Finns Party is very anti-refugee and in some degree racist party.

I still believe that these refugees have chosen to risk their life, because they couldn’t live where they lived. Maybe they hope to guarantee a better future to their children and to themselves. I was delighted to hear that at Milan some inhabitants have brought groceries, clothes and toys to these immigrants staying in the Milano Centrale. There is no easy solution to this problem, but I think EU should work together to handle this problem. Because in the end it will affect also the Northern Europe, directly or indirectly.

Homeland

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When I lived in Finland, I never thought which country is my homeland. Then I moved away and in the beginning, it was obvious that my homeland is Finland. Now I have lived over 15 years in Italy and suddenly I realized that it is not so obvious anymore what my homeland is.

One good example is that when I travel abroad if somebody asks where I do come from I don’t know what to answer. I could answer that I’m from Italy, but probably the person that made the question would remain perplexed, because I don’t look like Italian, I speak with my family Finnish. Naturally, I could answer that I come from Finland, but I don’t. Therefore, I often answer something like “I’m Finnish but I live currently in Italy”.

Kuvahaun tulos haulle finland foto

Yesterday I asked my husband (Finnish) what his homeland is. After a while he said, “My homeland is Finland from which I have grown apart”. This true in many ways. I will always feel that I’m Finnish, but when I go to Finland, I feel like a stranger there. It is not the same place that I left 15 years ago, friends have continued their life and I’m not part of it anymore. In addition, our relatives have continued their life and even though we will always be part of it, we are still part of it marginally.

Probably Finland will always be my homeland in heart, but also I have grown apart from it and the longer I live here in Italy the more I am attached to this country. Maybe I could say that I don’t have a homeland. Alternatively, if homeland were where you have the family my homeland would be Italy. I have thought about applying the Italian citizenship, but I know that I will never have the Italian identity. On the other hand, I have learned to love also this country. So should I say that I have two homelands – Finland and Italy?

Things get even more complicated if I ask my kids what their homeland is. My son was 3 years old when we moved here and my daughter was born here in Italy. Still they don’t feel that Italy is their homeland, but neither Finland. They feel that they are Finns, but then they are not Finns even if they have only the Finnish citizenship. Researchers call these kids third culture kids. They live in one culture that is different from their home culture. Like my kids, they speak better Italian than Finnish, they live in the Italian culture when they are outside our home, but then at home they speak Finnish, learn the Finnish traditions and habits. Therefore they are neither Finnish neither Italian – they are a mix of these two cultures.

I guess I will always be the Finn living in Italy. No matter if I take the Italian citizenship – I will always be Finnish. Moreover, I’m happy like this, I live in a country that I love and I so guess that I don’t need a homeland. Finland is my homeland that I have grown apart and Italy is my second homeland where I want to live with my family. And this is just fine.

The Italians and the health

I have lived in this great country 15 years and I have raised my children here. During these years, I have learned a lot about the Italian way of being sick. The biggest threat in this country is colpo d’aria (“hit of air” literally translated). This lurks behind every corner and is ready attack the innocent person any time. You can get plenty of symptoms from this awful threat: a flu, fever, cough, sour throat, running nose, stomachache, headache etc. The Italians have learned to protect themselves against this merciless enemy. However, how do they know how to protect?

Rule number 1: Look at the calendar and dress according to it. So, if there are 12 degrees in December it is perfectly fine to wear winter boots, a fur (if you own one), winter jackets, a wool scarf etc. Kids look like little Michelin man from December until February-March.

Rule 2: Avoid situations where you can be hit by colpo d’aria. I remember when my daughter was newborn. It was a hot day in the beginning of September and I had an appointment with our pediatrician. When I entered the examination room, it was hot there inside. For my great surprise, the doctor closed the window immediately, because otherwise my daughter could have been hit by colpo d’aria. This was the first time I understood that in this country of great beauty hides a terrible, invisible enemy called colpo d’aria.

Then Italians can get sick, because they are hit by cold. If you have stomachache, it is probably due to the fact that you have got cold. Then never go out with wet hair, because you can get cold also this way. When I was young and lived in Finland, it was normal to go out with wet hair after the gym class also in winter and I’m still alive and here in Italy it is not cold ever.

Then especially in spring and autumn, the reason for many diseases is the change of the season (cambio stagione). If I tell to our friend in May that my son is sick, she will say very seriously that the reason is cambio stagione. Then the Italians have all these believes about food as if you are supposed to eat orange only in the morning. One belief about the food and eating in general is that you have to wait 3-4 hours after a meal before you can go swimming. Mine go when they want without any problems. My parents told me to wait always 30 minutes.

When it is about the health, it is much easier to live in Finland. We go swimming immediately after eating, winter can turn to spring and we don’t have serious health problems, we can eat an orange also in the evening and the best is that we don’t have that awful, dreadful thing called colpo d’aria in Finland.

The other story is then the health system in Italy. I will write about it the next time.

Christmas traditions

Christmas is here again. About one month before Christmas at Facebook, some persons start blaming that they miss Finnish Christmas and they are extremely homesick during the Christmas period.

Well, I spent all my Christmas in Finland until I was 27. That year I spent the Christmas at Turin, Italy with my future husband. Our proprietor invited us to their home for the Christmas day, because they felt awful to think that we two poor foreigners had to spend Christmas without any relatives.  It was a nice Christmas, because it was different. I remember that first I felt terrified to spend Christmas outside Finland.

Now I live in Italy and we have spent here now 14 Christmas during the last 15 years. We have our own Christmas traditions that differ from Christmas traditions in Finland. During the years, our Christmas menu has become a mix of Finnish and Italian dishes. We have always antipasti (appetizers), primo (pasta usually) and secondo (ham or some other meat with potato casserole). In the morning 24th, we go to the supermarket and there is always a chaos, but that is also part of our tradition. Usually we pass by to give gifts to our friends the same day. In the evening, we call to our loved ones in Finland and that is the moment I feel a bit nostalgic.

This year is the second time we have relatives from Finland to spend a Christmas with us. For this reason, we have to adapt our tradition to theirs, but on the other hand, we want to give them a possibility to experience a different kind of Christmas.

According to me, the best Christmas is where I have my family with me. I used to miss Finnish Christmas, but later I understood that I missed Christmases when I was a child and I was almost sick, because I waited so much to get the gifts (even if I used to sneak around the house to find the gifts). Time has gilded the memories. There was always snow (actually, I come from that part of Finland where many Christmases were without snow).

I wish you all my dear readers Happy Holidays!

Home country

Sometimes I wonder what I should answer when somebody asks where I come from. If I say from Finland, I feel that I am not telling the truth. If I answer from Italy, I feel the same way. Should I say I am a Finn from Italy?

The question is which country is my home country – Finland or Italy? I have lived here in Italy almost 15 years and my life is here. Here I know how to act in different situations; here I have my friends, doctor, hairdresser, plumber etc. People talk about the things that I know and I can express my opinions – positive and negative ones.

When I go to Finland, I sometimes feel as a stranger. People act in a different way, talk about things I do not know anything, but still there is a weird easiness in being there. Maybe it is that I can express myself in my mother tongue or maybe deep inside me that is the culture I know the best.

Maybe I have reached the point that I do not have a home country. I love Italy and its people – otherwise I would not live here. However, because I moved here when I was over 30 years old, I do not have any roots in this country. My roots are in Finland, but still I do not feel that Finland is my home country.

Maybe the right answer is “I’m a Finn from Italy”.

Why emigrates need Facebook?

We have heard many times from different instances that only middle-aged women use Facebook. Probably this is in some degree true. I would like to add one group that actually needs Facebook – immigrant women and in some degree also men. Especially I talk about a group consisting of women that live abroad due to different reasons (there are also a couple of men, but majority is made of women). These persons don’t have any family nearby to help, support and give advice. If they are married to a local man, there are only spouse’s relatives nearby. Then the relationship between the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is often very complicated, especially in cultures where family ties are still very close. I have noticed that my Italian friends have problems with their mother-in-laws and therefore I’m not surprised to hear that Finnish women often, not always, have huge problems with their mother-in-laws here in Italy. A Finnish woman is grown to equality, the Italian women in a much lesser degree. So these strong Nordic women are probably some kind of threat to the Italian mothers or maybe just too different.

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Lake Como

I belong to a couple of groups that consist of emigrated Finnish women (and of a couple of men). In these groups, you can ask anything and you will always get an answer. If you have problems with your spouse, you can talk about it and others will give their advises in a friendly manner always. When you miss a loved one they will support you, if a new baby is born to a member they will celebrate together. In a real life many immigrants are often lonely, it is not so easy to make friends in a foreign country. You are often considered foreigner no matter how long you have lived in a new country. In these groups, you can talk with persons that have had the same kind of experiences as you have. If you are just so sick of your new home country there is always somebody that helps you see the positive sides, if you have nostalgia to Finland, somebody might send you some Fazer chocolate.

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Fazer Blue Chocolate

The problem with these virtual groups is that you can never really know the persons behind the names. I have had a possibility to meet some of my virtual friends and they have all been as nice in real life as in virtual life. Maybe we have to get used to the idea that we can have friends that we have never met in real life, but still we tell them our joys and sorrows of life.