The immigrant’s identity crisis
Moving abroad is a major identity crisis. Everything around you changes, including how other people see you. For me, it’s been worse than the teenage years. Luckily my self-esteem is higher these days, so I can simply laugh at myself.
Before I started my personal odyssey outside Finland three years ago, I thought I had a solid personality.
At the very least, I thought I knew what I looked like. A bit on the shorter side with my 160 centimeters, brown hair, an ordinary face.
Until a fellow traveler asked me if I had the Down syndrome based on my almond-shaped eyes. And I’ve gotten called blonde, over and over again, by classmates from countries where almost everyone’s rocking pitch black hair.
In Guatemala, I could see above other women’s’ heads in the crowd and felt tall for the first time in my life. Equally confusingly, in the Netherlands I get mistaken for a 11-year-old based on my height. I have already learned I need to wear make-up to the wine store in order to avoid curious looks.
When it comes to personality, I didn’t know I was this submissive before I was introduced to the Dutch traffic culture. Be it by foot, bike or car, I always end up being the one who gives way to the big boys. If someone accidentally bumps into me in the ever-crowded Albert Heijn at the university, I apologize while the guilty party just rushes away, not saying a word.
My Finnish humbleness gets lost in translation and shows as a serious lack of confidence. When a Finnish athlete says: ”I’ll go give it a try, we’ll see how today goes”, it means exactly the same as a Dutchie stating: ”I know I’m amazing, and I’m only playing to win.”
The confusion won’t come to an end, even if I ever move back to Finland. In law school, I’m usually seen as the crazy outdoor chick who can make a fire without matches and attends lectures with full running gear on. Back home I’ll magically turn into a snob who buys fancy, stinky cheese.
Seems like I’ve found a way to stay forever young – and awkward.