Last post I told you about why I moved to Finland, today I want to tell you about what I discovered there.
Moving to Finland was quite a jarring experience.
For a people person such as myself, I suddenly found myself being unable to relate to or understand people.
I found myself completely puzzled and hurt by the lack of warmth and connection I perceived between people in Finland. I would smile at blank faces and greet silent neighbours.
Looking back, I was like a ballet dancer in a hip hop performance (think Julia Stiles at the beginning of ‘Save the Last Dance’ – if only!).
I confused the Canadian way of connecting with people as the universal way of connecting with people. (Remember my post on ‘Smiling for all the wrong reasons’?) At which point, I realized I had a number of choices:
- I could refuse to adapt to the Finnish way of doing things and stubbornly hold on to the Canadian way, proclaiming it as the only and true way to be. I would also remain completely misunderstood.
- I could denounce the Canadian way as fake and superficial. Say that the Finnish way of connecting with friends instead of strangers was the only way and turn my back on my Canadian culture.
- I could accept that both were perfectly useful in their own contexts. I could smile and greet in Canada, and nurture deep connections with my friends instead of strangers in Finland. Win-win, right?
I could go with or against pre-determined cultural norms, but what about what I wanted in all of this? What if I was neither Canadian nor Finnish (nor Romanian)? What if I were just Irina – plain and simple.
How a personality test – the MBTI – helped
At a time when I was questioning all about who I was and why I did certain things and why others did different things, I came across a personality test (the MBTI aka. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) that informed me of my dominant trait: extroverted feeler. After much reading into the topic, and observing myself over the course of over a year, I discovered this meant:
- I’m at home in the realm of emotions. I empathize deeply and can sometimes understand how someone if feeling even if they can’t find the words to explain it.
- I am naturally inclined to analyze the emotions I observe in the world and people around me.
- I internalize and give personal meaning to the experiences of people I witness around me.
This new discovery during a confusing time in my life provided me with an anchor in a sea of uncertainty. In my experience, when our lives are turned completely upside down, it’s so easy to forget what we’re naturally good at and passionate about. While in school, I never understood where my passion to travel and learn languages fit in.
Now I knew.
I can’t say my family was surprised to hear about my so-called discovery. But me? I felt liberated!
I’d finally understood the confusion of recent years, felt I now had permission to be who I really was, and eventually, figured out where I could make the greatest contribution.
For those of us who move abroad and way out of our comfort zones, we tend to become paralyzed by fear and often crippled with insecurity, like fish out of water.
But we’re also blessed with this amazing opportunity to reinvent ourselves and the way we do things. No longer obliged to do things the way we were raised, the way we’d been doing them forever, nor the way we’re expected to.
**This link will take you to an external website where you can take the test and read your result for free.