I Become Outsider in My Hometown and Home Country

It has been 2 and half years since I came to Finland. I went back China last spring festival for one week with my girlfriend, since it was a very short time and I was with her, a Finn, with English speaking, my mind and attention was not on the issues of China then, and it was in a very strong new year festival atmosphere, anyway, I didn’t feel my mind touched much of China that time. However, this China visit would last for 70 days, I feel this is a completely new experience in China and in my hometown.
I was very scared and anxious when arrived Beijing and the first few days in the hometown. The mind was not secured when Finland is far away. I played Finnish music everyday, again and again, and browsed the pictures taken in Finland, to make my mind in the Finnish atmosphere. However, this feeling fades a little bit now, and I come to realize it’s not just because of being away from Finland and Finns, it’s also because I am facing lots of shocks in China. Below are the issues that give me most shock and difficulties:
  • Loud sound everywhere. Even in my hometown center, I heard all kinds of noise everywhere, from supermarket, from people, from vehicles, especially from all kinds of sales with super loud music or saleswomen’s yelling. I asked myself why Chinese like making so much sound? Why the sales people do promotion by yelling the advertisement? Does this work? Even at my home, my grandparents talk loudly and sometimes talk like yelling, why?? I come to understand that they use yelling advertisement to make customers lose rational ideas in some extent, and make them lose the mind of what need to buy, then the sales works with some fancy words and mianzi skills. From Chinese viewpoint, people would say this is very lively image of life, and people enjoy it. However, when compare the feeling is the shopping center of Finland and a Chinese town, I come to see that my mind was very clear and rational when in the quiet Finland, the quiet environment enables me to think a lot, the time was better used. However, like yesterday in the shopping center of my hometown, I felt anxious and difficult to keep rational thinking, I struggled to keep the mind quiet, etc. While, I somehow was cheated by salesperson.
  • High level of mental defence and low level of trust. Before coming back China, I imagined again and again how happy I would be when meet my fellow compatriots, how close I would feel with them. However, since landed Beijing, my mind was in a high level of tension, this feeling was mainly aroused by the people’s nervous and defending facial expression. I took lots of subways during the three days in Beijing, every subways was full of people, I was so shocked to see that nobody had smiling expression, and everyone was in a defending status towards the crowd of people around. When I came closer to someone, he/she showed up very strong defending reaction, as if I were a terrorist. There are some real examples: (1) One morning, I forgot the way to a museum, and I met a roughly 40 year-old couple with their son, they were going to the same museum, and I mentioned to go with them, their son was friendly to show me the map with his phone and had no problem to let me follow, but his parents tried to not let me go along with some excuses. I understood and didn’t follow them. (2) At the queue of entering the national museum of China, I met two university girls, they were from outside Beijing and travelling there, generally the level of trust among students is higher, but when heard I was just back from abroad, they had obvious defending reaction, I tried to talk more of my experience and ideas to let them remove the worries, to show a real me, however, they were very sensitive, I could see they were guessing if I was saying honestly or not. We need to take a ticket for entering, and before the queue for ticket, I told them to wait for me if they get tickets earlier than me, and I will wait for them if I get ticket before them. However, they disappeared after getting the tickets. They broke the promise or they thought I disappeared and broke the promise and then they didn’t wait. (3) When queued at Beijing train station, I met another university girl who is from my home province, we both are students and we are from the same province, which made us closer, she was also avoid talking to me at the beginning, and I tried to talk something sincere and reduce her worries about me, and later on we talked more. We found two seats there, later, she needed to go to the toilet, and let me to keep her seat and suitcase, but she took her bag when went to the toilet, this is normal behavior in such situation. I could see, after that, she had more trust on me and let me use her wifi. Then, I told her I need to go to the toilet and let her keep my stuff there, I left with everything with her, I supposed she trusted me at that moment, and I showed a higher level of trust by doing so. I read the book of Finnish Miracle later on, and the book mentioned the trust, and I then asked her “how many percentage of people do you think would trust strangers and new people? Or how much do you trust a new person in public place?” She answered nobody. Okay, then, I understood, when she went to the toilet, she just had no other option but let me to take care of her suitcase there, that was the last option she could choose. So sad when I realized this.
I can also understand that the dense population makes lots of tension and defence like those, and there have been too many cheating and stealing cases happened, and many people in Beijing are not local, and they lack a sense of security in the deep mind. It’s very sad that all people are so afraid of being cheated or harmed and show no trust to the people around. These reaction also makes others feel bad and no trust in return, it’s a bad cycle. Anyway, the level of trust is very low among people.
  • Personal Space. In my home village here with neighbors, it’s no problem, also because there are not so many people. But when in Beijing, I felt very high level of tension because of very limited or almost no personal space. I also noticed this in many shops, I was looking at products, and the service staff came to ask again and again about what do I need, I told them to let me check by myself and give me some space. But when I talked like that, some of them reacted with a more defending reaction. When at my hometown, there are not so many people, I still find this problem, nobody seriously consider to keep the space, and it’s very difficult to explain this to them. I also find myself strange in these cases. When in Finland, people kept very big space from others, and hoped to be closer and I also like hugging people, even the people whom I met the first time. But somehow in China, I felt the opposite way.
  • You Are Different. I heard the words “you are different” many times after coming back China. When bought a T-shirt in a clothing shop, I asked lots of questions about the T-skirt, and be critical, the saleswoman said “you are really different, young men normally don’t talk so much details …”. When took a bus in the countryside, since there is no specific stop, the bus can stop at any point when a customer needs, the ticket woman asked me where to go to, I said somewhere, and she said loudly “Why are you so silent and not talk loudly?”. When at the National Museum of China, I saw many fascinating art works and historical works, and I asked the staff there something, yet they couldn’t answer, and I gave them advice “every work here can be attached a piece of paper of introduction of the general information of it, so the customers can understand more of them” “the layout of the works is not so reasonable, they can be arranged in another way so that every customer can see every work in a row and don’t lose the way” …… something like those. While what I got from two of them is the expression of surprise and doubt, one said “I have never thought anything of those, I just need to finish my job here, and nobody else suggested these before”. There are many such examples showing that they see me differently.
  • Kids are too wild and lack proper education. I suddenly find that Chinese really love kids and the family is kid-centered, people also have high tolerance on the kids’ behavior. You can see the kids yelling, crying and making noise on the train, kids pee not at suitable places and sometimes at public places, kids are given lots of priorities in lots of things. Kids are not mature and they naturally have some wild behavior, but the shocking thing is that the parents and grandparents don’t correct those behavior and don’t tell them this is not good. Many people keep the idea that the kid is too small, he/she cannot understand even you teach him/her now, and he/she will understand these naturally after some years. This is really a BAD idea! Kids learn from parents, people around and the phenomena, if nobody tell the kid it’s not good to yell in the public places, he/she would understand this is allowed behavior. When in Helsinki airport last year, I met a group of Chinese students of 10-15 years old for winter camp, they were running everywhere, shouting, gaming, some sat, some stood, some moved here and there, and their teachers didn’t teach them not to behave so.
In the intercultural experience, these are due to the reverse cultural shock. It’s natural reaction, and these experiences also enable me to deepen my understanding of my country and culture, and with comparison, I can also appreciate more of something in Finland. How do you think of these? and do you have similar shocks in your own country or the cultural shocks abroad?

Flowing International Students

The overseas study enables me to meet very different people with a more opened mind. While I come to find that it’s almost not possible to make friends from these people. The more difficult thing is that everyone is thinking where to position himself/herself, where to go to next, where can I find the sense of home, etc. To be short, people abroad can hardly or cannot find the sense of belonging.
Sense of Flowing
I have been in Finland for 2 years till now, while how many friends do I have? I sometimes cannot answer since the understanding and definition of friend seem so different in Finland and in China, I am not sure if I can define a person as friend. I’d like to say no other friends except three or one local friends and my girlfriend, which means almost no one international friend, no Chinese friend.
I had lots of temporary international friends. For example, I spent very good time in the first few months in Finland with few German friends, I miss those days sometimes also. By living at Paawola, I got friend from Pakistan, Kenya, India, Italy, etc. I also had friend from Czech republic, Turkey, Estonia during the study, and etc. While these people are on the flow, they were just in Finland for half year or one year, or 3 years at most. The friends seem to be only valid within certain period. Everyone is struggling a lot with lots of problems. Besides, there is great cultural and information barrier among people from different countries, which makes it too difficult to deepen the understanding or even the actual talking. It’s always a phenomenon to see the international people to spend most time and get most friends from the people from their own countries.
I also feel sad and surprised that I haven’t got a Chinese friend even. The problem is due to our changes, especially my changes in the opinions, values, and preferences. Everyone abroad is changing, even we are from the same country, people become so lonely and independent and even hard to meet. Even they are not physically far from me, while I know nothing of them and feel they are in another world, and we have no any connection at all.
Some opinions and ideas are always in the conflict in mind. For example, I feel being asked should I spend time and attention to make friend from foreign students, since they just stay here for short? Does this Finnish thing related to me? Does the big news in China relate to me? What should I care? Who can understand me? Is it possible to get into Finnish circle? Is it really possible to have a normal, stable Finnish friend? Why people in China seem to not understand me at all? How can I get close to a Finn? and etc. These conflicts are all just because I am abroad.
To sum up, people abroad are struggling for lots of practical problems, and more difficult thing, for the sense of belonging and home, visa extension, etc. Everyone is like a single boat on the sea, you don’t know what a wave of water would come, where you will go to, how long can you be with a friend, etc. People in such case can only care their own and be pilot for their own life. Everyone may leave at some point for various reasons, thus, friends are only valid within some period.

 

Learning Swimming in Finland

My hometown in China is in the mainland, where there is no sea or even regular river, so, for the people living there, it’s not so urgent to be able to swim. Plus that my family members were worried of drowning of the kid, I was not allowed to swim when I was young. In China, especially in my home province, where the Yangtze river flows, many kids were reported to be drowned in the swimming, parents are worried of the kids going to the water.
Because of this background, I am also scared of water, especially the lake and sea. While my girlfriend tried hard to drag me to learn swimming, saying that swimming in Finland is the most basic skill. It can be understood since there are so many lakes in Finland, people need to be able to swim for survival even. Swimming is also an exercise.
I was struggling in mind when she tried to take me to swim, thinking what if I get drown or even die in the water, etc. But I also told myself, it was a pity that I didn’t stay enough in the water when I was little kid, and swimming can be a skill to rescue myself and others in the future if possible. And why not try something I dared not to do in China? So, I went to the swimming pool with her.
We go swimming once per week and around 3h per time. I have gone for 3 times by far, Saara is a good teacher for my swimming, and I am learning fast, I think. More importantly, I enjoy it! and enjoy the sauna there also! I also come to find swimming is not as difficult so I thought. Let’s see when I can swim well independently.
So, it was really a struggle to do something you didn’t dare to do before and try something new, but the new thing can also bring you something good you didn’t know.

 

 

 

 

 

芬兰桑拿

背景与概况

现在大家所熟知的桑拿,最初起源于芬兰。桑拿在芬兰有很久的历史,有记载的资料可以追溯到16世纪。中世纪期间,汗蒸在欧洲流行。具体说芬兰什么时候开始有桑拿,也很难有可靠的资料,其中一个原因是芬兰位于强大的俄国和瑞典王国中间,在这两大强国面前,芬兰的影响也往往被忽略,所以很多生活、文化方面没有被广泛了解。
当然,桑拿能很早出现在芬兰和北欧各国,和北欧漫长的严寒冬天有直接关系。在以前生活条件差的时候,人们为了度过长达半年的寒冬和不见阳光的抑郁孤独,急需一种能给人温暖的装载,因此,火炉很早出现,也形成了人们围着火炉取暖的习惯。后来渐渐发展成一个独立是房间用来炉子取暖,也就是现在桑拿房的雏形。在以前,桑拿房也是一个家的核心区。图1是现代化在城镇的桑拿房,完全木质,桑拿房大小可自己设计,一般私人家里的桑拿房可容纳4人,在墙角是一个电炉,往石块洒水,在电能作用下散热,一般桑拿蒸汽温度70-100度,温度计也是桑拿房装置之一。农村的桑拿的炉子有些是用木炭取代电能,通过烧木炭生热。
现代芬兰生活里,桑拿房已经是居民屋里不可缺少的一部分,就像每家不能没有厨房一样。人们修建房子往往先考虑设计桑拿房。550万人口的芬兰有各种桑拿房200多万个,蒸桑拿是芬兰人普遍最热爱的活动之一。一到芬兰,在赫尔辛基机场就能体验芬兰桑拿。
GE DIGITAL CAMERA
A Sauna Room in Finland

芬兰桑拿规则和民俗

1)桑拿物品?桑拿房外面连着一个冲凉洗澡房间,再外面一般是个更衣室。如果在桑拿房里太热,可以冲凉一下,私人衣物等在更衣室。一般不能带进玻璃品物品(例如酒杯、眼镜等),一般也是一丝不挂进桑拿房,加一条浴巾,如果木凳太热,可以用来垫着。另外,冲凉洗澡用品,例如沐浴露等。但,决不能有拍照!这也是本文没有桑拿照片的原因。很多人都会带罐装啤酒,蒸桑拿喝啤酒是一大享受,桑拿出汗也需要补充水分。
2)裸。习俗上,芬兰的桑拿是全裸的。在私人家里的桑拿,家人之间一起蒸桑拿是促进感情的很好方式,无所谓年纪与性别。小孩从小和父母一起桑拿,也习惯了这方式。这也是对中国人、亚洲人很大一个文化冲击,和家人之间、不同辈分人之间赤裸相对。在商业的公共桑拿地方,一般男女分开,也可以混合,朋友之间男女混合的更多。很多外国人很难适应这活动,芬兰人平常很冷静、表现冷漠、人与人之间空间距离和心理距离都很大,但是唯独在桑拿房赤裸相对时候与人感觉很亲近。我经历很多次这样桑拿,也有切身同样体会,在桑拿房里和芬兰人感觉更亲近、聊天更容易。芬兰人可以和任何人,包括陌生人一起桑拿,但也理解一些外国人不适应,也能接受外国人穿内裤进桑拿房。
3)与性无关。可能中国读者比较会考虑的是这个,芬兰的桑拿房在文化上是个圣洁地方,以前年代,孕妇可以在桑拿房生孩子,因为高温杀菌,更清洁。桑拿对芬兰人,不仅是身体的放松和清新、促进血液循环,也是精神的放松与享受。是不能有任何性相关事情的,笔者也经历很多次,从没出现过这样事。对于中国人,这也是个文化问题,芬兰人对身体的认识和中国人很不同,其次,裸体也和性活动是两回事。
4)所有人。桑拿是对所有人开放的,特别是商业公共桑拿。无论是10岁孩子、20岁大姑娘、50岁大叔,也无论你的职位是总统、校长、学生,无论身体高矮胖瘦等等,都可以一起桑拿。有心脏病、伤口的人不适合蒸桑拿。
5)桑拿邀请。如果你被芬兰人邀请去家里桑拿或者一起桑拿,这是关系亲密或者亲近的表现。类似中国人请客吃饭拉近关系的意思。对芬兰人来说,很多重要的决定不是在会议上做出,而是在桑拿房。
6)自由。在桑拿里,没有规则限定比如隔多长时间要对炉子洒水一次、多久出去冲凉一次等等,这些因人而异。有人能在桑拿房里待很久,有人待不了几分钟。
7)社交。到现在,桑拿房已经不只是放松身体的地方,也是重要社交场合。在桑拿中和陌生人更容易交谈、更容易拉近距离和营造和谐气氛。
8)桑拿房外。乡村的桑拿房一般建在湖边。在夏天,桑拿出来后可以直接去湖里游泳。在冬天,桑拿出来,可以在冰水里游泳或者在雪地里翻滚玩耍。听起来很可怕,但芬兰人就这么玩。

我的经历

本校每学期开学有次学生集体桑拿,算是欢迎新生的仪式,每学期结束前也一次,作为欢送外国学生和毕业生的仪式。在中国,这种欢迎和欢送可能是聚餐或者在KTV等。芬兰学生组织安排这活动,也是让外国学生体验这芬兰特色活动。混合桑拿里,就能看到芬兰人无论男女都是全裸,其他国家男的多全裸,而外国女生没有。这活动我一次不落,但其他亚洲人很少去,中国女生没有。因为害羞,文化约束人。可见很多外国人是很难适应和理解。另外,我居住的地方是外国学生集中区域,每栋公寓楼也有桑拿房,但外国人去桑拿的并不多,可能也是很难感受芬兰人对芬兰的那种热爱和享受。
2015年仲夏节,和一朋友去她芬兰父母家,在乡村。一进门,简单招呼后就热情安排和他们家人一起桑拿,有孩子、成年人、男女混合。这就像中国人用酒席招待客人一样意思。桑拿后,就发现和他们家人融洽很多了。
和岳父桑拿也是有趣的事,在中国可能根本不能发生。前文也说到,被邀请去桑拿是关系特别的体现。确实,在桑拿中,大家没有掩饰,人和人更亲近更坦诚,很多话题容易谈开,这些都比平时更容易。

我的经验体会

1)桑拿是很放松和享受的活动,也是我在芬兰最喜欢的活动之一。桑拿过后耳目一新的清新感和清净感非常享受。2)桑拿是最好的社交机会,芬兰人平时内敛、害羞、不爱说话、人与人距离大,不好交涉,在酒吧容易说话,但人不是清醒的,只有在桑拿里,人既清醒又享受又容易交往,而且人与人很亲切亲近的感受。3)赤裸相对让人更亲近。欧洲人在一些地方有些裸体活动,例如在一些沙滩、在一些森林体验人与自然的亲近,桑拿可以理解为室内的这样一种活动吧。这种亲近,不关乎男女性别、不关乎年纪隔阂或者职业等等社会因素,就是人作为独立个体之间最自然的亲近。4)对于身为外国人,突破自己文化框架约束,能给自己带来一种豁然开阔的自由感。

Ai Weiwei Art, Helsinki

These pics were taken at Ai Weiwei art exhibition at Helsinki Art Museum during Christmas period 2015.
Ai Weiwei艾未未 is the most well-known Chinese artist in the west. I especially like the art work White House, it was made only with old Chinese wood from some hundreds years ago, the idea is to show people that the traditional things in China can also be used to create great works and beauty for the current life. The idea of cherishing the tradition, history and culture should be encouraged. Meanwhile, his works contain lots of Chinese cultural elements, which is a good way to spread Chinese culture.

情系机场I Love Airplane, I Miss Beijing

I love airport and airplane a lot since I went abroad. Airport is a place where many people say goodbye to their dearest friends or family members. There, I witnessed too much beautiful emotions between lovers, friends and family members. There, I also observed many students’ worries, courage and uncertainty when started moving to a new country and new life. All those impressed me a lot!
I may never forget the complicated feelings when departed from Beijing Capital Inter’ Airport T3 to Finland. The  love towards China and homeland surged into mind at that moment with some worries and unstable feelings. That was my first time to understand the deep meaning of the word “homeland” and the concept of China. It was a time to feel the mutual trust with the people you meet the first time. Airport is also the place to see the expression of lots of love and missing. Those tears and those images are still clear in my mind.
Beijing, even it’s not my home city, it has become a concept or representative of the home country and where my mind can feel safe with. There were many times that I imagine the image of one day I arrive Beijing and feel excited with going back homeland.
自从出国,对机场和飞机产生了浓厚感情。机场是见证很多至亲的人分离的地方,在机场,我看到了很多真切的亲情爱情友情。或许和我留学有关,也和我8月赶上留学出国季有关。我想,永远不会忘记2014年8月从首都机场T3出关登上去往芬兰的飞机,在那一刻我体验到了一个梦想从想法到成为现实的成就感,也感受到了独身闯向一个陌生世界的恐惧和担忧,感受到在飞机降落的那一端一个完全陌生冰冷充满危险的生活在等待自己去开始。同时,也在机场看到很多像我当初那样初次出国的人,看到一些恋人从北京市区去往首都机场的轻轨上就依依不舍、难舍难分的眼泪,看到了很多家长送孩子到出关口(图1)出去留学脸上的那种深深担心,那一刻,我理解了天下父母心和骨肉情。在国门面前看到太多的眼泪和美好的感情以及很多学生出国身上的那种恐惧和勇气。也是在要走出这个生活二十多年故土时候,深深感受到对祖国前所未有的一种深爱和不舍。当飞机上升起来俯视下面的北京城,那一刻深刻感受到这叫做“故土”!英文词叫homeland,homeland顾名思义是你能当成家的一片土地。
在机场的分别时候,发现人们之间没有了社会上那些虚伪东西,看到的是人间真情和人最美好的感情。在芬兰航空检票口,当时我遇到就搭乘同一班机的一个哈尔滨女孩,从检票到出关到安检到候机厅,我们感觉到一种无比的信任和互相帮助,那种感觉是在平时城市生活里从来找不到的一种信任和亲近,感觉像是生命捆绑在了一起(这种感觉在初到国外的同胞身上也体验过,我姑且说这是同胞情怀吧)。那种感觉让我感受到人内心还是非常美好,哪怕中国社会各种欺骗诈骗的事,但是当走到出国的时候、在候机厅的时候、在面临共同的恐惧和担心时,人的心是靠得那么近那么亲,那种深深是信任,是我经历的人间最美好情感之一。
在国外,不记得曾经多少次在网上看飞机降落北京的视频,看着那些画面,我的心感觉也回到了北京、回到了中国。(北京不是我家乡,我也没在北京长期生活过,但在国外,北京作为中国的首都和代表,成了我心中的一种寄托和牵盼。也和当初从北京出关有关,每每从网上看到北京、看到北京的机场、北京的建筑街道等待,就感觉那是祖国那是家。这种感情或许只有在国外生活的人理解)去年过年回国一次过年,为了一周的回国,提前半年买就机票,天天想天天盼、脑子里无数次想象飞机降落在国内土地会是多么兴奋和激动。在德国旅行时候,在法兰克福机场附近看到中国国际航空的售票点,我在那呆呆看了几分钟,就是看着汉字、看着国航标志有种安全感、亲切感。也很多次想,有一天我要坐着中国的航班飞机回去,那种感觉会是多么安慰!
总结:我爱机场,是因为那里见证了人间很多美好的情感、见证了很多人改变人生的一个转折点、见证了很多奔波和社会的深处… 飞机带给很多留学生实现梦想的机会、带给很多人希望和便利。实际上每次坐乘飞机都有一种担心,那是把生命交给机长和很多不确定因素的一个过程,也正是这个情况,让人对生命、对人间很多的美好特别珍惜。在国内的人很难理解在国外为什么更爱国之类的,可能这是答案之一。北京成了祖国的代名词、成了身在海外人的精神寄托和归宿。