Making friends regardless of background

Marilene Jokinen and Emma Turunen / Finnish Red Cross
Nasibeh moved to Finland to study two and a half years ago. Now, she studies in a doctoral programme at the University of Helsinki.
Image: Marilene Jokinen and Emma Turunen / Finnish Red Cross

Three immigrants share their stories. How can people who have moved to Finland from different cultures help each other integrate into Finnish society?

The Finnish Red Cross volunteer activities involve many people from different backgrounds and cultures. At its best, volunteering gives them new friends and makes it easier to integrate into society. People who have moved to Finland want to give something back to Finnish society through volunteer work.

Nasibeh

Nasibeh moved to Finland to study two and a half years ago. Now, she studies in a doctoral programme at the University of Helsinki. Nasibeh chose Finland for its high-quality education system.

After some time, Nasibeh started thinking she wanted to give Finland something in return. That is when she was inspired to start volunteering and get involved in multicultural activities.

Nasibeh sees volunteering as a good way to learn how you react when you encounter a person from a completely different culture.

"Many people claim they're not racist. Saying that is easy. But it's more challenging to prove that to yourself in real life," Nasibeh says.

Nasibeh has a particularly fond memory of a game session where the players didn't have a common language.

"Yet we had so much fun. We were able to communicate completely without verbal language. It was an unforgettable experience. Through the Red Cross, I've understood that we're all people. We share a lot of qualities that help us communicate and be friends, regardless of background."

Tatiana

Tatiana has only been involved in the multicultural activities of the Finnish Red Cross for a short time, but she already has a lot of experience of getting to know people from other cultures.

Tatiana moved to Finland from Russia when she was young, and learned to speak Finnish. She then went on to live in Spain for seven years, after which she returned to Finland. Tatiana has worked as a barista, an image processing specialist and a dance teacher.

Now, she wants to help others and get to know people from other cultures.

"I wanted to find a friend who's not Finnish or Russian. That's why I joined the Friends' Club activities. I'm especially interested in matters of identity and integration, and how to get people to understand each other better," Tatiana says.

Zaid

Zaid worked as a diplomat in Iraq and Germany before he moved to Finland with his family. After a six-month wait, Finland granted them asylum.

Zaid has studied Finnish for one and a half years, and now he is also studying for a degree in media and culture.

"You can integrate into society when you learn the language and you're ready to work hard. Both the society and the immigrant themselves are responsible for integrating into a new community," Zaid says.

Zaid joined the Finnish Red Cross activities in the reception centre where he helped other immigrant families. At the moment, he is a volunteer in a multicultural and multilingual men's group. He is driven by the will to help those in need.

"I want to do something good for Finnish society because it has supported me. I also want to help other immigrants because I know how difficult it is to adapt to a new country and culture."

This article was written by our communication interns, Marilene Jokinen and Emma Turunen. They are studying Communications in the Laajasalon Opisto institute.

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