I have never stayed with a foreign family alone. When I was a student, I visited my friends in Russia and Kyrgyzstan, but it was different from my last weekend.
Before the start of thisisFINLAND Foreign Correspondents’ Programme I read several articles about Finnish people, because I wanted to be prepared for my family weekend. I’m from Kazakhstan. You know, according to these articles, blog posts, and so on, Central Asian and Finnish families are very different from each other. I thought that I would live on another planet.
During last weekend, I actually noticed some similarities between Kazakh and Finnish families. Of course, I can’t speak on behalf of all families in Kazakhstan and Finland, but I’ll try to compare my own family with the Aaltonen’s, my host family.
My weekend parents were excited to have me at their home, because I come from such an exotic country. Previously they had hosted young journalists from Great Britain, Germany, Poland, USA, Russia, etc. I was the first from Asia.
I had my separate, “own” flat (they have two), because there is no special room for guests in their main apartment. I think that I was lucky, because they will sell the flat within one week. It means I was the last visitor who had this opportunity. Also, I was quite tired after our trip to Turku and the Åland Islands, and I really wanted to spend some time alone. Sometimes it is necessary.
My own father is careful about time management. If he says, for instance, “We will go somewhere at 7:00 a.m.”, it means that we will do it at that time. They always come to events on time and wait for others unlike Kazakh people who are usually late. Harri, the head of the Aaltonen family, prepared a programme for two days, including breakfasts, lunches and dinners. We followed it accurately, and explored Inkoo, Fiskars and Billnäs.
Another similarity is that also Kazakh families keep in touch with each other. We spend our weekends, holidays, and free time together. For example, my sister visits our parents almost every weekend or invites them to her home. I was glad to meet Harri and Anne’s children. Only their 17-years-old daughter lives with them. Their two sons, Teemu and Tommi, have moved to their own homes. I also saw Tommi’s wife Cecilia and their son Noah, who will soon turn 2 years.
What about differences? One of them is the interpretation of the words “yes” and “no”. When I arrived at Inkoo about 10:00 p.m. Anne and Harri suggested that I have a taste of a salmon pie. I was not hungry and said: “I’m fine” and they didn’t offer the dish again. Kazakh ladies would fill a bowl with food anyway.
I was also surprised to see the head of the family help his wife clear the table and wash the dishes. Moreover, he cooked pizza, chicken, rice and salad. My father cooks only barbecue several times per year and takes out the garbage. I know families where the husband doesn’t do anything related to cooking or cleaning. Gender equality shows in Finland in different ways.
My own father is worried about my private life. He wants to see me married as soon as possible. Harri told that I have so much time, because I’m still young. According to the standards of Kazakh society, I might have missed my chance of becoming a happy wife and mother already.
The family weekend was a really great experience. I saw pictures on our WhatsApp chat, uploaded by other participants. Some of them had been staying in big houses. As a blogger with journalistic background, I was glad my host family represented an average Finnish family. But I should add that ordinary Kazakh villagers don’t have two flats, a summer house and own forest. Another difference…
Photos: Sabina Serikova