Culture is an identity, not where you were born or what your nationality is
What I have learned about culture
You don’t have to be biologically from more than one country to be multicultural. It is all about your identity, not what your race or nationality is. While I am 100% Finnish when it comes to my DNA, I feel part of at least three countries and cultures.
Being Finnish to me means being proud of our high-level education and safety while also being too humble about any achievements. Enjoying the nightless summer nights when the sun wouldn’t go down in the family cottage in the archipelago. And of course all the other stereotypes: sauna, impossibly difficult language, weird sports like wifecarrying etc.
But for me being Finnish also means having a close relationship with Sweden. As a bilingual country that shares so much history and culture with our neighbour and I guess because of my upbringing I was listening to Swedish music, radio and reading books in Swedish etc. I even contemplated applying to a Swedish speaking university in Finland. As much as I resonate with some Finnish speaking Finnish stereotypes, the “finlandsvensk” (Finnish nationals whose native language is Swedish) community is part of me too as is being Nordic in general. Camping through Europe with my family was part of every summer holiday growing up. One trip while on our way back home when we entered Sweden, I told my mother “now we are back home”. And home really can be bigger than one single country or even a continent.
On top of all that, I have also lived almost three years in Greece now and that is very much part of my identity as well. The first time I visited Greece I was only five years old on a holiday with my parents. I instantly felt like home and ever since longed to return, hopefully for good one day. Let me say, I have not regretted changing home countries for a second. It is a real privilege to be able to choose the culture and climate I want to call my home now. I have to admit though that the longer I am away from Finland, the more all the different cultures merge into one big identity in my mind. I am mixing different habits and even multiple languages in one sentence on the daily basis. But I feel that’s what we should be, we are all humans and not that different from one another in the end. And how much better our culture specific habits and celebrations would survive if the whole world would join in everybody’s special days and customs. Just a thought to consider.
Multiculturalism is a huge advantage and you can have the benefits even if you never left your own country. I have learned eight languages on varied levels throughout my life and I can say that just knowing a foreign language already opens the doors to the culture. Although I may not resonate as much with Germany or France for example, I don’t regret learning the languages as it helped me understand their cultures way more than I would have been able to otherwise. The cool thing is that once you start with one it gets easier to learn more. I am in no way a polyglot, but having learned so many languages at school, it’s been relatively easy to learn Greek on my own. And the more I’ve learned other languages I’ve started to wonder why we say certain things the way we do in Finnish and therefore allowed me to understand more about my native culture as well through others. Cultures are like languages in the end and you really can be fluent in more than one culture.