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Brought by plane

They are young, intelligent and, though born somewhere else, they live in Finland. They agreed to share their stories with us.

Behind the drums

Kazutaka MoritaÂ’s office in Tampere Hall is anything but usual. Instead of sitting behind a desk, he sits behind a set of drums and creates musical masterpieces together with his co-workers. Morita is a timpanist in the Tampere Philharmonic Orchestra. How did a 28-year-old Japanese percussionist end up playing kettledrums in Tampere?

Morita grew up in the island of Shikoku in Japan. With 800,000 inhabitants, his home town Kochi is a small town by Japanese standards. He started his career as a musician by playing the marimba.

“I just love the marimba! When I was studying in the conservatory, I wanted to be a marimba soloist. But playing in an orchestra is just safer; you get a salary every month. So I chose orchestra," Morita tells us.

Most Japanese orchestral musicians do studies in Europe or America, so Morita also went to study in Amsterdam. After graduating, he wanted to stay in Europe because orchestral music was born here. He found a temporary position in an orchestra in Norway and was there for a year, but all the while he was on the lookout for something more stable.

When Morita found the opening in the Tampere Philharmonics, he immediately applied, was called to audition and chosen. He moved to Tampere in the beginning of 2010.

“I had a good Finnish friend in Amsterdam, so I knew the basics about Finland. Now we actually play the same instrument in the same orchestra," grins Morita.

Adjusting to the Finnish way of life has been relatively easy for a musician coming from the Japanese working culture. In Japan, workdays are long and there are hardly any holidays.

“The working environment in Finland is more relaxed. I think it’s much better and healthier this way."

When thinking about the downsides of Finland, one thing immediately springs to MoritaÂ’s mind: organizational inefficiencies can sometimes be frustrating. In a culture where responsibility is shared and everyoneÂ’s opinion is heard, things tend to take some time.

“It is a flexible system, but it makes deciding anything hard. I think one person should carry the responsibility," groans Morita.

Morita likes it in Europe and doesnÂ’t want to go back to Japan, but this young cosmopolitan is not restricted by borders. He goes wherever thereÂ’s work he wants.

“Right now I feel it is in Tampere, but I’m always on the lookout for something new," says Morita about the unknown future.

Too many beaches

If your home country begins to feel too small and you want to move somewhere bigger, Finland is usually not your first pick. But for Christos Laoutaris, 31, from Cyprus, it was. He thinks Helsinki is a massive city.

“There is so much going on here. In Cyprus it’s only sun and beaches," explains Laoutaris.

Finland was LauotarisÂ’s country of choice because he knew that language wouldnÂ’t be a problem here. Everybody speaks English, and as an IT professional, Laoutaris thought that he wouldnÂ’t need to know Finnish to get a job.

Settling in Finland, however, was far from easy. The first time, Laoutaris was here for six months in 2005. He had studied in Greece and held a bachelorÂ’s degree in software engineering. Finding work fresh out of university proved to be difficult.

“IT is a highly competitive field, and I didn’t have any work experience. I even tried to apply for simpler jobs, like cleaning, but you need to know the language for those."

Not being able to find work, Laoutaris had to move back to Cyprus. He got lucky and immediately landed a job there. Then in 2008 he came by a job offer in Elisa, applied and was accepted. He has been living in Helsinki ever since. HeÂ’s also studying towards a masterÂ’s degree in Metropolia University of Applied Sciences and plans to stay in Finland for at least a few more years.

“If Elisa wants me to stay and work, then I will stay. If not, I might look for something somewhere else."

For many Finns, sun and beaches donÂ’t sound that bad, but Laoutaris was happy to make the trade. In exchange, he got a long dark winter, but also a functioning society where everyday life is easy and calm.

“When I was studying in Greece, there were so many strikes in the universities. We once missed a whole semester and had to take an extra 6 months of courses to make up for it. And this was back when things were actually going pretty good," exemplifies Laoutaris.

In Finland, education is great and free and classes are held in their designated times. Laoutaris also likes the lack of bureaucracy here. Of course, there are downsides in everything, though Laoutaris refrains from calling things bad and instead just thinks they are weird. Alcohol consumption is one such thing.

“I live in Kallio, so I see the results every day," Laoutaris sighs.

"In the end itÂ’s about finding the right balance. I could go somewhere where itÂ’s cheaper to live and people are more outgoing. But I like the balance here."

Home on a keyboard

Coping in a new culture is interesting. When you are trying to learn the ropes, you learn a lot about yourself too," Ramine Darabiha, 28, says on the topic of culture shock caused by moving from Paris to Tampere.

He came to Finland in 2004 to do a student exchange in Tampere University of Applied Sciences, Tamk.

“I wanted to focus on mobile and internet business. Finland was, and I guess still is, the place to do that," explains Darabiha.

He came to Finland for one semester and had no intentions to stay any longer. But it didnÂ’t take long for Darabiha to realize that he wanted to complete his studies in Finland.

“The school system here is more open compared with the French one. Finland, being the mother country of Nokia, is also much more receptive to new technology."

Darabiha graduated from Tamk as a Bachelor of Business Administration in 2007. During his studies, he launched an internet company. The idea came during a business plan course in school.

“I think the concept was really cool, doing a Windows but in the internet," explains Darabiha. Building a growth company was hard, especially a few years ago. The start-up scene for new companies in Finland was small. It has grown since, but there are still very few people in the field. But being a foreigner didn’t make things harder.

“In some sense it even made it easier. I had no previous contacts, so I had to be very active in creating new ones."

Darabiha now lives in Helsinki and works as a product manager in a Finnish gaming company. He has made lots of friends and is not planning to leave Finland in the foreseeable future.

“I have survived six winters so far, so what’s a few more?"

In Finland, Darabiha appreciates the honesty of people; there is much less bullshit. Moreover, according to Darabiha, respecting oneÂ’s privacy and the readiness to accept new ideas and things is great.

“And for a guy coming from France, it’s amazing that everyone speaks English. In that sense Finland is much more welcoming."

In between two cultures

ThereÂ’s no way you can tell Javiera Marchant Aedo, 28, isnÂ’t a native Finn just by listening to her. This lively young woman speaks perfect Finnish and has hosted for example Tampere Jazz Happening and Tampere Film Festival. Originally, however, she comes from Santiago, Chile.

She came to Finland with her family as a political refugee in 1992. Her father was a political prisoner with a life sentence and a death sentence. He was in jail for 9 years before his sentence was changed to an exile.

"TodayÂ’s Chile is a democracy, and people admit that those who fought the dictatorship actually fought for human rights. Nevertheless, if my father goes back, heÂ’ll be arrested. It doesnÂ’t make any sense," says Marchant Aedo.

When the family came to Finland, 9-year-old Marchant Aedo decided to adapt to her new surroundings no matter what, because she had gotten her father back. She was called "nigger", "darkie", "Swede" and "Russian" at school, but she didnÂ’t care. Despite her determination, having to grow up early left its trace.

"Learning certain things when youÂ’re too young has caused problems later on. This is common among immigrants. Children adapt and learn the language first and have to take care of matters for their parents. This means that they have to give up their childhood."

Marchant Aedo made her choice in 2006, when she bought a ticket to Chile to find out if she wants to settle there. It turned out she had no networks and that a robust young lady whose main goal in life wasnÂ’t to get married was frowned upon. The final blow came when someone attempted to rob her.

"There I was, in the middle of ChileÂ’s hot summer, with both arms in a cast. I was miserable, lonely and afraid to go out."

After only six months, she returned to Tampere. She isnÂ’t a Finnish citizen but has a permanent residence permit. Does she still consider herself Chilean or is she now a Finn?

"IÂ’m so fed up with this question. I canÂ’t define myself as only Chilean or only Finnish, because IÂ’m a mix of both. When I was younger I tried to be one or the other, but IÂ’m no longer so black and white," snorts Marchant Aedo.

She still enjoys travelling and is soon going back to Chile to collect material for her book that tells her familyÂ’s story. She has no intention of moving away from Finland any more.

"Tampere is my home. ItÂ’s good to get away every now and then, but only when you know you can return."

Juho-Matti Paavola, text

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