Have you ever wondered what’s it like being a Jamaican living in Finland? In our “Jamaicans to the World” Facebook Live show, Jamaicans.com founder, Xavier Murphy spoke with Rasheka Scott, a Jamaican who lives in Finland.
Xavier: What is it like being a Jamaican in Finland? Hi, I am Xavier Murphy, the founder of Jamaicans.com. Today in Jamaicans to the world, I talk to Rasheka, who is a Jamaican living in Finland. Hi Rasheka, how are you doing?
Rasheka: Hi Xavier, how you doing? What’s up? (Wah gwaan?)
Xavier: I am doing well. Question, Which part of Jamaica, are you from?
Rasheka: Um, you know I’m a Falmouth girl, so Trelawny in the house, right.
Xavier: All right and tell us your story on how you ended up in Finland.
Rasheka: Well actually, my dad came to play football here and then I came at eight years old. I moved from Jamaica, straight from Falmouth to Helsinki, straight into the autumn. So that’s how I ended up here.
Xavier: I gotta tell you this, you have a strong accent still, for someone who moved there at the age of eight.
Rasheka: How yuh (you) mean? Mi jus done tell yuh seh mi come fram Falmouth, yuh nuh! (I just told you I am from Falmouth, you know), that never leaves you honestly and I don’t want it to either.
Xavier: So how are Jamaicans perceived in Finland, when people meet you and they say; oh you’re Jamaican, how are they perceived?
Rasheka: We’re actually perceived really well, we’re lucky, lucky for that. With excitement curiosity, of course they asked me if I smoke weed, if I know Usain Bolt, then they start to talk about Bob Marley, and you know Reggae music and all of that. And then it’s like, oh, I would love to visit Jamaica; there is that craving to be a part of…, you know, the magic that we have in Jamaica, so it’s extremely positive really.
Xavier: Good, good, good I like… I love hearing that. So do you have any funny stories where someone realize you’re Jamaican and they say something interesting to you, apart from the weed and the Bob Marley?
Rasheka: No, no, you know, and I think that it’s generally like a stare, it’s like a stare of amazement, like oh! almost like your a magical being, you know, like I have never been to Jamaica before…, an den di pressure starts com pan yuh like, (and then the pressure starts coming on you like) Oh my gosh, now I have to like show up for the entire island. I had one particular encounter, he was actually an older partner at the law firm and he, very emotionally started to talk about…, I don’t remember where he said this happened but when he went to see Bob Marley in concert and that still stayed with him; It was incredible. He was still taken aback by that whole experience, the magic of…, you can just imagine being there at the Bob Marley concert and also, yeah, you know, let’s say I get away with nuff (a lot) because I’m Jamaican.
Xavier: So, it’s a free pass.
Rasheka: Yeah, definitely it’s a free pass.
Xavier: So tell us a little bit about Finland, let me start with the food, what’s the food like?
Rasheka: You couldn’t start at the worst place you know because as far as I’m concerned. There is no food that is better than Jamaican food right, honestly, I have to say. Finnish food is… It’s a lot of berries, quite a lot of fish like salmon and stuff and potato based, baked goods. I would say maybe the best of Finland is sort of this Scandinavian fresh cuisine, but it’s definitely not a sort of a spicy land. So you can be more like fresh tastes I guess and interesting; berry based cuisine, I would say. So I manage okay; let’s just say.
Xavier: Okay, where do you get your Jamaican fix and what’s your favorite Jamaican food.
Rasheka: Yuh ago depress mi enuh (you are going to depressed me, you know) in the rainy Friday, honestly, because it’s been a while since I’ve got my fix, Jamaican food. What I used to do believe it or not is actually travel to Sweden. There was this Jamaican restaurant I don’t remember the name, but I know it by heart how to get there. That’s where I used to travel to but otherwise, I have to fly all the way to Florida usually, as a stopover, let’s say if I can’t get to Jamaica or England, in London actually last October, I found this beautiful place. I think its name was Back a Yard or something, it doesn’t matter. I go there inspect the curry goat, you know, how the place stay, likkle patty (little patty). You know, all of that, I get it where I can basically but not here.
Xavier: So folks, if you need to send a care package, you know, please Rasheka is needing her patties, and she’s needing her items there in Finland, so please send her and remember that…
Rasheka: Yeah, please I will take it. This is a serious, you know, Grace Foods, what not…
Xavier: So, in terms of the people themselves. Tell us a little bit about the people there in Finland and any customs or anything, tell us a little bit about them?
Rasheka: Well, Finland; the people they are a little bit, let’s say sort of the Northern Viking, if you can imagine. They’re quite private; they don’t really take to you immediately. It takes a while for them to warm up. But when they do, genuinely I find that the friendships tend to last longer and in turn, they’re very honest people very organized, they like to give you, you know your distance, so to speak or keep a distance, which works well in this Corona times. I hate to mention Corona, but it works really well because they’re very disciplined here, with regards to that.
Xavier: Let me ask you this, particular question here. I know, you know, in Finland, probably, maybe not a lot of black people are there and I know you’re involved in different organizations that you know are trying to bring people, Black people from different places together. Tell us about some of these organizations that you’re involved in, in regards to… I think. You’re a lawyer right.
Rasheka: I’m a lawyer. Yeah.
Xavier: And so tell us a little bit about some of the organizations you have been involved in, and I know, you have quite some accomplishments. I know you don’t want to brag but quite accomplished there.
Rasheka: No, I’m not gonna brag but I think that I’ve carefully sort of chosen, where I practice, and what I’m doing in terms of the contribution that I’m making to society. So, what I found about decided to settle here in Finland. I studied law in England, as well, is that I definitely wanted to be a black lawyer here so I was trying to prove a point and also to break up the same, same of the society, but in terms of black people here. I just founded this black professionals Finland group, just in the Spring. And basically it’s this idea of black people here, we’re not just in low paying jobs, they’re educated black people and they kind of need the space to breathe. You know, block off the world that kind of thing, get some support when you’re working in the white corporate space, all of that, so that’s the idea. Somewhere where we can just chillax (relax) and, you know, be ourselves.
Xavier: Okay, that’s great. So, in terms of the adjustment you had to make, when you got there, what would you say is probably your biggest adjustment that you had to make when you move to Finland, and I know you moved at a young age. What’s the biggest adjustment you had to make?
Rasheka: Yeah, I moved at a young age, but I actually lived elsewhere in between so I’ve also lived in Belgium, and I’ve also lived in England, as I said, so it’s like a double adjustment, and definitely the first one was when I was younger, weather and being away from like my core, you know, larger family, and then older, weather, again, it can get really grey for quite a bit of the year. So that’s, that’s definitely one of the biggest adjustments and that’s also for Finns who have moved abroad, and then they come back, they’re like, mi caa badda wid dis wehdah enuh (I can’t be bothered with this weather, you know). I am not from here; what you expect me to do, if you can’t bother with the weather, the weather definitely… Also because I learned to speak the language quite young.
Xavier: Oh, wow!
Rasheka: Yeah, I learnt it in like three months when I was eight years old. So, that’s not something that I got to experience but it might be for someone else, you know, if they come at a later age or so, that sort of language barriers there, but weather is number one.
Xavier: Oh, let me warn you, at the very end you’re gonna have to teach us how to say bah bye (bye) in Finnish. Is it Finnish, that’s the language?
Rasheka: Finnish, yes.
Xavier: Okay, and you’re gonna have to teach us how to say it.
Rasheka: I’m still traumatized from trying to teach my mother, like a long time ago but I’ll give it a go. It’s okay.
Xavier: So, if someone is to visit, Finland, is there an attraction or is there somewhere you say, listen, you come here. I would recommend go see this, it could be some landscape, it could be; I know some places, when the sun set, it’s a different look. It could be anything. What would be that one thing you say, if you come to Finland you must go see this.
Rasheka: It’s not actually… necessarily for me a landscape, or a definite landmark for me, you asked about the customs before. I would definitely say, go to a cabin, right, go to a cabin in the woods, and then go to the sauna that is usually built, this kind of wooden sauna, and then go into the freezing lake to swim, and then run back into the sauna. Oh, by the way, roll around in the snow.
Xavier: Hold on a minute; Go in the freezing lake. Okay, am I going in the freezing lake in some type of outfit that is warm, I am like in bathing suit and heading into a freezing lake.
Rasheka: No, did I not say, that these people are Vikings. Listen, it has health benefits, right, yuh a lauf (you are laughing). No, you go into the sauna right, where you roast yourself for a good bit, then you run out, roll in the snow, dash into the lake and the run back into the sauna and your skin is like tingling completely. That is an experience in the middle of nowhere, by the way, in addition to that.
Xavier: So you have done this?
Rasheka: To some degree, yes and I made my cousins who visited from Florida do this, it was quite a trip but it’s that back to nature attitude, which is very Finnish to do the sauna.
Xavier: That is very interesting. I don’t like the cold. So, I don’t know if I’m gonna try, but, you know, you never know, you never know.
Rasheka: I definitely think, if not that, then another one for example if you come into summer, for a visit in the summer, I definitely recommend getting on one of those boats and seeing one of the millions of small little islands that are just along the coast of Helsinki. That’s where people would have their cabins and it’s just beautiful to see there’s a lot of lakes here, there’s a lot of water bodies and part of that would be a great experience to visit.
Xavier: That is good, that is good. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of moving, you know, a Jamaican per say is thinking; you know what, I’m gonna take it. I’m coming out there to Finland, what advice would you give them, one piece of advice if you chose, maybe even two.
Rasheka: I would say do it, you only live once that’s the thing. And then you should seek out fellow black people who are here, who will help you navigate maybe the psychological effects of moving to such a northern place away from home. Everything else is just a matter of organization, you know good clothing, of course, but you definitely need that community because Finnish people don’t naturally have that embracing community as you might find for example in Spain or somewhere else that you go to. So that’s what I would say.
Xavier: Okay, I know you have a family there, you have a son.
Xavier: How is he navigating being half Finnish and half Jamaican, and how do you keep that culture in him alive?
Rasheka: It’s my mission. It’s my life’s mission really. I play music, quite a bit. I talked to him sometimes in Patios.
Xavier: What music, what type of Reggae music are you playing?
Rasheka: Boogie yahgah (Dance Hall or hardcore Reggae) as the older folk would say ‘Boogie yahgah music’. I play all sorts, of course, we do classic, reggae, Bob Marley etcetera but you know. I do play dancehall quite a bit as well and since he was a baby as well, but in terms of the culture, the food part is not going so great I have to admit, but I tried to sort of maybe a Jamaican spirit, and so this joviality, this larger than life attitude, being able to show joy, I think those are the ways that I’ve chosen, so you’re not apologetic about your existence and pride in your hair in your appearance, especially when you’re mostly among white children at daycare, so that’s the approach that I’ve taken so far.
Xavier: That is great, does he identify as you know, in terms of saying okay I am part Jamaican or he hasn’t gotten to that point yet?
Rasheka: He hasn’t, I’m hoping that it is in the soul, and it’s just a matter of time before he can vocalize that, unfortunately, Xavier, he has not been to Jamaica as yet, at least, often to his knowledge, let’s put it that way. But we’re getting there. After this COVID situation that’s the first thing I need him on the beach with a piece of jerk chicken in his hand and eating to the bone; that needs to be like communicated.
Xavier: So, you you’ve been there a while, what’s the one activity you love doing there? What’s the one thing, you said, man, I just love doing this in Finland, what’s the one activity?
Rasheka: I actually love this indoor hockey, right, this flour ball that they play here. I really like that, that’s a Northern Europe game. So basically, it’s indoor hockey with this ball that has a lot of holes. So I play that once a week and I love doing that. Yeah, I have skated well and skied, but you know, that’s definitely something that I have ongoing at the moment.
Xavier: So, what are you talking about when you say, it cole? (its cold); you mentioned that earlier. For how long is it really cold and how long does summer last? I know summer just ended here, but maybe it’s a different time there. How long is summer and how long is winter and is it just mainly the two seasons?
Rasheka: Yuh a dipress mi enuh (you are depressing me, you know) did I not just tell you it’s rainy, you are asking me about weather. The summer is basically…; we have a running joke; summer is like two weeks, you know, but it’s not. I would say summer is from when there’s a whole midsummer sort of bank holiday etcetera at the end of June. So that’s when Summer, you can say is June, July, August, those would be the summer months, but it doesn’t mean that it’s hot all the time, it depends. And after you have a clear autumn. So now we have the beautiful leaves you know the different colors, and all of that. This year it has been warmer and more than the cold, cold, it is the darkness.
Xaxier: How long is the dark?
Rasheka: Let me start on a positive note first, up about the summer, it can mean that in the summer, even at 11pm. It’s light outside. And in some parts of Finland the sun basically doesn’t go down in effect so it doesn’t get dark over the summer months so around mid-summer. The idea is that midnight, it’s still light out so we get a lot of light in those months, but then we pay back for all of that, when it gets dark. It’s dark when you leave for work, and it’s dark when you leave work, right. So that’s like we’re buckling down now. All of this being lively right now; everything is just because I’m talking to my people, but you know, otherwise it’s like I’m buckling down for like hibernation right now, until, I don’t know; February, yuh nuh si mi enuh mi in a cloud (you can’t see me, you know, I am in a cloud).
Xaxier: I want to talk a little bit about you, you’ve been there for a while; music, and not the reggae music. If I were to come to Finland and I turn on the radio. What am I hearing what’s the popular music that’s there is it American popular music is it the European popular music, is it, you know, a mixture, is there, a little reggae thrown in once in a while, you know, what is that like?
Rasheka: You know what you’d be surprised, because the music industry or the diversity of the music industry here is quite surprising. You don have the Finnish rap, you have sort of the Finish… How would they call it this? Traditional more like Baladi sort of music. You also have, of course the American chart toppers, you have a huge like disproportionately large dancehall community here. So there’s a radio station; Basso Radio for example, so on a certain day Tuesday or so whichever it was you would hear Dance Hall, you know, so they’re going over that and really yeah, so it’s possible to hear your music so to speak and then when you go out the selector at certain parties, is like straight Patois, and I’m like, where am I, just for a minute you’re like, whoa! Yeah, man, gwaan tru (go on through).
Xavier: That is amazing! That’s amazing! Is there a lot of other Jamaicans there in Finland that you have met?
Rasheka: Quite a bit now, especially younger ones but still not that many. Yeah, not that many. We have sort of the older generation who came here back in the 80s to Finland and of course their offspring, etcetera, but they’re usually half, but they’re few now. Especially in the dancing community who have found their way here or some who got lost coming from England, you know, for university or whatever.
Xavier: You mentioned, dancing community, you’re talking Jamaican dance community or people learning Jamaican dances.
Rasheka: Both, they are eager as I said there’s a magic to us, it is everywhere, including here in such a northern country, you wouldn’t believe it but it is absolutely very, very strong.
Xavier: Yeah, I love that, that you know there’s a magic in us. I love that, that could be a tagline JTB Jamaica Tourist Board that’s our tagline; there’s a magic in us.Thank you so much for joining us, and telling us your story. Telling us a little bit about, Finland, and about your experience there. Any closing words, and in your closing words, please remember, you’re going to need to teach us how to say goodbye in Finnish. So, any closing thoughts, any closing words.
Rasheka: Thank you for this interview. First of all, I just maybe want to say to any Jamaicans listening to this, as was just said, we are magic, and that’s definitely brought me a long way just to remember who I am, and for you all to remember who you are, no matter where you go. And no matter how difficult it is to sort of get your foot in the door, just remember that we are all from a very magical place, and that really has got me to where I am, and will keep me going, for sure.
Xaxier: All right, so now, how do we say goodbye in Finnish.
Rasheka: Voimme sanoa, moi moi. (So we can say my ‘moi moi or hei hei)
Xavier: All right, Rasheka, thanks again, and moi moi.
Rasheka: Moi moi Xavier
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