A Japanese-speaking yoga teacher moves to Finland and becomes a Helsinki city tour guide. A west-African textile designer joins his Finnish love in her home country and morphs into a caretaker of elderly Finnish people. A young American woman joins with acquaintances to start an English-speaking branch of the vegan society in Tampere. While these snapshots do not refer to actual persons they give a glimpse of possible migrant stories. Behind and around these snapshots are complex stories of efforts to reach out and to engage with a strange and – at times- seemingly impenetrable socio-cultural context.
Safety: a platform for being curious
Moving to a new socio-cultural environment has the potential to stimulate curiosity and, ideally, provides opportunities to explore and to become engaged, sometimes in ways we could not have imagined at another point in our lives.
A precondition for becoming curious and exploring is that we feel reasonably safe. Feeling safe can be difficult when we are in a strange environment. A vitally important source of safety for human beings are close, supportive and reliable relationships with significant others. Whereas young children repeatedly reassure themselves of the caregiver’s presence and thus feel safe enough to explore, most adults have internalised good-enough attachment relationships. Adults have a felt sense of supportive holding relationships even when loved ones are not around. Nevertheless, adults too need to reassure themselves. This is why, especially in the beginning, regular contact with social networks in the old homeland is vitally important to maintain a sense of psychological wellbeing and to give a safe launching pad from which to explore the new environment.
Safety in the familiar
We also enhance our subjective sense of safety by keeping our strengths firmly in mind, by using opportunities to communicate with people who speak the same language and by taking small steps, ensuring that we credit ourselves for progress made, however small it may seem. Many find it reassuring, when entering strange situations, to be accompanied by someone or something, e.g. an object symbolic of safety.
What are the things that help you feel safe to explore the new and unfamiliar?