• Anna Varis


We communicate ourselves and our thoughts, feelings and emotions through different expressions. We use our face, body and voice to express ourselves. We apply particular idioms, tone of voice and words to underline what we want to express when we speak. We have all kinds of gestures we can use to express kindness, sorrow, fatigue or love. Some expressions are universal, some not. Sometimes something is so binded into one culture that it just does not translate in another. It can get interesting!

After almost a year, I’m visiting my home country Finland for a month. Here I’m a daughter and a sister and an aunt. Surrounded by friends who’ve known me for more than 15 years, some even longer. I’m in my parents home where I lived for 20 years and even after 10 years away I can easily run the stairs eyes closed or find my way in my mom’s kitchen in seconds after my arrival because nothing’s really changed. I’m away from my own home, my own morning rituals, my own Berlin-people. I'm a bit different in both places. Years of living abroad have added layers to the ways I express myself.

In Finland I'm a bit too loud, my arms take a bit too much space as they move around me as I tell a story, and my smile is a bit too wide as I try to greet a neighbor who says nothing back. My voice is slightly lower and I curse (never in front of my mother though!) way more than I do in English or in German. I get calmer when I’m closer to the sea and nature. In Berlin I’m never as shy and silent as people expect me to be because of my country of origin, there I fail to understand idioms because I translate them into something else and I get hurt by words that were coming from the place of simply caring. I make a gesture I see as simple and nice just to notice another person confused. I translate words, actions, gestures and bodily expressions wrong and then I’m confused. I dance as I wait for the traffic light to turn green. I talk a lot to the people in my kiez.

It’s an interesting world, to live side by side with each other, all of us with our own unique ways of expressing ourselves; seasoned by our cultural heritage, our places of living, people around us and our own courage to be what we are no matter what the origins and expectations are. To remember that we are allowed to change within years or even months and grow louder or more silent, to ask the meanings when we are confused, to embrace the change in ourselves and in others too. At the same time as different cultures add layers to my ways of expressions, age and time changes my parents (sometimes friends too). Words get lost, understanding changes and a lot of patience is needed. Patience to meet each other again every time. To notice that there are familiarities yet everyone might’ve changed. To learn from each other and stay curious and open about new ways that your loved one expresses themselves.

And when something gets too much - shake it off in the way that feels good for you at that particular moment! One week ago the perfect way for me to express myself with movement were cartwheels. I don’t know whether it’s a thing of childhood and being in those same premises, a thing of summer or something else; but it was so much fun!

Do you have experiences on how your ways of expression change with the places? Let us know x

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