A woman’s life layered in cultural space – how far culture shapes our identity…

By Mariam Sutidze-Haveri, Correspondent for FinnishNews, a professional journalist from Georgia now living in Tampere.

Here, in Finland, where gender equality justifies my busy mornings on weekdays and lazy long hours on weekends, I get my first cup of coffee from my husband.

Usually, I wake up 2 hours earlier before work starts. However, I need all that time for my morning routine: 20 minutes of workout to get moving, 15-minute hot shower to kick-start creativity, 40 minutes for make-up and dressing to look beautiful and confident (so important for every women regardless racial/ethnic variations) and 10 minutes for morning snack. Then I am ready to head for work. This lasts for another 20 minutes to walk up to my office desk, open emails and enjoy another cup of coffee. Its smell meets me already outside the entrance and lures me inside the building… Here coffee flavour imbues all our common space.

This is my Finnish morning… Too harmonious and too well-organised to fit anything else in. So, I gave up my Georgian habit to serve breakfast to whole family and forgot about the traditional Georgian morning ritual where a woman has a major role to bring all the family members to the table and start the day together… For sure it bothers me, something is lacking, feels like escaping from own roles and responsibilities so deeply coded into my genetic resources, but I compensate.

I run home after work immediately to cook dinner, clean the home, do homework with kids, iron shirts for my husband… Nobody expects this, neither needs this, but habit is stronger than reason. So I keep doing the same every day, but each evening ends up with playing the piano by myself, reading a book and floating on the wings of imagination. It is necessary to keep tomorrow and survive from routine.

Georgian women are often tired, though satisfied because after all they managed to do all what was planned for the day. The never think that they have their own life, feelings and needs, passions or desires but their life is articulated in values more than in pleasure. In other words the principle “You want, you do”is against “You know this is right thing to do”!

If it still sounds unclear what people they (we) are, then let’s go into a few examples, from morning to evening and through weekends.

  1. A typical middle-aged married woman in Georgia runs on high-heels from Monday to Friday.
  2. A typical middle-aged married Georgian woman loses a big part of the weekend to clean the house
  3. A typical middle-aged married Georgian woman spends some minutes/hours meeting up, hosting or speaking over the phone, every evening (all 7 days of week), with a friend, relatives, or at least neighbours.

… and here are the true details of such a woman’s ordinary life:

MORNING in Georgia: Morning route from home to school: she brings the kids there on time, prepared for lessons, neatly dressed, well fed and looking healthy, skilled in social graces judged by teachers and the older generation. If any of those are missed, one’s biological motherhood has no chance to reach the upper grade of “Honourable Mother”. That means a mother who brings up the future for the country, the type of a woman who is given a special toast full to the brim of ancient Georgian red wine on every possible occasion… Sounds strange, but that is a fact!

WORK in Georgia:After school, she runs to work: no chance to be late. Should smile broadly and look happy, spirited and vibrant, always wearing makeup, smelling perfume and standing on heels. There are two hidden messages beyond that image: if somebody is happy, she is productive, so her bosses perhaps trust blindly in her physical appearance. Secondly, it contributes to positive and pleasant work environment for all others.

WORK in Finland:As for me living and working in Finland, I celebrate cutting costs on cosmetics. Fragrance ban at workplace… Here we care about others by avoiding allergy attacks of someone with fragrance sensitivity. Nobody knows who they are, but I still thank them because they give me the strength to pass indifferently the dangerous walking zone in SOKOS, the big supermarket in Tampere, decorated with variety of top favourite fragrances.

AFTER WORK in Georgia: People usually go home, but if you need to earn respect as the best worker just sit bit longer at workplace. Even if you do not have anything to do. Long hours show your readiness to dedicate own self to work!

AFTER WORK in Finland:Here I have different rules: I always leave on time, but I remember to complain about my workload. Logic is the same: you complain even if there is no reason to.  And next morning just present some ideas resulting from a long evening brainstorming with yourself. The point is that your mind is set on work even during those minutes, when you were expected to relax… That is enough to be special and memorable worker…

Whatever the work life, all of us in both countries, go back home at some point. The Georgian middle-aged married woman has no time to walk or wait for a bus, but she drives in a rush to be on time for cooking, kids, and a husband who is absolutely unhappy because of wife being late from work. When all is done and taken care of, earliest in between 9-10 p.m., she usually starts living her own moments… All of them have hobbies and dreams. Mine is playing the piano, somebody enjoys simply sitting still and staring into space, observing shimmering lights from neighbours’ windows, and imagining that they are awake in the same dreams. I have seen my mother in those moments…

INCLINATIONS AND MORAL HOBBIES in Georgia: The Georgian women are dreamers (subjective viewpoint), because they do not have any other time in reality to listen to themselves. They are responsible to everybody; they live through their kids life; they are busy with supporting their husband; they listen to neighbours’ complaints; share friends’ every moment of happiness and sadness; remember every birthdays of even distant relatives, and at the same time follow the rhythm of life…

They know they always have to keep developing personally and professionally again for the reason to make their own kids and family members proud of her deeds.

They know they have to keep in good shape with painted fingernails and mascara-volume eyelashes covering tiredness under its shadows.

INCLINATIONS AND MORAL HOBBIES in Finland: We, women, dream here as well. Dream how to love ourselves more and how to make ourselves a priority. This is major development goal for well-being and welfare for the whole country. This is a great strength, power and courage for all the fears in life and motivation for me to keep on dreaming…

The fact is that we all need happiness, fulfilment, and colours in life. For somebody it is a long walk in a rainy, cold spring Finnish day, dreaming about warmer sunshine; others enjoy heavy training for stronger muscles, to emphasise natural equality between men and women; and again, somebody else is drooling in eager anticipation of free moments for inner peace and harmony, playing music in dimming light, late evening when others sleep …

Those are different tints of the same colour, but we are still struggling over the changing hues of shades… Why can’t we decide where do we fit in?

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