This beautiful Pakistani-Finnish couple lives in Europe together and combines their cultures effortlessly!
My name is Satu and I’m from Tampere, Finland. My husband, Fawad, is Pakistani Punjabi, raised in Islamabad. We currently live together in Espoo, southern Finland and are expecting our first baby.
Three words that describe you...
Intuitive, impatient and thoughtful.
Favorite childhood memory...
Long summer holidays from school and all the activities during those holidays: travelling around Europe with my family, spending time by the lake at our family cottage in Eastern Finland, long walks in the forest with my Labrador retriever Tessa, picking berries and flowers with my mother and grandmother.
Where/how do you feel most inspired?
Definitely in nature. Finnish nature offers four very distinctive seasons and each of them involves different traditions and activities. My mother taught me to always admire and respect nature and that has stuck with me until this day. I might stop to adore a specifically beautiful shade of green grass and I still get excited (and equally scared) whenever there’s a thunderstorm.
Where/how did you meet your spouse?
We met in Tampere, Finland, at University circles. I had recently returned from Turkey, having lived there for six months for exchange studies. I didn’t want to let go of the international atmosphere so I joined a group of exchange students and international degree students in Tampere and quickly met Fawad through common friends.
How long have you been together?
We met in May 2011 so it has now been 4.5 years.
What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Fawad is a very loving person and really takes care of those close to him. I have no doubt that he will be a great father! He is also very fun loving and never fails to make me laugh. He has an amazing ability to always think positive and he makes people comfortable by keeping the moment light.
Favorite memory together as a couple...
It’s really hard for me to choose one favorite memory over others! But I specifically enjoyed our trip to Istanbul back in 2013. Due to a small confusion with flight dates (oops!) we ended up spending 10 days there instead of the planned 4 days. We were in my favorite city in the world, roaming around with ample of time, enjoying the food, the atmosphere, the history and the sights. On top of it all, Fawad got a call with good news on a job AND we celebrated my birthday. It was just such a stress free trip and I feel like we connected in new ways.
What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
Pretty much nothing. I had never met a Pakistani person before and my knowledge on the country was limited to news of Taliban and Osama bin Laden. I’d like to think myself as open minded though, so I never let prejudice define how I looked at Fawad. And here we are!
How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
Most of our friends are international so it was no big deal for them. There were some friends/family members that I knew would struggle a bit with the news, but once they got to know Fawad, their worries disappeared. Fawad also told his family about me at an early stage.
How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
It is amazing to learn about a new culture so different from your own. It really widens your perspective and gives new points of view. On a personal level, there are some values in my life that have been re-kindled with Fawad’s influence. I have become more positive and laid back and Fawad has brought the hugging culture even to my side of the family!
Who proposed and how?
We had been discussing getting engaged and already bought the rings together so it wasn’t really a surprise to me. We went on a small trip to Tallinn, Estonia and spent a very pleasant few days in a nice hotel. Fawad didn’t have a grand speech prepared and was clearly a bit nervous, but he did say some very beautiful words and proposed in the hotel room, privately but romantically, just like I wanted. Earlier he had also met with my parents to ask for my hand, not that we needed their permission, but because we thought it would be nice gesture towards them. This story ended up in my dad’s speech at our wedding!
Describe your wedding...
We had two weddings, one in Pakistan and one in Finland. The Pakistan wedding took place in April 2015 and lasted for two days. We had a Mehndi party for friends and close relatives, with music, food, dancing, colorful clothes and all that. The next day we had the Walima reception which was a more upscale dinner event, us sitting on a couch on a platform and being photographed with all the guests one by one. Regardless of the horrifically last minute (in my Finnish, calm-natured, confirm-everything-six-months-before opinion) preparations, everything went really well and both events will always be some of my best experiences of Pakistani culture.
The Finnish wedding happened in August 2015 in Tampere, the city where we met. We had a civil ceremony in a beautiful blooming rose garden and a reception at a manor. The program was quite traditional with the ceremony, food, speeches, wedding dance and so on. We kept the two weddings separate in a way that one was completely Pakistani and one completely Finnish, with one exception of the wedding dance in the Finnish wedding where we performed a short Bhangra show. That turned out to be a hit!
What does being married mean to you?
Getting married was like gearing up to the next level. We are both calmer now and quarrel less. We share the same values and goals in life and being married is kind of a testimony for that. Our marriage is still so fresh that I sometimes forget to call Fawad my husband – it sounds so grown up. And I get weak in the knees when he calls me his wife!
What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
We want to maintain our relationship as affectionate, bubbly and happy even when the times get busier. We want to buy a home, settle down and start our family but at the same time keep all doors open for news career prospects and locations. We also want to keep on travelling regularly.
What's the best marital advice that you received from elder family/friends?
Never go to bed angry.
What positive cultural values do you bring to your relationship?
Meaning what you say and saying what you feel, honesty, and love for nature.
What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
For us the small acts of kindness in everyday life are the key to keeping the relationship alive. We need regular together-time to just relax, laugh and be cute. Another important thing for both of us is travelling, whether it’s a small weekend trip to a nearby city or a longer overseas holiday. Learning and seeing new things together connects us in a very special way and creates precious memories.
In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I like the fashion and clothes and own way too many shalwar suits considering that I’ve only visited Pakistan twice! I’m also slowly increasing my threshold for spicy foods and recently learned to love lentil soup. Last but not least, I’m trying to learn Urdu which is a bit of a challenge as there are no classes available where I live. Fawad also likes to mix Urdu and Punjabi which doesn’t make my language learning any easier!
Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
They like the Pakistani food that Fawad sometimes cooks, given that he makes it Finnish-friendly (no chili or other hot spices). And we did see some bhangra moves from them at the wedding!
What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
No matter how late or behind of schedule you are, there’s never a hurry to get things done. This can be really frustrating for someone like me who can’t relax if there’s unfinished business lurking around! Another thing that is totally different from the Finnish culture is the perception of and need for privacy. I’m used to having my own space and time so adjusting to a big family household with people constantly popping in and out can be tough. In Finland, even friends and family let each other know beforehand if they want to visit, and life in general is much more private and centered on the nuclear family.
What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best part is that there is always something more to learn about each other and each other’s backgrounds. It is such a richness to be able to build your own family culture while picking the best sides of two very different cultures. The worst part is that someone’s family is always far away and not all big moments can be shared with both sides.
What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
That there is always some background agenda to the relationship other than love.
What are the biggest misconceptions about Finnish women?
Probably the general misconception that all European women have no moral values and are after money, and they cheat on their husbands the first chance they get.
Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
No, at least not very openly. Although following the current European immigrant crisis I have noticed more people giving bad looks because they think Fawad is a fresh-off-the-boat immigrant who’s here to take advantage of the social benefits and stealing jobs and women from the locals. Luckily Fawad isn’t at all bothered by this!
Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
Follow your heart. In the end, it’s your life and your choices, not your friends’ or family’s. If you are struggling with cultural differences, it might be worthwhile to search for some reading material and assignments for intercultural couples to learn to better understand each other’s backgrounds.