Changing Path, Changing Life

polar bear in finland

Changing Paths, A Life Changing Experience

Be Inspired by Er Sha, From a Music Teacher to a Hair Dresser

“I realized I got to change from a Panda in China to a Polar Bear in Finland“, this was what Er Sha said after moving to Finland with his Finnish wife more than ten years ago.  As one who has never lived out of China, he moved to the far north of Finland, Oulu where the average temperature is merely 2 degrees. He was a keen learner and soon realized he was behaving like a “Panda in Finland”.  He thinks that in order to survive well in this country, he has to transform himself, be a “Polar Bear in Finland”.  In Finland, the animal icon is polar bear.

polar bear in finland

Be Open to Transform Yourself

First of all, he was trained and worked as a music teacher in the University in China, however in Finland he couldn’t find a job in the town that he is living with his background and started to observe, what they need and what he could change and do so he could be employable. He noticed that there had been a lack of male hair dressers in the town where he lived in, almost all hair dressers were female! He took a course in hair dressing and many lessons to pick up the local language Finnish. Soon he was working in salons and within years, he managed to rise up to the rank of being a manager for several hair salons for a company.

Secondly, food and culture is another area of adaptation, he sees that behaving “like a Panda in Finland” won’t work – if drinking salmiakki (a liquorice flavoured drink) and having a hot sauna with friends is a form of bonding then he could try! Er Sha now speaks the Finnish language fluently. I personally experienced this that learning and speaking a foreign language is not an easy task but it is possible when we keep trying and speak up courageously, practicing the language even if we know we don’t understand half of what the person responds with. But it’s fun and it’s engaging… isn’t this what we are here for when we move to a different place – engaging?

Through this transformation, he experienced leadership and friendship in a new place and country, a group of sincere colleagues-turned-friends stayed with him through thick and thin and made life meaningful even if the ride is bumpy and challenging every now and then.

He has this to say of his experience:

I always think of 3 questions: Who I am? What I have? What can I give? When I live in China, I think our standards are alright, but when I live in Finland, there are a lot of different standards, even I think how people can eat the “terrible food” all their life. But soon I understand a thing, if we insist to be a panda in Finland, be a polar bear in the plains of Africa or be a lion in China, that is wrong. If I must live in here, I should learn be a polar bear. Now, I drink at café, eat salmiakki and musta makkara. If life is hard, I don’t complain, I learn to adapt it, even my life is very very difficult now, I think I still want to say: I love my life.

Er Sha with his family in Finland
Er Sha with his family in Finland

I was deeply touched by what he shared. We can always change a different perspective, a different mind-set and belief where we grew up in and view the current circumstance with an expanded view point. In this way, it opens up to so many possibilities and life gets smoother.  I hope that Er Sha’s story inspires you to transform your life no matter what circumstances you are in right now, go forward and live that dream you have been thinking about, because in any circumstances we can be polar bear in Finland, or panda in China, it is really up to us.

More inspiring stories at: click here.


“You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf.”
Experience in this video the 3 life transforming skills I used to surf the sea of life’s challenges: 
Top 3 Core skills in Transforming ANY Challenges in life



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