Brain drain from Finland set to get worse as anti-immigration sentiment grows

by , under All categories, Enrique

By Enrique Tessieri*

Think tank Research Institute of the Finnish Economy (ETLA) states in a report that Finland already suffers from brain drain “to some extent.” With the backdrop of the April 17 election and a more negative atmosphere towards immigrants, coupled with the cooling of the economy, suggest that brain drain will continue to get worse.  

Even if Finland’s educational system has received high global marks, it is a totally different story how Finnish labor markets tap those that have studied in the system. If we look at the vocational school level, it’s pretty clear that Finland squanders such resources.  Unemployment among  people who are under 25 years old was about 20%  in August compared with 6.6% for the whole country, according to Statistics Finland.

A lot has been debated in Finland about how difficult it is for immigrants to get jobs after they take a university degree.  Here is one link  that shows the plight of Sub-Saharan refugees that received higher education in Finland.

Even though certain groups are quoted more often in the media than others, it is rarely acknowledged that the largest group of people who move to Finland are return migrants; half of all immigrants in Finland are EU citizens. The number of immigrants from Africa and Muslims, the favorite political punching bag of anti-immigration groups, are small in comparison.

Having a distorted view of the outside world and the imagined threat it poses can be hazardous to any country’s economic and social health. It’s pretty clear that Finland needs skilled immigrants to fill jobs in this country left by an ever-growing army of pensioners. Instead, anti-immigration groups like the Perussuomalaiset (PS) party win a big election victory in April on an anti-EU and anti-immigration platform.

If the irresponsible and populist statements of parties like the PS were to be believed, it is only a question of time when we will be overrun by certain foreign groups and converting to a new religion.

Spreading these type of urban myths and populist rhetoric are questionable for many reasons. For one, they build real and spiritual walls around this country. They scare away those immigrants we need. Why would any skilled immigrant want to move with his family to Finland if it has a reputation for intolerance and racism? Why would a foreign company want to invest in such a country knowing that their foreign workers could run the danger of being harassed by the local population?

Taking into account challenges like plugging a falling workforce in numbers and creating more jobs in the next two decades, Finns should see parties like the PS, and especially its most extremist anti-immigration wing, as a direct threat to our future economic and social livelihood. Breeding nationalism and suspicion of other groups and the outside world will impoverish Finland in many ways.

These groups in the PS  have not only declared war on future immigrants but those living in the country. PS MP Olli Immonen was quoted as saying in Oulu-based daily Kaleva that he wants to do away with the Ombudsman for Minorities because it “hinders free (hate?) speech,” according to him.

Of all the developed countries, only Finland, United States and Germany have a lower educational level than the local inhabitants, reports Helsingin Sanomat quoting an OECD study.

Is Finland is taking advantage of its university educated workforce? What concrete steps must be taken to attract skilled and higher-education immigrants to our country?

The answers that will surface from these questions will certainly reveal the major challenges our society faces in the first half of this century.

*Thank you Hans Zwaga for bringing this issue to my attention. 

  1. Mary Mekko

    If there’s such unemployment and underuse of educated Finns, why not use your own people and keep the foreigners out until the unemployment situation improves? Not protecting one’s own people is certainly a crime by national politicians.

    I am sure the Subsaharan immigrants are studying night and day (never loitering on the Metro as I saw their males doing…), to improve themselves and benefit the future of Finland. But then again, maybe they don’t really care about Finland’s future; it’s just a nice cozy welfare hangout, in spite of the cold weather. Why should a Subsaharan care about Finns, anyway, unless they’re ready to give him something?

    So are the Subsaharans near the top of the school classes graduating this year, all heading for university? Bravo!

    • Enrique

      –If there’s such unemployment and underuse of educated Finns, why not use your own people and keep the foreigners out until the unemployment situation improves?

      Things don’t work that way. Your view is that Finland sits on some thrown and waves its magic wand at the gate. When the gate is opened millions are waiting to pour in. Wrong. In fact we are having a difficult time attracting skilled labor to this country. Matters have been made worse by the PS.

  2. BlandaUpp

    Highly educated natives like myself and friends of mine who are married to a foreigner are seriously considering leaving. The growth of the PS and the accompanied increase in intolerance and racist violence we have seen is a real concern. If the safety and well being of our children becomes a concern then indeed we will move somewhere more tolerant. Finnish skills and experience are appreciated everywhere.

    I also know people from African, Asian and South American countries who do their masters studies here then find it impossible to remain in the country due to the tough immigration laws. If they’re not married to a Finn or already have a job offer by the time they graduate, they are forced to leave. We educate people for free then force them to leave. This is madness!

  3. BlandaUpp

    @Mary Mekko

    Take your ass back to Stormfront with that “Subsaharan” racist crap. What are you doing still commenting here if you don’t live here, are an Irish American living in America and have no clue about anything happening in Finland.

    Are you aware that the Kenyans, Nigerians, Ethiopians and Ghanaian immigrants (note: not refugees but immigrants) in Finland are on average more educated and have less unemployment here than Americans, Norwegians, Swedes, British, Italians, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians and Bulgarian immigrants? It would be best for you to stfu.

  4. ANk

    The most amazing thing is spending money to eductate people for free and allowing then to leave because they don’t have a job offer or are married to a Finn. First of all why not offer one year language studies 8 hours a day and let these people start studies in Finnish langauge after one year language period? This helps them have languague skills before they graduate and can have jobs. Second why can people who have just graduated be treated differently?

    • Enrique

      Hi ANk and welcome to Migrant Tales. Pretty lousy economics, no? I spend a lot of money to educate you so you can work for someone else. The ETLA reports states that in the same way we lose educated people, the same thing happens to the country of origin of the immigrant. In my opinion, we have to take a fresh and innovative view of the situation. One good starting point is by getting immigrants and Finns more work.

  5. eyeopener

    http://www.minedu.fi/export/sites/default/OPM/Julkaisut/2009/liitteet/opm23.pdf

    This site gives a more detailed explanation how the Ministry of Education in 2009 saw the necessity of internalization as an export and import of education.

    Sothing elso than Mary Mekko states. But that is probably because she/he?? has some uncle or aunt who knows.

    I will not comment on hers/his other comments because they are too stupid for words.

    I have one word for your comments: Beeeeeeeeeeeehhhhhhh!

  6. Alba

    I’m a native, not highly educated, but still I think that if PS continues as it has done, and not only them, if they continue on this racism and not wanting to get anykind of immigrants to Finland, I want to leave too. I’m not taking any “brains” with me, but I’m ashamed to say I’m a Finn when I go abroad. It’s not nice to have to explain people that PS is just one party, all Finns don’t think that way.

    • Enrique

      Hi Alba, very happy that you dropped by Migrant Tales. We are all important irrespective of our background. What you said about racism is common sense and decency towards other people. People with doctorate degrees and politicians don’t even get what you said even though they should know better. You show greater intelligence than they.

  7. eyeopener

    Hello Alba. You have a good point there. I am happy to hear that “brain-drain” is not the only reason for “going abroad”. And I am sad at the same time. It is a pity that a country cannot provide its citizens a decent living in economic, social and mental sense.

    I fully agree with you that PS is only one party. However, an increasing number of Finns -either they are racists or they think that “kicking out foreigners” is alright- join this club because they believe it is without consequence.

    Alba, I am a foreigner but you will not even notice. The shortsightness of the Finns I decribed earlier is remarkable. You seem to have a far more clear view of reality than many “hot-shots”.

    Welcome to the club!!

    • Enrique

      –However, an increasing number of Finns -either they are racists or they think that “kicking out foreigners” is alright- join this club because they believe it is without consequence.

      Totally agree, eyeopener. In every party you will find them but probably not so many in one party.

  8. eyeopener

    Dear ANk.

    Why not open you eyes?? I am teaching Finn students for 9 years now in English.I speak 5 languages fluently. Not Finnish I am afraid. And many of the immigrants can speak more languages than 1. What about you?? Are you going on holiday somewhere and speak the language?? Been in an exchange?? Had to learn the language?? Let me know.

    It is easy to jugde people from the sideline as they say in my former homeland. See something here??

  9. Jason

    The problem is bigger and has a longer history than the rise of PS. An entire nation has been raised to believe that a foreigner can never be as intelligent as a Finn. Foreigner equals stupid in Finland. Hard to stop a brain drain if you believe that only 5.3 million people in the whole world have brains and many of those 5.3 are looking for work elsewhere.

    • Enrique

      Hi Jason and welcome to our blog, Migrant Tales. I totally agree that the problem is bigger than the PS. As you know, a symptom behind superiority is low self-esteem. People who cannot control their prejudice or racism are the ones with self-esteem issues.

  10. Method

    Alba, if people abroad think less of you because of politics done in here, they’re not much better than racists themselves. As an individual you don’t own anybody an explanation just because you happen to own a Finnish passport and your shame is misplaced, even moronic.

    And I have probably missed the point where any of the PS MP have said “all the immigrants”. Or are you just mind reading them?

  11. eyeopener

    Hi Jason.

    This is a remarkable analysis of Finn society. Did we miss some direction of education here? What do educated Finn look for in the world of stupidity??

    Is there a reason why these brillant Finns can’t create a supertrooper society?? Maybe you should read Aldous Huxley’s book Island to find an answer to this question.

  12. Niko

    Jason and eyeopener

    So, Finns can’t generalize the foreigners, but the foreigners can generalize Finns? I forgot there are these nice little rules.

    P.S I don’t know anyone who would think the foreigners are stupid.

    • Enrique

      Niko, that is why it is important to put the word “some” before the nationality.

  13. Jason

    My point was on how people are brought up, the cultural code that is transferred from generation to generation. Of course not everyone upholds the code, otherwise I’d have nothing to do with Finland. People are taught from early on that foreigners cannot learn Finnish and only a Finn can really understand Finland. Every cultural code teaches some kind of exceptionalism that can lead to bigotry. Finland is no different.

  14. Niko

    Yep, agree totally. Some people just always forgot that one. Both sides should always remember not to generalize all people to same group and see that we all are individuals.

  15. Sirpa

    Finland is not the only country where some people consider foreigners to be less intelligent. I worked a summer in Sweden, another in Switzerland, two years in Austria, and have been living long time in Quebec, Canada. It seems to go hand-in-hand with their appreciation of your language skills: you speak their language poorly, you are stupid. Not that they have bothered to learn any (as somebody commented). We need to disassociate intelligence and language learning: it is not the only criteria.

    • Enrique

      Hei Sirpa, nice to see you here as well! Welcome to Migrant Tales!

  16. Jason

    Sirpa, I speak Finnish fluently (as in I publish work in Finnish). I also have a very good command of Swedish. It doesn’t matter–a bit of an accent and for most you still don’t know how to speak Finnish. I’ve been dealing with Finland for 30 years, longer than most of you have been alive. It’s interesting how most responses to the problem of xenophobia in Finland result in Finns saying that either A.) there is no xenophobia in Finland or B.) everyone else does it so we can too.

  17. Seppo

    “People are taught from early on that foreigners cannot learn Finnish and only a Finn can really understand Finland. Every cultural code teaches some kind of exceptionalism that can lead to bigotry.”

    Yes. In Finland this is still more usual than in some other Northern or Western European countries. I blame the closed borders and minimum foreign influence during the cold war years. I am currently residing in an Eastern European country which has for the past decades been even more closed than Finland. Here the situation is worse – idiotic myths about the exceptionalism of these particular people and this particular country are everywhere.

    However, individual people here are quite open towards foreigners – something for us Finns to learn. One of the reason they are very open towards me is the fact that I speak the language. Not fluently but enough to communicate. It opens many doors that would otherwise be completely shut.

    eyeopener writes: “I speak 5 languages fluently. Not Finnish I am afraid.”

    Why don’t you learn Finnish!? Clearly you have the ability since you have learned foreign languages before. This is to me un-understandable and also quite unacceptable. My advice is that whereever you go, learn the language, as fast as you can. The same goes for Finland and all other places in the world.

  18. eyeopener

    Dear Seppo.

    Un-understandable and ALSO QUITE UNACCEPTABLE. Tell you what. I have travel most of the European countries and some beyond that. I have seldom see more that a handful migrants learned to speak the language properly. Look at the current program on Finns in Spain or -don’t make me laugh- in Turkey. I do speak Finnish but my level is far below my wish. And you know why that is?? NO!! You don’t.

    You just assume nothing else. Easy, isn’t it??

    I teach already for 9 years my students in a full English BA at the Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences. My work and the major part of my life is English. BUT!!! I am a Dutch citizen in Finland. It took me about 30 years to become fluent in English, German and French.

    Are you fluent in the language of your now-country Seppo?? Acceptable?? No, not really. So, first blame yourself in your incompetence and then somebody else: OK!!

    Shake hands !!

  19. eyeopener

    Dear Jason.

    In my previous home country the Netherlands it used to be very common to speak more languages than the mother tongue. And to accept different cultural influences.
    This having said I also need to apologize for the cultural “hanging” (very often literally) of “sub-human” races.

    For my person this brings about an extreme sensitivity towards the question of how: ” cultural code that is transferred from generation to generation”. Do you means that the current generations of Finns can’t be hold responsible for “immigrant attitudes”? Are you serious??

    What about the role of education to learn the young people to think critically. Education is the responsiblity of parents, schools, sportclubs etc.

    How old are you?? I am 64. So I have lived my time through many different stages. Don’t patronize me!!

  20. Jason

    Dear eyeopener: I you read my last post before your tirade you’ll see that I criticize Finns’ attitude toward foreigners in terms of a lack of personal responsibility. One sees this often when foreigners are the targets of physical and verbal attacks in public and nobody does anything to step in. There is also a lack collective responsibility in that a cultural code is uncritically passed on from generation to generation. Xenophobia and tolerance are learned.

  21. eyeopener

    Niko!!

    Don’t act childish. Generalizations are always dangerous. When I confront Finnish sociey with my thoughts I am very well aware of the many Finns who disagree with Ps cs. Nevertheless, foreigners look at their given situation in Finland from a different perspective according to their upbringing, experience, critical mind-set etc.

    Finland as a nation should be happy with critical reflection. From within and from outside sources.

    I have been involved in projects how to build a “Finland Brand”. That’s cool. But: it has the same flaw and danger as pictures above.

    Albeit this, the key issue is to confront those people in Finland (or where ever: see Sirpa) with the notion of NATIONALISTIC SUPERIORITY.

    At home the grass ia always greener than somewhere else, isn’t it??

  22. eyeopener

    Hi Method.

    Are you Finnish?? What about reading some Finnish newspapers so now and then. I.e. Kaleva and HS. Some of PS parliamentaries and “Party hot-shots” like Mr. Immonen continuously use the overall terminilogy. Never heard does not mean never said!! READ!! Mr. Method.

  23. Method

    Eyopener

    I read Finnish fine, but you said you don’t. I read everything. I read leftist forums, I read hommaforum, I read H-a blog, I read puheenvuoro, I read Enrique. Basicly, I read everything and I often use many hours a day to track what’s what. So, please don’t be condescending. I also read Finnish newspapers and have noticed they often exaggerate and make headlines that aren’t true.

    Now, mr. Immonen, I must admit, I haven’t followed his writings. My premise is: “Not a very interesting or a smart person”. Seems like yet another counter-jihad bandwagonist. I did some googling and found a list of his writings and followed the topics to 2008 before I stopped.

    Anti-islam, yes.
    Anti-asylum seeker, yes.

    But not one of his writings are about “all immigrants.”.

    Feel free to point out the texts about all immigrants. As it seems, unless all immigrants are asylum seeking muslims, it simply isn’t true. To state otherwise seems intellectually dishonest and propagandist. To put it mildly, I dislike propagandists, and what I’ve now read about mr Immonen he is also one. This propaganda war and lies are disgusting, and whatever the cause of that may be, will be spoiled for people like me by half truths and lies.

    You don’t challenge lies with lies. You don’t make half truths better with telling more of them. If you think people are idiots that can’t make their own minds, then go ahead, but don’t be surprised if they get angry when they see you lying. I myself can stomach pretty much anything and rarely get provoked, but if I catch anyone lying to me, the buck stops there. No respect and no paying attention to them not ever again.

  24. Seppo

    “I have seldom see more that a handful migrants learned to speak the language properly. Look at the current program on Finns in Spain or -don’t make me laugh- in Turkey.”

    Wrong. In most countries most immigrants learn to speak the local language quite well. Go to England and see that 99% of the people speak some English, most quite fluently. Same in France with French and Spain with Spanish and Germany with German and Sweden with Swedish. Even though some 20% of the inhabitants of these countries have some immigrant background.

    Everyone knows that North European people moving to Southern Spain or Turkey for the retirement years is not the kind of immigration we are talking about. It is often not actually immigration at all since many of these people officially reside in their home countries and spend only parts of the year in Southern Europe. However, I still think it is not OK for these people to think that they don’t have to learn the language of the country they spend so much time in.

    I encourage immigrants moving to Finland to learn the language mostly because I believe it is useful and often necessary for real integration into this society. Personally, I think it is also a way to show respect towards the local population. In other words, I find it disrespectful when people spend years even decades living in Finland but still don’t care to learn the language.

    “Are you fluent in the language of your now-country Seppo??”

    No, I’m not. I came here for a few moths out of which I’ve spent about three weeks now. I’m not fluent but I use the local language what ever I do and wherever I go – studies, friends, restaurants, shopping, theater etc. After these months I will be still lacking in vocabulary but my speaking will be very close to the level of fluency.

    I had the chance to study this language in Finland before coming here. I know that most foreigners coming to Finland will not have the chance to study Finnish before entering the country. Finnish can also be a tricky language to learn, I acknowledge that. That’s why I’m not expecting immigrants to learn it immediately but gradually. It might take three, five, even ten years. Not more than that though if you are serious about it.

    Among some immigrants to Finland there seems to be a way of thinking that OK, if I would be in Spain I would learn Spanish, but since Finnish is a small and weird language, I don’t feel like learning it but instead just use English, everybody speaks it here anyway. This is what I find extremely unacceptable and actually quite disadvantageous also for the immigrants themselves in the long run. Since like I said, I believe that learning the language is a key part of proper integration into any society.

  25. William

    I think the fact that one can survive in Finland, without having to really learn Finnish, must be surely one of the best things going for this country when it comes to attracting skilled foreign workers. Its one less barrier! small, old fashioned thinking coming from some people.

    One can work and contribute to the Finnish economy and community and the language isnt as big a barrier as in other contries.

    I think this a great thing for this small land and is a positive…far from a negative in this globalised village we live in!

    • Enrique

      Langauge is a personal thing. I know USAmericans who have lived here for 30+ years and speak pretty basic Finnish. Some learn faster than others. My father, who spoke poor English, made it in the United States. He never liked speaking English because he didn’t like living in the US even though he got his Master’s degree and became a regional manager for an airline he spoke the language of: first French (Air France) and later Argentine Airlines.

      Even though my mother is Finnish, I don’t speak the language perfectly. I do my best. What more can you ask for?

  26. eyeopener

    Dear Method.

    2008 is nearly pre-historics. Since the last elections Mr. Immonen has stepped up his rethorics quite considerably. Follow him and you will be surprised of his changes.

    I have no lies to tell you. I am too analytical for that.

    Do you think I am astonished when they get angry?? They already are!!

    And: not paying attention to them doesn’t help you from them having an eye on you!!

  27. eyeopener

    Hi Seppo.

    Some sentences.
    Go to England and see that 99% of the people speak some English, most quite fluently. Ever been in London, South side i.e. Tooting or East side Camden Locks or Brixton or Notting Hill??
    Hear some English??

    Go to Kreuzberg in Berlin, La Defence in Paris, Sloterdijk in Amsterdam. Then you will hear anything on the national language.

    When I visit Fuengirola, Sunny Beach or Antalya I hear more Finnish then in Kemi-Tornio area. In your remarks there is a whole lot of wishful thinking, Seppo. You, yourself use the local language because you are only there for a few months. That’s a cheap excuse. Iksi, kaksi, paljon..!!!!

    I have seen more understanding between people who don’t speak each other language.
    The best example I have is from my studies, observations and working in other countries.

    It starts actually in the sandbox where children play together without understanding words.They play and create their own interpretation of their world, their own reality. We adults think that reality is what we dictate it to be. Children teach us more when we only want to see.

    But there is also agreement. I agree with you that learning a language helps to understand your environment better. I disagree with you that learning a language PERSE helps to integrate. Integration has to do with the tuning of values. Changing those and adjusting to new, different values is another piece of cake and certainly is not a matter of “plug and play” what your approach of language learning seem to imply.

    Let’s continue and discuss this matter.

  28. eyeopener

    Dear William.

    That’s exactly what I like in this country in contrast to my previous comments. The positive side of this discussion is that a lot of Finns that I know never seem to bother whether my “baby-Finnish” is correct or not.

    We have this common understanding and willingness to accept each other. I have to give a great applause to my Finnish friends.

    Albeit this applause and my firm decision to stay in Finalnd as my new home country I have this drive to keep Finland an “Open Society”.

    Thanks for your contribution.

    • Enrique

      Eyeopener, I think it is an excellent “drive” as you said. Open society is what societies should be all about. I am especially grateful for suggesting to me the brain drain issue in this country.

  29. Seppo

    ” I think the fact that one can survive in Finland, without having to really learn Finnish, must be surely one of the best things going for this country when it comes to attracting skilled foreign workers.”

    Like I wrote before, one cannot really learn Finnish before moving into Finland. Finnish is not either a language you learn very fast unless you are really really into it. That’s why I also think that it is good that one can survive and find work in Finland without Finnish – you need to do something during the (sometimes long) learning process.

    However, I think it is extremely problematic in many ways that people who really immigrate to Finland for good or for a long period of time are not learning the language.

    To me moving into another country for a long period of time – as opposite to tourism, work exchange and other temporary stays – means that you should be able to do everything you would otherwise do but just in a different environment. Follow the media, take part in discussions, vote in elections, have friends from various backgrounds etc. And I think this is not possible without knowing the local language. Without the language you have none or very limited access to many important things. And that is not discrimination, that is how it is everywhere.

    “I disagree with you that learning a language PERSE helps to integrate.”

    Well, it does. Since there are things that you cannot understand at all without the language, for example the media. So it does not only contribute to greater understanding, it is sometimes a precondition to any understanding at all. Immigrants who choose not to learn the language are doomed, to a certain extent, to live as outsiders forever. I know it is not easy to become an insider in Finland but with the language in your pocket it is at least possible.

    Now this is one thing. That learning the local language is generally good for you if you are an immigrant. The other side of the question has to do with principals. Should you learn my language or should I learn yours?

    Depends on the situation, of course. I think that in a situation where you decide to move to a country where my language is spoken, you should learn mine and not the other way round. Many immigrants to Finland think otherwise – for them it is completely fine to force their own language, or some third language, on the local population without showing any interest in learning the local one.

    It is often said that for integration to happen, both the locals and the immigrants have to take steps towards each other to be able to find common ground. I agree even though I think that the steps taken by the immigrants have to be bigger than the ones taken by the locals. When it comes to language the step that I have been willing to take, just like most of my fellow Finns, has been learning enough English and other languages to make it possible for newly arrived immigrants to survive in this country before they know Finnish. I think it is completely fine to expect that the step that the immigrants take on their behalf is learning Finnish, eventually. Like I said, it doesn’t need to happen immediately, but it needs to happen.

    It is worth noting that many of the immigrants not wishing to learn the local language in Finland would not accept similar behavior from immigrants moving into their previous home country. I’m quite sure that every American would agree that immigrating to America means that you need to learn English. Somehow, however – and this is the part I really don’t understand – it is different for Finland.

    In the end I would like to add that I know enough about languages to figure out possible risks that the future might bring us. In Estonia it took just 20-30 years for the dominating language on the streets of Tallinn to change from Estonian to Russian. I don’t want English to become the dominating language on the streets of Helsinki.

    There is a lot of talk about cultural diversity and that is good. One thing threatening cultural diversity in our world is the tendency to force everybody to speak English.

    • Enrique

      Hi Seppo, learning languages is always important but it depends on the person and the profession. Some require knowledge of the local language while others don’t. Do all Nokia engineers speak Finnish? Certainly it is always good to learn to speak new languages but it depends on your need, demand by society, pace and ability. There are many English-language teachers who teach and speak their native languages all day and get few opportunities to speak Finnish. They can get by with English in public. Some never learn to speak respectable Finnish.

      Language may help you to adapt to a culture but it isn’t any guarantee. In Spain, where the Latin Americans form a large part of the immigrant community, face discrimination irrespective that Spanish is their mother tongue is Spanish and that they may have grown in countries that were former Spanish colonies. They may even have the same religion as the locals. It is no guarantee that they will be accepted by society in general.

      As mentioned, it depends on what you do for a living. Societies do allow and accept people with certain professions to live without learning the language. Some of these could university professors, for example, or people who are deaf dumb an blind to show an extreme case. On the other side of the coin you may have a person from a developing country in Finland with little educational background where learning Finnish becomes a matter of life and death for him or her. That person is told, irrespective of his poor employment chances, that learning the language is key. Certainly it is but it won’t guarantee anything. At best it will improve his chances of getting a job.

  30. Piiapetra

    Seppo,

    think how much easier it is for us to go to a café in Spain – or take almost any other country in the world – and start trying to learn the language. If you are, let us say, Kenyan, and walk up to a Finn, we – Finns – think they want something from us. Women think they are getting hit on and men just get angry that they get disturbed. Or well, might be the other way around if the Kenyan is a female.. she would probably be offered money for having sex with the man who ever she is or how ever she is dressed. We Finns are mostly not very easy to approach.

    It is also a lot easier for me to move to, let us say, Germany or the UK, and learn the language there. There is plenty of courses going on all the time. Some free, but there are also of businesses offering courses, and all of them are not that expensive. In Finland it might be free – but inefficient, uninspiring and courses start seldom. The few businesses that offer courses cater mostly for companies paying for the courses, and are not an option for “normal” people.

    So, let us be nicer. Let us talk to each other! Each one teach one is a nice concept… anyone? I want someone to practice my not so good Russian skills with.

    • Enrique

      Hi Pilapetra, I am happy that you found our blog, Migrant Tales, where we take part in interesting debates on Finnish immigration issues, identity, history and look at the future with optimism.

      When most of us begin to see the person’s character as opposed to his ethnic background, we can say that matters have changed a lot in this country.

      We hope to hear more of you, Pilapetra.

  31. Seppo

    “Societies do allow and accept people with certain professions to live without learning the language.”

    OK. Be it so. Still I would like to point out that this is not the case in many countries. USAmerica, France, England to name a few. Spain, Italy, Germany for most parts as well. There you need to learn the language but in Finland you don’t.

    And I once again repeat that even though you CAN manage without learning the language – and I think we all agree with this – it is always better to still do it.

    “Language may help you to adapt to a culture but it isn’t any guarantee.”

    I agree. Even though in stead of ‘may help’ I would write ‘helps’ cause that’s what it definitely does. When it comes to proper integration, becoming a true part of the society, I cannot understand how anybody would think it is possible without learning the language.

  32. Seppo

    Piiapetra,

    I mostly agree even though the examples you gave were perhaps a bit exaggerated.

    The fact that some Finns are not very easy to approach and that there is a lack of good, affordable language courses is something that makes learning the language a more difficult and slower process. I have repeatedly said that I’m not expecting anyone to acquire the Finnish language in a certain short period of time.

    However, the things you mentioned are in no way an excuse for not learning the language at all. And that is what I’m worried about, immigrants moving to Finland who don’t want to learn the language at all, but try to somehow manage in English or in some other language, making themselves outsiders in this society for good.

    “So, let us be nicer. Let us talk to each other!”

    Believe it or not, I’m nice. I have a lot of friends from various backgrounds with whom I use all of the different languages I speak. I have more than once helped my immigrant friends with their Finnish, mostly just by speaking the language to them, sometimes also by explaining the grammar and things like that. The same way some of them have, without probably thinking too much about it, contributed to my language skills.

    But this is a good point. One of the reasons foreigners in Finland are not learning Finnish is that Finns refuse to talk it to them. When they hear a slight accent, they automatically turn to English. So what I am calling for is a change of attitude from both sides.

  33. JusticeDemon

    Seppo

    The dumb-bunny immigrants of whom you speak are precisely those that PS specifically excludes from its “critical” attitude. They are mainly found in leading export business and universities where the lingua franca tends to be English. It is quite possible for high status individuals to spend an entire career in this environment without ever gaining functional competence in either of Finland’s national languages.

    By contrast, most of the PS vitriol is aimed at immigrant groups that have acquired such competence in Finnish and Swedish on average rather more rapidly than would normally be expected. It is rare to find a humanitarian migrant who has failed to reach JKL level 3 within the standard integration period.

    The difficulty of making elementary and lower-intermediate oral practice opportunities is legendary. I can recall asking for a Finnish-speaking shop assistant in SOKOS on a couple of occasions…

  34. Seppo

    JD,

    That’s true. Just another point where I totally and completely disagree with the PS.

    The way I see it, many humanitarian immigrants are much better integrated into Finland than some educated immigrants from Western countries, who might have a higher salary but who many times don’t have a clue what is going on in the country they live in. One of the reasons for that is their reluctance to learn to language.

Leave a Reply