Helsingin Sanomat survey on migrants reveals expectations that adaption in Finland is and will be a one-way process

by , under Enrique Tessieri

Finland’s largest daily, Helsingin Sanomat, published a survey Friday about the minimum requirements that foreigners should adapt to if living here. Seventy-seven percent fully agreed that white Finns should be able to shake hands with both sexes. The survey showed as well that 52% were against women’s-only swimming hours and 37% felt that one should bathe naked in the sauna. 

What surprised me the most, however, was that 32% were against men and women bus drivers using turbans and hijabs. That compared with 40% that said that teachers, the police or other public officials should not use any object to cover their hair.

Migrant Tales reported during 2013-2014 about the long struggle of a Sikh bus driver, Gill Sukhdarshan Singh, who won a landmark case to wear a turban at work.  

While these are interesting expectations of white Finns in the survey they reinforce what we’ve known all along: Adaption of foreigners is a one-way process.  It also reveals that people are reluctant to make room for cultural diversity.

Some findings of the Helsingin Sanomat survey on what Finns expect foreigners to accept about Finland. Read the full story here.

Since racism, bigotry, and exclusion are enforced by the majority’s power and privilege, it’s clear that the survey, the questions, and answers will respond to maintaining the status quo.  The survey reveals as well Helsingin Sanomat’s simplistic view of how migrants should adapt to our society.

The survey shows as well the importance and need of Finland’s ever-growing culturally diverse community to stand up to one-way adaption.

Having taught migrants for many years about adapting to Finland, I consider the following especially important: We live in a culturally diverse society and must respect and learn more about that diversity. We may not agree with some of the customs but we must still respect them. Then I ask them the following questions: What happens if you respect the majority group’s customs but they don’t respect yours and are even outright hostile to them?

If the Helsingin Sanomat survey reflects what Finns expect from migrants and minorities, it reveals a big challenge: Finns and Finland must do much more to give space to cultural diversity.

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