Is there racism in Finland?

by , under All categories, Enrique

One of the most successful posts of this blog is, Are you a target of racism in Finland? In my opinion the reason why so many have read it is because there is a racism problem in Finland. A Niko wrote a recent comment, where he states, “there are some real problems in Finnish society but racism is not in the top 5.”

If unemployment is about 7% among Finns and about 20% among foreigners, certainly that shows that there is a problem. Is this due to racism, discrimination or because Finns are suspicious of outsiders?

Some Finns argue that one reason why foreigners don’t have jobs is because they don’t speak the language nor understand the culture. This sounds like an excuse to justify the present situation, whereby some foreigners continue to be marginalized from Finnish society. It is, however, a good point, but it is not a valid one. In Spain, where there are many Latin Americans who speak Spanish as their mother tongue and even have the same religion as many Spaniards. one would guess that integration into Spanish society would be easy. Wrong. Most of the Latin Americans, especially those from Ecuador, Dominicans, Bolivia and others, who are racially different-looking from Spaniards, suffer racist attacks and are at the lower end of the societal totem pole.

This suggests that that a big part of the problem resides in Spanish attitudes towards outsiders.

Why do Africans from former French colonies, where they speak French, are a target of constant racism in France? Shouldn’t a common language unite them? Or is it racism?

A so-called “civilized” country like Finland is measured by its ability to accept – not reject and exclude – and facilitate the integration of “outsiders” into society. Up to now, it has done a pretty poor job at this.

When unemployment of foreigners and Finns is at about the same level, then that will be one indication that we have slain, or at least contained, the ogre of racism that is still alive and kicking in Finland.

  1. Karthik

    I’d posted this in the other blog as well… but perhaps fits better in here???

    Heylo folks! I am visiting my girlfriend in Finland in two weeks time.. am from Mumbai, India and have been living, working and partying (!!!) in the UK big time for the last two and a half years,,, the reason I stumbled onto this web page is because today Piritta, my Finnish girlfriend who I met in Budapest while travelling this year at Easter, says her brother doesn’t like dark skinned people..

    It’s like this… It’s her nephew’s birthday.. she’s the godmother.. and really wants to attend. While we were planning my trip there (along with the boat party trip to Stockholm from Helsinki and back) I told her I would love to be part of her nephew’s birthday celebrations.. mingle with her family and become friends. She, poor thing, said her brother didn’t like dark skinned people.. she was a little embarassed about it too… I laughed! just could’nt believe it.. in 2008!! ..and kept laughing.. BUT she was serious!!

    To me, in the UK.. this is silly… true, I have heard stories of people being racist here as well.. indeed, perhaps on some rare occasions I have experienced it as well.. but it definitely helps speaking the local language fluently and with a local accent, which I am easily able to do, and so am accepted more readily than most asians I guess.. two minutes of talking and they just feel I was born here.. just brown in colour.. son of immigrants they think.. but that cannot happen in Finland 🙂 I don’t speak the language even if I am able to ape the accent.

    ..I have also found that english speaking is considered a plus in non-english speaking countries.. due to the explosion of the internet, CNN, BBC etc. I have noticed people speaking english are given “extra points” when interacting with locals in a foreign country.. and everyone is trying to speak their best english to impress us.. anyways, I’m digressing.

    Coming back to the topic, this reaction from my girl made me search on google for “racism in finland”, and I came across this forum. Hmmm… looks like there might be some truth to what she is feeling.. I mean, being from the UK (living and working here) I could not believe this sort of attitude at SUCH a large scale as highlited in some comments here could exist.. I mean, my first few questions to Piritta were “how old is your brother again?”.. “are we living in 1895 or something??” .. “hey, this is 2008!!”

    .. but think there are still some places in this world that are not all CNN, BBC, Internet and “all are equal” kinds.. Will be VERY interesting to visit and see what they really are like in Finland!

    I always believe your attitude matters too.. I believe I’m the best when I talk to anyone.. and that attitude gets me automatic respect. Let’s see a brown man get a Finnish girl in Finland and go to parties with her in font of the Finnish men.. ha! should be real fun!!

    But then that is me.. 🙂

    Oh by the way, I have sent this link to Piritta.. will be fun if she reads what you folks have been chatting about. Interesting… very interesting!

    Peace,

    Karthik

  2. Enrique

    Hi Karthik, many thanks for your valuable insights and points of view. Yes, unfortunately, racism is still a big issue in countries like Finland in 2008! Your girlfriend’s brother should know better. Possibly you could be the one to help him see matters in a different way. As there are people in Finland who discriminate because of a person’s skin color, there are many others who think differently.
    I believe that one day we’ll look at these matters and be dismayed and/or ashamed by such attitudes. However, something must be done about it. And the first big step, in my opinion, is acknowledging that there IS a problem. By acknowledging this problem we can start to change matters.

  3. From Finland

    I’m from Finland, and I have no problem with most people from different countries. However, I do not support uncontrolled immigration. And many finns don’t really like it either, because it brings problems with it. If criticizing immigration is racism these days, then all I can say is that the propaganda machine called media has done it’s work.

    It IS a problem that most immigrants do not know the language, nor do they try to learn it. Of course there are those who actively attend courses to learn the language, so it’s not like every single immigrant is bad. But some immigrants come here, and abuse the welfare system we have in place and do not even try to look for jobs. Also, statistics show that immigrants do quite a big portion of crimes when comparing to the natives.

    Large scale immigration is causing problems in Sweden, France and the UK etc. It is the immigration of the uneducated masses that finns fear.

  4. Enrique

    Hi From Finland, many thanks for your input. Certainly a person that comes from another country should try to learn the language of a country and its customs. The same should go for the Finns: they should learn to respect other cultures as well.
    What worries me about some of the comments from Finns is none of them see immigration as a positive matter. It has worked wonders in many countries and has been a driving force in economic development. Certainly there are all types among Finns as well as immigrants. Some foreigners are not the only ones abusing the system.
    You mentioned that foreigners commit more crimes than Finns. Could you substantiate that claim? Do you have proof that it is the case.
    Finland is a country that gave many countries immigrants. There are over 1 million Finns and their descendants that live abroad. I have lived in many countries during my lifetime. I always try to grow and advance when I move to a country. In the United States, immigrants are hard workers as elsewhere. It takes a lot of guts to move from one place to another and start anew.
    In my opinion, the best way of solving the immigrant problem is to offer jobs, opportunities and advancement. Another important factor is that the so-called natives accept people for their character and not create walls because of ethnocentrism and racism. Nobody benefits from such a situation.

  5. visiting Finn

    On crime rates:
    The National Research Institute on Legal policy has this (in Finnish only, figures for 2005): http://www.optula.om.fi/uploads/nul786y.pdf . There are major differences between different immigrant groups. The biggest groups (the Estonians and the Russians) have crime rates roughly similar to those of native Finns (except for drunken driving and drug offences, where they’re higher). There are serious problems concentrated in some groups and pretending that things are well isn’t going to help any.
    On a negative attitude to immigration: for as long as I can remember we’ve been told that there will be a huge labour shortage sometime soon but it hasn’t happened yet. Instead we have serious unemployment problems. This is not the fault of the foreigners, but the anger that should be directed at our stupid government finds an easier target there. And it means that when the government tells me that ‘we’ need more immigration, I’m not giving them the benefit of doubt, I assume they’re full of it.
    I don’t see a problem with people who can get real jobs here at real wages, but I don’t like the idea of people being imported for the sake of importing people, hoping that somehow they will automagically find jobs and apartments, which seems to be the idea now. Life here is hard and mass immigration of people who do not have skills needed in the labour market is a recipe for trouble.

  6. Embo

    Hello Enrique,

    Many thanks for an interesting and thought-provoking post. You wrote:

    “What worries me about some of the comments from Finns is none of them see immigration as a positive matter.”

    Fazer, Finlayson, Frenckell…some immigrant names from Finnish past, which cought to give the Finns a sense of what benefits immigration can bring. And it actually works – I do not see Finns having anti-immigration attitudes. It is multiculturalism that they oppose, and for good reason. Unlike internationalism or high-quality immigration (which you represent), multiculturalism refers to a worrying tendency of emphasizing the differences between ethnic groups and suppressing cultural criticism, except for Finnish culture, which is free game. Combined, these two things destroy trust and social cohesion. Trust and social cohesion are not tied to peoples ethnic background, but to the fact that everyone has the same rules and the same moral code. This seemingly obvious fact is obliterated by multiculturalism, but not necessarily by well-managed immigration.

    “Another important factor is that the so-called natives accept people for their character and not create walls because of ethnocentrism and racism. Nobody benefits from such a situation.”

    Exactly! This of course works both ways – the immigrants must also face and eliminate their own ethnocentrism and racism towards the natives. Especially Muslims in the West seem to be prone to these two sins. They demand islamic schools, special meals and time off for prayer at work, they incite hatred towards “infidels” in their mosques, they seemingly adapt to the host society, but attack it with bus bombs, they threaten with violence on seeing completely http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/35>random things. This is not a cultural difference or a right to practise religion, but rather a racist assault towards the West.

    “In my opinion, the best way of solving the immigrant problem is to offer jobs, opportunities and advancement. ”

    True. However, but jobs cannot merely be offered. The job candidate must possess skills to do the job. Low-income entry-level jobs (like tomato-picking) are not readily available, and even if they are, the immigrant would have to resort to social security, creating an added burden to the taxpayers. Furthermore, low-income areas will in the future have low-quality schools, making it impossible for the 2nd generation immigrants to ascend the social ladder.

    Thus, the crux of the matter is that we need quality contol in immigration. Currently, for each normal immigrant we get at least one low-quality unemployable immigrant, making the net gain zero or negative. It is this sort of quality ratio that I as a Finn oppose.

  7. Herja

    Hi. You asked “From Finland” for statistics about crimes committed by foreigners in Finland. These statistics are taken from The National Research Institute of Legal Policy site:

    “Foreigners and crime: In 2005, about19 300 foreigners who had residence in
    Finland, were suspected of some offence. This rate was 3.0 % out of all persons
    suspected of offences known to the police in Finland. The number of offences
    committed by foreigners has increased 79 % since 1996. In 2005, about
    114 000 foreigners (2,2 % of the whole population) had residence in Finland.
    In addition about 16 100 foreigners not having residence in Finland, tourists
    and other visitors were suspected of offences in 2005.
    23 per cent of all foreigners suspected of crimes were Russians, 18 per cent
    were Estonians, and 8 per cent were Swedes. Foreigners were most typically
    suspected of traffic offences (45 % in 2005). Forcible rapes and robberies
    were offences where foreign suspects were most clearly over-represented in
    2005 (forcible rapes 21 per cent and robberies 27 per cent of all suspects).”

    http://www.optula.om.fi/36318.htm

    See p. 451 “Foreigners and crime”

    In the category of robberies and forcible rapes some nationalities are even more frequently suspected. Personally, I don’t think there’s much in learning to respect those cultures that are continuously overrepresented in criminal statistics.

  8. Jonas

    Well, I am a Swedish speaking Finn, and sadly if I didn’t also speak Finnish I am pretty sure I would not get the job I have today. That goes for most of us who live in Uusimaa for most roles. Of course, racism is not solely language based. Some Swedish speaking finns suffer discrimination because they have Swedish as their mother tongue – but ultimately they are the same race. So there is language discrimination too.

    If French speaking people who happen to be African don’t get employed in France, then that is clearly linked to racism. Here, it’s harder to make the connection – because if I were recruiting someone, I would unfortunately not employ someone who didn’t speak fluent Finnish, Swedish and English. Sorry, but these languages are all needed for the job my team do. Other European languages would be a bonus. If an immigrant comes to me who can speak those 3 languages, then that’s fine by me. Their nationality/ethnicity isn’t important. Skills are.

    The problem is, Finnish isn’t the most common language in the world – nor the easiest. That’s regretable, but that’s how it is. So, I can understand that unfortunately non Finnish speakers will find the job market harder. I am sure that goes a long way to explain the statistics you have shown on unemployment amongst immigrants. Of course, racism is also a factor. But it’s unrealistic to say:
    “When unemployment of foreigners and Finns is at about the same level, then that will be one indication that we have slain, or at least have contained, the ogre of racism that is still alive and kicking in Finland.”

    It is more realistic to say, when unemployment of Finnish speaking/equally qualified foreigners and Finns is about the same level, then we will know that racism has been slain. Otherwise you are not comparing like with like.

    Interesting blog you have here! I shall explore more.

  9. Enrique

    Hi Embo, you make some very good points. Thank you for your most interesting comments. As you know, multiculturalism has its roots in Canada. It means basically that people from different cultures coexist in a society and have the same rights – as well as the right to practice their culture. I don’t know how this works in practice, but as a policy it is a better solution than just forcing people to leave behind their culture for a new one. For the first generation this is not so easy but as time goes on, the second and forthcoming generations become a part of a new identity and culture. I believe that Finland is an exemplary society for other less-fortunate countries to emulate. But part of being an example means the ability of accepting others and their cultures. It is the ability for the host country to offer the means to absorb other cultures and make them feel at home. Possibly in the future, all Finns irrespective of their race or creed can be united by one matter: Finland. Racism is wrong both directions be it from a Finn or a non-Finn. What I meant about offering jobs and opportunities is that immigrants and Finns compete for jobs on the basis of their merits. Nothing is offered on a platter. But there should be an opportunity to partake in such a competition as equals and on the merit of one’s professional background.
    When you talk about quality immigration this is very difficult to achieve. Somebody will have to do the “dirty work” that Finns don’t want to. This is the case in many countries. Can a country control who comes in? Certainly it can but it depends on where there are shortages of labor. If you need non-qualified laborers and don’t have them – what do you do?

  10. Enrique

    Hi Herja, thanks you for the information on the crime statistics on foreign residents in Finland. What does this tell you? Certainly it points out that crime is a problem among some foreigners. Even so, there is a big danger: to generalize and to assume that people from such cultures commit crimes. It’s the individual NOT the nationality. Finland is a country founded on strong judicial institutions and laws. Those who break the law are accountable for their actions. Another matter that I could bring up is that crime figures can rise if we look for it. For example, if we carry out more alcohol tests on the road we will find more driving under the influence cases. I am not justifying criminal acts. For that we have the law. But the law should be like the balance – fair and with rights to everyone. But let’s not now state that all people from this country or that religion are criminals. That is wrong. Crimes are committed by individuals.

  11. Enrique

    Jonas, thank you for your very good comments. Who says that you have to hire someone who does not speak Finnish. If the person does not speak Finnish how can he aspire to get a good job in a Finnish company? Moreover, as I have mentioned previously, language is only one of many tools for a person to operate in a society. In Spain there are many South Americans who speak Spanish as their mother tongue. Many have low-paying jobs because of their skills. However, that is not the only problem The problem is also the attitudes of some Spaniards towards darker-skinned and indigenous-looking Latin Americans. While I agree with you, and you don’t mention it, some Finns blame the lack of knowledge of Finnish as a factor. But I ask, what happens after they learned to communicate in Finnish. How will they be accepted then? A fine society like Finland must have the ability to integrate others and make them feel a part of this grand project we call Suomi.

  12. Jonas

    Aha, sorry, I didn’t realise it’s English name was Immigration Service now. Before in Swedish, it was called (roughly translated) “Aliens/foreigners authority” (which doesn’t sound at all positive), the new name translates to “Migration Authority” roughly (but perhaps the word migration has a slightly different context in Swedish.) This name change was, in any case, at Thors’ iniative. Sfp has recognised that the whole corporate culture at this agency was geared up wrongly and not to help the immigrant.

    I agree with you, we need more immigrants actually. And we will benefit from it. In some ways,I think that Swedish speaking politicians like Thors find it easy to empathise with immigrant’s cases because they are used to fighting for the rights of our own minority. In many ways, there are parallels between our continued fighting to retain and receive our language rights to those of immigrants in their fight to get more rights or at least respect. It probably explains Sfp’s position on immigration (very pro). Also, you can see that the heavy majority Swedish speaking municipalities in Österbotten (e.g. Närpes) have won awards for their integration successes with refugees. Now of course, I will try and be cynical and present the other side; it’s good for Sfp if refugees come and integrate themselves as Swedish speakers – future likely Sfp voters. But they have genuinely been welcomed with little of the problems you see in some parts of the country.

  13. aricatch

    I have something to say:
    1. I am a foreigner here in Finland.
    2. I have been here several years.
    3. Finns are not particularly racists but, they don’t like foreigners period. They mostly hate everything that’s foreign. Most of them does.
    4. Ofcourse, they will not call you with names in front of you or abuse you.
    5. They do appreciate if you try to integrate.
    6. Karthik your girl friend is serious because, I know her brother or family will not love to see someone with dark skin color in a family gathering.
    7. In most case, finns who marry foreigner(darker color ones) are a bit isolated from their friends. There are exceptions.
    8. Again, I repeat Finns are not racist. They just hate foreign objects.
    9. It takes years for a foreigner to build trust.
    10. I guess you met your girl friend in UK. As, I will not see any chance of such relationship had you been a foreigner here. Ofcourse, with the exception if you will go anything you get.
    11. My advice is call your girl friends brother personaly, tell him you are dark skinned and will he mind if you visit them. Finns are generally very honest people lets see what he say. Not that it matter. But, it is always good to have good family and friends.
    12. You have to work real real hard to prove that, you are worth something here if you are a foreigner.
    13. I also agree some foreigners have exploited the system. For your info, I have not. For your info I pay more taxes that a average Finn.
    14. I would love to kick those other foreigner out of this beautiful country who’s abuse of the welfare system makes people like me answer everyday “Why I am here?”.
    15. Best of luck

  14. herja

    What do these crime statistics tell me? They tell me that somewhere there is a problem and unless that problem is solved situation is going to get worse. In my opinion lax immigration policy will increase crimes as will integration policies based on the idea of multiculturalism.

    Some here have pointed out that finnish is a small language that few know and learning a new language can be challenging to adult immigrants. Language barrier, poor education and welfare society are some factors that hinder immigrants integration to finnish society.

    But you can’t rule out culture completely. Culture is not jacket that you can take off when you arrive to a new country because you have generations of customs and values and possibly other people from that culture and all this makes you hang on to what you know. And unfortunately some of those values are in clear conflict with finnish values. It is true that we must treat people equally in our society. But when you plan immigration and integration policies you should take a look at those statistics because they tell which cultures need most help in integrating and which cultures have values that conflict with finnish values.

    You said that looking at crime figures rise if we look at them. But would that change the percentages? Remember, these figures were not from a study just about foreigners but number of foreign suspects in total crime statistics. Also, those DUI cases in your example don’t just appear from nowhere to distort statistics, they are actual cases that are revealed. To stop looking would not make those drunk drivers go away from the road, just from the statistics.

  15. Enrique

    Hi Aricatch, thank you for your comments. Good for you that you have been able to make Finland your home.
    Hi Herja, you are right. A civil welfare state society must also have the tools and the means to see a problem like crime and find ways of undermining it. Even though some like to see immigration as a complex thing, it really isn’t. The first step in integrating an outsider to become an insider is the opportunities a society gives an indiviual to take part through work. being on the dole or living of welfare checks does not cut it. It has an opposte effect: it marginalizes the person from Finnish society and from Finns.
    If I were going to look at some integration models, I would not look anywhere in Europe. I’d go to Canada and the United States. It is true what you say about culture. However, culture is a tool for adaption. If a culture does not find the tools or is not given them by the majority culture, then we have marginalized people. Nobody benefits. If Finland has created a modern, civil, welfare society that is an example in the world, why are some of us having such a difficult time accepting others to take part in this grand society? Do we fear that these outsiders will destroy Finland? To conclude: Employment and treating foreigners as equals irrespective of thei color, nationality or creed. Some Finns have to learn to see people that way. If you do, your life will change. It’s counterproductive to the person and society to build ethnocentric walls of indiffernce. Tear them down and note the difference. It is a two-way street that both the Finns and non-Finns will have to take part in if they want to overcome their mutual suspicions.

  16. aricatch

    Hi Enrique, I completely agree with you. It is a two way street indeed.
    My opinion goes like this:
    Scenerio 1 : Family man shipped due to job to Finalnd : Prospect of integration : Very Low
    Scenerio 2 : Single man or woman comes to Finland with Finnish partner or finds Finnish partner : Prospect of integration : High

    It should be made compulsory to attend integration program to learn about the country, culture and basic words Finnish.

    Unemployed to be offered free program and employed to pay for the program.

  17. aricatch

    Hi Herja, multiculturalism will probably not work in Finland as it will take decades for the natives to really understand and appreciate other cultures. Again, I completely agree you that asking a immgrant to throw his/her culture to the nearest bin and embrace local culture will also not work.

    So, I guess some smart solution has to be found out. One could be language unformity. Why not make is mandatory for every immigrant to take language classes and define couple of levels Which one has to clear.

    I guess that is the only way out. As, love it or hate it Finland will take in more economic immigrants in the next few years. Someone has to pay the taxes.

    And sometimes people do come to this country without having heard its name before, then after a few years starts to like this country and decides to live here and as well contribute back to the country.

    I don’t care to be politically correct but, probably joblessness is high within specific groups who are brought here to show the world about the humaniterian nature of Finland. But, the soceity denies them job and they get in cirmes and all immagrants get the blame. That’s is not fair.

  18. Enrique

    Hi Aricatch, we sometimes make the mistake of thinking that culture is a jacket one takes off and puts back on at will. When we talk about a two-way street, I mean Finns as well must learn about the other cultures that live in their country. This, naturally, depends on how much interaction they have with such groups.
    In Spain, the Popular Party candidate Mariano Rajoy, who lost the March 9 general election, proposed that all immigrants that come to the country must sign a sort of immigrant contract, where they agree to learn, respect and eventually integrate into Spain. There are many reasons why such a contract would be a dismal failure:
    1) What IS Spanish culture? What IS Finnish culture?
    2) Why not force the Catalans, Basques and other regional groups to integrate into Spain? This was tried by former strongman Francisco Franco, who prohibited Catalans from speaking their own language. People are still resentful at such policies. It’s a bit like what happened with Russification in Finland.
    3) Certainly it is always a good matter that cultures learn about each other. But you cannot impose a culture on another group. It’s like leadership: you lead and inspire others NOT force them to follow you.
    4) The new subcultures that will emerge — or have already emerged – in Finland are a new manifestation of Finnish culture. The Blacks in the US speak differently to the Whites because that IS there identity. Certainly the object of all foreigners living in Finland is not to speak and act like a Helsinkian.
    5) If you want to integrate people, it will not happen with walls of indifference.
    6) The Swedes did not undermine Finland – so why would other national groups?

  19. Karthik

    Heylo folks! Wow! Some lovely responses and inspired discussions happening here… I put up that first post and then was really busy with visas, travel plans etc.

    Enrique, I take you’re the owner of this blog? Good job matey! 🙂 Psst.. do you edit what goes on? 😉 All of the posts appear very respectful.. or nearly all of them, ha ha.. am sure there must have been some hot headed folk sending in flames as well.. such topics always generate debate.. and trigger the hormones!

    Right! Am off to Helsinki on Saturday (7th June).. 3 days there, 3 days in Stockholm… traveling via the Viking party boat should be fun(!!) then onwards to Copenhagen. Piritta goes back to Helsinki from Stockholm.. am skipping “integrating” with her family for now lol

    Hey Aricatch, thanks for your comments buddy.. Hmm.. well as far as I’ve seen, if a person has the right kind of attitude, real POSITIVE feel in life.. it doesn’t take long to make good friends.. even with moody people! Bring on Finland with all it’s warm, friendly and positive people I say.. just have to tap them the right way!

    Yes, I agree about the family aspect.. but then that’s not an issue with Finland alone! Any country you go to.. a partner/lover from another country (whether white-white, black-white, brown-purple, blue-black.. any colour combo :D) is always FIRST seen as an outsider.. because he/she IS an outsider! It takes a conversation and a few laughs to get to know a person properly.. of course, a beer always helps 🙂

    I’m from India and if some bloke or girl there married a foreigner, it will receive perhaps the same reaction from the family as anywhere else in the world. Once they get to know the person, automatically colour,caste, religion etc ceases to matter.. that is human nature. Comfort comes with familiarity. Can’t immediately expect a stranger to treat you like a best friend/family member can we?

    I met Piri via the internet when I was visiting Budapest earlier in the year.. she was visiting from Helsinki.. and because I’m with her this time, can’t try my charms with the finnish young ladies, otherwise could have given you a report on whether someone from outside Finland (AND is black/brown skinned) can get cosy with someone there or not 😀

    Crime, using/abusing the government’s resources, unemployment.. I would think we are talking about uneducated or lower class employment here.. people with no qualifications, beggars, a not so privileged family background… but then again, you’ve got people like this in every single country in the world! 😀

    TC,

    K

  20. Jonas

    6) The Swedes did not undermine Finland – so why would other national groups
    Can you explain this statement? It doesn’t make sense to me. You can’t compare Swedish-speaking Finns with immigrants. The comparison doesn’t make sense.

    In many of the areas where you will find considerable Swedish-speaking populations, it’s the Finnish speakers that are the more recent population groups. That applies to most of coastal Uusimaa/Nyland, Turunmaa/Åboland and Österbotten/Pohjanmaa. Where as places like today’s Espoo/Esbo might be 85+% Finnish speaking, you’d only have to go back 50 to 60 years or so to find it having a Swedish majority. If you went back in a time machine to 1900, you’d find it hard to find a Finnish-speaking household in Espoo if you were going around on knocking on people’s doors.

  21. Enrique

    Hi Karthik, welcome to Finland! I hope you have a great stay and can meet your possible future brother- in-law. I too am happy that we’ve been able to debate a difficult topic in such a civil manner.
    Hi Jonas, what I meant by my statement is that having two cultures living side by side in Finland did not hurt the country. On the contrary – Finland became richer because of it. It’s a bit like the story with English, which has been influenced by over 300 languages. This influence has not weakened English. It has made it richer and stronger. The children of the immigrants that now live in Finland will become a national group like the Swedish- and Finnish-speaking Finns. They too will speak their special brand of Finnish to possibly distinguish themselves from the Swedish- and Finnish-speaking Finns. So, to conclude, Finland is much richer as a country because of the Swedish Finns. I hope this explains my point, Jonas.

  22. Karthik

    Folks, am flying out on Saturday morning… seeing as I’ve not got that many people I know in Helsinki, anyone here care to meet up for a few drinks etc on Saturday night in town? There will be self, a friend and my girl friend.. you could bring along your friends as well.. we can have a nice big party! ..if that is anyone here is from Helsinki! 😀

  23. Enrique

    Hi Karthik, I would have been a pleasure meeting you and your girlfriend. I live now in Madrid since February. I hope your stay will be a great exerience. Certainly I’d encourage any others to have a coffee with you like Jonas and others.
    Many thanks for the invitation.
    Enrique

  24. aricatch

    Hei Karthik,

    Do let us know how your trip went. I wish you enjoy your trip. I don’t live in Helsinki so, I will not be able to join you guys. But, if you ever visit Oulu let me know.

    aricatch

  25. DeTant Blomhat

    “As you know, multiculturalism has its roots in Canada. It means basically that people from different cultures coexist in a society and have the same rights – as well as the right to practice their culture.”

    Yes, the natives had a right to practice their culture in reservations. Problem is that Finland has seen foreigners as “invaders” since before after King Erik and Bishop Henry.

    Someone – foreigner – coming and *demanding* us to do things is evidently a colonial imperialist trying to “civilize the natives”. Like you now here. Why should we listen to you – are you somehow better than us? Do we need your advice? Did we ask for it? So that is maybe the resentment of “things foreign” which I think is hogwash. Finland and Finns adapt foreign things at a massive rate. The thing is… a little look into the psyche. We do it if we want to do it – not if someone tells us to do it. When faced with the facts of crime rate you go on “criminals are individuals”. Well, Finns are “individuals” too. And we like to stay that way.

    “If Finland has created a modern, civil, welfare society that is an example in the world, why are some of us having such a difficult time accepting others to take part in this grand society? Do we fear that these outsiders will destroy Finland? ”

    Well maybe thet fear isn’t unwarranted? If you want to live in an USA or Canada then why not move there. This is Finland for a reason – because this is Finland. If every country was an USA or Canada there wouldn’t be any different nations. So if you want to live in Finland and a modern, civil, welfare society that is an example in the world – then why do you work towards destroying it?

    Just wondering if we need soon to start to build a casino in some reservation.

  26. x

    Well, I think there is racism in Finland too, even about some blogs, it’s possible to read on Uranus.fi/en about racism and there is some racist troll too.

  27. Enrique

    Hi DeTant, thank you for your comment.
    In the 1950s, Indians, or First Nations citizens as they are called, were objects of discrimination. Things have improved a lot in Canada. They have returned land to such First Nations’ groups. There has been an historic apology for the wrongdoing.
    Why are foreigners “invaders?”
    Are you saying that if a person has a father who is Black and a mother who is Finn that the child has not right to live in this country because he WAS born here and this IS his home. Why should he move to the US and Canada. I don’t understand where you come with the idea that because foreigners move to Finland they are going to destroy it. Have foreigners destroyed Canada, the US, Brazil and Australia? Tell me what foreigners must do? Is your solution to kick them out of Finland before they destroy the culture?
    De Tant, please define Finnish culture and what foreigners should do in order not to destroy it as you point out.

  28. DeTant Blomhat

    Have foreigners destroyed Canada, the US, Brazil and Australia?

    Yes. Do you have a problem with reading history? The decimation of the native tribes bringing “western civilization”? Did you miss that in school?

    We do not want to have to deal with cultural imperialism.

    If a person is born here and is living here then they are a part of the Finnish society. The person being black or white has nothing to do with this question. It shows you cannot differentiate culture and skin color and it is you who are the racist yourself. The question is that if the person wants to live in the USA or Canada he can move there, but if he lives in Finland that is also a choice. Finland has Finnish culture. Canada has Canadian culture. If a Canadian moves to Finland he moves to the Finnish culture – if he wanted to move into Canadian Culture he wouldn’t move to Finland now would he? Now if the Canadian still insists on imposing Canadian culture on the Finns, he is an “invader”. And claiming that the Canadian culture is better than the Finnish one so we should abandon it is racist cultural imperialism.

    So again the question – what makes you superior to the Finns in their own country?

  29. aricatch

    DeTant I don’t get you last statement even as a foreigner who is involved in securing and implementing oversea’s projects to this country and paying my share of taxes.

    You have to understand it is a two way street. As my office pal shared with me that, they were quite sure that I cannot take this isolation from the society and would run away. Well, I didn’t I am here and paying more taxes than him. Now, he understands me and is very friendly.

    Finnish people are not racist but, they have a fixed mental picture about a foreigner most of which are wrong and base less. The foreigners whom they hate the most are the ones whom they bring to this country to show to the world how humanitarian they are. But, after that those foreigners are not allowed to get jobs (I think both side are responsible).

    For people like me who fight in abroad countries to ensure the reputation of this country is high. When, I return after a business trip I am greeted with famous swear words in the streets; when I return form a pub or a disco. I am so afraid of being beaten up if I stand in a cue to enter a disco that, I don’t go there alone or use the VIP services.

    The internal market here is no longer enough to sustain the expenses of this country. It is a globalized world, days of slavery and colonialism are gone. It is all about the biggest markets no more about the smaller countries. Here there are no more investments. So, this is the best time to change and be a little tolerant about foreigners who really work and follow the rules.

  30. DeTant Blomhat

    Well are you giving us advice “as one of us” is the question it boils down to. Because if you come from a country where you don’t have anything picture perfect – means you haven’t figured out it all either so why should we take your advice as a role model?

    Finland is more tolerant than it was 10 or 20 years ago. It gets more tolerant every day. It is unfair to except us to dance with the pied piper. For example when I grew up I was in a class with a foreigner. That was really exotic. Today it is more exotic to not find someone foreign in the schoolclass. And thats in one generation! So stop complaining about apples not being oranges. Tolerance is something that grows but it can not dictated.

    And if “Finland has a problem” what do you then say about Norway?
    http://www.tv2.no/nyhetene/innenriks/article1974579.ece

  31. aricatch

    Well, my idea is very simple which I have openly discussed with a lot of finns. My point is if a foreigner is doing has share for this country why not allow him to integrate. I am not complaining about anything. There is nothing as a perfect country in planet earth. You speak like a finn whose idea is a foreigner always hates this country.
    That is not correct. If you read my previous posts I have just said what the real situation stands.

    Lot of my finnish friends have also complained about my country but, I don’t take it personally. And they know me so, they are open towards me. If there is a problem accept it and try to fix it. That’s what I can do. But, I alone change everything but, one can always perform his duties properly.

    I am not trying to tell you as a finn anything. I am happy with my life and a few swear words does not bother me at all. But, every other foreigner will not understand this so, as the goverment predicts and demands more foreigners in this country who has to pay taxes to run this country. We all will arive at a stage where we will have problems.

    I like this place and I would not want a situation like france here. I also add if a foreigner is found guilty of a crime. Don’t complain just deport him/her. And don’t blame every other foreigner for that.

  32. Enrique

    Hi DeTant, nobody is asking you to dance to the tune of the piped piper. I agree with you that matters have moved rapidly and towards a better situation in Finland. Figures such as 20% unemployment speak for themselves. There is definitely something wrong with the system. I know about Norway as I know about redneck USA – never mind France. Why don’t we look at countries like Canada? Why? Because when there is better understanding and respect for people from other countries — like towards Finns – only one matter can come out of such a situation: dynamism. There is not much room tolerance here. However, debate and constructive criticism is never out of place. It is a two-way street where we learn to grow and find synergy between us. Maybe it sounds a bit idealistic, but in the US is was that way when I lived there. The first important thing is work, then work, and followed by work. As long as you have weak laws, lots of stereotypes in the air about people things then move much slower.
    Aricatch, you make a very valid point. The problem with the debate over “foreigners versus Finns” is that it is two one-sided. It’s more complex than that.

  33. chattyguy

    I accidentally stumbled onto this blog. The debates are stimulating and reflect the microsm of the world today and the different attitudes and opinions people have about an issue. I fully agree with the view that people, irrespective of their ethnic origin and their linguistic traditions, should not be typecast into stereotypes. If a crime is committed by a foreigner, he has committed it as an INDIVIDUAL ! There are good and bad elements in any society and their populations vary with times and conditions.
    All this debate to me symbolises the fact that Finland is finally opening up to the influences/mindsets of the rest of the world and is not anymore a iconoclastic tourist spot for picture perfect landscapes and for Santa. At a personal level, my experience with Finns has been a good one. I met a research scholar from Finland in the UK (many years older then me and a respected academic in her country). Though it took sometime for her to open up and chat freely with me, the wait was worth it. By the time I left the UK, she was a good friend of mine and we exchanged cards/gifts over christmas and messages too. I found her to be understanding and mature person.

  34. DeTant Blomhat

    “Why don’t we look at countries like Canada? Why?”

    Because they don’t have an answer either. Or then explain http://www.notcanada.com and not with my explanation “theres always whining foreigners” even if its a model society.

    So if Canada has the very same problem… What was the problem in Finland?

    What are tha facts of the employment sector
    a) if not “shit” economy not even a booming one
    b) no entry-level jobs for the… hrm… no-speak crowd. no culture for having maids, housekeepers, no such labour-intensive service sector
    c) globalization biting

    What are the cultural hangups
    a) historical small nation syndrome (fear of loosing language and identity)
    b) historical little brother syndrome (always some bigger country, now the EU, making the rules )
    c) historical avoidance of conflict (we decided to debate in 1918) and thus a demand for conformity and unity (even outward)

    Some of those will change faster than the others, but miracles will not happen in a day.

  35. DeTant Blomhat

    Hey Aricatch and Enrique, I have a little theory you might want to comment upon. What I think a part of the problem with foreigners getting employment or coping at the workplace is one of these “Finnish things”. I don’t think people recognize as it is a trait found in Asian societies and Finns tend to give outward a pretty western image (I kind of wished we looked mongolian and had yurts for summer cottages so we would be allowed to be the Ugrics we are) Anyhow:

    The Finnish society works a bit collectively, like in some Asian cultures we also have networks. Maybe not visible or called as such but still they do exist. A foreigner coming into the country obviously very seldom belongs to any established network, so their first perogative would be to find and identify them. A Finn who is a stranger in a town maybe has some established ties or can fix his networks and fit in quicker. Problem is if you don’t recognise the system and end up in the wrong network, like people loitering at the Central Railway Station, that is a sure way to find oneself in trouble and be considered a member of the wrong network. However after you establish yourself into a network, then you are accepted as “one of us” and you are allowed your individual differences. As Aricatch stated there that “As my office pal shared with me that, they were quite sure that I cannot take this isolation from the society and would run away.” so there is a test of sorts “Are you worthy for us to join into our network”. I wouldn’t say this is as pronounced as the Chinese guanxi ideas, but I would say theres certain similarities?

    So if you don’t belong to my network, I treat you as air… explains a lot of the percieved “unfriendliness”. Which then again in the “western” societies you have a “friendly initial front” but having “real friendship” is hard, whereas Finnish approach is you are cold at first and then friends for life.

  36. chattyguy

    I think DeTant Blomhat has given an interesting sociological explanation/theory for the perceived Finnish behaviour. I personally feel Finland is coming to grips with the dilemna of how to maintain a balance between retaining its centuries old typically Finnish life style and culture and its picture-perfect tranquil landscapes on the one hand and at the sametime open up to the economic and social nfluences of globalisation and liberalisation and alongwith them the influx of foreigners from so called ‘alien’ cultures ! But recent media reports suggest the situation would be rather grave and Finland has limited choices in this matter. The reports say Finland is ageing faster than any country in Europe, other than Italy. Worldwide, only Japan is ageing faster. The Finnish labor force is expected to begin declining by 2010. In 2015, about 20 per cent of Finns will be aged 65 or older.

    Little wonder then that Finnish Finance Minister Jyrki Katainen ‘s statement to media reflects this worry and the dilemna too. He said ‘By 2025, we would need 1.8 million immigrants if we want to solve the labour market problem. But everyone knows that’s not going to happen. There are language and geographic issues. It is hard for us to attract immigrants’ There is also the danger that eventually economic imperatives may take precedence over the rising social concerns with regard to foreigners and finnish culture ! Sad but true !

  37. aricatch

    I somewhat agree with DeTant and chattyguy. DeTant my office pals are now very open to me and we all have a nice understanding. I agree with your network concept. It is all about network here. It is very important that you are seen as an asset and not an aggressor.

    Coming back to the view of chattyguy, I am deeply worried about the growing divide between Finnish and Foreigner communities. But, still there is time to fix it.

    I have already mentioned about the dangers which Finland might face unless some serious steps are taken to provide some way of livelihood for foreigners who are already here.
    Foreigners should be treated as individuals. Otherwise, reaching home for people like me without being sweared will be an achievement after 10 years.

  38. Enrique

    I attended an interesting seminar in Finland last week which I took part in. One of the interesting matters brought up at the seminar was that Finland will find it extremely hard to find immigrant workers in the years ahead. There is a lot of competition out there from other cities and countries for qualified workers. One possible source could be Belorus and the Ukraine.
    Enrique

  39. chattyguy

    I fully endorse the view of Enrique that Finland will find it difficult to attract skilled immigrant workers in the years to come from certain parts of the world. Despite Finland’s recent ‘Look East’ policy in this regard, the fact is that for qualified/skilled Indians, Chinese (Hong Kongers and Taiwanese included) and Koreans, the U.S, Canada and the UK are the preferred destinations. Europe mainland, somehow, as a whole has not been able to attract substantial numbers of skilled asians because of language/culture issues and the perceived xenophobic attitudes/right wing group acitivities (esp Germany). Added to these, the climate, remoteness and the seemingly initial unsocial countenance of Finns make it even more difficult for Finland to attract the better qualified and skilled immigrant workers. The economic order of the world is changing and other nations are becoming more competitive thereby forcing Finland to rethink about its proverbial ‘ice-cold’ reserve and die hard ‘old world’ attitudes which appear to be out of synch. with contemporary realities !

  40. DeTant Blomhat

    I don’t think it is as much attracting the skilled workers but not attracting the unskilled. As you see theres loads of foreigners unemployed – they’re with the wrong skillset that the employers require. And they are making the noise – not those skilled workers, as they are employed already.

  41. aricatch

    Well, I agree with chattyguy and DeTant. It is still not easy to live in Finland for foreigners with family as I guess it is too late for them to blend in. Living in isolation from the soceity is not an easy task. So, the big chunk goes to US, Canada and UK. Unless something exotic work is really available for a single person who is ready to make a fresh start.
    I have met a few fellow foreigners who have come to this country with Finnish partners. Quite a number of them could not find work and are now deeply frustrated. They are now complaining about everything. As one lamented to me “I was told there are lot of jobs there you will get something”. Not to forget the ones whom the goverment brings.
    But, my observation goes this way that, people who are capable of doing something do get something to do.
    The world market has shifted there are new players in the field and if Finland does to change tactics it will head for a bad game in the next 10 years.
    I did meet Finnish people who are very positive about foreigners. Mostly they are mid-aged people and above the young ones are not so, happy about the fact. But, if they meet a friendly like minded foreigner they do appreciate.

  42. Finlandesa

    I live in Spain with my “dark-skinned” SPANISH husband. (He looks like Spanish who has been in the beach all the summer. ) How many times he has to hear from his compatriots; Go to your own country! Vete a tu pais! That´s racism, or isn´t it?
    And how about India? Of course, in India , there doesn´t exist racism because they call it; caste discrimination.
    I think we have racism in Spain, in India and in Finland. I´m not better than you and you are not better than me.

  43. Enrique

    Hi Finlandesa, many thanks for your points of views and for taking part in this blog. I would be the first one to denounce racism everywhere. It happens in different degrees and in different ways everywhere. As human beings we should do everything in our lifetimes to undermine the spread of racism. If you think about it, it is one of the greatest social illnesses of humankind. Certainly education is one important step in the right direction.

  44. aricatch

    Finlandesa and Enrique we don’t live in the perfect world. We live in a world of humans having prejudices.
    Since Finlandesa brought up India, I would like to contrbute my observations with regard to racism in India and Finland.

    IN INDIA:
    1. Caste : You will/can be discriminated based on your family name which indicates your caste.
    2. Class : The financial class you belong which indicates how rich you are. India is strictly a class soceity.
    3. Skin color: You skin color (Yes skin color). The concept of black and white does exist in the Indian soceity. It plays a very important role in relationships in India.

    PS: What I understand now. Things are improving rapidly as more and more people are getting away from poverty and joining the middle class.

    IN FINLAND:
    1. Your nationality : Depends from where you come Germany (Developed) or India (Developing and taking away our jobs).
    2. Skin color: Requires extra effort if you have dark skin color in private life. In working life does not matter that much. Normally, Finnish people are very intelligent and professional.
    3. Finland is not a class soceity.

  45. aricatch

    In short discrimination exists every where in some form or the other. The only way to get rid of it is to igrnore racism and be positive and move ahead in life. The crazy fellows no matter whereever they are will shutup one day or the other. TRUST ME!!!

  46. Enrique

    Thank you Aricatch for your views. I grew up in the US when there were very serious racial problems and when people like Martin Luther King rose up against all odds to challenge the demon of segregation. What about Mandela of South Africa? What about all those that aimed for a so-called perfect world? Certainly the best way to change things is with your example but ideals are like a sports competition: You strive to win in order not to come last. If ignoring racism has helped you, then all power to you, Aricatch. One way to stop racism is having strong laws against it.

  47. aricatch

    Well, I agree with you Enrique. There are various ways to tackle this parasite in our soceity. I was speaking at the personal level. Ofcourse, that coupled with good laws will do marvel.

  48. Enrique

    Yes, you are right, Aricatch. Strong laws that protect foreigners are one of the answers to what you correctly call “the parasite in our society.”

  49. Juha

    I’m a Finnish man who has been working with foreigners (mainly refugees and asylum seekers) for years here in Finland. I’ve had the chance to witness the initial reactions of these people when they first arrive in this country, as well as the many difficulties (and often success) they later have when trying to integrate into Finnish society. I am a Finn, which means I obviously have an insight into the opinions that normal Finns have about foreigners.

    Firstly, I do aknowledge that there IS racism and discrimination against foreigners (especially people of dark skin color) in this country. However I cannot agree to the fact that so many foreign people participating in discussions about Finland claim that this is a country of nazi skin heads waiting to beat-up the next black man they see on the street or that the society as a whole (meaning public policy, health care, education) is somehow discriminatory. I understand very well that Finnish people are often extremely cold and reserved towards foreigners but I have heard countless of remarks from foreign refugees and students claiming that nowhere else in Europe have they been received as well as in Finland, with social welfare services covering all of there financial and medical needs, there children being offered the highest quality education, even studies in their own native language as well as studies in their respective religions. My sister is a teacher with many immigrant pupils in her class and she told me that the school system goes to great lengths in organizing the education of immigrant students. I know Africans and Asians who have been made to feel more than welcome in local Finnish churches and schools, making Finnish friends.

    Yes, it is difficult for foreigners to find work here. There ARE employers reluctant to considering employing foreigners, whether due to reasons of prejudice, downright racism, or because the applicant doesn’t have the required knowledge of the Finnish language. BUT, why is it that I have black friends here, who speak the language fluently, and have NEVER had any problems finding work (and they have worked in many different fields)? It saddens me alot that so many in this country go to great lengths in helping refugees and other foreigners in need and I only find that this country is labeled completely racist. I once asked a group of Somalis who had been living in Finland for quite a while if they had experienced racism. They responded simply that 90% of Finnish people are good and 10% are racist. I am certain that WHEREVER you go especially in Europe you WILL find racism. Especially in eastern-European countries or countries not accustomed to foreigners. If a drunk on the street shouts offensive things to a black person, I am sure this happens in other countries as well.

    Finnish people are generally very reserved and do not have a good knowledge of foreign languages/cultures, hence the difficult connection with foreigners. DOES EVERYTHING NEED TO BE ATTRIBUTED TO RACISM? Finns, especially elderly citizens do find it hard to accept anything that is new, different or revolutionary. This applies as well to native Finns trying to go against the flow.

    I am sorry about the bad experiences foreigners have had in Finland but I believe things are changing. In the upcoming years we will be needing the effort of many foreigners in the labor market due to our aging population. I hope their arrival will continue to enrich this society.

  50. Tiwaz

    It has to be attributed to racism because there is sad trend amongst immigrants to refuse to look in the mirror.

    Many want to live in Finland, but do not want to integrate.
    Many want a job, but do not want to possess required skills.

    It is easier to say “Finns are racist because immigrants are unemployed” than look at yourself and say: “I can’t speak with locals in their language, I do not behave properly in definition of local norms and I might not even have valid certificates. No wonder nobody wants to hire me.”

    Because first shifts blame away from you, and second would require you to do something to yourself to fit in and get forward.

    1. Learn language. Finns prefer to use Finnish… Go figure.

    2. Learn proper conduct. Finns follow Finnish code of conduct. So should you in Finland. (makes things so much easier for you.

    3. Get your skills and certificates up to date. Certificate from some school/university in Iowa is not going to impress your employer. They have no idea what that means in terms of knowledge and skills. Get them exchanged into Finnish equivalent and they know what to expect from you. (this has something to do with proverb of bying a pig in a bag)

  51. CK

    Hi all,
    I pop over this site by chance and it’s interesting indeed. I didn’t have time to get through all topics but I’d like to say your blog is works. I have no clue whether I faced with racism or haven’t but I wanna share my story with you. Btw, who could help me to define which name for the case I have been through.

    I came here in 2005, graduated from the polytechnic here, major in business and I can’t speak Finnish, I did work hard 1 year but later I gave up because it is not interesting to me, sorry for that.
    I was looking for a job, office job as I have working experience, 5 years or more than that. I did went to some other countries to work in short time but finally I decide to move to Finland. So, to have a better integration for myself, I took a degree program.
    The mission to look for job is a really hard nut to crack,I would say so. Those agent companies which provide recruiting services refuse my CV all the time because I can’t speak Finnish 🙂
    Finally, there’s a foreign company has vacancy position that not require employee speaking Finnish. I did apply through agent company to reach that position and also try to contact directly to the company.
    I get a chance to be interviewed and get a job by having specific experience. Funny enough, that agent company send me refuse message again that I’m not qualify and they produce to our boss list of qualified applicants for interview without me in it.
    Finally, my boss chose me.

    So… would you guys help me to tell what the case I am in? Could or could not name it as racism? why all agent companies don’t even let me have a chance to be interviewed?
    Thanks for reading 🙂

  52. Enrique

    Hi CK, and welcome to Migrant Tales. I am happy to hear that you got picked after all. One of the problems in Finland is that there is still this very strong idea about “us” and “them.” If you donçt speak Finnsh, it only makes matters more difficult.
    It is unfortunate that there is still not a large enough foreign community in Finland where they could hire foreigners. This is quite common in countries like Germany, UK, the US and elsewhwere. As more foriengers come, they need services and this creates jobs and tax revenues for the state.

  53. Tanya

    I would love to visit Finland one day, i have a friend in Estonia who visits Finland but i guess its normal for her. I am from Canada and i don’t want to be hated because i only speak English.

  54. ANTHONY NIGERIAN

    PLEASE, I AM A BLACK AFRICAN MAN IN MY TWENTIES, I WANT TO TRAVEL TO FINLAND FOR MY MASTERS IN ENGINEERING. I DONOT KNOW IF I SHOULD SINCE I AM BLACK. CAN ANY ONE PLEASE ADVICE ME ON THIS ISSUE.

    • Enrique

      Hi Anthony Nigerian, welcome to Migrant Tales. The answer to some of your question could be the comments and posts in this blog. However, why not get in touch with some Nigerians or Africans in Finland and try to get it straight from the horse’s mouth. I am sure they can give you valuable tips. Post-graduate studies in Finland are very international/multicultural. You can even do your thesis in English.

  55. N

    Reason why the post was so popular, is that now it’s propably the first this issue is going to be debated. Immigration and racism. Problem is, that the debate is still quite childish “You’re guys are racists!!” “No we’re not, you are just stupid”. And well, that issue seems to interest people now, so almost everything found fron the net connected to it, will get attention.

    As for the Finland being a racist country, yes and no. If you think that the exclusion by your neighbours or strangers is racisms, you’re just plain wrong. As that has nothing to do with looks. It just kinda is same for everyone (I’m talking about the people I know). As for the employment, that might be somewhat true, but then again, the racism isn’t the only reason for it. It’s quite a pain in the ass for companies to fire people in every situation. Be it that the worker just sucks, or that the company is doing bad. Because of that, people want to minimize risks when hiring, and if they have bad experience about people with different color/nationality/something else, they just tend to hire from the group they have best experience with. This might change over time when there’s more experience about different people, that is if there’s different experience about it.

    As for the police, they’re just police, usually annoying towards everyone, without reason. Same is customs, I have some big problems with customs personnel everytime I go somewhere, just because of my looks. I look like a average finn, exepct that I usually dress kinda weirdly. I guess it’s same with others, if you don’t blend in too well, they want to check you.

    But anyhow, as I said earlier, now the debate about immigration / racism is heated, so I guess there will be people after it here too. For better or worse, I like it that there finally is a debate in public about it. Still waiting for it to get some valid arguments too 🙂

    As for living in Finland. It’s pretty much that if you don’t act like a finn, then many people will look at you weirdly. But if you look like a foreigner, but act like a finn, then there shouldn’t be problems, usually.

    • Enrique

      Hi N, and thank you for dropping by. Some of the posts may revolve around “you’re-racist-no-racist” axis. But as you said, it is a good matter that people are starting to debate the issue. Maybe through the debate we can learn bits and pieces of each other and move forward. Probably the interesting matter about the whole issue is that we don’t know nor many do not want to know. Racism, just like any other social ill, undermines our values as a society.

  56. Major Sob

    I am an Indian and did not encounter much racism in Finland.I was actually treated with a lot of respect wherever I went.Dunno why though.I am darker than the average Indian.Just got the right group of people I suppose.

    • Enrique

      Hi Major Sob, welcome to Migrant Tales and thank you for sharing your views and experiences in Finland. Nice to hear that your stay was pleasurable. Did you ever go out dancing on Saturday night?

  57. JP

    Immigrants love to complain about racism when things aren’t going in their way. Even you “Enrique” demand that i should bend over for becos some odd reason… not going to happen.

    I’m not going to your country and demand local people to respect me… why are you doing that kinda thing here? you need to earn your respect. Too hard for you? are you freeloader?

    • Enrique

      Hi JP, those are pretty strong words. Respect is the basic element that unites people. Without it we do not have a very constructive relationship. Why are you attacking immigrants? Why don’t you pick on the politicians and policy makers whom you must think are totally lost. Why don’t you organize an anti-immigration party. Is that too hard for you?

  58. Antti

    Hello, nice to find blogs like this just by stumbling, keep up the good work.

    Juha wrote:
    “DOES EVERYTHING NEED TO BE ATTRIBUTED TO RACISM? Finns, especially elderly citizens do find it hard to accept anything that is new, different or revolutionary. This applies as well to native Finns trying to go against the flow.”

    Just as my 2 cents, I would like to say that this is an important point, that has its roots in the history of Finland which also affect the attitudes towards outside influences.

    Apart from single entrepeneurs, foreigners through out history are percieved to have had a mostly negative influence on Finland, as it happens to lie between east and west in the periferia of Europe and being a nation that has existed only 90 years (compared to ie. Sweden that has its origins in the viking ages), there is even confusion amongst Finns about the national identity, let alone self-esteem.

    Also the society was an agrarian one only 50 years back, and jumped straight into being a post-industrial one, meaning that there isn’t too much industry to provide jobs for a mass workforce (outside construction that employs quite a lot of foreigners) that don’t require some higher education, and even if you do have an education -ie. a doctor- there is the language issue making employment extra difficult.

    It would be interesting to know how well second generation immigrants are coping, as they know the language and have a better chance of integrating as well, also going to the same schools as native Finns etc.

    Also I missed the point where anyone has told people to “bend over” in here… I also hope JP’s aware that most likely his Nokia phone runs on software coded by ie. Indian guys working in Finland paying taxes etc… the kind of immigrants that a lot of them are, paying taxes, and which you never hear Halla-Aho talking about.

    • Enrique

      Hi Antti, and welcome to Migrant Tales and for sharing your thoughts with us. Your point that some Finns’ attitudes of foreigners must have a lot to do with history. There is, in my opinion, too much doom and gloom scenarios out there about how creating a more diverse society will imply for Finland. Some of these that are spreading this type of fear are people such as Halla-aho, who should know better.
      Do you think that our fear of foreigners is a threat to Finland?

  59. MeduzsaCanada

    Hi I took some time to read most of what was written on that blog…wow… wow… let’s say that i wanted 1st to have news from “Karthik” trip in June in Finland cause he went to go see his girlfriend and wondered how it went.

    i have met someone very special from there, as well and will be going to visit him also so we don’t stay too much time apart, but it will be my first time there. i never asked myself any questions about if there was racism there until on of my friends from europe kind of mentioned most of the european, scandinave etc are a bit racist, so i decided to google it and here i am on this blog… :S

    I am from Canada, born and raised and browned skin. When i red many of the messages on the blog, made me kind of realize wow… to be able to live in a society, where i don’t ask myself or almost never in my lifetime “am i being a victim of racism” is really a nice feeling. Where i don’t pay at all attention to the nationality, skin color etc… of the person with whom i choose to go on a date with, it is great. I had great jobs and career opportunities since i ended college for the past 10 years and have been able to climb the latter, in terms of position and salary without having to think of my skin color wow, i think it is amazing.

    I am not saying that discrimination does not exist at all in Canada, but my ancestor’s mother, grandparents had a few difficulties, but at the same time Canada was a country that contributed alot into a all are equal society even when the US were in all kind of political debates regarding blacks. Therefore i am very happy that i’m from there.

    Although there are many beautiful places in the world i would personnaly want to go somewhere else at one point in my life to work for a while, and never onced asked myself any questions regarding racism… all i thought about was my skills and then being a woman, cause i find that there is more discrimination in work place towards women, not even cultural backgrounds.

    all that to say, i will be going to Finland, and didn’t know at all what to expect, i just want to be close to a love one, and i didn’t even ever asked him anything since we met last year about our color differences… what should i expect when i arrive in Finland? what would be the best way to kind of blend in? i am leaving in about 3 weeks going there after a trip to China.

  60. jane martine

    i am in Finland now for 2 year, all i can say i have experienced some differences which i have never seen in my country, when i came here i was telling my sister that i would like to make lots of friend here and to take them to my country , my sister told me i should wait after one year i wont be telling her that thing i didn’t understand why she said so.

    I have tried to be nice to people here but didn’t work out, my flatmate is a racist, i didn’t know that but she was behaving weird to me, one day she told me that half of the Finns here they are racist , she told me her father is racist

    She said that her mother divorced and married to Nigeria guy and they had a baby , so she said most of their relatives they don’t consider that baby as really Finn since the baby is half Nigeria and half Finn.
    She was saying if she would have been a member of parliament or minister she would have put high tax for foreigners because we are using their services free.
    In my class Finns they have their own place to seat they don’t wanna mix with foreigners.
    My friend is working somewhere and you know what his boss told him that he received some information from some where that the work their doing there is not for black people ,they should give to Finns or Europeans . that job doesn’t require any Finnish language so is that not racist?
    One black guy have been slapped by finish guy on the bus because is black , that Finnish guy he didn’t wanted black in the bus.
    One day i went to K market and i was looking for some thing one Finnish women come and when she saw me she look at me and say mita with anger is that not racism.
    My friend know lot of Finnish people who live in his country for more than 10 years now, some of my friend classmates they have gone to do their internship in his country while my friend he did not get internship here in Finland because of Finnish language so are those Finns went to take their internship into non-Finnish speaking countries what are they doing ?
    Fucking racist .
    On train , bus people are talking shit about foreigners .
    This country is difficulty their is lot of racist believe or not.

    Gog bless Foreigners in Finland , God bless Finland , foreigner we are dying
    they are champion in our countries oh i want to go abroad , i want what , while they are treating us like animals , died, we are human being just like you , the different is just black and white .

    So i came to realize why my sister was telling me that at the first place racism in FINLAND .
    ” We shall overcome “

    • Enrique

      Hi Jane Martine, thank you for sharing your ideas with us and welcome to Migrant Tales. I believe your story is that of many who move to Finland – we move to the country and have big hopes of building a home and then are disappointed. The racism you speak is a problem in Finland but you should never let it get you done. That is exactly what those who are filled with prejudice and hatred want – to destroy your self-esteem and give up. The best way to fight racism is confronting it, or by sharing your thoughts in a blog on the subject.

  61. Michaelangelo

    One question. I saw this word “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” when I wrote my thoughts. So, is this some kind of forum that you accept only if someone says that there is racism in Finland so, you wanna make this kind of propaganda? (I have these thoughts as soon I do not see many positive comments)

    Anyway, I did not say something bad and did not curse and also everything I said was true. But if I see that my thoughts were true, I will just write about that kind to other forums (without mentioning your forum’s name of course, cause I do not want to find it here haters) about what is going on here!

    sorry, but I like being fair in my life and do not want to see things like that.

    Have a nice day! 🙂

  62. EM

    I must say, excellent topic of discussion. I was looking for this topic for a research when I came across this thread. However, it surprises me to learn about the various complains made in some of the posts. I am from Bangladesh and I am attending college in Thailand. Over the last few years I have made a number of international friends, from the US, Russia, India, Finland, Poland, Germany, Austria, Nigeria etc. We hang out every single day just like we do with our friends back home, and I cannot complain about any of them having any kind of problems about race, religion, or culture. Some of them even took a trip to my country with me.

    I don’t think it is right to call anyone racist for any matter. We all have our differences, and I think time, education, and history all play an important role on a person’s belief. The USA is not what it used to be 50 years ago, neither will be the other nations in a few years. Research shows that young people worldwide are more likely to mix with multicultural societies than the previous generation due to more social interaction in school, a major part in their upbringing. ( Well guess what, the older generation will not live forever with their beliefs, and will be replaced by the modern youth eventually ).

    I’ll skip the Jobs and Crimes part.. 😛

    • Enrique

      Hi EM, thank you for paying us a visit and sharing your views. Probably when “foreigners” are on neutral ground, for example in a foreign country, their attitudes towards territoriality changes.
      I liked very much your view of the future shape of multicultural societies. Cultures have always mixed and been interested in each other. If you think of it, it is a sensible thing since we can always incorporate new things that make our survival and culture more interesting.
      Bangladesh was formerly East Pakistan. Do you think that the hartred that sparked indpendence from West Pakistan is still alive in your country? Are Pakistanis seen as nice people in Bangladesh?

  63. EM

    Well it depends. For instance, my grandmother would probably be happy to shoot someone from Pakistan ( not literally ), probably because of the violence our parents and grandparents have witnessed, and she lost a son in the war, and so did millions. However, I don’t see much hatred around people my age or among my friends. We do have a lot of friends from Pakistan, both here and at home. I don’t see the point of hating a whole nation over history. There are still a lot of Urdu speaking people residing in Bangladesh and they are not under discrimination in any ways ( of course there are exceptions ). Everything needs a little time to change I guess. It has been close to 40 years after all. Where are you from Enrique? Your name sounds Latin 🙂

    • Enrique

      Hi EM, thank you for giving us a short roundup of what people still think of Pakistanis in your country. You make another important point that I hope others will read carefully: I don’t see the point of hating a whole nation over history. Do you think that you are a minority in your country or in Asia for thinking in such a way. In Finland there is still a lot of suspicion against Russians for what happened in World War 2. For how long can you hate a country that did you wrong?
      I was born in Argentina but grew up in the California. My mother is Finnish.
      What are you studying in Thailand?

  64. EM

    Well, I don’t think I am a minority anymore, or at least I don’t get the feeling in my country. I don’t see much of that in Thailand either. As long as you are nice to them, they are nice to you. There is a lot of Pakistanis and Indians settled in Thailand, many of them quite successful. However, I have learned in the last 4 years that in Asian countries it is very important that you know their language, to avoid any discrimination. People tend to be more friendly and treat foreigners like locals if you know how to speak with them in their language. As for other Asian countries I don’t really know.

    Finland supposedly has one of the lowest crime rates in the world. I guess that adds up to one more reason why they don’t really like foreign immigrants as someone in this thread said that according to stats, majority of the crimes in Finland have been committed by the non-Finnish.

    I am about to finish my Bachelor in Electronics and Communication engineering. If you are wondering, I was looking for this topic since I am planning to get my masters degree from Espoo(EVITech). Thought I should do a little research on the situation in Finland..haha..

    What about you..what do you do?

    • Enrique

      Hi EM, it´s pretty interesting to note how language plays an important role in a person´s integration into a society. Certainly it is important but it may even be more important in some countries. In Finland, language is an important unifier among Finns. Certainly this is the case as well as for other cultures but historically it is important for the Finns. In the 19th century, Finns won language rights even though they were the majority. The official language was Swedish until 1862.
      Espoo would be a good place to study. As you know, it is right next door to Helsinki.
      I am a journalist with a background in social sciences. I am doing PhD research of immigrants´perceptions of Finnish society, culture and institutions. I also lecture. So, as you can see, a little bit of all.

  65. EM

    Nice talking to you Enrique. Its always good to meet knowledgeable people 🙂 Do let me know if you are on Facebook. Will look forward to keep in touch!

  66. Meletios

    Nice read and my two cents…
    I am an Asian and live/work in UK.
    I keep reading stuff about immigration, but always feel frustrated when people talk about it without understanding it properly. Let me explain…
    Out of the total immigration in a typical EU country, 80%-90% are from WITHIN EU
    and rest from outside EU( which includes Africas/Asias/Americas).
    This distinction is very important as in my experiences the momemnt your skin color is anything than white, u r are discriminated against without a chance
    but if u r white skinned, atleast u have a chance atleast until you dont speak 🙂
    I am not slating anyone, just my observations.
    Still when people talk about stopping immigration then REALLY only talk about stopping immigrants from NO-EU countries, as their country is in EU they CANNOT DO anything about EU migrants. SO WE HAVE BIG BIAS here.
    Now, if you compare the crime facts as often mentioned in comments, I am 100% sure you will find more high level jobs done by non-EU migrants for the simple fact they have to prove their credentials to get a visa against say a EU migrant who can come in anytime and do whatever he/she wants.
    Again not slating anyone just pointing out the obvious differences

    • Enrique

      Hi Meletios, welcome to Migrant Tales! Thank you for your comment. I could not agree more with you. We have a lot of fun in this blog disecting what the other person is saying. Sometimes when we open up the argument we find it to be empty and unfounded. Isn’t it incredible, however, that we have the technology to put people on the moon but we talk about other cultures like in the Middle Ages.

      We hope you take part in our daily debates.

  67. Hannu

    “Out of the total immigration in a typical EU country, 80%-90% are from WITHIN EU”

    Lets check.
    According to stat.fi change between 08-09. people by county born.

    Eu27 +4224
    Rest europe +3177
    Africa +1825
    North america +183
    South america +334
    Asia +4561
    Oceania +59

    I wouldnt say that 19,4% is even near of 80% or 90%…
    If we look change between 05-09 its 20,54% and 1990-2010 its 16,92%

    Maybe Finland isnt typical or you just invented your percentages.

    • Enrique

      Hannu, the actual figure is 56,106 EU citizens (Oops! I made a mistake originally), which is 36% of all immigrants. Click here for more information. If you want to find the ratio between non-EU and EU citizens click here.

  68. xyz

    Here is a study from immigrants entered Finland between 1989-1991:
    Out of 10,500 working-age immigrants
    3000 moved away, retired or died
    58% have a job

    “40 per cent of those followed in the study were living as owner-occupiers and a fifth of them had completed either a professional or academic degree in Finland.”

    “More than half of the studied immigrants succeeded in entering into more permanent employment from temporary jobs and from the cycle of unemployment periods or training courses.”

    http://www.hs.fi/english/article/Employment+situation+of+immigrants+becomes+clearly+better+only+after+several+years/1135260497204

    I don’t know but this sounds more like you have to run your own business if you want to survive there

  69. xyz

    Helsingin Sanomat sent inquiries to the 50 largest companies employing people in Finland as to whether or not they have set up some kind of programme or taken some steps to hire employees with foreign backgrounds. A total of 36 companies sent their responses, and seven out of them had established such a programme or taken such steps.

  70. Hannu

    I checked UK too. 2001 Countries of birth of the foreign-born population, europe 33,1%….

    Sometimes when we open up the argument we find it to be blatant lie 🙂

  71. Erik

    Hello there, I’ve read the whole string and it was quite interesting.

    Let me introduce myself first. I am Greek 21 years old currently living and studying in Amsterdam of the Netherlands.

    Before I never had the impression of Finland being a “hot” destination for immigrants. I always thought that UK, France, Netherlands, Germany had the highest percentage of immigrants. From the Nordic countries I think Sweden is the one with a lot of foreigners.

    The point is that from young age I was always thinking of moving to Finland, not as a political or economical immigrant but simply because I love the country. Mostly cause of the Metal scene… silly but true, what can I do? Insomnium /m … hehe! Then the landscape is so beautiful, it feels like the country is isolated somehow and I absolutely love that, I’m tired of the chaotic way of life in big metropolitan centers so I was always thinking of moving somewhere to middle or a little bit northern Finland in a small town.

    Anyway the point is that after some research done and of course reading this blog, I am kind of unsure about doing that. Do you think I’ll be able to intergrate well? I don’t have any problem learning the language and follow up with the Finnish culture… I already speak almost 3 languages ( 2 of them perfectly and 1 fluently and a little bit of Italian which of course I don’t count). So for me to learn a new language is not an obstacle, I would be more than happy to do that. Actualy how long do you think one need to learn this language, attending special courses and stuff? Also other thing I wanted to ask is if you think that I’ll have a problem cause of my appearance? Obviously I don’t look like a Nordic man, I look like a Greek/Italian that means that I am a little bit more darker than they are… My point is… do they discriminate all the foreigners? Or some nations are more tolerated… considering Greece is also part of EU because someone mentioned that for EU citizens it’s much easier.

    • Enrique

      Hi Erik, I am happy that you found us. Welcome to our blog. Finland is a beautiful country and it has a lot to offer. Some will advise you to have a job before coming here. The situation is pretty bad in this respect for some people. We look forward to your comments.

  72. Tiwaz

    -“Helsingin Sanomat sent inquiries to the 50 largest companies employing people in Finland as to whether or not they have set up some kind of programme or taken some steps to hire employees with foreign backgrounds. A total of 36 companies sent their responses, and seven out of them had established such a programme or taken such steps.”

    Real question is… Why should they?

    If immigrant cannot fulfill requirements of company, it is fault of immigrant. Not company.

    Companies should maintain strict policy of absolute equality. Best one takes the spot. No excuses for immigrants, no benefits. And neither for natives.

  73. CommieCowboy

    If I were from the one country with more Nightwish fans than Justin Bieber fans, I’d probably look down on foreigners. 😛

  74. no name

    hello everyone, i married a finish woman i went for a visa they refused me visa 2 times with big racism ,all the finish people i have mate are very good and my wife is the best woman you can ever live with, i tried not to visit Finland anymore but my wife is in bad condition she is crying for more than 4 months, i dont have intention to marry an Epicurean woman in my next world cos they are wicked and racism, i dont have strong heart to leave my wife other wise i would have leave her and live my life, i have told her to come down to Africa to stay with me when ever she is not at work but she is such a scared person she can not stay in a noisy place and she can not stay with out electricity, Finland people is the most wicked people in Europe, what i hard from my wife is that they woman in control of visa section in that Finland embassy said that she hate Africans that is the worst thing a woman can do or say to her fellow woman, i pity for my wife cos she dont know what to do, and she want me as soon as possible,if is not cos of her i dont have intention to apply for visa , i got in to this problem cos i fail in love and if i try to leave her she will die, i am confused this makes me to hate finish people if is not cos of my wife i dont think that i will ever dream of going there anymore but i dont want anything to happen to her cos she is so kind, all i have to do when i get that visa is to stay with her for 89 days and go out of that country , i wish my wife could accept to divorce me ,

  75. JusticeDemon

    no name

    You should apply for a residence permit, not a visa. It makes no sense to request a visa for the purpose of “visiting” your wife. A family should seek to live in the same household.

    Refusal of a residence permit application from a spouse is highly unusual, and you are entitled to know the grounds for any refusal. The decision on a residence permit application is also open to appeal, which means that you can get a law court to review the grounds and to strike down the decision if the grounds are unlawful.

    Your wife can lodge the application on your behalf in Finland. You will then probably need to visit a Finnish embassy abroad for an interview and verification of identity.

  76. praks

    finnish ppl are racists , period, i am indian and faced racism everyday in helsinki and espoo. shamefull , it gives bad picture of finland to the world. i hope they read these feednbacks and improve.

    • Enrique

      Hi praks and thank you for dropping by Migrant Tales. One of the aims of this blog is to be a forum and a voice of the immigrant community. I think we have achieved this.

      What do you think could be done to make some Finns more acceptant of immigrants?

  77. alien

    Hi noname;
    Brother I dont want to generalize about the whole nation, but as far as is concerned to the system, the foreigners have no rights in this country.
    In the eye of the system and as a result of that most of the Finns, you are guilty unless proven not. I am an example, that you can follow my story in;
    http://nemoo.wordpress.com/2007/06/07/are-you-a-racist-in-finland/
    I do not want to repeat it. So if you are not politically under persecution and enjoy a decent level of life, forget Finland. And it does not really matter if you ask for a visa or resident permit, they dont like people from third world countries. They judge you by color and your ethnicity, not your knowledge or competence. If you are tough and you can accept their looks and are prepared to answer why you are here every morning that you see a Finn, then it is different story. Any thing shorter than that, be prepare to eat your loaf of bread washed in the blood.
    So it is up to you, brother.

  78. Max Jay

    I just bumped on this blog, after some disturbing experience in Oulu Police to be specific. In Finland if you are a dark skinned person you are automatically a prime suspect of some crime. Just visiting the police to inquire about something, they are already suspicious of you.There is too much negativity among the Finns towards the foreigners especially dark skinned people. Many of us dark skinned people who found ourselves in Finland because of studies, find it hard to believe the way Finns behave towards us. Many Finns are misled and do not know how foreign students live in Finland. But they have a preconceived mind about foreigners. I think that Finland is not ready to accept foreigners in their society because there are no measures in place to integrate them in their society. The schools are getting many students from Africa for example, but they do not care about the well-being of these students in school and outside. There are no programmes to bring the foreign students and local students to mingle and work together. These are some factors that shows that the Finns on a large scale are not ready for foreigners. Many Finns think all Africans in Finland are refugees and getting the social welfare, but on the contrary most of us are not! It is for such issues hate foreigners. It is a pity that even those in the school who should be well informed, think the same. Employers are also not ready as the experience of many people shows. But if they have to change if they are willing, which I doubt, they need to introduce some programmes to integrate foreigners in their society and change their negative attitude towards foreigners. I’m sure Finland may quite benefit a lot this.

    • Enrique

      Hi Max Jay and welcome to Migrant Tales. The problem with foreign students getting to mingle with the locals is a challenge in many parts of Finland as well as in other places outside the country. It is a tragedy that a foreign student can stay in a Finnish city for two years and have hardly any contact with the locals. Unfortunately a lot of work still has to be done in Finland for immigrants to be accepted and acknowledged. This makes it especially hard during difficult economic times and when some MPs in the PS want to seriously curtail immigrants from coming here. How do we integrate immigrants into Finnish society: mutual acceptance, respect and equal opportunities. Work is a good integrator.

  79. Pankaj

    I am an Indian and I have been in Finland for approx 10 months now…I have been to many other countries and i love to go out to nightclubs on Friday and Saturdays..
    In other countries I have been to nightclubs and girls respond well for eg Stockholm, London, Paris..
    But in Helsinki I dont know why…for girls its like a turn off, many wont even respond…and act as if you are transparent…and i dont even have a first chance…
    And i have a decent personality decent looks….darker than a White…but quite fair compared to a average Indian.
    are they too reserved ? I feel really creepy..and have never felt this in other European countries.
    Would love a Finnish girl put a take on this..

    Though on the work side there is great respect or that may be due to my skills?

    • Enrique

      Hi Penkaj and welcome to our blog, Miigrant Tales. What can I say…Ever tried visiting some cities and smaller towns outside Helsinki? Maybe this could help.

  80. Niko

    Hmm, Pankaj’s comment made me think. Is it racist if the girls are not attracted to people with some certain skin colour (even to some westerns with very tanned skin)? In job interviews it would be extremely racist not to pick an employee for his looks, but the dating world is different and appearance plays a big part of it. Girls (and guys) can discriminate a person for countless reasons… if the person is too skinny/fat, has glasses etc.

  81. Klay_Immigrant

    Pankaj it must be just you. I’m just about to move to Finland after graduating and have been there many times before as I have a Finnish girlfriend.

    In nightclubs and bars there I’ve had no problems striking up conversation with the ladies (innocently ofcourse) and I’m mixed race (black/white) even though most people pass me off as Asian as not very dark skinned and have straight black hair.

    Bear this in mind next time, Finnsh girls and Finnish people in general don’t like show offs or people who are materialistic and boast a lot. That may work here in the U.K. and impress but will have the opposite affect in Finland where you’d probably only attract East Europeans with that kind of behaviour. Also aggressive persistent pestering of Finnish girls would make them stand their ground even stronger, rather than give in. They are a strong willed, independent, stubborn, humble and modest lot and that’s why I love them.

    Goodluck but I’m afraid to say the problems lie with you whatever they are, and not on Finnish women disliking non-Nordic looking men. Typical foreigner blame the locals/country instead of looking at oneself and then they still wonder why immigrants get such a bad reputation.

  82. Pankaj

    Ok sorry If i meant this i am not trying to blame …just wrote what i see
    As Klay said yes Finnish people are not like UK etc and Niko yes in the dating world its fair to do that
    But overall i think the point is every country is unique in a different way
    certain things will differ from country to country and that’s the good part.
    It would be so boring if all places are same…food everywhere is same, reception is same?

    Thanks for the advice Klay 😉 and Enrique thanks for the welcome 😀

  83. MST

    Many people in Finland and other European countries resent foreign students because they chase after white women and often leave mixed babies behind. This is especially true of Africans. The darker they are, the more they love white women.

    • Enrique

      Hi MST, so black men come to Finland just to chase after white women… Hmmmm… I would see that as a normal male-female thing but why add all the stuff about fatherless children? How do you know? Did you know that white Finns like dark women? But this is only an assumption. I personally consider a sign of bravery to cross ethnic lines. I once walked hand in hand with a black woman back in Los Angeles. The stares we got will surprise you. Try it one day.

    • Enrique

      People are talking about protests in the United States by common people as the “American spring.” Do you think we’ll see something of the same in Finland?

  84. Karl Bruner

    If someone doesn’t like the way Finns treat them, they should leave. Dark people are always causing problems.

    • Migrant Tales

      Hi Karl Bruner, welcome to Migrant Tales. Do you know how many comments, like the one you made, we get on this blog? Too many. Is that how you deal with a problem? Do you run away?

      –Dark people are always causing problems.

      I disagree. I think people with your attitudes are a problem in this country.

  85. Sameer

    Hi guys, Well i have been reading this blog for awhile now.Some of the things are quite true and some are in grey area.I live in oulu and been living over here since i moved from London but originally i’m from Pakistan.Racism is a big problem over here is Finland but Finnish and foreigners just dont want to talk about it openly.Firstly Finns are quite shy nation, being shy should not resent foreigners specially brown color. I have faced racism in oulu 3 times in the last one and a half year and it really put me down so hard.Most of the time Finns guessed me as i,m Spanish,Italian or Portuguese some said i,m Indian or Arab. have dated Czech, French and now a girl from Belgium in oulu but i have tried so hard to make a Finnish girlfriend which seems to be impossible for me now why well everytime when ever i told a girl that i,m from Pakistan i see a huge difference before and after telling it,whole body language voice ton and vibe always flip all of a sudden, which is really weird to me. I,m tan/light brown.I once been rejected by a Finnish girl for a reason that i,m not white, it was so funny to me that i started to laugh and i told her, thanks for your honesty you are so naive and left laughing.I,m not saying Finland is a bad country, i think its a great country but its better not to judge people on the spot which is rude and horrendous.Society is the combination of ethics,norm,culture and most importantly people and guess what everyone is different from everyone even two brothers living under same roof have most of the time different opinions same goes to Finns there are good and bad apples everywhere.Same goes to foreigners.Now Indian/Pakistani, i know couple of them all of them do jobs and are really hard working guys and good people a driving force to Finnish economy.I have a small business in oulu. I pay tax so let me ask this “should i have the right to live as a respectful person in Finland”?.I would say Finland is not an easy country for hard working people but its really easy for free riders.
    Karl please dont let down the image of other Finns a change in the behaviour is the need of Finnish mentality as Finland is in EU whether you like it or not and about dark skin yes there is few problems but let me show you other side,2 cases random shooting in oulu at different place and date both of them were Finns not darker skin guys and in those shooting 1 Moroccan got killed darker skin guy. We are humans we have the built in property to make mistakes and that’s how it works.So try to be positive its not easy for people to leave their own country and family and live far away to make life work.Things are never easy for us “we darker skin people Pakistani/Indian”.plus there are some social manners which is really good to learn it will not change Finnish culture neither customs but it will help to glide in smoothly and will you say the same thing to an American “if you dont like the way of Finns leave my country”(double standard isn’t it)!.Now about language yes we need to learn it but it is difficult and its time taking effort and no one can never learn a language if there is some stress but its very important.A right attitude can solve this problem but it require patience,humbleness and politeness.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Hi Sameer, welcome to our blog. What you say is quite true. Open racism has no place in any society.

      I especially liked the following point: Finns and foreigners don’t talk openly about racism.

      There are many ways that this can be done. MT is one forum. As long as there is debate and a forum to express oneself, we’re on the right track.

      Just like silence is a no-no when confronting a social ill like racism, immigrants and the new inhabitants of this country must speak out. They should not do it only for themselves but for their children and grandchildren. There is no reason why we should permit ignorance, prejudice and racism to wander freely in our society.

  86. Mark

    Hi Sameer

    It was good to read your story and I commend you on your positive and constructive outlook and for telling us about some of your experiences. It sets up a good starting point for some Finns who have not seen the racism or don’t really know how it affects foreigners that live here. Yours is a good example of how to react positively, but I’m glad that you also took the trouble to write about it too. I would welcome more of your insights on the blog.

  87. Sameer

    Thank you Mark and Enrique,

    Well i got to know that political party “True Finns” has got the highest votes ever in the history which did not shock me at all why because its getting out slowly out of them.In England, they also have same kind of party and its called “British national party” it also got the highest votes ever in history which also did not shock me at all why am i saying this? voting represents the power of people what they think and what they want for their future and what they care for their next generations.I,m 27 year old and here in Finland i discovered 3 different types of foreigners pretty weird huh! but my friends yes 3 different type and to make you understand lets name it “The good,the bad and the ugly” its funny isn’t it.So lets start shall i?

    1-“The Good” Foreigners who are from Europe,America, Australia,
    New Zealand i mean all the first world countries.Finns as i have observed are really happy to meet them they wanna know them they wanna hang out sometimes they are quite open feel much comfortable with “The Good” and Finnish girls lets say quite many will be delighted to meet,talk and even more, if you know what i mean .So that means its great to know a foreigner.

    “The Bad” Foreigners who has some how a bad reputation in somewhere Finnish mind consciously or subconsciously but many Finnish think like that.Let say Russian states and some other countries like North Korea and some times it may involve china,Vietnam and other countries. Its different to hang out with them unless they are born in Finland like half something and half Finnish or they are really interesting.

    “The Ugly” Foreigners from third world countries.Like India,Pakistan,Nepal,Srilanka,Iraq,Iran etc and rest of the Africa.Very few Finns like to talk to them they will not invite you to parties and stuff like that and its very rare people from those countries will have Finnish girlfriend.But let me tell you another thing if you are from third world country and your Muslim too like me get ready to face most outrageous questions in your life.So yes this is called just stay away from them because they are “The Ugly”.

    It seems like i,ve done the biggest crime just to become a Muslim and then being Pakistani.I dont want to go deep in this topic but my request to all of you, we are normal human beings like you. Dont label us with what media is telling you.research before you make any decision.The irony is that Finnish believe what they have been told over media and they are still believing in it which is alarming.

    My whole point for this post was this kind of discrimination is unhealthy for any society.Just 5.6 million altogether inhabitance and running out of working young generation who can be the back bone of Finnish economy.First few steps are always difficult.My first step towards Finnish society is to learn language what is yours?

    I’m just trying to be honest and telling what i felt and feeling by living in this country.Its just my experience.Any advice would be highly appreciated.Thank you.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      Hi Sameer, interesting division: the good, bad and the ugly. Since I have been married for quite a few years, I have been out of the “market” so to speak. What I did notice when I was a bachelor was that women in smaller towns were easier to meet than those from Helsinki.

      I know some black people who claim to be very successful with women at bars. They tell me that women come up to speak to them. What I should ask them, however, is if any have established long-term relationships with those women.

      The power of love can help you cross many cultural and ethnic walls. The history of cultures shows us that ethnicities are constantly on the move and mixing genetically. Without love it would be impossible for people to settle down and have families.

      On one matter that I agree with you strongly is that discrimination is unhealthy for society. If you think of it, racism and discrimination in Finland (through parties like the PS) are discouraging skilled immigrants and foreign investment from coming here.

  88. Mark

    Sameer

    Yes, it’s pretty sad when you have to remind other human beings that we are all just human. It’s a humiliation to even have to do that, to have to fight for even basic recognition and dignity, and to answer ridiculous questions that should be obvious to anyone that they are crazy questions.

    Some people won’t take responsibility for how their judgmentalism has a very negative affect on those people they seek to stigmatise.

    At the end of the day, it’s plain laziness. Yes, humans are lazy when it comes to opinions. One can even argue that categorising things is an efficient way of dealing with an overly complex world. But actually, in the end, it takes more energy to do the mental and moral gymnastics necessary to maintain prejudices.

    The payoff is a ‘sense of belonging and identity’, though its a fake product they are buying into. Identity can be built through inclusiveness or exclusiveness, but when it’s the latter, it’s built on a lie. Let’s face it, a nationalism that builds on the arbitrary colour of a flag and the tune of a national anthem is nothing more than a hypnotic lie aimed at building a fake sense of ‘togetherness’, mixed in no doubt with some rather dubious ancestor worship; it’s built on meaningless differentiations and conceptions of uniqueness – as if the uniqueness of ‘Finns’ or any nation was somehow more special than any other, just because it’s unique or the one that you or your loved ones were ‘lucky enough’ to be born into!

    The shape of my pooh is unique every day, as was that of my ancestors, but I don’t try to pretend that my pooh is any better or worse than anyone else’s. People often cite the dead in our wars as the sacred keepers of our national identities, but people go to war and die for human ideals, like freedom, security, and dignity, which are universal; flags and anthems are not universal, they are arbitrary and tribal, chosen at random as a symbol of uniqueness, but also often of superiority. It’s about time that human beings grew up and understood the dangers of nationalism.

    Nothing wrong with celebrating a national identity, but we should recognise it for what it is – team colours! And we should recognise that ‘team thinking’ should never deteriorate to the point of demonising and dehumanising other teams. Of course the teams with the most money can point to greater success, but pretending that it’s some innate superiority in the team itself is self-deception of the worst kind.

    Interesting that recently a genetic link has been established between Finland’s Roma and the untouchables of India, who were their ancestors. That ‘untouchable’ status seems to have moved with them and is alive and well even in a so-called modern democracy like Finland. When are we really going to face these kinds of historical prejudices and put them to bed finally? It seems we are certainly more willing to play this dirty politics and racist ‘team games’ today than we were 15 years ago. Things were improving and now they are in decline again.

  89. HT

    Posting on an old thread, but I can’t resist sharing some of my thoughts here since the topic itself is going to be valid for quite some time yet.

    I am a Finnish person, and citizen of planet Earth.

    There are racist people in Finland – obviously – and sometimes it affects how obviously foreign people (by looks, language or behaviour) get treated. However, institutionalized racism and discrimination from state’s offices is probably some of the lowest in the world; due to low corruption rates, people employed at offices simply wouldn’t get away with discriminating against any customers, no matter what group it would be. Whatever racism there is, it is generally manifested in individual actions (often under influence of alcohol) and on internet forums by 12-year-olds.

    There seems to be a disconnection between “racism” and opposition to what I call “blind multiculturalism”. I doubt most Finns really give a damn about the genetic heritage, appearance or language of an immigrant (although language barrier presents some logistical challenges for employment and integration into society).

    However, many Finns recognize – and rightly so – that many immigrants arrive from societies and cultures which have certain features that seriously conflict with not just Finnish culture and values, but rather with what we’ve come to consider general principles of humanity.

    While multiculturalism in principle is a good idea – I really have nothing against different cultural habits in general – there are certain things that I think are absolutely wrong and should be opposed in any form. These include, but are not limited to:

    -inequality between sexes
    -no recognition of basic human rights
    -valuing religious authorities over everything else

    These are the three biggest issues; they are interconnected in many ways, and tend to spawn a lot more individual issues, but I have identified these as the core sources of cultural conflict.

    Elaborating on these three a bit: My mother is a school teacher and in her line of work, she comes into contact with children from immigrant families whose “culture” includes an assumption that females cannot tell males what to do. You can imagine the problems this causes when a female teacher instructs a male pupil to do their assigned work, or if there’s some kind of conflict in the class. There is no possible way this particular example of cultural diversity could, or even should be integrated into Finnish or any other society which has managed to get rid of it. Another problem is the bizarre clothing rules that some groups insist on for the females of the group

    Unfortunately, this particular cultural feature is present in the majority of immigrant demographics coming from African and Middle-Eastern countries, and to some extent also Russian and Eastern European cultures.

    Second problem is general disrespect of human rights in general. Equality between sexes is routinely disregarded.

    Rights of sexual minorities (if they’re lucky they’ll just get the lashes, if not it’s either stoning or hanging).

    Right to education (girls are often regarded as not needing an education because they’ll marry a man who they will be dependent of).

    Right to personal safety and health care (apparently some people think it’s all right to cut parts off babies because reasons)

    Right to being a child (underage arranged marriages are thankfully not allowed under Finnish legislation, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still happen).

    All these are often at least neglected and at worst ignored in several cultures from which immigrants arrive to Finland. It would be easy to blame religion for that, but the fact is a religion is only as powerful as people let it be.

    Which brings us to the last and most salient point: In many cultures, religious authorities enjoy much too high position of power.

    Finland is an extremely secular society. Most people don’t have any problem with religions or religious people, as long as they keep it their own business or at least within family. What we do NOT approve is when religious reasoning creeps into everyday life or, even worse, legislative motives. From our perspective it seems that the more religious people are in any given country, the more miserable they tend to be, and where religious fundamentalists manage to get into power, misery and suffering are almost certain to follow.

    Worse yet, there is this particular group of loosely affiliated religions, where some of the groups insist that it’s perfectly fine to break any law that is perceived to be against that religion. If said law breaker receives consequences from their actions, it is an affront to their god and a valid reason to start rioting on the streets – thankfully, we don’t have that problem quite yet but Sweden and France do. I sincerely hope that will never happen in Finland, too.

    So, from this standpoint – despite what some of these cultures claim, it is not OK to break the laws and stomp on basic human dignity because a book or Man with Beard says so, and we certainly have no idea to accommodate the more charmant parts of their culture into our legislation.

    In these regards, I am going to insist that instead of Finnish society “accepting” these as cultural differences, we are going to have to work hard to remove or at least reduce the presence of these cultural features in the immigrant communities. That is the only viable long term course of action, rather than feelgooding about “integration via acceptance”.

    I hope I speak for the majority of Finnish population when I say I have absolutely nothing against immigrants who:

    -treat men and women as equals
    -respect the basic human rights
    -keep their religion to their own personal life and never put religious authorities over things like legislation

    As for how to achieve this?

    I am a strong believer in the power of education to reduce the influence of superstitious and illogical believes. This works by giving people a sense of self-worth and ability to think critically about what they’re being told. Luckily, Finland requires that all children receive equal education, which means for example that girls cannot be held back. With education, they no longer remain dependent on the men of the family for their upkeep and can gain their independence – rendering patriarchal male-dominant social structure obsolete, and hopefully within a few generations it simply collapses due to lack of continued support from the younger generations.

    Second issue is avoiding formation of social class barriers, economical inequality and “immigrant regions” of towns where majority of residents are immigrants.

    Thankfully, just like with the first issue, education is super effective at reducing the effect of social class barriers – when education is as readily available as it is in Finland, it only becomes a matter of providing the right kind of motivation to study…

    Third problem – incredibly – is also pretty much solveable by education. The more educated young people are, the less hold the elderly religious authorities have over their decisions and actions. Ideally, within a generation or two, the over-emphasized role of religion in these problem cultures should be diminished to a more manageable degree where religion can be part of their life but doesn’t dictate it to an extent that it causes problems with the local mainstream culture.

    It is my dream that one day, Finland will have an important, respected immigrant community, present in all avenues of employment, that will itself help new immigrants to accommodate to the facts of living in the new land – and, excluding the unacceptable aspects of the cultures, I’d be happy to become familiar with them! I especially welcome the culinary and other arts from other cultures!

    Obviously, cultural exchange works both ways and Finnish culture has several vices that I definitely hope won’t get adopted by immigrants – alcohol culture being one of them…

    Long post and many words! It turned out I had more to say on the topic than even I thought.

    • Enrique Tessieri

      –While multiculturalism in principle is a good idea – I really have nothing against different cultural habits in general – there are certain things that I think are absolutely wrong and should be opposed in any form. These include, but are not limited to:

      -inequality between sexes
      -no recognition of basic human rights
      -valuing religious authorities over everything else

      HT, what percentage of immigrants are you speaking of?

      You assume that some people who come here don’t respect human rights and value religion above everything else. Some do, some don’t.

      One of the great things about our society is that it permits people to make lifestyle choices. The key to this is that everyone respects each other. If a person wants to be religious that’s his or her choice. If he doesn’t that his or her choice as well.

      –It is my dream that one day, Finland will have an important, respected immigrant community, present in all avenues of employment, that will itself help new immigrants to accommodate to the facts of living in the new land – and, excluding the unacceptable aspects of the cultures, I’d be happy to become familiar with them! I especially welcome the culinary and other arts from other cultures!

      HT, I think this is happening right now. I don’t understand what you mean by “excluding the unacceptable aspects of the cultures.” Immigrants and refugees are survivors and highly adaptable people. if you watch them a little closer you see that they do make space and adapt.

      Maybe instead of just expecting immigrants to adapt, maybe you should ask what needs to be done for white Finns to adapt to a more culturally diverse Finland. It’s not always the immigrants problem but the majority culture plays an important role as well.

    • Mark

      Hi HT
      Thanks for your long post, which shows you clearly are concerned about this topic.

      There are racist people in Finland – obviously – and sometimes it affects how obviously foreign people (by looks, language or behaviour) get treated.

      This is a sensible starting point. From this, it arises how we protect people from such racism, how we respond to it, how we go about measuring it, how we go about trying to diffuse it.

      However, institutionalized racism and discrimination from state’s offices is probably some of the lowest in the world;

      Unless you can provide some research to support this, I will take this with a pinch of salt, especially given the justifications you gave for believing this to be true.

      due to low corruption rates

      Usually this refers to public sector corruption by way of bribes necessary to do business. Also, the measures by which Finland is usually ranked among the least corrupted in the world is based on ‘perception of corruption‘, as actual corruption is difficult to measure. Even then, I don’t see this as being particularly relevant to the issue of institutional racism. For example, while Finland appears in the top percentile, the UK appears in the second top percentile, and yet the UK has been subject to a very long and drawn out process of uncovering and acknowledging the damage of institutional racism.

      people employed at offices simply wouldn’t get away with discriminating against any customers

      Not sure what you imagine by way of discrimination, but simply providing a lower set of expectations or level of service are both means of discriminating that are very hard to demonstrate.

      Whatever racism there is, it is generally manifested in individual actions (often under influence of alcohol) and on internet forums by 12-year-olds.

      I find this comment provocative. The idea that you can put racism in Finland down to 12-year olds on the Internet is frankly an insult to my intelligence. Or is that really the average age of people posting in Hommaforum? 🙂

      Institutional racism appears as a set of rules that automatically put immigrants at a disadvantage because their inevitable differences or lack of knowledge of how the system or rules work means that they cannot fully benefit from the system. It can be an unwillingness to see the need for ‘cultural sensitivity training’, to simply not providing adequate information, available in the languages of the most typical immigrant groups, so as to ensure a level playing field. It can be a lack of or inadequacy in institutionally provided language learning services, or a failure to impress upon employers what consitutes ‘racism’ in employment practices. It can be seen in a government or political rhetoric that undermines the dignity and standing of immigrants in Finnish society, and which goes largely unquestioned. It can be seen in the desire of either the Police or the Ombudsmen to diminish the significance of racist crime or hate crime. It can appear in the form of laws instituted to target especially the behaviour or culture of certain ethnic groups, such as Halal, clothing, prayer practices, begging, travellers communities and male circumcision. It can be seen in openly practiced policies that promote racial profiling by the police. It can be seen in how reviews of racism in institutional settings is typically carried out by those very same institutions. It can be seen in the publishing of crime statistics that invite ‘comparisons’ of the levels of racism among foreigners as compared to the native population, while such a comparison is, statistically speaking, utterly flawed. It is a failure to recognise and provide for the special needs of immigrants in the same way that the special needs of other ‘native’ groups of people are considered and resourced. There are many issues related to institutional racism, and I have mentioned only a few. And yet these issues remain largely outside the public gaze in Finland.

      I’m not surprised you don’t think it exists, largely because you appear oblivious to how it would even appear. You seem to expect to see ‘racism’ in big black letters, written all over public institutions. Following the Lawrence inquiry in the UK, it was found that there were no overt racial differentiations or racist comments on the part of police officers involved in the case, unsurprising given that police officers are well aware of the public standards expected of them – the racism was far more subtle, such as the early assumption that the attack was drug-related, initial suspicion of the Steven Lawrence’s friend, Duwayne Brooks, who was with him at the time of the attack, no action when Duwayne mentioned that the word ‘nigger’ had been used during the attack, hostility towards the family, especially after friends started to rally around them, poor communication and almost no support for the family following the murder, a lack of effort in the investigation, the lack of progress. And of course, although these points were clear to the outside investigators, the police still denied they were proven claims, thus refusing to accept even an independent assessment that revealed serious shortcomings. It is not even that the police actions were intentionally racist, as many of the assumptions that came to the fore appear to have been unconscious choices.

      There seems to be a disconnection between “racism” and opposition to what I call “blind multiculturalism”.

      The assumption appears to be however that ANY defence of multiculturalism is by definition ‘blind’. Such an ideological stand is no different in its effects than classical racism. The narrative and rhetoric is based almost entirely as you presented it, as an experiment in integrating the ‘culturally inferior’. That is the ‘unconscious’ or conscious racist part of the discourse.

      I doubt most Finns really give a damn about the genetic heritage, appearance or language of an immigrant (although language barrier presents some logistical challenges for employment and integration into society).

      Indeed not, because genetic superiority has given way to ‘cultural superiority’, in every sense. The problems of integration that you mention above are related both to immigrants and to natives, but the discourse puts the focus and responsibility for that integration squarely on the immigrant. When in Finland, do as the Finns do. That intransigence is itself a form of discrimination, as it squarely says that an immigrant must ‘give up’ their identity in order to be integrated in Finland, as the Finns will not do anything ‘special’ for them to take account of that different identity, even though other differences of similar ilk among the native population are tolerated and accommodated within Finnish culture. You can be different in Finland, but only in the ways that are common to the white (mostly Christian) natives.

      However, many Finns recognize – and rightly so – that many immigrants arrive from societies and cultures which have certain features that seriously conflict with not just Finnish culture and values, but rather with what we’ve come to consider general principles of humanity.

      Exactly, cultural superiority as the bedrock to modern racism, prejudice and discrimination, buttressed by a sense of moral superiority, defending by pointing to various beheadings, stonings and other barbaric practices dredged up and presented untruthfully as the normal practices of the people of certain religion or from certain parts of the world.

      While multiculturalism in principle is a good idea – I really have nothing against different cultural habits in general – there are certain things that I think are absolutely wrong and should be opposed in any form. These include, but are not limited to:
      -inequality between sexes; -no recognition of basic human rights; -valuing religious authorities over everything else

      And the fact that you couch this discussion of multiculturalism in such terms tells me you are racist for all that you present it as a form of ‘cultural superiority’. It is how you are positioning immigrants that is most revealing of your prejudices. Indeed, you are not here asking immigrants what they think, but telling us. Your mistake is not calling them inferior because they are foreigners, your mistake is assuming they are inferior and looking only for evidence of this.

      You think Muslims and Africans in Finland are not concerned with equality? You think they don’t defend or support human rights, or respect the law of the land? Since when did Finnish politicians make the collective choice to leave their religious ethics outside of the political frame? Who was our Interior Minister again? What is she infamous for?

      The absolutely clear issue here is that discussions about women’s rights, about human rights, and about religious freedoms are not ‘multicultural’ discussions at all, but simply cultural discussions. They go on within normal society and they do not require any special positioning of certain groups ‘outside’ that frame of discussion or political advocacy. People who defend multiculturalism are not by definition defending the abuse of women, religious intolerance or human rights abuses. On the contrary, they are defending the rights of all individuals to be treated with dignity, which is the absolute cornerstone of all the human rights.

      Go on, tell me Finland gave women the vote in 1906. Now tell me when Finland made rape inside marriage illegal? I’ll tell you, less than 20 years ago. Finland is still on that road towards equality and there are many in the anti-immigration movement whose view of women is that they should be barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen preparing dinner.

      It is ironic that you start this discussion by identifying yourself as a citizen of the earth, and then proceed to differentiate human culture and discussions of human culture into issues of different cultures that identify specifically different groups, though you are sly enough not to name any specifically.

      I find it hilarious that you assume such a natural superiority in these issues when the truth is that Finland has had its share of problems in all these areas, and is in no position to assume ‘superiority’ because these are now part of history. A hundred years ago, Finns were massacring each other in their own bloody civil war, based on blind ideological differences.

      Also, you seem oblivious to the fact that the vast majority of immigrants who flee these parts of the world where civil war and conflict has lead to poor governance, breakdown of social order and the emergence of extremist militias who rule by the gun, the sword and an archaic legal system do so because they want to get away from such abuses or social failings. Radicalisation is a function of marginalisation and political disenfranchisement – i.e. an ‘our way or the highway’ attitude towards different political claims.

      Anyhow, the key thing is that you assume superiority and you make no effort to investigate or engage in the efforts of immigrant groups in Finland to support the rights of women, human rights, or religious freedoms. Your racism is found in your failures, not in your half-hearted defence of human rights. What about the rights of these people to be treated with dignity? The simple fact is that you wouldn’t even begin to position individuals like Räsänen as ‘un-Finnish’ because of her more intolerant religious views.

      I will deal with the rest of your points later.

    • Mark

      HT

      reply part 2

      I have to be honest in saying that I twice elaborated long replies to the second part of your previous post and ended up ‘giving up’ about half way through, thinking that the effort did not seem justified. But, I think on reflection that there are points where perhaps we can open up this discussion, rather than falling back on the idea that you represent ‘one’ ideology, and I another.

      My mother is a school teacher and in her line of work, she comes into contact with children from immigrant families whose “culture” includes an assumption that females cannot tell males what to do. You can imagine the problems this causes when a female teacher instructs a male pupil to do their assigned work, or if there’s some kind of conflict in the class. There is no possible way this particular example of cultural diversity could, or even should be integrated into Finnish or any other society which has managed to get rid of it. Another problem is the bizarre clothing rules that some groups insist on for the females of the group

      I wasn’t clear here if you were talking about something that actually happened to your mother, or something that you felt could happen. What I was clear about is that teachers are likely to take a ‘developmental’ approach to this kind of confrontation in the classroom. The reality for teachers is that they are often challenged by students – and often those challenges say as much about the environment in which those students have grown up as about the students themselves. Teachers, being the ‘educative’ creature they are, will typically look for how the situation can be a learning opportunity, both for them and for the student involved. In this case, a student who shows signs of a belief system that is at odds with the norms of society must first be ‘supported’. That means that you engage that students first as a person, as a being expressing an idea. This is not the beginning or end of that person’s being, and so respecting their right to be ‘other’ means that it is not so difficult to engage that person, even if they express beliefs that appear contrary to one’s own beliefs. The question is, as educators, how would your mother go about separating herself, establishing her own independence from that that students ‘world view’ and also respect that person’s expression of their thought and yet challenge it if necessary. There are lots of possibilities here, and speaking as a teacher, I would say that your story is only the very beginning of this narrative and this ‘clash’ between cultures, as you present it. For me, what you present is actually interesting, but what you don’t say is the thing that leaves me perplexed…what happened next? How did your mum respond?

      For me, it is important especially with young people not to seek to ‘define’ this situation as an example of a ‘clash of cultures’, a super narrative that none of us can really control and which the outcome remains uncertain. Rather, it is important to recognise always that these situations involve individuals, and that individuals creating and maintaining space in which to recognise and acknowledge other individuals is what separates our reaction from mere instinct.

      Unfortunately, this particular cultural feature is present in the majority of immigrant demographics coming from African and Middle-Eastern countries, and to some extent also Russian and Eastern European cultures.

      It was this comment in particular that left me saddened and frustrated in trying to reply to you previously. When you name cultures or regions of the world, you frame this not as an issue of individuals arriving in Finland, often from very different places in the world, going through a period of adjustment, disorientation and reaffirmation of their previous identity, but rather as a clash of cultures. That is where I start to think that the ‘clash of cultures’ that you present, from your position of relative comfort, is a failure in humanity. You do realise, HT, that it’s when you start to target particular ‘demographics’ that you will begin to invite accusations of racism, no matter how you try to create space for these conclusions? What comes out of your sentence is that you see people from Africa or Muslim (Middle-Eastern countries) as being particularly backward or inferior, regardless of the qualities of any particular individual.

      Second problem is general disrespect of human rights in general. Equality between sexes is routinely disregarded.

      Rights of sexual minorities (if they’re lucky they’ll just get the lashes, if not it’s either stoning or hanging).

      Right to education (girls are often regarded as not needing an education because they’ll marry a man who they will be dependent of).

      Right to personal safety and health care (apparently some people think it’s all right to cut parts off babies because reasons)

      Right to being a child (underage arranged marriages are thankfully not allowed under Finnish legislation, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still happen).

      All these are often at least neglected and at worst ignored in several cultures from which immigrants arrive to Finland. It would be easy to blame religion for that, but the fact is a religion is only as powerful as people let it be.

      This only further enhanced the narrative that you have a brainwashed view of people from these cultures. I guess you haven’t heard of the Somali organisations representing the rights of women, or the Somali organisations trying to further human rights and good governance in Somalia? I guess you haven’t heard of Muslim groups aimed at promoting women’s rights in the Middle East or opposing female circumcision? You haven’t heard of these groups and you don’t even begin to make space for the idea that these people could support the same values that you describe above?

      In many cultures, religious authorities enjoy much too high position of power.

      And then you move from generalised notions of cultural inferiority to notions of religious authoritarianism, again assuming that people in Muslim or other religious cultures haven’t also addressed these issues or expressed concerns over extremism positions. It seems that you assume Islam comes in only one flavour, an extreme flavour. What do I do? Do I give you a list of organisations or persons who express a moderate view about religion and politics? Would this convince you to tone down your rhetoric? Would you understand the utter importance of promoting moderates in this ‘international’ discourse on religious freedoms and the role of Islam in the modern world, or should I stand back and let you polarise the debate in such a way as only to make space for the extremists?

      This doesn’t even begin to tackle problem of Finland or any other European countries own path towards political and religious freedom, fraught as it is with struggle. Or the fact that in Finland, although women can expect a very good education in which they are likely to even excel the achievements of men, they are still destined to find their work is based on short-term contracts, or is under-paid, or requires they outperform men by some margin before they become noticed. Or the fact that women still take up the lion’s share of child care duties, or do the lion’s share of society’s ‘unpaid’ work, looking after older relatives or working in service sectors. Or how do we even begin to describe the problem of ‘rape inside marriage’, which was legal until only 20 years ago, and still reflects a culture of dominance and entitlement among Finnish men?

      How do we approach the issue of homosexuality, when the UK and Finland only allowed legal same sex marriages a little over a decade ago. I grew up in a Western nation where homosexuality was illegal until I was I was 24 years old, and where I knew of several people who committed suicide because the police hounded them with ‘sting’ operations at meeting places for gays, resulting in extensive public humiliations and shaming. Even in Finland, homosexuality was seen as an illness up to 1981. All modern countries are on a path towards liberalisation and recognition of the basic freedoms of individuals. But it is a path fraught with struggle. Can you or I claim the credit for the advances made by homosexuals and women, for example? Were you or I responsible for the change in law in Finland that made rape inside marriage illegal only in 1994? Because while these things represent great advances in human rights in Western countries, the reality is that those rights have often been won by the hard work of MINORITIES within those countries, and with the excessive and sometimes vitriolic opposition of the majorities in those countries.

      there is this particular group of loosely affiliated religions, where some of the groups insist that it’s perfectly fine to break any law that is perceived to be against that religion.

      I’m not sure if you are aware of the rules in Islam, but they are very specific for Muslims who reside in ‘non-Muslim’ countries in stating that they must follow the laws (covenants) of those countries [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 34; Sûrah al-Baqarah: 100]. It is only a handful of extremists that feel they can break those covenants.

      Again, you are not wrong to point this out, but what is wrong is that you don’t make it clear that this is the exception to the rule when it comes to Muslims and their relationship to the laws of a ‘foreign’ land, that this willingness to break covenants is a feature of extremism, not of moderate or mainstream Islam.

      In these regards, I am going to insist that instead of Finnish society “accepting” these as cultural differences, we are going to have to work hard to remove or at least reduce the presence of these cultural features in the immigrant communities. That is the only viable long term course of action, rather than feel gooding about “integration via acceptance”.

      I see this as a black and white picture – that you present multiculturalists are apologists for foreign culture, even when that culture undermines human rights. In all my readings and dealings regarding those that seek to protect the rights of immigrants, I have never seen anyone advocate a carte blanche for those that would violate basic human rights as understood by the West. Never. I think this is a just an idea dreamed up by the Right to attack people more liberal on issues of immigration.

      I hope I speak for the majority of Finnish population when I say I have absolutely nothing against immigrants who:

      And yet the whole idea that any one of us can stand up and define or speak for the Finnish population is ludicrous. People who seek to ‘define’ such large ‘metatopics’ in society in a way that only gives voice to one group are not serving society. There are many voices that need to be heard, yours included. But anyone that chooses to speak on behalf of the Finnish population, beware! Most people will resist that attempt to dominate the narrative.

      I am a strong believer in the power of education to reduce the influence of superstitious and illogical believes.

      Again, I can only refer you to the outstanding problems in Finland in terms of achieving gender equality for women and for achieving equality for gays and lesbians, because in this, you will find yourself in opposition to a significant proportion of the population. If you even dare to defend immigrants and their basic freedoms, such as freedom of religion, freedom to choose their own dress, freedom to advocate politically, you will find yourself even more isolated from your peers.

      This works by giving people a sense of self-worth and ability to think critically about what they’re being told.

      You mention two quite different things, but the mention of ‘self-worth’ is particularly relevant for me. My starting point in almost all these discussions has been ‘what is the dignity afforded to immigrants?’ This means what is the public image promulgated about immigrants in Finland and what opportunities are afforded for immigrants to flourish and contribute to Finnish society, without having to give up the essential parts of their ‘other’ identity. After all, we are strangers to each other, we are all OTHER to each other, whether we are Finns or Serbs, or Iraqis or Vietnamese or Russian or Muslim or whatever. Today in Finland, efforts are being directed throughout public institutions to create circumstances where the diversity of individuals is recognised and respected across all domains, including mental health, families and children, social welfare, employment, people with disabilities, women as a gender, young people, marginalised people. How ironic that these efforts would suddenly stop at the ‘foreigner’, or the ‘religious’ foreigner, or the ‘African’ foreigner, as if these labels were somehow definitive.

      Thankfully, just like with the first issue, education is super effective at reducing the effect of social class barriers – when education is as readily available as it is in Finland, it only becomes a matter of providing the right kind of motivation to study…

      I’m sorry that I cannot agree that education in Finland has truly given women equality or that family structures are not still extremely gendered in Finland. I have read several important papers coming from Finnish researchers on this issue in the last ten years and the message they give is quite different.

      It is my dream that one day, Finland will have an important, respected immigrant community, present in all avenues of employment, that will itself help new immigrants to accommodate to the facts of living in the new land – and, excluding the unacceptable aspects of the cultures, I’d be happy to become familiar with them! I especially welcome the culinary and other arts from other cultures!

      The fact that you wrote this as a final thought is actually quite comforting. It is very important to be able to imagine a good future. The next question though is how do you think we will arrive at this good future, and also, what do you think immigrant voices would have to say about this future and how we arrive at it. After all, one voice can never really stand as a collective voice in any consistent way?

      Regards
      Mark

  90. HT

    Hello and thanks for quick answer!

    I don’t have any data about percentages, only general knowledge about some cultures. People are people anywhere – most people have the capacity to tolerate differences, and that applies to everyone, Finnish and immigrants alike.

    Whether they do so or not is something that is influenced both by their individual personality as well as the influence of their upbringing and cultural environment, but in the end it’s always up to the person in the end. That’s why in my personal life I aspire to treat everyone as the person they are, regardless of what imaginary group my brain tries to lump them with.

    However, as far as I know, the issues I brought up are present in many cultures – not giving any percentages because it’s irrelevant in the end – and therein lies the paradox of tolerating the intolerant.

    “One of the great things about our society is that it permits people to make lifestyle choices. The key to this is that everyone respects each other. If a person wants to be religious that’s his or her choice. If he doesn’t that his or her choice as well.”

    Yes, and they can be as religious as they want as long as it doesn’t start to negatively affect other people.
    If it gets to that level, then sorry, but I can’t respect that.

    This is not a black and white issue either, if you pardon the expression. It’s not like if some culture includes something I’m opposed to, I would completely reject the entirety of the people representing that culture.

    But on certain issues, I am unwilling to compromise.

    “Maybe instead of just expecting immigrants to adapt, maybe you should ask what needs to be done for white Finns to adapt to a more culturally diverse Finland.”

    What adaptation is needed? I’m not sure I understand the question. Cultural diversity only requires that people accept differences – people themselves don’t need to change or adopt things from new cultures.

    However, just because something is different doesn’t need it should automatically be accepted or respected. Some cultures include things I can’t accept or respect (see previous post). Rest of those cultures I have no problem with.

    On a practical level, what we really need to aspire to do is to prevent immigrants from becoming second class citizens in the economical sense. Social mobility is an important thing; if all we have for the immigrants is shit-tier jobs that no one else wants to do, then there is a real risk that the immigrants and their children will be trapped in this social niche without real means of improving their lot in life. That’s the kind of situation that acts as a brewing pot for all kinds of problems, and if that happens, we can’t blame cultural differences – we can only blame ourselves.

    Of course, I feel like this is all mostly a problem because it’s made to be a problem.

    On one hand of the “discussion” are the so-called “immigrant critical” political views simply reek of populism to me, and that’s why I will never cast my vote for the PS party (along with having generally short-sighted political agenda and even more incompetent people than the rest of the political field).

    On the other end of spectrum there are multicultural apologists who at least seem to think that every part of different cultures should be accepted and respected, and for them it seems that no matter what individual immigrants do that seems to be against norms, should be accepted because “it’s their culture”.

    These two views are the caricatures that seem to creep into every immigration discussion I’ve seen. Either someone genuinely represents them, OR one side tries to strawman the other as one of them. There doesn’t seem to be any balanced discussion going on about the issue, and I think that’s a dangerous thing.

    In my personal life I have met regrettably few immigrants, but practically all of them I got along really well. My work shift supervisor at my warehouse summer job is of Turkish descent (I think; I never asked), very nice guy, speaks perfect Finnish, I think he’s either a native speaker or moved here very young – again I never asked because it never came up. I never saw anyone in the warehouse express any racist sentiments regarding him.

    I stand by my original assessment that just as there are individual immigrants whose views conflict with what is acceptable in my eyes, there are individual Finnish people who express racist views either silently or vocally. How much in percentages – I haven’t got a clue. But the definition of racism is sometimes different depending on who you ask, so the answer to question “is there racism in Finland” and specifically “how much” can vary based on who’s answering it anyway…

  91. Brave

    Whatever racism there is, it is generally manifested in individual actions (often under influence of alcohol) and on internet forums by 12-year-olds.

    HT,
    You can not feel my pain, because you can not taste my pain, so easy for you to imagine that racists are some children or drinkers.
    Last time when i got attack from racist people was last week,and they were over 50 years… however i am not speaking about age because i have seen even child who treated me racist and like an animal, and there was also drinkers who attacked me, even with their alcohol bottle in street, why??? Because its a fever in Finland, even a child and drunk man has hate about u a foreigner.Racists officials in offices can easily abuse us and u can not tell they cant, yes they can its easy for them.
    You are a Finn first of all they have no hate about u so they are not interest to attack you with a racist behave and secondly they can not attack you because ur a Finn and u know how to defend yourself, you know the law.
    ………..
    We are all foreigners for each other yes? And there is nothing wrong about this matter
    But am wondering
    How in this 6 years that am living in Finland, all of my attackers, all of my friends, all organizations, system, every thing treated me like am a twin sister of other foreigners???
    I am different
    Not only in face and color, but in mind and character.
    It is a big insult for me when Finns treating me like there is no difference between me and other foreigners.
    They put all of us in same theory, same pocket, YOU Finns always judged me like you judge other foreigners,that is a big problem.
    So what ever i done in this country was nothing for you, because U can not change ur mind that am different.

    I AM ME, I AM NOT YOU AND I AM NOT OTHERS,I am not even my yesterday me but my today me is different than my yesterday me, so am changing day by day, hour by hour an d moment by moment.
    DO NOT judge me like you know me, don’t judge me like u r aware about my history.

    OH humanity? This is a serious word… this is exactly what i never seen it here in my life, but i saw it opposite.

  92. Brave

    HT,
    Another problem is the bizarre clothing rules that some groups insist on for the females of the group
    ………
    Why that is not a problem for me but a problem for u and Ur society?
    So am speaking only for humanity benefits , i am talking about human rights.
    And a mini skirt is a bizarre cloth in their eyes and my eyes too ( even i have no religion BUT dear GOD ) I personally think their cloths are beautiful, colorful and comfort.
    HT, this is what they want, its only about cloth no more no less, it can not hurting me, u or others, so why u stand against a cloth?
    If woman in their culture wants be depend on his husband, brother, father again this is a choice, human has free will can chose thats easy for understanding.

    So Ur dream is against their dream, this kind of dream does not work HT.

  93. HT

    Hello Brave,

    You’re right that it’s impossible for me to experience what a foreigner does, so I really don’t know how much racism foreigners really experience. It saddens me to hear your testimony about how common it seems to be.

    There seems to be a lot of frustration and anger in your post, but I can only say that what you said also applies to Finnish people – we are not all the same. What is the general manner you expect a Finnish person to behave towards you? Do more people express racism than not?

    Those who express racism – how do they do it? Is it verbal insults, threats of physical violence or actual assaults? Like you said I can’t know how you’re treated because I’m not you, but I’d like to know…

    If you’ve been mistreated by a state official, you need to report it – either by official complaint or by taking it directly to the police. There’s absolutely no place for racism in the public offices – we cannot control what private citizens think, but if they’re employed by the state, they represent the state and I’m pretty offended if someone misuses that kind of position to satisfy their own urges to bully different people.

    Like I said in my post, I try to always treat people as persons rather than a member of some imaginary group my brain tries to put them in, and form my own opinions about the person rather than what I think they are…

    As for the clothing thing, I think you misunderstood me. It is a matter of personal freedom to have the right to use whatever kind of clothing that pleases you.

    That is the reason I object to rules about what kind of clothes are “acceptable”. It is the presence of those rules that I find bizarre and incompatible with the Finnish society, not necessarily the clothes themselves.

    This is usually directly connected to the equality between men and women. I agree with you that if someone chooses to be dependent of another person, then that is their choice and it should be respected. However, in many cases it is not about a choice but rather the only way of life allowed.

    In some cultures, girls are refused schooling for the sole purpose of keeping them uneducated (although official reason is usually that it’s immoral, whatever that means) and thus unable to gain a position of independence – when they cannot learn, they cannot acquire work, and when they can’t work, they can’t earn their own money. Even if they were educated, in some countries there are rules that effectively prevent a woman working in most vocations. In a culture like this, women are always a part of a man’s household.

    And you know, if that’s what they are satisfied with, I wouldn’t be the one to tell them that this cannot be so.

    But it is not a matter of free choice for many of them.

    In Finland, this will simply not work. Should a family immigrate from one of these countries, their children – male and female alike – will likely go to the same school and receive the same education.

    Most families probably adapt to their new home, but in some cases, the parents of the family try to prevent their children from becoming “immoral”. Domestic violence or threats of violence are common in such cases, and in extreme cases, “honour killings” are known to have happened.

    If that’s part of their culture – well, sorry to say but that part of culture needs to be left at their home country. There is nothing that could convince me that I should tolerate this type of sociopathic, as a means of controlling what your children do and who they spend their time with.

    It should have no place in any culture and certainly there is no way you can convince me that Finnish society would be richer and better if we can accept and respect this delightfully different cultural trait. Domestic violence is already a big problem in Finland, we really don’t need more of it.

    In short, I could compress my message like this:

    My dream is a world without oppression (be it based on appearance, ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, age, or caste system). A world where interactions between people like me and you are not influenced by preconceived notions about what to expect.

    If other people’s dream world includes oppression, then I guess my dream is against their dream…

  94. Brave

    Hello to you As well HT,

    I am sorry if i misunderstood you.
    ……..

    There seems to be a lot of frustration and anger in your post, but I can only say that what you said also applies to Finnish people – we are not all the same. What is the general manner you expect a Finnish person to behave towards you? Do more people express racism than not?

    Those who express racism – how do they do it? Is it verbal insults, threats of physical violence or actual assaults? Like you said I can’t know how you’re treated because I’m not you, but I’d like to know…

    If you’ve been mistreated by a state official, you need to report it – either by official complaint or by taking it directly to the police. There’s absolutely no place for racism in the public offices – we cannot control what private citizens think, but if they’re employed by the state, they represent the state and I’m pretty offended if someone misuses that kind of position to satisfy their own urges to bully different people.
    ……..

    No am completely relax,but it is my voice against racist, a loud voice, a brave voice.
    I don’t need be angry at sick people but i will defend me perfectly and in that time i wont be worry about my anger too.
    I don’t say all Finns, i say a big percentage of Finns, however its very clear, i mean racism in Finland is very clear, now a days i can even smell it from face, or a word.
    Some times u can not complain about them, how can u if ur a customer of them and u r worry for a situation, papers and etc
    Even if u meet their boss, s/he will treat u worse than them, its always possible
    Police???
    Who will go to police??? Its a joke
    Again Finns think police is a best place for complain?
    Police wont support a foreigner, i waste my time on this, and i got suffer from this.
    Police, court and law in Finland, Finnish system are supporters of each other, even if polices are racist .
    So foreigners wont report racist behaves against themselves to this and that, to police and other places
    BECAUSE
    They know
    No/one is with them and they know its a game.
    ……
    Well insult is a very common thing from a racist one, they know how to do this, and the only one can feel it in her/him is YOU who is under attack, its a negative, harsh, ugly wave that they can spray it on you.
    And it could be from a foreigner too, who knows.
    ……….
    State is racist from down to up and right to left, from law and lawyer to parliament and from parliament and ministers to king and palace.
    ….

    I wish you great time on MT and ur welcome HT

  95. HT

    Hello Mark,

    You brought up good points, and I’ll wait for the rest of your analysis, although I’ll comment a few things here.

    Your points about institutional racism brought up issues I hadn’t really even thought of as racism. For example, a policy against male circumcision is not something I see as a form of institutional racism. It is exactly the same thing as a policy against female circumcision – something I consider to be entirely a positive thing.

    As for the other issues – well, I’ll admit I didn’t even think about most of those. I think it’s largely because I tend to be a pretty trusting person – naïve if you prefer the term – in that I have a tendency to expect other people to do what I would do. I recognize this is not necessarily the case… but I need to consciously remind me of it.

    You also brought up “cultural racism”. To be honest, I don’t really feel comfortable using the term “racism” in that context because then it has already transcended all the original meaning of the word “racism” which is discrimination by race. It would be much more intuitive to speak of cultural discrimination.

    However, on this account I think you have misinterpreted my posts to some extent. By all means I do not position Finnish culture on any kind of pedestal simply because I’m born into it. There are many, many flaws in Finnish culture and society – some of which you mentioned. Equality between sexes is still not perfectly realized; alcoholism, unemployment, social exclusion, acceptance of foreign influences – these are all things that I see as being wrong in Finnish culture.

    When we start talking about considering “my” culture to be superior to “others”, I think you’re making an incorrect assumption about my reasoning. I’m not comparing other cultures to Finnish culture specifically. I’m not even looking at cultures as a whole.

    What I do is I look at a part of a culture, and to see whether I find it acceptable or not, I subject it to Veil of Ignorance: If I were born into that culture as a completely random person – male or female, straight or gay, majority or minority religion or ethnic group – would I have equal opportunity in my life, or would I experience oppression based on the cultural feature I’m evaluating?

    With this analysis, Finnish culture is not immune or special, it has flaws just as any other culture. Other cultures have different features that don’t pass my test.

    If part of a culture doesn’t pass my test, it doesn’t mean I think that culture is “bad”. It just means I don’t consider that particular part of that culture as a good thing and I don’t think there’s any reason to accommodate that particular cultural feature.

    If that’s a form of “cultural superiority” or “cultural racism”, then I suppose I have to give up and call myself a racist. Although, in my opinion there’s a difference between comparing different culture to your own and automatically equating “different == bad”, than saying you dislike some cultural feature because you disagree with it on a moral or ethical basis.

    I also consider utilitarian ethics to be inferior to deontological ethics in most cases. Does that make me racist against utilitarianists?

    Finally, I don’t think all immigrants coming from cultures with some of the features I’ve mentioned will inevitably cause problems. Like you said, many of them left their home countries to get away from some of these issues. Likewise, obviously there is a lot of effort toward

    What I’ve said here is just an exercise in statistical probability. Statistics doesn’t tell [i]anything[/i] about an individual, which is why I honestly try not to have any expectations before I interact with people and learn first-hand how this particular person thinks about things.

    However in large scale, it is statistically inevitable that SOME immigrants coming from SOME cultures will have problems related to SOME of these issues mentioned here. I have no way to know who – I’m not a psychic.

    As for my separation of multiculturalism and blind multiculturalism, I specifically mean the distinction between what the idea is, and what the caricature of the idea is.

    It’s the same deal you get with feminism. There are actual people who claim to be “feminist” when in fact all they do is express misandry, whereas actual feminism is simply about promoting equality.

    Likewise, there’s the real multiculturalism which, just like you said, is about treating people with dignity regardless of their culture or background. And then there’s the caricature “strawman” of multiculturalism, in which anything from foreign cultures must be accepted BECAUSE “it’s part of their culture”.

    It’s not even relevant whether or not there are people who really think this way; there are people who think there are people who think this way. That’s enough to establish it as a term that’s being thrown around in discussions like this, and it gets increasingly difficult to identify which meaning is used and when.

    I have a feeling we’re pretty much making each others’ point here, although in different words…

    • JusticeDemon

      HT

      I don’t really feel comfortable using the term “racism” in that context because then it has already transcended all the original meaning of the word “racism” which is discrimination by race.

      Racism is prejudice, not discrimination.

      What I do is I look at a part of a culture, and to see whether I find it acceptable or not, I subject it to Veil of Ignorance: If I were born into that culture as a completely random person – male or female, straight or gay, majority or minority religion or ethnic group – would I have equal opportunity in my life, or would I experience oppression based on the cultural feature I’m evaluating?

      Your veil of ignorance is a bogus thought experiment. If you were born into a culture, then you would experience that culture and evaluate its acceptability from the perspective of that culture. This fundamental flaw also informs your attitude towards religion. There is a certain arrogance in assuming that however broad another cultural frame of reference may be, you can somehow fit this inside your own cultural frame of reference and stand in judgement over it.

      I also consider utilitarian ethics to be inferior to deontological ethics in most cases. Does that make me racist against utilitarianists?

      Big words. Utilitarianism and deontology are ethical theories, not codes of ethics. In other words, they are attempts to explain the nature of moral judgements, not substitutes for those judgements. Perhaps you meant to say that you find explanations of moral judgements based on duty and obligation more satisfying than explanations based on an assessment of the human consequences of those judgements. Whether or not this view expresses a prejudice depends on how you arrived at it and how you explain it.

  96. HT

    HT

    Racism is prejudice, not discrimination.

    I disagree, I think that’s too much of a generalization.

    Prejudice can be a motivation for racism; specifically, prejudice against a specific group of people. We all have prejudice, whether we want or not – it’s how we deal with them that matters.

    So I would rather say that racism is actions motivated by prejudice and ignorance.

    Moreover I would say that the label of racist is thrown around a bit too liberally for it to remain its meaning. Anyone can be ignorant of something and accidentally behave in a manner perceived to be insulting or racist – that doesn’t necessarily make the person “racist” at least in the worst sense of the word.

    In my view, it’s the conscious commitment to stay racially prejudiced that makes one a racist.

    Your veil of ignorance is a bogus thought experiment. If you were born into a culture, then you would experience that culture and evaluate its acceptability from the perspective of that culture.

    I would claim here that the perspective of that culture doesn’t actually matter at all to those discriminated by that culture.

    If someone gets persecuted in their home culture because of some feature of that culture, I’m reasonably sure they’d feel upset about it, whether they were born into that culture or not.

    If you think that veil of ignorance is a bogus experiment, feel free to read up on it. It’s originally derived from the concept of social contract, but in my opinion applies fully to different cultures if they are thought of as a basis for how societies function.

    This fundamental flaw also informs your attitude towards religion.

    Yes, I consider organized religion a negative thing especially whenever it acquires too much secular power.

    But that really is a subject of another discussion, yes?

    There is a certain arrogance in assuming that however broad another cultural frame of reference may be, you can somehow fit this inside your own cultural frame of reference and stand in judgement over it.

    My cultural frame of reference is irrelevant because suffering is universal.

    I’d like to think I have enough empathy to see when a certain feature of a foreign culture is hurtful to some demographic of people living in said culture. Whether or not I actually am one of those people shouldn’t matter – if that part of the culture causes suffering, it doesn’t pass my test.

    In other words that particular element of that particular culture is something I won’t accept and ignore just because it’s “part of someone else’s culture”.

    Big words. Utilitarianism and deontology are ethical theories, not codes of ethics. In other words, they are attempts to explain the nature of moral judgements, not substitutes for those judgements. Perhaps you meant to say that you find explanations of moral judgements based on duty and obligation more satisfying than explanations based on an assessment of the human consequences of those judgements. Whether or not this view expresses a prejudice depends on how you arrived at it and how you explain it.

    That’s precisely what I meant by putting that part about different ethics in there. I’m fully aware that it makes no sense.

    Just like it makes no sense to say that just being critical of some features of other cultures makes you racist.

    Also, as far as I know I haven’t made any specific statements about specific cultures, exactly for the reason that I don’t know those cultures. I’ve made conditional statements about hypothetical cultures that hypothetical immigrants would be arriving from.

    Now, it is a completely different thing if I start “evaluating” specific cultures without enough in-depth knowledge of that culture. In that case I would be making my evaluations based on my prejudice of that culture, so even if my method of evaluation were free of racism, my incorrect and prejudice-based disinformation of said cultures would still make my assessment racist.

    That’s precisely why I won’t ever make sweeping statements such as “all people from country X in Africa are affected by their culture, which makes them all dishonest”. That would be completely ridiculous.

    My evaluations are, however, based on my personal code of ethics. But that isn’t necessarily dependent on what my cultural background is, and even if it is – isn’t that the only way anyone can base their decisions on? To mirror them against your personal code of ethics?

    I hope that clarifies something about my way of thinking.

    NB: Code of ethics is different from morality. Morality is much more bound to what is acceptable in a society. Code of ethics is something much more personal – many people go by their lives without ever figuring out what their code of ethics is, and just rely on the contemporary morality of their society.

    • JusticeDemon

      HT

      Racism is prejudice, not discrimination.

      I disagree

      Then you disagree with the Oxford English Dictionary.

      racism |ˈreɪsɪz(ə)m|
      noun
      the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

      Distinguishing between prejudice and discrimination is fundamental to any coherent discussion of this subject. One of the reasons for absurd Finnish expressions like ikärasismi is failure to recognise the crucial difference between racism and racial discrimination. This enables many racists to deny their own often quite obvious racism simply because they cannot remember ever deliberately discriminating against someone. Racism can be and often is unconscious and unintended, whereas racial discrimination involves intentional behaviour that is at best thoughtless.

      My cultural frame of reference is irrelevant because suffering is universal.

      This remark (and the accompanying reasoning) only indicates that you are naïvely unaware of your own cultural frame of reference, but I fasten on this remark in particular because it is clearly false. It is quite possible to be outraged about any aspect of another culture simply because it does not fit into the canons of one’s own culture, viewed from the perspective of the latter. A case in point is that people in some Western countries can be outraged by “suffering” women who “conceal their identity” by wearing a veil in public and can insist on legislation against this, but see no corresponding “suffering” or “concealment of identity” when the great majority of married women adopt the husband’s family name.

      Our values and even our perceptions greatly depend on assumptions that we have forgotten making or accepting uncritically. This is why the fox can be persuaded so easily to throw Br’er Rabbit into the briar patch, as it is natural for the fox to accept that this experience will be unpleasant for Br’er Rabbit. Many immigrants who have just been introduced to the Finnish sauna as adults can tell you that “suffering” is culturally determined and culturally mediated (also notice that expressions of physical pain vary by language). Modern women may swear that nothing is more painful than losing a child, but the women of ancient Sparta fully expected to lose their sons at the age of agoge. Modern Westerners claim to value political freedom while remaining slaves to consumerism and timekeeping in a very obvious sense.

      Our most fundamental assumptions govern the way in which we conceptualise experience, and this varies from one culture to another in often quite surprising ways. For example the Finnish language has found quite natural ways of using an ostensibly passive form of the verb “to be”. English speakers may scoff at the apparent absurdity of expressions containing “oltiin”, but this only indicates that those English speakers have not understood how the Finnish language articulates experience at a very basic level. You would not abandon this feature of the Finnish language simply because some English speaker objected to it, even if you were unable to give a clear response to the “conceptual” question of how existence itself (as opposed to action) can be either active or passive.

  97. HT

    reply part 2

    I have to be honest in saying that I twice elaborated long replies to the second part of your previous post and ended up ‘giving up’ about half way through, thinking that the effort did not seem justified. But, I think on reflection that there are points where perhaps we can open up this discussion, rather than falling back on the idea that you represent ‘one’ ideology, and I another.

    Hello Mark, and no worries – I know the feeling, there’s so many things that have been mentioned here and even if we found in the end that we represent different “ideologies” there can still be a discourse that illuminates how the other thinks. Even if it doesn’t necessarily change either of us opinions, that’s always a good thing I feel – besides, I enjoy being intellectually challenged, it makes me more conscious of how I put my words.

    I wasn’t clear here if you were talking about something that actually happened to your mother, or something that you felt could happen. What I was clear about is that teachers are likely to take a ‘developmental’ approach to this kind of confrontation in the classroom. The reality for teachers is that they are often challenged by students – and often those challenges say as much about the environment in which those students have grown up as about the students themselves. Teachers, being the ‘educative’ creature they are, will typically look for how the situation can be a learning opportunity, both for them and for the student involved. In this case, a student who shows signs of a belief system that is at odds with the norms of society must first be ‘supported’. That means that you engage that students first as a person, as a being expressing an idea. This is not the beginning or end of that person’s being, and so respecting their right to be ‘other’ means that it is not so difficult to engage that person, even if they express beliefs that appear contrary to one’s own beliefs. The question is, as educators, how would your mother go about separating herself, establishing her own independence from that that students ‘world view’ and also respect that person’s expression of their thought and yet challenge it if necessary. There are lots of possibilities here, and speaking as a teacher, I would say that your story is only the very beginning of this narrative and this ‘clash’ between cultures, as you present it. For me, what you present is actually interesting, but what you don’t say is the thing that leaves me perplexed…what happened next? How did your mum respond?

    It is something that has actually happened, and I used that as a minor anecdote of a case where a cultural difference was at least one of the causes of a conflict.

    You’re right that conflicts of this sort tend to happen anyway in classroom – young people pushing their limits and trying to see how the adult in charge responds – but regardless, it is an example of cultural incompatibility where simply accepting the cultural difference doesn’t help, you have to deal with it somehow and for all practical purposes, the only way to deal with it is to get the person to ignore that cultural directive at least in that situation.

    I believe – but don’t quote me – that the person in this case was from Kurdish family, but that really doesn’t matter either. There are bound to be tons of cultures which emphasize strong gender roles and where females are “lower” in hierarchy than men and thus cannot tell men what to do… in public, at least.

    Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to what happened next. She never told – and she does have some degree of confidentiality, so I never asked. I just remember her mentioning a stressful situation in general terms. I’ll assume that she and the students found some way to resolve the conflict.

    Possibly by convincing the student to accept that they will have to get used to receiving orders from females, even if their culture says otherwise. Or possibly by getting a male member of the staff to relay the order (which, yeah, would be a bad way of doing it since it would reinforce the counterproductive cultural directive).

    For me, it is important especially with young people not to seek to ‘define’ this situation as an example of a ‘clash of cultures’, a super narrative that none of us can really control and which the outcome remains uncertain. Rather, it is important to recognise always that these situations involve individuals, and that individuals creating and maintaining space in which to recognise and acknowledge other individuals is what separates our reaction from mere instinct.

    It was this comment in particular that left me saddened and frustrated in trying to reply to you previously. When you name cultures or regions of the world, you frame this not as an issue of individuals arriving in Finland, often from very different places in the world, going through a period of adjustment, disorientation and reaffirmation of their previous identity, but rather as a clash of cultures. That is where I start to think that the ‘clash of cultures’ that you present, from your position of relative comfort, is a failure in humanity. You do realise, HT, that it’s when you start to target particular ‘demographics’ that you will begin to invite accusations of racism, no matter how you try to create space for these conclusions? What comes out of your sentence is that you see people from Africa or Muslim (Middle-Eastern countries) as being particularly backward or inferior, regardless of the qualities of any particular individual.

    I get what you’re saying, and I elaborated this in my latest reply to JusticeDemon – unfortunately the blockquote tags messed up my reply slightly, but it should still be readable. I’m more used to BBCode tags, and there’s no preview here, so apologies for that.

    In summary: Even though I specified continental directions, those were mostly based on probability – or, how much the perceived negative cultural features appear in these regions. For what it matters, I’m fully aware that the things I mentioned are part of multiple cultures all around the world, and even then, individuals are never a slave to their cultural background.

    Which is why I always, always interact with individuals and usually I don’t even ASK where they’re from or what their particular beliefs or cultural background is. I let their actions and behaviour define how I should interact with them – rather than interacting with them based on what kind of person I think they are.

    This only further enhanced the narrative that you have a brainwashed view of people from these cultures. I guess you haven’t heard of the Somali organisations representing the rights of women, or the Somali organisations trying to further human rights and good governance in Somalia? I guess you haven’t heard of Muslim groups aimed at promoting women’s rights in the Middle East or opposing female circumcision? You haven’t heard of these groups and you don’t even begin to make space for the idea that these people could support the same values that you describe above?

    I’ve heard of all those things. And I think there was some sort of disconnection somewhere, because I never recall saying I couldn’t understand that.

    I guess I should’ve put a big IF in my post. That is, if I happen to interact with an immigrant and I notice that they happen to have these alien cultural directives, how do I deal with it?

    The whole point of my original post was that I would easily be able to tolerate the alien parts of the culture – foreign is not bad! But if some parts of this particular immigrant’s cultural code proved to be unacceptable for me, then I wouldn’t accommodate that, be it part of their culture for me.

    As a hypothetical exercise, let’s assume that I heard a conversation – in a crowded bar, or whatever – where two men were discussing things and one told the other that he “had to” physically discipline his wife yesterday for disobeying him.

    What should I do in this kind of situation? Does it matter what the cultural background of these two men are?

    Or does it matter what the woman’s cultural background is? Perhaps I don’t understand the situation from the perspective of that culture (which I don’t even know at the moment, I just heard two men talking and I don’t know anything about either of them).

    In some cultures, this would be considered acceptable – even a duty, a responsibility of a good dutiful husband to correct a foolish woman’s behaviour!

    …but it doesn’t make it right, does it?

    Should I accept this as a “cultural difference”?

    If it came to this, should Finnish society accommodate this kind of cultural differences?

    Now again I feel I should emphasize, I don’t think any individuals from any specific culture should be thought of as wife-beaters in general. Like before, get to know the individual and if you find out they happen to BE a wife-beater, then you need to figure out what to do with this information.

    But I have to say that this is also a numbers game. Statistically speaking, a lot of immigrants do come from cultures where this kind of behaviour is, if not a norm, not specifically illegal either. And again, statistically, SOME of them will bring these beliefs and behaviours with them.

    So what I’m trying to say is we of course shouldn’t assume any immigrant to be a horrible being just based on where they’re from, but we should be aware of potential issues, figure out some solutions to potential problems, and IF it becomes necessary – put those solutions to action.

    An example solution would be – let’s say I become familiar with an immigrant, maybe he’s a co-worker, maybe we go to same gym, could be anything. So we exchange words now or then, and one day I find out – maybe from off-hand remark – that (using same example as before) they had to physically punish their misbehaving wife yesterday.

    What should I do now? How would I react? I don’t know. I would probably get upset about it, but I know this guy – he’s not a bad person, why is he doing a bad thing?

    Maybe I should ask him if he knows such a thing is illegal in Finland? Or that it is really frowned upon from the perspective of Finnish culture?

    Does he understand that it upsets me to hear a casual remark about such a thing?

    All of this is, by the way, hypothetical, but I find it useful to go through this kind of potential situations.

    And then you move from generalised notions of cultural inferiority to notions of religious authoritarianism, again assuming that people in Muslim or other religious cultures haven’t also addressed these issues or expressed concerns over extremism positions. It seems that you assume Islam comes in only one flavour, an extreme flavour.

    I seem to recall I mentioned a group of loosely affiliated religions, some of which have extermist tendencies. I’m fully aware Islam is just as diverse as Christianity (both of which are total nonsense from my perspective) but, statistically speaking, certain sects of Islam have much more secular power than I see as being healthy.

    What do I do? Do I give you a list of organisations or persons who express a moderate view about religion and politics? Would this convince you to tone down your rhetoric? Would you understand the utter importance of promoting moderates in this ‘international’ discourse on religious freedoms and the role of Islam in the modern world, or should I stand back and let you polarise the debate in such a way as only to make space for the extremists?

    But for moderates of any religion, religion is not that big of a deal. At most, it tends to be part of their culture rather than the defining factor – just like I still celebrate Christmas (or Yule if you prefer), being a complete atheist…

    So when it comes to dealing with religiously motivated behaviours, it turns out the more extreme views are the more relevant ones – it is unfortunate, but that’s how it is.

    I’m specifically not at all worried about the moderate muslims, because I know that they won’t cause problems.

    But again, going with statistical probability – SOME of the muslim immigrants will have more religious fundamentalist tendencies. I am utterly sure the percentage is fairly low, and I’d like to keep it that way.

    That said, it does feel a bit unfair that all the talk about Islam is always directed to religious extremists. And I know there are some people who – wrongly so – believe that ALL muslims are extremists, so I can understand why you would think so.

    This doesn’t even begin to tackle problem of Finland or any other European countries own path towards political and religious freedom, fraught as it is with struggle. (…)

    Yes, I’m aware of the progression of society in Finland and elsewhere in the West, and it does baffle me a bit how the Western world’s social mores were so backward so little time ago, but the recovery from religiously motivated nonsense is always slow. It took Europe better part of a millennium to gain freedom from religious authorities.

    I don’t really see how that is very relevant to the discussion though. I can’t feel guilty about what Finnish society and culture was like before I was even born. What I do feel strongly about is that since we’ve gotten to this stage we shouldn’t allow lapses backwards.

    And, to be honest, tolerating the intolerant part of foreign cultures would be a lapse backwards. Not pointing fingers or calling names on specific cultures, but liberality and equality is less emphasized in many cultures in comparison to Finnish culture. Still a lot of work to do in Finland, but better in these regards than many others.

    I’m not sure if you are aware of the rules in Islam, but they are very specific for Muslims who reside in ‘non-Muslim’ countries in stating that they must follow the laws (covenants) of those countries [Sûrah al-Isrâ’: 34; Sûrah al-Baqarah: 100]. It is only a handful of extremists that feel they can break those covenants.

    I know. I also know that for the moderate muslims this doesn’t matter because they have no motivation to break those covenants in the first place. Why would they? Their religion is a personal thing, not something they feel obliged to forcefully spread.

    Only the extremists would cause problems in the first place, so those covenants are there to prevent the extremists from causing problems in non-islamic countries, but the extremists are the only ones who don’t feel bound by these – most commonly because some of their leaders thought of a more creative interpretation of those passages which allows them to think they mean whatever they want them to mean.

    Of course, creative interpretation of the sacred texts seems to be a running trend in religious extremist leaders all over the world, it’s not something only Islamic extremists do.

    By the way, if I were worried about terrorism I would like to point out that the best way to avoid terrorism is not to provide recruiting ground for terrorist organizations. These organizations are basically cults that have very sophisticated recruiting methods – they target the uneducated, socially excluded, poor, disappointed young people who feel like there’s nothing to lose from seeing what these new people offer – and often they don’t even realize what they’re being recruited for.

    Most of the time, “terrorists” recruited from other countries are then shipped to somewhere in the Middle-East or where-ever that particular organization operates, and told to blow themselves up. Some of them get brainwashed into the religious motives, some of them blow themselves up because they don’t know what else to do.

    It doesn’t happen much, but best way to avoid it happening outright is to educate people on how these organizations operate, and to prevent people from having reasons to join them – so, avoiding formation of “immigrant districts” is priority number one. Preventing immigrants from falling into the lowest tier of employment or social security trap is number two.

    Again, you are not wrong to point this out, but what is wrong is that you don’t make it clear that this is the exception to the rule when it comes to Muslims and their relationship to the laws of a ‘foreign’ land, that this willingness to break covenants is a feature of extremism, not of moderate or mainstream Islam.

    I gratefully accept the rebuke, I should have pointed that out, but didn’t because of the reasons above.

    I see this as a black and white picture – that you present multiculturalists are apologists for foreign culture, even when that culture undermines human rights. In all my readings and dealings regarding those that seek to protect the rights of immigrants, I have never seen anyone advocate a carte blanche for those that would violate basic human rights as understood by the West. Never. I think this is a just an idea dreamed up by the Right to attack people more liberal on issues of immigration.

    A bit of metadiscussion there. The “black and white” representation was because that’s how I see the issue being discussed. A caricature against a caricature is obviously not a way to have any kind of discussion but that’s where the discussions often go. It was specifically intended to show what I think is wrong about the immigrant discussion, and although clearly I didn’t put my words clearly enough, no harm done – we’re having an actual discussion now.

    And yet the whole idea that any one of us can stand up and define or speak for the Finnish population is ludicrous. People who seek to ‘define’ such large ‘metatopics’ in society in a way that only gives voice to one group are not serving society. There are many voices that need to be heard, yours included. But anyone that chooses to speak on behalf of the Finnish population, beware! Most people will resist that attempt to dominate the narrative.

    Again, I’ll accept that rebuke. Bad rhetoric on my part.

    Again, I can only refer you to the outstanding problems in Finland in terms of achieving gender equality for women and for achieving equality for gays and lesbians, because in this, you will find yourself in opposition to a significant proportion of the population. If you even dare to defend immigrants and their basic freedoms, such as freedom of religion, freedom to choose their own dress, freedom to advocate politically, you will find yourself even more isolated from your peers.

    Peer pressure has always meant very little to me. If my views distance myself from some people, that just means they weren’t my peers to begin with.

    I’d rather have enlightened people as my peers any time of day than people who can’t think… but yes, I guess most of the population is not quite as liberal as I am.

    You mention two quite different things, but the mention of ‘self-worth’ is particularly relevant for me. My starting point in almost all these discussions has been ‘what is the dignity afforded to immigrants?’ This means what is the public image promulgated about immigrants in Finland and what opportunities are afforded for immigrants to flourish and contribute to Finnish society, without having to give up the essential parts of their ‘other’ identity. After all, we are strangers to each other, we are all OTHER to each other, whether we are Finns or Serbs, or Iraqis or Vietnamese or Russian or Muslim or whatever. Today in Finland, efforts are being directed throughout public institutions to create circumstances where the diversity of individuals is recognised and respected across all domains, including mental health, families and children, social welfare, employment, people with disabilities, women as a gender, young people, marginalised people. How ironic that these efforts would suddenly stop at the ‘foreigner’, or the ‘religious’ foreigner, or the ‘African’ foreigner, as if these labels were somehow definitive.

    With self-worth I meant a feeling that all avenues of life are open to you, you feel capable and enabled to do with your life what you want.

    By contrast to the list of menial labour available to the poorly educated or illiterate (in respect to Finnish and English mostly) part of the population.

    Basic dignity as a human being is an important part of that equation, but that’s not really what I meant.

    I’m sorry that I cannot agree that education in Finland has truly given women equality or that family structures are not still extremely gendered in Finland. I have read several important papers coming from Finnish researchers on this issue in the last ten years and the message they give is quite different.

    It’s a sliding scale. We’re not there yet, but equal education makes things better. By contrast to a system where only males have full education available and girls get only what education they’re allowed, I’d say Finnish men and women have a much better chance of equality. I am aware that in the employment sectors there is still quite a bit of inequality, but like I said, everything’s relative.

    The fact that you wrote this as a final thought is actually quite comforting. It is very important to be able to imagine a good future. The next question though is how do you think we will arrive at this good future, and also, what do you think immigrant voices would have to say about this future and how we arrive at it. After all, one voice can never really stand as a collective voice in any consistent way?

    Regards
    Mark

    Yeah, I hoped to give a positive vibe because what I was describing were conditional issues, not absolute ones.

    I hope we can continue this discussion, it’s been quite thought-provoking so far. By the way, I can’t really blame you for jumping to conclusion about certain things. Some parts of my messages were badly formulated, and that allowed for some misinterpretation.

    Thanks for the discussion so far.

    • Mark

      HT

      it is an example of cultural incompatibility where simply accepting the cultural difference doesn’t help, you have to deal with it somehow and for all practical purposes, the only way to deal with it is to get the person to ignore that cultural directive at least in that situation.

      Calling it ‘cultural incompatibility’ is like wrapping the incident in lead and burying it underground for a thousand years, i.e. treating this ‘cultural difference’ as some kind of toxic waste. Setting this incident in concrete like this and then selling it to people as an example of ‘cultural incompatibility’ is frankly rather jovial. Do you have kids? lol. You’ll find yourself dealing with a lot of ‘cultural incompatibility’ if you do.

      The issue is we don’t even really know what this young man actually thinks. Second, why not challenge those values, as you suggested might have happened, but make that part of the narrative? Third, those values once existed in Finland but no longer. Even if this young man doesn’t ‘get it’ immediately, all social change starts with real dialogue and with sewing seeds. At the end of the day, carrying on with values like that in Finnish society will likely lead to significant problems and a constant barrage of challenges.

      If in the end, this person wants to continue to devalue women in this way, then they are in fact free to do so, as long as they keep it to themselves. Of course, I don’t like men who devalue women like that, but each has to make his own bed and then lie in it. Some of the rubbish I’ve read from PS supporters about ‘encouraging’ women to stay home and have babies might actually mean that this individual could one day join the PS party! Such are the contradictions of ordinary life!

      Anyhow, the key thing for me is that this is not an issue that can be laid in concrete and presented as a fete de complete, that something like this represents incompatible cultures. My values are quite likely incompatible with a great many born-again Christians. I know that from experience. During my son’s name-giving years ago, a young Finnish woman with rather strong Christian beliefs in the invited audience told me that I was giving my son to Satan. Yep, there and then right in the middle of the ceremony, because I read a poem that invoked a Celtic mythological figure (not Satan, by the way). 🙂

      Later, I wrote a letter expressing my disappointment and again later we met again by accident, where she was rather embarrassed. She did apologise and that was the end of it. The point is, people change, they say and do silly things at different times, but may have a different perspective over time. Drawing conclusions about ‘cultures’ take away from people’s agency in these situations and also the options for exploring it, which in fact would have been far more useful and interesting.

      There are bound to be tons of cultures which emphasize strong gender roles and where females are “lower” in hierarchy than men and thus cannot tell men what to do… in public, at least.

      🙂 Yes, like Finland. I guess you don’t really understand how ingrained gendering and gender inequality still is in Finland (I guess my drawing attention to various elements of this rather went over your head). Which gives you the moral high ground to practice your cultural supremacism.

      Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to what happened next. She never told – and she does have some degree of confidentiality, so I never asked. I just remember her mentioning a stressful situation in general terms. I’ll assume that she and the students found some way to resolve the conflict.

      And it is exactly this kind failure to take the matter further, to really process it, that perpetuates prejudices and racism. It’s the line where we stop being ‘normal’ and start applying a totally different set of rules for understanding another person’s behaviour.

      For example, you remembered the story and are repeating it to people, and yet the most basic elements you don’t seem to have stopped to really question. You remember your mother being a victim, you remember her stressed, you remember the boys nationality. You are left with everything you need to build a narrative that perpetuates prejudice, and you know nothing that would build a narrative that shows a person growing, being challenged by society, or even just making a mistake. Perhaps you should ask your mum what happened, see if she remembers.

    • Mark

      HT

      unfortunately the blockquote tags messed up my reply slightly, but it should still be readable. I’m more used to BBCode tags, and there’s no preview here, so apologies for that.

      You will have noticed that I corrected this. There is a preview, it appears below your post and renders all the tags as well. Let me know if for some reason you cannot see it (with info on Browser, Java enabled/disabled etc.)

    • Mark

      HT

      In summary: Even though I specified continental directions, those were mostly based on probability – or, how much the perceived negative cultural features appear in these regions. For what it matters, I’m fully aware that the things I mentioned are part of multiple cultures all around the world, and even then, individuals are never a slave to their cultural background.

      With this knowledge (education) then you should practice a more precise form of discussion, and you absolutely should qualify your comments with this knowledge, as this is the bit that can make all the difference as to whether you are genuinely discussion the issues of multiple cultures and cultural/generational challenges or presenting what can only be taken as an ‘anti-immigration’ narrative that puts foreigners in a bad light relative to natives.

      Which is why I always, always interact with individuals and usually I don’t even ASK where they’re from or what their particular beliefs or cultural background is. I let their actions and behaviour define how I should interact with them – rather than interacting with them based on what kind of person I think they are.

      I see two things in this. First, while you say you are not practising racism or discrimination in your actual dealings with foreigners, you are nevertheless for some reason still supporting the ‘group analysis’ of them in such a way as to present some of them as being ‘incompatible’, which works to maintain and promote other racist beliefs in society. This is not so unusual though. I think that people often choose to discriminate against a group, even while they keep the door open to the idea that individuals should be treated with dignity. After all, expressing racism or even gross cultural supremacism in front of foreigners will generally make you look like a right idiot.

      But by separating how you think about immigrants as a group, or even the ‘idealised extremist immigrant’ and how you actually think about individual immigrants, you create a deeper problem for yourself, in my view. Because if you do not integrate your individual experience of foreigners into your ‘bigger categories’, then there is little basis for your bigger categories to get modified – you’ve cut yourself off from the source of your own development.

      This is again a very common situation and is perhaps one reason why so many modern ‘racists’ really cannot see their racism – there is a fundamental disconnect. When they hear an accusation that they are being racist because of what or how they speak of immigrants, they instead deflect that criticism by saying ‘well, I have black friends that I like and I see them as individuals’. It’s a bit like someone who insists that marriage doesn’t work but who in fact has been happily married for 40 years.

    • Mark

      HT

      But if some parts of this particular immigrant’s cultural code proved to be unacceptable for me, then I wouldn’t accommodate that, be it part of their culture for me.

      Hmm. I see several problems with this, leading on again from my previous point. There will ALWAYS be something about a foreigner that is too different that you would not want to incorporate that into your own beliefs, or worse, that you would strongly disagree about it. Would you fall back on the idea that their ‘culture’ is incompatible, or would you properly qualify it by saying to yourself that one aspect of this single individual’s beliefs, who happens to represent a different culture or religion is in conflict with my own belief?

      Truth is, if you get to know anyone well enough, you will find something about which you two would strongly disagree – but would you resort to understanding that difference through the lens of some ‘top-order’ category like culture?

      While religion and ethnicity provide a possibility for conflicting cultural values, I’m pretty sure that you will find people in your own religion or non-religion who have an equivalent belief you would strongly disagree with. Do you immediately imagine yourself to be ‘incompatible’, unable to share even the same country, for example?

      It’s just all too easy to blame religion or a foreign culture as the source of difference or disagreement, rather than understanding is as something ‘this person’ has chosen and that works for them and exploring that. By losing sight of the person, their life, their experiences, their values, their history, and rather making it about religion, or ethnicity or nationalism or some such other ‘dead’ category of knowledge or information, we allow the ideological war to take root.

      I say ‘we’ because this is an enormous challenge for human beings of all ilks. It’s hard work, but it starts by refusing to follow a narrative that says people who are from different parts of the world are any less or more human that we are, or of value, or even capable of developing their values.

      I think JD made some very good points to you about how Western culture fits like a pair of goggles over our eyes. The bit about Indians perhaps putting more emphasis on looking after the elderly in our communities likewise grates with our own neglect in Western countries, while their poor treatment grates with our more recent notions of equality.

      If you are not busy trying to prove your own culture is superior, you have time and space to become aware of these equivalences.

    • Mark

      HT

      That said, it does feel a bit unfair that all the talk about Islam is always directed to religious extremists.

      It’s rather more than unfair. For example, there are bosses that see this media driven sensationalisation of religious extremism and then decide they will do everything they can to avoid giving a job to ‘obvious’ Muslims. The situation for Muslims now is pretty dire, in terms of the public profile. Ironically, the more that Islam is vilified, the more the conditions for radicalisation are strengthened. We create our own self-fulfilling prophecies, though of course we wash our hands of responsibility. Think of it like this – they can either belong to our ‘family’ or they are left to fend for themselves in small enclaves within society. Now ask yourself, which is safer, for them and for us? It is no accident that radicalisation is linked very strongly to marginalisation.

      I know. I also know that for the moderate muslims this doesn’t matter because they have no motivation to break those covenants in the first place. Why would they? Their religion is a personal thing, not something they feel obliged to forcefully spread.

      Well, in my opinion, you are confusing several points here. For example, you can still respect those covenants but religion is more than just a ‘personal’ thing. I think for non-religious folks, we should just accept that religious people would like to see the laws of the land reflect their religious codes strongly. Indeed, non-religious people naturally want to see the laws of the land reflect their own beliefs in secularism, so really, non-believers are rarely any different to believers, though I often hear them present non-belief as being some kind of NORM against which all other systems should be measured, completely oblivious to the fact that that is EXACTLY what religious people seek to. 🙂

      Of course, creative interpretation of the sacred texts seems to be a running trend in religious extremist leaders all over the world, it’s not something only Islamic extremists do.

      While I think religion does create some quite unique problems for itself when it comes to things like authority and truth, I don’t think the tendency to ‘read things in a way that suits your own personal agenda’ is not anything unique to religious people. Indeed, that was one of your previous arguments, that prejudice is driven by a natural tendency towards bias.

      So when it comes to dealing with religiously motivated behaviours, it turns out the more extreme views are the more relevant ones – it is unfortunate, but that’s how it is

      It might be useful to separate out ‘extreme’ views from ‘militant’ views. For example, it is an extreme view to imagine that there is a devil and an angel speaking to us constantly, one trying to corrupt us, one trying to redeem us, and yet this belief doesn’t in itself mean that people will seek violence as a means to realise an end. In fact, it generally leads more to a situation of psychological siege where people have no real sense of what is their own thoughts or personality, a state of uncertainty that in itself can breed neurosis and psychosis.

      By the way, if I were worried about terrorism I would like to point out that the best way to avoid terrorism is not to provide recruiting ground for terrorist organizations. These organizations are basically cults that have very sophisticated recruiting methods – they target the uneducated, socially excluded, poor, disappointed young people who feel like there’s nothing to lose from seeing what these new people offer – and often they don’t even realize what they’re being recruited for.

      I think there is a lot of room for agreement about this particular issue. For me, the issue is what are the circumstances in which people start to believe that violence is a justifiable means. Typically this happens when people see ‘violence’ being done against them or their identified ‘group’. For example, the random killing of civilians as a result of drone strikes is a far stronger recruiting aid than any fiery sermon given by a self-deluded cleric. When the world makes more serious moves to improve the situation of Palestinians, for example, the wider conditions will have improved. Likewise, if efforts are made to include Muslims in the West into the cultural family, a family that already pays lip service at least to religious freedom, then once again, the conditions against radicalisation have improved.

      avoiding formation of “immigrant districts” is priority number one.

      This is a tricky one. First, Turku is an ‘immigrant district’ full of the descendent of fisherman and other tradespeople from Sweden, not to mean the ruling nobility. Do you lie awake at night working about the Turrulaiset? 😉 Also, ‘districts’ emerge for different reasons. In Sweden, the districts where immigrants were put were those where jobs had disappeared due to globalisation and yet housing remained. So what jobs were the immigrants going to do if there were few in those districts for natives, even? Next, you have a situation like in the US where ‘white flight’ basically takes resources OUT OF an area, simply because blacks have poorer paid jobs, pay less taxes, meaning local authorities cannot provide equality of services with white neighbourhoods due to restricted funding. This then breeds poorer schools, poorer living conditions, higher health problems etc., and these are used in turn to further justify notions of cultural inferiority which further reinforces the phenomenon of white flight. Yet it’s only because white people have the lions share of resources ALREADY that this phenomenon takes place.

      Next, you have the issue like in Finland where social housing tends to be concentrated in certain areas of the capital. As eligibility rules exclude the middle or lower-middle classes from renting social housing, that means that you inevitably concentrate immigrants in these areas, as they are the ones most likely to have eligibility. Indeed, all the problems that can arise from that are problems of lessened diversity, in the population, in the types of jobs that are available, the skills available to employers and so on. These things, when left to ‘market dynamics’ and this kind of unwise policy planning will only create problems that weren’t there. Maintaining diversity is key. However, in the big picture, the more that immigrants take up the employment slack in the lower end of the job market, the more you see natives improving their skills and taking higher paid jobs. This benefits natives, while potentially leaving immigrants to take the fall-out for the social inequalities.

      Next you have the issue of immigrants choosing to live close to people from their homeland. This can be several understandable reasons. People who have already gone through a period of integration can best advise you how to make progress, in a language you clearly understand. Likewise, a local community that reflects something of your native community is likely to be a better social support system, at least in the short-term. That means that ‘communities’ can do some of the jobs that might otherwise end up falling in the lap of social services, i.e. dealing with psychological problems, PTSD, depression, unemployment etc. However, these areas can easily also become ‘deprived’ in the traditional sense, and then you also have all the problems of deprivation that you would expect with ANY population.

      The key is intelligent planning and investment. But the rewards can of course compensate for that investment. In fact, it’s better to understand that we invest tremendously in our own children, caring, protecting and training them for upwards of 25 years before they become ‘paying’ members of society and start to repay that investment through work and productivety. It is better to think of investments in immigrants as requiring a similar level of commitment and longer-term expectations, but one that similarly benefits our society. The alternative is to turn our backs on the issues (and the people) and then complain when they go to rot.

      Thanks for the discussion so far.

      Likewise.

  98. HT

    Yes. I disagree with the definition of Oxford English Dictionary.

    You know why? Because race is an imaginary concept.

    The belief that humanity consists of different races is racist itself. Pretty rudimentary genetic research has shown that humankind does not, in taxonomical sense, have anything you could call “races”. The genetic differences between two people of relatively similar outward features can be greater than the difference between two completely different-looking people.

    In the context of this discussion, Oxford English Dictionary definition of racism makes very little sense.

    Furthermore, personally I think it’s completely futile to control the way people think. Everyone has prejudices, it’s part of human condition. Their amount varies from person to person. The important thing is whether or not we allow them to control us and define our interactions with the people we feel prejudiced toward. That’s where racism manifests in the practical sense.

    Besides, if a person can defeat their prejudices and interact normally with another person, it’s pretty certain they’ll forget about those prejudices – at least regarding that particular person.

    Heck, I would be completely satisfied if everyone simply stopped using the term “racism” – it’s an antiquated term with connotations that don’t make much sense in the modern world. Prejudice and discrimination based on prejudice are much more suitable general purpose terms, but I guess it’s easier to say someone’s a racist, eh?

    Also I have to ask – do you sincerely believe that if some culture discriminates against some specific target demographic, those discriminated will somehow see it in different light if they’re born into that culture? Maybe being born into that culture makes them think they should be treated like crap?

    I don’t think it works that way. It’s just one form of blaming the victim. And I don’t think there’s ever any excuse for discrimination, whether it’s cultural or not.

    • JusticeDemon

      HT

      I disagree with the definition of Oxford English Dictionary.

      You know why? Because race is an imaginary concept.

      Do you understand what a dictionary definition is and where it comes from? Lexicography is an empirical discipline. The dictionary definition of a term is based on a study of how real native speakers use that term, and you sound a little silly suggesting that they are wrong (a bit like the baby driving the car in the opening credits of The Simpsons). The cogency of this empirical use of language is strictly irrelevant to the actual practice, and there is no reason whatsoever why a dictionary term cannot denote a concept that is imaginary, incoherent or even self-contradictory. All that matters is that the term has some use in language. The OED lists several imaginary concepts, including the tooth fairy and i (the square root of minus one). You will also find ahem and shh in the OED, complete with definitions that are clear enough to identify when these exclamations have been misused (e.g. “the square root of ahem is a solid at room temperature”).

      The term racism is used to denote an unexamined and incoherent belief (in other words, a prejudice), and it is entirely irrelevant whether the associated intensional object is real. If the term racism is used to refer to an action instead of a belief, then that term has simply been misused. The associated expression denoting actions motivated by racism is racial discrimination.

      It is your own misuse of this terminology that leads you to puzzle in this context about the futility of attempting to control the way people think (which made me chuckle in the light of your previous remark: “I am a strong believer in the power of education to reduce the influence of superstitious and illogical believes”). The positive legislation in this field prohibits racially motivated behaviour patterns (including speech acts), whereas policies to combat racism are specifically educational in character.

      To respond to your question: perceptions of discrimination and oppression (and many other things besides) are very largely culturally determined. Those perceptions also shift over time as cultures evolve and interact, but they must always be understood in terms of the culture as a whole and from its own perspective. You choose to assign great importance to the idea of gender equality while entirely ignoring social exclusion of the elderly, whereas someone who has grown up in India would most likely have precisely the opposite priorities. You may refer to economic considerations associated with consumerism and the nuclear family, whereas the Indian can refer to a cultural heritage reaching over thousands of years and a much lower suicide rate. The key point to understand is that neither cultural frame of reference is so broad that it can fully contain the other and provide a platform for adjudicating this difference of opinion over social priorities.

  99. HT

    That’s exactly why I disagree with the OED definition of “racism”. In the current use of the word, it most often has nothing to do with actual races but rather the perception of cultures attached to people looking like one thing and different cultures attached to people looking like another thing. It’s not necessarily even centered around physical appearance or heritage.

    Aside from that, the fact that I disagree with a definition of some word doesn’t mean the lexicographers are wrong.

    It just means that I disagree with how a word is being used (by contrast to what the original meaning of the word is). But semantics like this is rarely a fruitful topic of conversation, so I’ll leave it at that.

    Regarding the rest of what you wrote, yes, priorities change depending from cultural perspective, abuse is wrong no matter what cultural perspective you look at it from. I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of categorical imperative.

    Discrimination based on age is one thing that tends to actually be more of a problem in Finnish culture. Taking care of the elderly in a more humane and less detached way than simply housing them in elderly homes would be a GOOD addition to Finnish culture. It’s a positive thing because it would reduce the suffering of one demographic within Finnish society.

    By contrast, adopting a cultural feature that increases suffering of some demographic within the society would be a BAD addition. Just saying.

    I don’t really understand why you seem so contradictory about this thing. I’m having hard time understand whether you’re actually trying to justify abuse and discrimination happening on other cultures because of what that particular culture dictates, and that I can’t say it’s wrong because I’m not a member of that culture, or something else altogether that I’m not really grasping.

    I don’t understand what your argument here is.

    My argument is that IF (and this is a big if) an immigrant were to come here from a culture that includes abuse of whichever demographic you want to name, there is no moral obligation to accommodate that part of this culture; rather for successful integration, the immigrant needs to either abandon or reconcile that part of his culture in comparison to the majority culture of the new homeland.

    The “if” here is sort of important because if the immigrant doesn’t have any cultural imperatives that would require oppression of some group of people – then there is no problem. There is no conflict as far as I can see.

    I also recognize that vast majority of immigrants falls into the latter group. By contrast there are Finnish people who are incredibly chauvinistic, don’t respect basic human rights (unless when it’s to their advantage), or respect religious dogma over anything else to a dangerous degree – and these, too are a minority so I don’t generally bother with those.

    The big issue with racism in Finland is specifically that many people don’t bother with the “if”. That’s the dangerous thing that actually leads to racism – assuming that all immigrants have all negative aspects of their culture (either imagined or real, it doesn’t matter because the base assumption of all immigrants being the same is incorrect).

    Character education is of course one important part to prevent the prejudice that lead to racist behaviour from forming up in the first place. Parents have a great deal of responsibility in this. Going to kindergarten and school with immigrant children, exposure to different people and ways of life from young age, these are the best ways to prevent prejudices from forming – another good reason to prevent the formation of “immigrant districts”.

    But for dealing with adult population, it’s a bit too late for that in most cases. In that case, you’re going to have to try to find a way around the jungle of prejudice – but if you can get the prejudiced people to at least behave in a civil way and to grant basic dignity to the people they feel prejudiced against, then I think that’s at least a partial improvement.

    Besides, if a person is continuously forced to experience positive interactions with people they’re prejudiced toward, I think that will eventually erode those prejudices as well. So whether you work from the prejudice to behaviour, or from behaviour to prejudice, you’ll eventually achieve functionally similar results.

    • Mark

      HT

      That’s exactly why I disagree with the OED definition of “racism”.

      Not sure that you are offering a lot here on this point. Here is the current definition:

      the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

      and this might be a useful modernisation:

      the belief that people belong to races in such a way that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, esp. so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

      But I’m not sure that this really deals with JusticeDemon’s point to you, which remains a very useful and practical differentiation between racism and racial discrimination. Ditching the concept of ‘racism’ in favour or racial discrimination would give individuals and institution’s the possibility to practice an even greater blindness to ‘racism’, that is, the beliefs, attitudes, assumptions and biases that lead, together, to the systematic social and economic disadvantage of members of particular races. At least as things stand now, studying the concept of racism is the doorway to understanding this disadvantage and it’s perpetuation.

    • JusticeDemon

      HT

      The lexicographers who compile the OED (and those who compile Webster’s and several other standard dictionaries of English around the world) are reporting real language use. If you think that they have made an error in analysing the underlying corpus (a database that nowadays comprises millions if not billions of words used in natural contexts), then you should show us that error. If, on the other hand, you agree that the lexicographers have got this one right, then you are claiming that a standard use of a term in a language practiced by native speakers of that language can somehow be incorrect. By what higher criterion is that even possible? A definition explains nothing more than the standard use of an expression in a language by native speakers of that language.

      As one of those native speakers, it is quite obvious to me that you are conflating racism and racial discrimination. These are two distinct concepts in my native language, just as loska and räntä are two distinct concepts in your native language. Your attempt to defend this obvious conflation by arguing that native English speakers are somehow collectively incorrect about their own language suggests that you have an ego problem that reminds me of another poster who was banned from this site some months ago for persistent trolling.

      Racism is a species of prejudice that involves assigning people to classes according to more or less arbitrarily chosen characteristics and then ascribing further, logically unrelated characteristics to the individual members of those classes. Various psychological mechanisms such as confirmation bias tend to reinforce this prejudice once it has formed, but none of this requires any overt voluntary behaviour. As a prejudice, racism is investigated by the methods of attitude research.

      By contrast racial discrimination must always be manifest in an overt behaviour pattern that takes the form of a difference in how other people are treated. This phenomenon is investigated by studying reports of actual behaviour and experiences of maltreatment, and nowadays especially as a branch of criminology.

      There is a clear conflation of prejudice and discrimination in asserting that racism has increased in Finland as society has become more pluralistic and multi-ethnic. What clearly has increased is racial discrimination, but only because people in Finland nowadays have more opportunities to discriminate. A human resources manager can be the biggest racist on the planet, but if no minority applicants approach the company for work, then there will be no racial discrimination in hiring. Attitude research, on the other hand, suggests that increased direct and personal contact with minorities tends to reduce prejudice (though again, certain psychological mechanisms may retard this process). You seem to be aware of this.

      It is also possible for discrimination to occur without prejudice and without the intention to discriminate, which is why fully developed anti-discrimination legislation ordinarily imposes a positive duty to avoid discrimination. The statutes that outlaw sex discrimination in Finland are legislation of this kind.

      ***

      yes, priorities change depending from cultural perspective, abuse is wrong no matter what cultural perspective you look at it from. I’m sure you’re familiar with the concept of categorical imperative.

      “Abuse is wrong” is an example of a moral tautology. “Abuse”, after all, simply means “wrong use”. What is perceived as “wrong use” in any concrete circumstances, on the other hand, will depend on the overall cultural framework.

      The Kantian categorical imperative (in any of its formulations) really doesn’t provide much help in this area. The maxim of an action will be just as readily universalisable in a culture that prioritises collective welfare as in a culture that seeks to maximise individual liberty. The only difference will be in judging whether the universalised outcome is acceptable.

  100. HT

    Kind of busy at the moment, I may post more in-depth later.

    I guess you don’t really understand how ingrained gendering and gender inequality still is in Finland (I guess my drawing attention to various elements of this rather went over your head). Which gives you the moral high ground to practice your cultural supremacism.

    On this regard I’d like to attach this link: BBC News – Where’s the best place to be a woman?

    That said, this rating only measures equality in education, healthcare, economical and political aspects. Obviously, it doesn’t go into gauging any gender roles or what people actually think – it only looks at certain, objectively measurable things.

    I also note that the results shown on that page are fully relative – there are no absolute measurements of equality given. Being the best in class when everyone still fails the exam is nothing to be particularly proud of – I think current figure is that a woman’s euro in Finland is something like 0.75 cents compared to what men earn in similar field of employment, which is pretty outrageous (don’t remember the exact numbers, though).

    Even so, though, being at top at relative equality still means something. It means that we’re doing better than most of the world on these regards, measured on these objective standards alone.

    Of course one could claim that it is because of our culture that we see women receiving equal education, healthcare, economical and political opportunities as a good thing. Is that another example of cultural superiority?

    After all, it’s demonstrable that some people around the world see it as a negative thing for women to have good healthcare and educational, political, or economical status equal to men. Some of them claim it’s part of their culture (whether this is true, I won’t comment on).

    So what am I to make of this? It’s the classic problem of moral relativism. JusticeDemon brought that up on his latest post as well.

    The problem, I think, is to ask – is morality really that dependant on culture that we are incapable of objectively judging the actions of people from other culture? Or is there some moral directive that could be considered as universal?

    There’s an interesting science fiction novella that touches on these issues, actually. It’s freely available for reading here:

    “The Baby-Eating Aliens”

    I found it very interesting to read, not only because it’s brilliantly written, but also because of the subject matter. I hope you find it enjoyable as well!

    • Mark

      I was meaning to post this article for your benefit too, HT, and it’s interesting that you brought it forward first. You make an excellent point about the .75 cents per euro discrepency at the top end of the scale as giving a false sense of ‘success’ in achieving a top five status for Finland.

      BUT, and this illustrates very well the arguments I was presenting to you earlier, look at the different positions for Finland in the different criteria:

      World Rankings for Finland – Global Gender Gap (higher placing means less inequality)

      Health and survival = 1st
      Educational Attainment = 1st
      Political empowerment = 2nd
      Economic participation and opportunity = 19th

      In terms of economic participation and opportunities, i.e. in the labour market and in the boardrooms, women in Finland are 19th in the world, despite having the best educational attainment. WHY don’t these advantages translate into the labour market? Exactly because of the strongly gendered nature of the labour market in Finland.

      Think on this, Finnish women are in a poorer economic position relative men than women in Lesotho (18), Latvia (17), Philippines (16), New Zealand (15), Sweden (14), Australia (13), Singapore (12), Mozambique (11), Barbados (10), Canada (9), Lao PDR (8), Luxembourg (7), United States (6), Bahamas (5), Malawi (4), Burundi (3), Mongolia (2) and Norway (1).

      In other words, four Asian countries, four African countries, and two Caribbean countries, among others, have societies that have provided more economic opportunities to their female population. What’s the chances that these details will be overlooked by the Finnish media while lauding their No.2 status?

  101. HT

    In terms of economic participation and opportunities, i.e. in the labour market and in the boardrooms, women in Finland are 19th in the world, despite having the best educational attainment. WHY don’t these advantages translate into the labour market? Exactly because of the strongly gendered nature of the labour market in Finland.

    Think on this, Finnish women are in a poorer economic position relative men than women in Lesotho (18), Latvia (17), Philippines (16), New Zealand (15), Sweden (14), Australia (13), Singapore (12), Mozambique (11), Barbados (10), Canada (9), Lao PDR (8), Luxembourg (7), United States (6), Bahamas (5), Malawi (4), Burundi (3), Mongolia (2) and Norway (1).

    In other words, four Asian countries, four African countries, and two Caribbean countries, among others, have societies that have provided more economic opportunities to their female population. What’s the chances that these details will be overlooked by the Finnish media while lauding their No.2 status

    Pretty damn high chances. That’s why I think this kind of surveys should avoid publishing this kind of summarizing “average overall rankings”.

    From the stats you provided, it becomes obvious how much Finnish society is lagging behind specifically on the economic aspect of gender equality.

    Even so… 19th in the world is still in the top percentile of the world. If you contrast it with 206 sovereign countries, it’s in the top ten percentage. As it happens, Total population of these top 19 countries comes to about 567 million, which is about 8% of world’s population – so Finnish women are in the top 8 percentile in economic equality as well.

    Aside from that, it would be good idea to take a look at some of the countries included. Measuring only gender equality doesn’t take into account the actual economic status – many of these countries are extremely poor (Malawi, Mosambique and Burundi in particular) and several of the rest have serious problems with economic inequality that isn’t tied to gender, creating demographics of extreme poverty contrasting with extreme wealth – which of course causes another type of inequality. I don’t know what metrics were used for the economic equality where men and women both have equally abysmal prospects…

    But we’re digressing from the original topic at hand.

  102. vesajarv

    so, Mark what are you saying?

    Are you saying we can’t criticize other cultures about their inequality towards women, because we are number 19 in economic participation and opportunities or what?

    And is there any way possible to say something critical about some culture without being a racist?

    • Mark

      Vesa

      Are you saying we can’t criticize other cultures about their inequality towards women, because we are number 19 in economic participation and opportunities or what?

      And is there any way possible to say something critical about some culture without being a racist?

      Yeah, that’s it exactly, you finally got it :S

    • Mark

      Talk about whipping women and beating them at the same time!!! Soinivaara uses the gendered nature of the employment market, something that disadvantages women and reduces their salary, against them to pretend they have equality. The argument goes like this: Women work less hours than men – this is part of the gendered nature of the work, where women’s work comes in the form of part-time work, often taken because they have child-care duties on top of bread-winning duties. For this, he says that IF women worked the same hours of men, they would be earning the same. Well, they don’t, because their busy doing society’s unpaid work. Then, he says, because they get taxed at a lower rate because they are on lower salaries, this has to be taken into account too – so basically, add on the imaginary hours that women DON’T work, then use this imaginary extra work to factor in a higher tax rate and THEN, magically, he has women earning more than men, per hour! Oh, and if that wasn’t enough, he also wants to factor in the fact that women get more money back of the state because they live healthier lives and therefore live longer on pensions. That makes it all okay to pay them less relative to men?

      Then he states that employers shouldn’t have to pay women higher wages to compensate for inequalities in the home in the distributions of child care responsibilities. In other words, society should not act as any kind of redistributive force to solve the problems of inequality within society. Or to put it as simple as possible, a broken society should not have to fix a broken society. Make sense to you? No, not to me either! NOT ONLY THAT, but he then moves on to the problem that work carried out in traditionally ‘women’s sectors’ is undervalued by society relative to men’s work, and he answers that with the view that it’s not a gender equality problem that women ARE ATTRACTED to low pay work!!!! Unbelievable. Fucking unbelievable! Vesa, how can you present this kind of argumentation in a serious debate about the wage and gender gap?

      Two words for that kind of analysis – totally dishonest!

      This man is a former minister for equality (2001?)? I cannot believe this. Am I missing something here!!!! I understand he’s also a well-regarded politician. Is this just the usual engrained ‘gender bias’ that typically afflicts even the most educated of men? And why in 2000, when he was working as the Minister for Health and Social Services was he happy to tell an international audience that the disparity was then .82 cents in the euro, with of course little change in the last decade in official figures? I cannot believe that someone who has held the responsibility of the Finnish government for advancing gender equality and talked worldwide of Finland’s commitment to gender equality can then be so accepting of the gendered structure of the labour market, either saying it’s not society’s responsibility to fix, or it’s women’s fault for being less greedy and attracted to poorly paid work! Someone tell me I’ve got this wrong!

      Maybe my Finnish isn’t good enough to pick out the nuances in this blog article of his. I hope so.

      And since when were you ever qualified, Vesa, to say that .95 is a ‘good approximation’? Care to share the basis of your own analysis? Or is that your sixth sense, talking?

  103. vesajarv

    JusticeDemon

    Racism is a species of prejudice that involves assigning people to classes according to more or less arbitrarily chosen characteristics

    Not arbitrarily chosen, but prejudice by race, right?

    I googled and there are uses like: age racism, but isn’t this silly? Age is not a race.

    But we finnish don’t have this problem, our word: rasismi is not based on the word race, (race is rotu in finnish, so ‘rotuismi’ would be the same, but we don’t use it) so we can freely use it for other types of discrimination as well, like: ‘ikärasismi’ = discrimination by age.

    Actually our word ‘rasismi’, the base could be ‘rasia’, which is like a box, which kind of makes sense: we are putting people into boxes in our minds -> categorizing based on appearance etc.

    • HT

      “Rasismi” is a borrow word from English/Germany though – it carries with it the connotations of its meaning in the original language(s). So even though in Finnish language it doesn’t derive from the Finnish word for race, it should be considered to have the same meaning.

      There is also a genuine Finnish term “rotusyrjintä”, or “racial discrimination” as well as “rotuerottelu” for “racial segregation” when that was still going on in the US, South Africa and elsewhere in the world.

      So, yeah, there has been some language cock-ups in the discussion so far.

      Besides that, I have to admit I do have a bit of a habit of re-defining words in a manner that seems to make the most sense to me, which has in the past lead to some interesting, animated arguments about nothing…

    • JusticeDemon

      vesajarv

      Racism is a species of prejudice that involves assigning people to classes according to more or less arbitrarily chosen characteristics

      Not arbitrarily chosen, but prejudice by race, right?

      No. Arbitrarily chosen, as HT has already noted. The arbitrarily chosen characteristics in the case of classical racism are typically cutaneous melanin quotient, the type and appearance of follicular growth, and the shape of the nose and eyes. A person who displays certain combinations of these features will then be assumed to exemplify other unrelated features such as mental retardation and an exaggerated propensity to crime.

      The key point is that racism is a species of prejudice, not discrimination.

      The very existence of the Finnish expression ikärasismi is a textbook illustration of the deeper meaning of the word sivistyssana in Finnish. There is a reason why sivistyssanat are associated with culture and education: a sivistyssana is precisely the kind of word that is most likely to be used incorrectly by the uncultured and uneducated.

      The two key ideas in plainer Finnish are rotusyrjintä (=racial discrimination) and rotuennakkoluulo (=racial prejudice/racism). In other words, both rasismi and rotuennakkoluulo translate the same basic concept in English: racism.

  104. HT

    Soininvaara was in fact doing a dissertation of an analysis made by a retired “wages expert” Pauli Sumanen from the Statistics Finland, whose claim was that “a woman’s euro is one euro”. It was his logic that was cited in the text and appropriately chastised.

    While he was critiquing that (obviously) false statement, he ended up to a figure of 0.95 cents for a woman’s equivalent wage. I skimmed through the article – I don’t have the necessary statistics for objectively judging that value one way or another, but I have a feeling it’s a bit short of truth.

    Not that the exact difference matters that much when it is such a difficult thing to quantify. Acknowledging that there is a difference is what matters, and working to narrow the gap until it isn’t there any more.

    • HT

      Correction: Sumanen was actually arguing that the net wage of men was smaller than women’s wage.

      Soininvaara was citing another research made by someone called Juhana Vartiainen, which found the wage difference to be about 5% to men’s advantage.

      Soininvaara also argued on a conditional: If it actually were a case that men simply value money more and thus end up on a better paid jobs, then the wage difference is not a matter of gender equality. (In the context it was fairly clear he disagreed with the conditional).

      On the other hand if the jobs that happen to attract men tend to be better paid than jobs that attract females – the example used was engineering jobs vs. nursing jobs – then it is a matter of gender equality that male-attractive jobs pay more than jobs that appeal to females.

      On another note, I’ve sometimes wondered how any of these researches have compensated for the natural bias that much more men are employed on physically demanding or dangerous works than women and receive the appropriate heavy/hazardous work bonuses.

      I’m not saying that (for example) nursing jobs aren’t physically tough and occasionally hazardous, but there’s still a bias there that is derived simply from the sexual dimorphism of the human species – physically demanding works tend to be populated with much more men than women – which typically ends up creating a male-centric work atmosphere where it is hard for females to fit in even if they were able and willing to do the job, and often end up targets of sexual harassment…

      Besides, I suspect the real wage separation comes from the fact that far less ladies are represented in the high wage leadership and executive positions – which doesn’t have ANY basis on physical sexual dimorphism and much more to deal with cultural gender roles.

  105. vesajarv

    more about the wage difference.

    There was two studies listed in the first comment of Soininvaara’s post, the first result was 96-97, the second (link is broken) was 96-104, so usually these calculations are between 95-97, that’s why 95 is a good bet.

    (The difference is actually ‘unexplained’ difference, so it doesn’t exactly tell, how much is actually caused by discrimination.)

  106. choctawindian

    It would be nice if I could find somewhere to do my Doctorate in Physics without being treated like someone who “looks too stupid for Math” when I got there in person. This is making me hesitate to apply at the University of Helsinki even though I got my Bachelor’s at M.I.T. I can’t afford a Doctorate but I bloody well NEED one because of the job market for American “Red” Indians at all, period. I guess I should look to the other countries in which higher education is also FREE, then? An advisor at Global Education, looking right AT me, suggested universities in Germany. Looking right AT me? Germany, really? A minority woman in Physics or Biophysics, in GERMANY, really?? Of course, I’ve had that suggestion made to me before, years ago, looking right AT me. (But in all fairness that was over 10 years ago and that person also suggested Sweden.)

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