I went to a meeting recently where a civil servant who works with refugees asked the small group of foreigners the following question: “Do you want to be called immigrants (maahanmuuttaja) or New Finns?” She explained that the word “immigrant” meant that one was “constantly moving” and therefore “New Finn” could be considered a more appropriate word for foreigners in Finland. “Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen has started to use the term New Finn.”
I personally feel that it is not only a mistake but wrong for Finns to place ethnic labels on foreigners living in Finland. What is a New Finn?! I remember in my youth that in Mikkeli people spoke of “Old Mikkeli” (vanha mikkeliläinen) residents. If foreigners will start to be called “New Finns” then the majority culture that labels them as must be the “Old Finns.”
Even if such labels are ridiculous because they are only invented by people who do not even belong to such a group, one must ask if they are even important for those that live in Finland.
Which ethnic label would be appropriate? That depends on the person. What would he/she like to be called? Does he/she want to be called an “absolute Finn,” a Finnish xxxxx or possibly he/she does not want any national-ethnic labels placed on him/her?
The term New Finn conveys hope since it suggests that outsiders can integrate and become part of Finnish society. Placing labels, however, on groups that do not identity with such names ensures that they will be replaced. A good example is the Finnish term Lapp versus Sami, or Eskimo versus Inuit.
Let the person decide what he wants to be called and with which group he identifies with.