BLAST FROM THE PAST 1984 (Part 2): Strange days, the experience of foreign students in Finland

by , under All categories, Enrique

Even though Strange days, the experience of foreign students in Finland was published in 1984, many of the excerpts in the book could apply to Finland today.

Here are some passages that may interest you. Remember that the book was published 26 years ago.

How many time I have listened as my dark-skinned friend tell of the Finns’ awkward, insulting and violent behavior towards them. Almost every time I walk through the streets with one of my more “foreign” looking companions, some Finns figures out a way, more or less grossly, to emphasize our otherness, our foreignness. Therefore, the fact that I have white skin has definitely helped me survive here; however, my disillusion has definitely grown since I became aware of this. Steve Huxley, p. 9

Many Finns hold some of the same stereotypes that were prevalent in urban United States in the 20’s and 30s concerning different races. It is not surprising that Finland is a closed society for foreigners, a “dead-end society” if you will, where there is dear little chance of competing equally for choice jobs with Finns after having taken a degree in this country. Enrique Tessieri, p. 14

You are given a partial or non-admission before arriving here, the next thing to do is to get yourself i any Finnish language courses and prepare yourself for the police harassment via telephone calls or letters. Obi Marizu, p. 18

Its position today as a small neutral sate between two competing superpowers should also make Finland very sensitive to issues involving minority rights. In discussing injustices in Finland, Finnish history also provides foreigners with an understanding of why the country’s laws frequently deal with them rather brusquely. Ahti Tolvanen, p 35

The usual kind of ad for a subtenant room you will find in the newspaper is something like, “Gentle old lady rents room to sober non-smoking female student of religious background.” Now you have been brought up in a convent in Tanzania and came here to study theology – so you go there with great expectations. The first thing you find out is that the old lady is not that gentle at all, the next thing that there are a few additional conditions: absolutely white skin of the same shade as hers, accent-free Finnish and a blue (Finnish) passport. Alexander Sannemann, p. 41

I have been thinking about these things (Finnish consensus, cold war foreign policy) long before writing them down, just not to fall into the vicious circle of self-censorship. Adrián Soto, p. 44

There are two kinds of girls who look for contacts with foreign men. First, there are the Hunters and Gatherers. For them the foreigners are above all foreigners: exotic, dark, reputedly good in bed, possess a high prestige value when shown in the street, and are useful for language practice. The girls are looking for a short adventure or a longer affair, but many think a Finn, in the end, is the only plausible mate. For them, and there are quite a lot of them, you will always be an object, a foreigner, not a human being. Maaria Seppänen, p. 49

Aliens' Office head Eilä Kännö (1970-84) inspecting a foreigner applying for a residence permit. Among foreigners, she was cursed by many for being an inflexible, cantankerous hardliner.By Rabah Boussuira, p. 23

Foreigners have no civil civil right nor chances of getting housing in Finland.By Rabah Boussuira, p. 39

Foreigners are no longer a rare sight in Finland as in 1984. By Rabah Boussuira, p. 45

  1. Osmo

    Not all countries want to become multicultural, and Finns just happen to be one of them. They were kind to dark skinned people at first, but then the government started, for some reason, to explode the foreign population, and the Finns, having no control over it, are frustrated and angry. That’s how I read it.

    • Enrique

      Osmo, what do you mean by multicultural? No foreigners? Canadian social policy? Finland is an EU member. We have free movement of labor. It is a fact of life.

  2. J.R. Ewing

    “Finland is an EU member. We have free movement of labor. It is a fact of life.”

    That it is. Nevertheless, assuming that Finland is one of those countries that would simply rather be left alone, you can’t exactly go telling people that they have to like foreigners because the EU mandates it or that they are racists if they don’t. Or you can, but don’t expect everyone to take you seriously or maybe even care. It is a fact of life.

    I really don’t think “we’re here so you better get used to it” is the kind of message you want to be sending if you want to get the general populace to accept and like you.

    • Enrique

      Hi J.R. Ewing, thank you for sharing your thoughts and welcome to Migrant Tales. I don’t think it has anything to do with people liking you or not. I don’t think that is how business works, effectively. But yes, it needs clear rules and laws that have to be obeyed. Moreover, there aren’t hordes of immigrants trying to get into Finland. Why would they if there is (a) an unfriendly environment, (b) little work opprtunities and (c) chances to compete equally in the labor market. If there is not magnet people will not come.
      Used to immigrants? I think it is important that Finns learn to accept that there are other people living among their ranks with the same rights as you to call Finland their home.