Finnish Americans tell us what immigration is

by , under All categories, Enrique

Here is an interesting 18:18-minute video on some interviews of second- to fourth-generation Finnish Americans who give their insight on immigration.

Two comments I liked were by Dan Karvonen, a fourth-generation Finnish American, and  second-generation American Eric Salonen.

Karvonen said that when people in the United States criticize immigrants for bringing their relatives and friends they forget that that was exactly what Finns did 150 years ago. “Many siblings and friends came from the same place (in Finland),” he said.

Karvonen believes that eventually the stigma of being an immigrant will go away because their children will be part of society.

Salonen asked the following question, which is topical in Finland and elsewhere in Europe:  “Too many… politicians who are obviously using the (immigrant) issue simply to gain political advantage and that don’t really have any realistic proposals in mind. And so where are we going to find people who are actually seriously address the issue?”


I would like to thank Gerry Luoma Henkel  for sending me the video clip. He is editor of New World Finn.

  1. Klay_Immigrant

    The video echoed many things I’ve been saying all along. Comparing immigration of the Americas and Oceania to Europe and especially Finland is a pointless exercise. The argument that an American (of Finnish or any other ancestry) should not complain about new immigrants coming to America for a better life because their ancestors did the same generations before cannot be used for Finland for the obvious reason that Finns and their language originated in Finland and nowhere else.

    The ways in which the Finns and their children adapted to America when they first came over was self assimilation on their own accord not forced by the state. That’s the way immigration should be. The first example that was mentioned on the video was of a second generation Finnish-American girl who had the name Liisa but changed it Lisa to fit in more and be like the other kids. The second example was the guy talking about his grandparents being born in America having Finnish as their first language but subsequently leading his parents to only speaking English and hardly any Finnish.

    This would not have applied only to Finns in America but to other nationalities doing the same such as Norwegians and Germans. This is one of the reasons that certain groups become more successful than others.

    • Enrique

      –Finland for the obvious reason that Finns and their language originated in Finland and nowhere else.

      Go back to your linguistic books, Klay. It didn’t happen this way.

      Do you think that immigrants that come to Finland don’t do the same? You are assuming that they don’t. I disagree.

  2. Allan

    Its not so much different of what Finns moving to Sweden, many of the 2nd and 3rd generation can understand spoken Finnish, but may not be able to speak or feel comfortable writing it. Sweden in the 60s still had a strong “Swedification” policy – well, you could not speak dialect in Finland in the 80s if you wanted to pass as educated. These days they seem to have switched to the other extreme, but that also brings more problems as the time taken to learn the language has to be taken from somewhere. And in small language areas it does not help to be a small language enclave, you need to be multilingual.

  3. Klay_Immigrant

    I wonder how many potential immigrants would come to Finland if they had to find land, build a home with their own two hands and somehow make a living to feed themselves as literally nothing is given free? The same conditions that Finns had to endure coming to America so as I have said before comparing immigrants coming to Finland today to Finns who moved to America around of the turn of the 20th century is frankly an insult to those Finns.

    • Enrique

      Karvonen says in the video that what happened 150 years ago happens today in a twenty-first century context.

      Your view of immigrants coming to Finland is a value judgement based on your prejudice and opinions. It is not based on fact.

  4. Allan

    Well, if we pick the nits, modern Finnish definitely originated in the area of what comprises modern Finland in the 19th century, and early modern Finnish since the 15th was it now, but if we talk of the early and later ProtoFinninish… well…

  5. Hannu

    So enrigue where finnish language started? What i have understood it was from protofinn what was in times just after ice age.

  6. Allan

    Hannu, I think you realise the indians invented this “white flight” phenomenon. It is after all described as immigrants moving into the neighbourhood makes the natives move away to their own comfort zone.

    • Enrique

      I personally think that comparing “Finnish natives” to “Amerindians” is absurd. Why? Because “Finnish natives” are not a tribe in the same sense as Amerindians are. Everytime, however, Finns speak of themselves as a tribe they flirt with racism.